Drink Local Charleston!
How to Move Your Drinking Money to Local Businesses
Welcome to the Charleston Drink Local Challenge! I know, I know … technically it’s the Eat Local Challenge. But this is Charleston, people, and we do more than a fair share of drinking when we eat out around here. It’s something we’re known for, revered for even. We have an incredibly lively restaurant and brewery scene — to date Charleston supports 27 breweries, 11 distilleries, and 108,217 restaurants. For the month of April we’re focusing on moving our dollars to these locally owned purveyors of deliciousness, and if we pay attention to what we’re drinking when we dine out in Charleston — by moving our drinking dollars as well as our food dollars to locally owned and operated businesses — we’re going to increase the impact of this challenge exponentially! Follow me through a 'Day in the Life of a Charleston Beverage Enthusiast.' I’ll take you through the Charleston beer scene and give you well-earned advice for what to drink to effectively move your beer money to locally owned establishments.
Noon. It’s Time to Start Drinking.
It’s noon on a Tuesday, a completely socially acceptable time to begin a brewery tour in these parts. We head to the upper Charleston Peninsula to a tightly grouped bunch of seven breweries: Cooper River Brewing Co.
, Edmund’s Oast
, Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co.
, Fatty’s Beer Works
, Munkle Brewing Co.
, Lo-Fi Brewing
, and Tradesman Brewing Co
. If you want maximum exposure to the Charleston beer scene in the fewest number of steps or Uber rides taken, this is your destination: The Charleston Brewery District.
For lunch outdoors with a wide selection of brews, start out at Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. on King Street Extension. Start light with the Coin Operated Grisette and give your palate a chance to stretch before hitting the heavy hops you have in store for you today. This farmhouse-esque beer has a low ABV at 5.5%, holds a subtle amount of fruit characteristics from the Belgian yeast, and carries a slight haze from the wheat and oats that make up a minor portion of the grain bill. Want to visit the other end of the spectrum? The barrel-aged Azathoth Imperial Stout is chocolatey and divine. It checks in at 12% ABV, so tread lightly! In between these two jewels lie a myriad of IPAs (if they have a single-hopped Cut of the Leaf series available, go for it, you will be pleased), sours, and a host of other incredibly interesting beers.
A short (and rather sketchy) walk across the tracks from EOBC sit Fatty’s Beer Works and Munkle Brewing Co. If you’re going to either of these locations, I suggest you try a style that sits outside of the realm of the typical. At Fatty’s the beer to try is their Elrod’s Special ESB, a light bodied ale with rich malt characteristics and a distinctly bitter finish. At Munkle go for the Brugge City Brune. This radically delicious, lightly sweet Belgian brown ale has a soft caramel flavor that finishes up with warm bready notes from the yeast. Go outside and toss some cornhole. Have a Gully Washer Wheat (if you haven’t fallen completely in love with the Brune and just want to run that one back). Or call your first cab to move you to your next destination.
Ride around to the rest of the Brewery District if you want to stay downtown; each location holds its own delights. Try the Inaugural IPA at Cooper River Brewing Co, The Glitter Pony (Tripel) at Lo-Fi, the Bricklayer Red Ale from Tradesman Brewing Co., and the Funkmaster from Revelry (see our Rooftops section below for more on Revelry).
Going Off in the Afternoon.
You’ve trekked the District, now it’s time to expand your horizons, to seek out bold new flavors from around the Lowcountry. Take 17 across the bridge to West Ashley and pull up to the Charles Towne Fermentory
. This small taproom is perfect this time of year as the weather ambles into just right and they raise the garage doors. Sit down and try the haziest, possibly the juiciest, beer in the city: The Sungazer New England IPA. This beauty comes in at 6.8% ABV with just tons of pineapple, mango, and honey flavor coming out of what must be a very large, late hop addition. Another must-try is their Rusina Saison. The Fermentory does a great job providing the perfect balance of musty funk (the good kind!), Belgian yeast, and subtle pine and sweet notes on the finish.
Our next stop is a quick visit to the newest addition to the North Charleston brewery scene. Commonhouse Aleworks
, opened this past fall just behind the main drag of restaurants and bars off East Montague in Park Circle, hosts a fine collection of brews and a great outdoor patio. Try the Park Circle Pale Ale, a nicely balanced example of the style, hitting some lively citrus and orange notes without going too bitter on the finish (40 IBU). Looking for something dark? Pierce the Night Stout carries a good chocolate base through to a finish of toasted almonds with a nice sweetness to close. This is one of those breweries where it seems you just can’t miss. Looking East IPA, First Season Saison, and Wise One Hefeweizen are also incredible. Get a flight and try them all!
It’s Evening. Let’s Hit the Rooftops.
It’s April in Charleston and the trees are in bloom, the cars are yellow with pollen, and the rooftop bars around town are getting packed once again. And for good reason: the sunsets are amazing, the breeze is constant, and the beers are local, fresh, and cold.
I have a small confession to make if we’re going to talk about rooftops: Revelry Brewing Co.
is one of my favorite places in Charleston. They hit all of my personal fancies: great eclectic music, exposure to the sun, a dog-friendly environment, and absolutely wonderful brews. They have a well-balanced hop dream in Poke the Bear Pale Ale, clocking in at only 5.5% so you can knock more than a couple back; they have an ever-changing panoply of Belgian style ales that are done to perfection (don’t miss God’s Favorite Belgian Golden if it’s available); and so many beers in between. And did we mention the rooftop? The incredibly large rooftop area of Revelry has plenty of room for a good crowd, which is perfect as they usually have one when the weather is right. If you want to spend some time here and cycle through a couple I don’t blame you. Try the Lefty Loosey west coast style IPA, hop forward with just enough bitter kick on the end to leave you wanting more. Into the Belgian style brews? Take the Brett de Garde route (Biere du Garde) if you fancy something with a little bit of sweetness, or try the Peculiar Paradise Golden Saison if you want more farmhouse with a blast of spice.
Staying downtown and rolling down King St. you’ll find Pour Taproom
, a relative newcomer to Charleston, perched atop the Hyatt Place at the corner of Spring and King Streets downtown. The draw for Pour is twofold. First, the view: it’s the highest rooftop bar in the city. You can see to where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean and our beautiful bridge that spans that joining. You can see an incredible number of steeples and spend countless time arguing about which building or steeple is which between beer pours. Second: the beer list itself. With over 70 taps, and the ability to pour your own beer and pay by the ounce, you can try as little or as much of each brew as you so desire. On my last visit I had beers from Low Tide
, Rusty Bull
, and Westbrook
. If you want to sample the local brews but don’t want to drive across the Lowcountry, this is a great spot to try.
It’s getting late. It’s time for dinner. This is Charleston and you don’t want to mess around — you want something to write home about. You’ve been touring breweries all day and you want to squeeze in a couple more. Good news! There are two Charleston breweries that have this dinner thing figured completely out.Edmund’s Oast
, located on the upper peninsula downtown, boasts a mouth-watering charcuterie board and a delightfully curated beer list that covers a wide swath of styles and points of origin. Covering categories that range from ‘funky’ to ‘tart and sour’ with 30 some odd beers that they bring in from around the world (these two categories alone cover ground from South Carolina to Japan), Edmund’s Oast rounds out their list with seven or eight beers that they make in house. Try the Sat Sat Suma Suma for something lightly funky with some great fruit notes. Or if you’re interested in something really sour, the Infinity will be the brew for you. For dinner you can go in many directions, from a grilled octopus with lentils to a local tile fish prepared simply with Carolina golden rice. Personally, I’m going hanger steak with latke paired up with the Field of Fingers Imperial Stout. It’s dark and dreamy but with a unique complexness stemming from the wild yeast used in fermentation. If you want to stick around for an after dinner drink, check out their whiskey and bourbon list.
Daniel Island is not on everyone’s food radar just yet, but Dockery’s
is trying to change all that. Coast into this enormous restaurant / brewery / music venue and sample their Controversy IPA and Acoustic Brown Ale, both are at least in the conversation for best in style in Charleston. Controversy, so named because it straddles the middle ground between definable substyles of IPA (Is it West Coast? New England? Some new southern style we’ve never even heard of?), is tropical and juicy without crossing the void into hazy and overdone. The Acoustic Brown Ale gives a great malt-forward performance, slightly sweet and nutty on the front with just a hint of toffee on the back of the palate to finish. Either of these pair extremely well with mussels cooked in beer (steeped with Controversy?) with tomato and shallots, the burger with bacon jam, or the incredibly moist house rotisserie chicken. Room for dessert? May I recommend the Lapel Belgian Tripel? It’s got a light floral nose and a residual sweetness that is a perfect ending to an incredible meal.
Bringing It All Back Home.
It’s been a long day. You’ve been supporting your local breweries since noon. All you want to do is go home and drink one more beer while decompressing in front of the stereo while listening to that new Tom Waits album you picked up while drinking a Westbrook IPA at The Eclectic Café (you can get local brews everywhere!). Did you remember to pick up a growler or a crowler to go at any of the breweries you visited today? If so, hooray! You’ve moved even more of your drinking money to support the Lowcountry. If not, stop by and pick up a growler or a six-pack to go at a place like Craft Conundrum, Café Craft, Bottles Beverage Superstore, Charlie’s Market, or any other of the myriad of beer stores around town that go out of their way to support our local breweries.
If you walk away from this piece with anything let it be this: no matter where you are in the Lowcountry, you are never far from a beer. And when given the option between drinking something locally-made or something made far away, choose the local brew! You’ll be rewarded with something fresh and delicious, with the added benefit of encouraging local growth.
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