The Beer Road Goes To Charleston SC

A recent trip to Charleston, SC for my girlfriend and I was NOT a beer trip.  Having spent years becoming entranced of Charleston through photos of its charming historical district and its homes, our taste buds watering at the idea of potential great southern and seafood meals, and last but not least, that simple, instinctive desire for a vacation that a year or more without one will give you – to absolutely get the heck out of town – led us there.  Sure, we did some reading and some researching, and with the help of an absolutely amazing concierge at our hotel, we were well prepared for a blast.  Soon, our itinerary included a couple guided tours of the historic district, reservations at a few amazing restaurants, and even a haunted “ghost walk”.  But hey, this is a beer blog, and this is me, so when about a week before the trip my girlfriend found me looking up recommended places online to find good beer on tap in Charleston, followed by an exasperated “Oh, Lord…” the planning for (my) Beer Road to officially make its first stop in Charleston was also well underway.

As it turned out, our first night there gave me one of the best tastes of the entire trip, during dinner at a seafood restaurant in the historic district.  On tap was “Hopart”, an IPA from Coast Brewing, a green minded and organic brewery located in Charleston (and fairly new as well, established in 2007).  I had read about the brewery and specifically also seen numerous good reviews of the IPA before coming down, and being one to usually lean towards local or regional product, this was officially my first taste of Charleston – and it was good.  Consisting of big citrus juiciness of mainly fresh orange like flavors through and through, with just a bit of bitter grapefruit, all the while being accompanied by a sidekick of a malt presence, it is full of bright flavor.  I learned that the brewery is well thought of in the area, and that its other beers are just as tasty, but currently production levels can only supply Charleston.  I hope this is a situation which changes somewhere down the road.  For now, if you’re in Charleston, do as I did.  Seek out the Hopart – it is very, very good.

The source of the information about Coast Brewing was the next great beer stop.  Tucked away down one of the little side streets leading down towards the water is The Charleston Beer Exchange, “Charleston’s Craft Beer Store”, and a destination for any beer lover.  The walls are lined with shelf after shelf of American craft beer from all over the country, and that’s just the beginning.  The imports are towards the back, there are coolers as well, and over in one corner are the growler taps, about seven in all – in case you want to get fresh beer to take with you.  The choices and variation was mind boggling.  Now my girlfriend is not a beer person herself, so I slowly began to feel the weight of her thoughts beginning to float through the air towards me, something along the lines of “great, he’s going to be in here for the rest of the trip”.  And I could’ve stayed in there for quite a while, but taking stock of the selection was not the best part.  The two guys behind the counter were helpful, attentive, and again, were the source of the information on Coast Brewing.  They also took time to discuss some possible upcoming changes in SC law that might finally allow breweries and stores like The Charleston Beer Exchange to have tastings on site.

The guys at The Beer Exchange sounded hopeful that the future of craft beer popularity in Charleston is on the upswing.  But I wasn’t complaining.  Between the Coast offerings and the available beers at a couple of other places in town – such as a local bar called The Griffon that we stopped into twice, which had such nice surprises such as Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA, Foothills Brewing’s (Winston Salem NC) People’s Porter, Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Pils Pilsner and others, I was not lacking for things to try.

There were a couple other places boasting large, quality beer selections that both I had looked up and our amazingly helpful concierge at our hotel had mapped out for me, but unfortunately time ran out on the trip.  However, if the guys at the Charleston Beer Exchange think that things are on the upswing, and based on the great time we had in the city, I can safely say the research will continue on the good beer situation in charming Charleston SC.  And yes, I can already hear the exasperation coming from my better half – we’re already looking forward to a return trip.

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~ by thebeerroad on May 24, 2010.

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