Columbia’s Hunter-Gatherer planning new, separate brewery for 2015

Hunter_Gatherer

Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse has been a staple of Columbia’s beer community since opening in 1995, acting as a sort of forefather for the Capital City’s now-blossoming craft beer scene. While other local beer establishments have come and gone, Hunter-Gatherer has weathered the storm and remained an incredibly popular spot in Columbia. But while the Main Street brewpub has been a favorite haunt of many for a long time, it’s largely remained the same place for nearly two decades.

That will change in 2015 as a new and separate Hunter-Gatherer Brewery will open in the city. But unlike its locally focused brewpub brethren, this new facility aims to make Hunter-Gatherer a statewide name.

Earlier this year, I was asked by a few people if there was any truth to rumors that Hunter-Gatherer owner Kevin Varner was looking to open a new brewery in Columbia. I approached H-G thinking mum was the word, but was surprised to learn that Varner in fact was seriously pursuing a new brewery with hopes of opening it by the end of 2014. In June, H-G ran an ad in Columbia’s Free Times publicly announcing they would be expanding this year. But questions still lingered. Would this be an expansion to the Main Street brewpub? Would a “new” Hunter-Gatherer be built? Would H-G capitalize on the recently passed “Stone Law” and build a bigger brewery and restaurant?

Earlier this week, via a message on H-G’s venerable chalkboard, it was announced the “New H-G Brewery & Taproom” would be opening in 2015. Exactly where this new facility will be located is still being considered. “I am looking at several buildings that are downtown in Columbia,” Varner told me in an email. “I should be able to open six months after signing a lease, so the opening date will be in the first half of 2015.”

Wherever the new facility – which will simply be called Hunter-Gatherer Brewery – opens, it will house a 17 BBL brewhouse (mash tun, lauter tun and whirlpool) built in Germany and recently purchased from a now-defunct Japanese brewery. (The photo from the June Free Times ad is of Varner in Japan with the new equipment.) For fermentation, 17 BBL fermenters built in Japan will be used.

The current H-G will remain unchanged, but unlike the Main Street location, the new H-G Brewery will be just that: a brewery. Varner said he plans to host local food trucks but the new facility will not have a kitchen. The focus will be on the beer, and Varner said he’s still working out exactly what he plans to brew. “I will brew a couple of traditional English-style ales and a couple of beers with a bunch of American hops, but I haven’t decided which styles,” he said, adding that he’s trying out a few experimental recipes at H-G now, including s new session IPA that was recently released.

Varner hasn’t picked a distributor yet but said he plans to sell H-G beer in kegs and bottles statewide soon after the brewery’s opening.

(Image: The Beer Mapping Project)

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Columbia’s Hunter-Gatherer planning new, separate brewery for 2015

  1. I would think he’d have to turn the Main Street location into a brewery and thus give up liquor in order to own both. It seems brewpubs count as retail for purposes of the three-tier law. (See: CBX/Edmund’s Oast.) Any insights there?

    • I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to do both. They’ll be separate businesses. H-G on Main Street will remain as is (brewing on site, serving liquor, wine and food) and the new brewery will be a taproom and production facility only.

      • Again, I don’t see an issue. The new Hunter-Gatherer brewery will be it’s own separate thing. It won’t produce beer for or distribute beer to the brewpub, so it’s not as if Varner’s got a stake in two of the three tiers in that respect.

  2. No, but he’d have a stake in two of three tiers, period.

    Per sec 61-4-940-D:
    “A manufacturer, brewer, and importer of beer are declared to be in business on one tier, a wholesaler on another tier, and a retailer on another tier. A person or an entity in the beer business on one tier, or a person acting directly or indirectly on his behalf, may not have ownership or financial interest in the beer business operation on another tier.”

    Not trying to burst anyone’s bubble here, but I am curious what if any changes he’ll have to make to pull this off. I believe SLED conducts investigations anyway on behalf of DOR before the latter issues permits.

    This is one reason why I was unhappy to see the “Stone bill” language moved from brewpubs to breweries and the bit about no liquor, because it takes away options that would have been available under the original version of the bill.

    • For 18 years, I assumed that a brewpub was in the retail tier; therefore, I would not be able open a brewery in the brewer tier. The three tier system does prevent a person from having a business interest in more than one of the three tiers. Last year, I reread the pertinent laws and concluded that brewpubs are not actually in a tier. Several lawyers agreed. I was actually working on opening a separate brewery before the “Stone Law.”

      Now, I could stop serving liquor at existing HG if I had to change HG from a brewpub into a microbrewery-a silly part of the new law. Overall the new law is great.

      Kevin Varner
      Hunter-Gatherer Brewery

      • Thank you for clarifying that, Kevin. I was about to say you’ve been doing this long enough that I figured you knew what you could and couldn’t do in regards to each business and you as a stakeholder in each, and you apparently do. I appreciate you chiming in.

  3. Doesn’t the Stone Bill make it easier for brewpubs to convert their licenses to brewery ones? If this does become an issue, it seems like that might be a fix.

    • Brewpubs can convert their license to that of a brewery if they want to capitalize on the Stone Law, but they don’t have to.

  4. Pingback: Columbia’s Hunter-Gatherer planning new, separate brewery | Beer Infinity

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