I was in Folly Beach, SC, for the night a couple weekends ago, and since it’s in proximity to Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, I decided to show some love for great local beer by swinging by two of my favorite local breweries: Coast and Westbrook.
While I had been to both before – and to Coast about a month ago for Brewvival – I always make a point to stop by and try some fresh product straight from the source.
First up was Coast, located in North Charleston. Coast was founded in 2007 by David, a longtime home brewer, and his wife Jamie, a bio major from New Jersey. While the couple makes some of the best beer in the state, I have even more respect because Jamie led the Pop the Cap SC movement, which revolutionized beer in the Palmetto State
(Quick background: Before 2008, SC breweries could not sell beer on premises. A bill passed by our state Legislature changed that, and allowed beers up to 17% ABV to be sold in the state. Before then, it was the beer dark ages in SC. Visitors are allowed only four 4 oz. samples per visit in conjunction with tours, and sales as restricted per person, but it’s better than nothing.)
The brewery sells growlers and bottles on site as well as conducting tours of their brewery, which is basically one small room with all the necessary equipment. While it was St. Patrick’s Day when my fiancee and I visited, the brewery was dead, so Jamie was bussing us samples and talking with the cliental.
On tap that day:
- Shreddin’ Wheat, an American pale wheat ale with a lighter sweet taste of orange and hops;
- Dead Arm Pale Ale, a 6% West Coast-style pale also that’s light, crisp and hoppy;
- Export Scotch Ale, a 4.5% Scotch ale that could have been confused for a rauch beer. Super smokey with a bacon flavor;
- Bulls Bay Oyster Stout, an awesome oyster stout brewed with local oysters. I think it was because of the protein or calcium, but the oysters gave the beer a light roasted quality, with hints of chocolate and a great dry finish;
With the crowd light that day, Jamie was able to talk to everyone on site and give a tour of the brewery, which was albeit a quick one. She talked about some of the upcoming beers they’ve got, including the next release of their barrel-aged versions of Blackbeerd, their incredible imperial stout, and Old Nuptial, their equally as incredible barleywine.
After an hour or so at Coast, we made our way over to Mt. Pleasant for a stop at Westbrook. The brewery, founded by Ed Westbrook, another longtime home brewer, is one of the state’s newest breweries. They just celebrated their first anniversary with the release of Mexican Cake, an excellent imperial stout brewed with habanero peppers.
Westbrook is a sharp contrast to Coast. Whereas the latter is located in a small building in a naval yard, Westbrook is in a huge, brand new building tucked away at the back of an office park. The brewery itself is huge, cavernous and, for the most part, spotless. In addition to all the usual equipment, a small canning line was recently installed, and there’s an impressive barrel room off to the side.
Of the beers on tap that day, I tried:
- Covert Hops, a 5.7% black IPA with the characteristic light roast and hop flavors;
- Beer Table Table Beer, a 4.7% collaboration with Stillwater. It was tart and crisp with a nice funkiness to it;
- Lichtenhainer, a 4.2% smoked sour ale. The first time I tried it a couple months ago, I described it as tasting as if you poured an ashtray into a glass of lemonade. (I.e. disgusting.) The second time was much better. A really nice smoked taste with the tartness of a sour;
- Imperial Biscotti Break, another collaboration, this time with Evil Twin. It’s an imperial version of their already great stout. Much smoother with a good kick of chocolate, almonds, coffee and vanilla.
Rant time: This was my second time visiting both Coast and Westbrook, but likely my last time visiting the latter. For the second time, Westbrook’s taproom staff was snobby, rude and discourteous to the people in the taproom. The two girls working that day completely ignored those with empty glasses, stood in the corner talking with each other most of the time and seemed burdened by the fact they had to fill up 4 oz. tasters for paying customers. I understand working on a Saturday sucks, but if you don’t like doing it, then quit or at least try to make your customers feel welcomed.
In fairness, I was contacted by Westbrook after my visit and assured changes would be made. (Sounds as if I might not have been the only one with complaints.) And I’ve heard from plenty of others they’ve always had a great time during their visits. Still, not an enjoyable experience for me for the second time in a row, but one I hope to not see repeat again.
Coast? No complaints. Those folks are nothing but awesome.
Complaints and accolades aside, both breweries make great beer. South Carolina’s lacking when it comes to breweries, but not when it comes to quality. I highly recommend a stop at each if you ever get a chance to visit the coast.