Status report: Conquest Brewing Co.

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It’s been a couple of months since Conquest officially began rolling kegs out its doors and into local bars, and since then, it’s been pedal to the metal for Joseph Ackerman and Matthew Ellisor. The two have been continually brewing week in and week out to keep up with the growing thirst Columbians have for their beer, all the while working just as hard to officially open the doors to the public

It’s clear local craft beer fans have been thirsty for what Conquest is doing. At last Thursday’s SC beer spotlight at World of Beer, Conquest again dominated sales, taking three of the top five best-selling beers of the night. It’s because of that high demand that the two are working overtime to meet demand in more ways than one.

While I’ve had the opportunity to hang out during a couple of brew days, it’s been a while since I last checked in on how things were going down by Williams-Brice. So I stopped in this past Tuesday to see what the guys were up to, as well as what’s coming up.

Opening day

Whenever the topic of Conquest comes up, I – as well as Ackerman and Ellisor – always get the same question: When is the brewery opening to the public?

It’s a question the two are both asked regularly, over and over and over again. So, I asked them again on Tuesday. The answer?

“It’s a matter of days now,” Ellisor told me.

*dramatic pause*

“It could be a lot of days, it could be a few days, but it’s days,” he added.

So, why isn’t the brewery and tasting room open to the public yet? (Another question I get regularly.) In short, between brewing beer and making a living outside of the brewery, the crew still has to check off the last few things on their to-do list. Those include things such as installing exit signs, fixing the bathroom, making sure the sprinkler system works and so on. Once all of these things are done and the building is up to code, they’ll get their license from Richland County and be good to go. All these odds and ends sound simple enough. But when you’re talking about a business, regulators have the final say, and they work on their own schedule.

So, in short: The brewery is this close to opening, but some of the things that need to be done before you can hang out in their tasting room are out of their hands.

New brews

Ackerman and Ellisor stay pretty tight-lipped about what new beers they’re working on or what will be hitting taps soon. They do drop little teases here and there to keep people guessing, but for the most part, details aren’t released until usually a few days before the beer goes out to market.

I can’t tell you much about new releases, but what I can tell you is this: In the next few months, Conquest will be putting out a few new brews in styles they haven’t produced yet. (Vague enough for you?) Some of those beers will see wider release, but some will hit just one bar in Columbia.

As for their core beers, production keeps on rolling. On Tuesday, the sixth batch of their Artemis Blonde was being brewed. (I helped pitch the yeast on that one, so of course it’ll be the best batch yet.) I also got a taste of the fourth batch of Sacred Heart IPA on tap and a bit of the fifth batch of Sacred Heart and the second batch of Medusa Stout right off the fermenters. Sacred Heart continues to progress beautifully, and Ackerman said batch five is just about where he wants it. And if you thought the first batch of Medusa was good …

Expanded markets

It’s great going into other SC beer cities such as Charleston and Greenville and hear people talk about how much they’re looking forward to trying Conquest’s stuff. And they’ll have their chance to sample some Conquest brews on their home turf. Eventually.

Presently, Conquest is barely meeting local demand as is. Even with regular brew days, kegs are kicking as quickly as they’re sent out, so Columbia will be the main focus for the immediate future.

However, expansion into other markets is not out of the question and could likely happen as soon as this year. The plan is this: Once all of Conquest’s new equipment is delivered and installed, production will be at an all-time high and allow the crew to brew a lot more and more often. When the brewery is open to the public, both Ellisor and Ackerman will work there full time. (It’s technically a part-time job for them now, but you wouldn’t know that from how hard they’ve been working the past few months.) Once the ball’s rolling and they can regularly meet local demand, then they’ll begin working to expand outside of Columbia.

I know Conquest has been in talks with folks in both Greenville and Charleston about getting their beers to the Upstate and Lowcountry, so the ball is already rolling.

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As always, stay tuned for all the latest information on when and where you can get a taste of what Conquest has to offer.

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