On Stone in SC

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When it comes to Stone Brewing Co.’s move from the Left Coast, my opinion is one I’ve kept quite some time now, but one I can’t seem to shake or change no matter what angle I approach the issue from. Maybe it’s because I haven’t wanted to go against the grain with so many friends and professionals in the industry. Maybe it’s because I didn’t want to seem as if I was putting down one of my favorite breweries or working against the economic interests of the state. It could be a whole host of reasons.

But as time has progressed and the issue has grown in prominence, I keep coming back to the same opinion: At this point in time, I would rather not have Stone – or any large brewery – pick the Palmetto State as the home for its new satellite brewery.

Put down your pitchforks and torches and let me explain why. Continue reading

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On 2013, and beyond

BEER GEEK

On what is the final day of 2013 and what will be my final post of the year, I wanted to take a quick minute to look back at the year gone by and give a short but (as best I can) heartfelt synopsis of the past 12 months in the life of your friendly neighborhood beer blogger.

Those who know me personally or follow along closely with my online presence know what a year this has been for me, and not necessarily in a good way. For those who don’t know, I was laid off from my job as a reporter early this year and spent the majority of the spring and summer unemployed, applying for jobs week in and week out but always coming up short. I’ll admit, for a while it was kind of like summer vacation. I still busted my ass looking for jobs, but being able to sleep in a bit longer in the mornings and have more free time at home was nice.

That lasted about two weeks before I started to hate it and feel incredibly depressed. Fortunately, after six months of searching and around 80-plus applications, I was fortunate enough to be hired at a job I love and feel insanely lucky to have.

But that time off wasn’t all bad. If anything, it made DBR even stronger as it gave me time to connect and become friends with so many players in the SC beer scene, and gain that trust and teamwork needed to get this news out to you. That’s not meant to be braggadocios. I’ve been so fortunate to meet – and in some cases become friends with – brewers and brewery folks from across the state. It’s run the gamut from finally meeting face-to-face to getting sneak peeks at future breweries and everything in between. In a year, I’ve grown from being just another voice in the crowd to a trusted source for information, and it’s flattering to feel as if I’m a part of this great and growing business. This has been a huge year for SC beer. The Pint Law went into effect, a handful of new breweries opened, current breweries gained an increasing amount of national attention … and I got to experience all of it. How awesome is that?

But above all that, I cannot put into words how humbled, humiliated and truly honored I am to have met each and everyone one of you. Above all the cool experiences I’ve been afforded this year, all the inside jokes and good times with industry folks, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a countless number of the people who make this whole blog thing possible. I may not have always shown it – or been in the right state of mind to express it – but every time this year someone’s approached me to shake my hand and thank me for doing this, my heart’s stopped. I can never thank you enough for all your appreciation, kind words, thanks and so on. When my life was at its lowest point this year, you showed me you thought what I was doing was important. You gave me the push to do more, to try better and to keep this thing going. Saying “You’re the reason I do what I do” is so cliché … but so true.

(Please note: If I’ve had the privilege of meeting you at a festival or event or bar or wherever this year and I came off kind of weird, please know I was an absolute wreck inside the first time we met. Crippling shyness is one of my undying traits at times. Beer certainly helps.)

So to all my friends and readers – old, new, in the business and out of it – thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for … everything.

Cheers to you and to 2014,

– Nick

The Six-Pack Project: What beers best represent SC?

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I fully admit I’m biased when it comes to the quality of craft beer brewed in South Carolina. During the past few years, I’ve seen the quality and inventiveness of SC beer increase exponentially, so much so that the beer is in demand across the country. It still amazes me when people who have ready access to breweries I think are great – Cigar City, Russian River, Three Floyds – get their hands on something from South Carolina and go nuts.

But what exactly makes South Carolina craft beer special? And if I had to pick a selection of beers I think best showcases the Palmetto State, what would I choose?

That’s the idea behind the Six-Pack Project, a collaborative effort from a group of beer bloggers across the country designed to help highlight the local craft beers we think best represent our respective states. Basically, if you had someone coming to visit from out of state who had never had a local beer, what six-pack would you put together for them?

Here are the rules:

  • Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
  • Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
  • Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
  • Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.

With that in mind – and in no particular order – here’s the six-pack I’d put together:

Westbrook White Thai

When describing South Carolina summers, “oppressive” in an understatement. We’re quite well known for our heat and humidity and it tends to be a bit harsh on people who haven’t grown up with it. So it’s understandable that lighter beers are usually our go-tos in the warmer months of the year.

On that front, Westbrook‘s White Thai Belgian-style witbier hits all the right notes as the temperature rises. One of the Mt. Pleasant brewery’s year-round canned offerings, White Thai is not only incredibly flavorful and refreshing, but it also showcases the inventiveness and creativity that Westbrook is famous for. Most Belgian wits include coriander and orange peel to add spice and citrus notes. But instead of using those ingredients, White Thai is brewed with lemongrass, ginger root and Sorachi Ace hops.

Being a little left of center is Westbrook’s M.O. They’re constantly putting out new and inventive brews, and the newest beer is always a big departure from the last. So far this year alone, they’ve put out at least seven new beers for the masses, including a massive double IPA, a traditional style Berliner Weisse, two dramatically different saisons and more. White Thai, to me, does a great job of show the creativeness of local beers.

COAST HopArt IPA

If there was a craft beer I’d say is the quintessential South Carolina brew, it’s COAST‘s HopArt IPA. The year-round bottled beer isn’t the oldest craft beer in SC or necessarily the best, but it is one of ones synonymous with the growth and expansion of the state’s beer scene.

COAST’s Jamie Tenny is kind of the momma bear of the SC beer scene. She spearheaded the Pop the Cap initiative, which raised the maximum ABV cap for all beers sold in the state, and also helped make it legal for breweries to sell samples on premises. Not to mention she’s been one of the biggest players in the fight to get the Pint Bill passed. And again, while COAST isn’t the oldest kid on the block, they’re one of the ones that usually comes up the most when people think of SC beer.

And HopArt is just classic. Not too hoppy, not too malty and always brewed with organic malts, it does a good job of hitting all the right flavor notes. Additionally, I’d wager it has the most recognizable label artwork of any beer in SC. To me, HopArt represents the history of South Carolina craft beer

RJ Rockers Son of a Peach

While it isn’t a year-round release, I’d posit that RJ Rockers‘ seasonal Son of a Peach is one that people might more easily associate with South Carolina. Peaches are one of our biggest crop – although as a Georgia boy, I think the Peach State has that name for a reason – and are showcased front and center in this summertime wheat beer.

Fruity wheat beers aren’t usually my thing, but Son of a Peach is so rich and flavorful that I always look forward to its release as the warmer months near. The nose is a very sweet, sticky peach aroma, but the taste has more of a bitter, tart taste to it, very similar to what you’d get from biting right into a fresh South Carolina-grown peach.

(One note, though: Always go for the second batch of SoaP, as that one is brewed with fresh peaches. The first batch uses frozen ones.)

Holy City Pluff Mud Porter

Holy City is one of the newer entrants in the SC beer scene, but they’re quickly staking their claim and one of the more impressive of the bunch. Don’t take my word for it; take the Great American Beer Festival’s.

At the 2012 GABF, Pluff Mud Porter – Holy City’s year-round 5.5% American porter – took home a gold medal for the category, making HCB the only South Carolina brewery to win an award at GABF. It was a huge win not only for the Charleston brewery, but also for the state’s craft beer culture in general. For a brewery as young as Holy City is to win an award such as that shows, to me, the promise and potential Palmetto State beer has behind it.

In addition, the name itself is uniquely South Carolina. Pluff mud is the mixture of dirt and water prevalent in South Carolina’s marshes, especially in the Lowcountry (where the brewery is located). It’s smelly stuff, but for South Carolinians, it’s a reminder of home.

For the time being, bombers of Pluff Mud and Holy City’s growing slate of beers are available only at the brewery, but with bottling and brewing expansion on the horizon, the hope is we’ll see more of them throughout the state.

Conquest Sacred Heart IPA

I’m breaking from the rules here slightly with this entry, but I think it’s justifiable. Hear me out.

Conquest is South Carolina’s newest brewery – opening this Saturday (June 1) – and the first and only production brewery in Columbia, which I call home. A search through my archives will show I’ve covered their growth and development at length. The only thing is, they don’t sell their beer in any form other than draft, and they have no plans to bottle their beer aside from the occasional special rare release.

However, I can skirt around the rules outlined about because of this: In South Carolina, beer stores are allowed to fill and sell growlers to patrons. I can get a fill of Conquest’s beers at the brewery itself, or I can go to any beer store in town that sells them, bring whatever growler I want – it doesn’t have to be labeled in any particular way – and get my fill there. So, this can technically be bought in a store.

Semantics aside, the reason Sacred Heart is on this list is because it and Conquest represent the growth of SC’s beer scene and the excitement that growth can incite in people. I have beer geeks from across the state ask me regularly about Conquest and their beers.

And the beer itself is pretty awesome. A 7.2% IPA brewed with Warrior, Belma, Centennial and Citra hops, it’s got that big, juicy tropical fruit hop flavor I love in an IPA.

Thomas Creek River Falls Red Ale

Greenville’s Thomas Creek is where South Carolina craft beer really got its first big shot in the arm. Founded in 1998, TC is the state’s oldest brewery and has continued to crank out solid examples of their respective styles for the past 15 years.

They don’t generally garner as much attention as the breweries on the SC coast, there’s no way you can make a list of “the beers of South Carolina” without something from Thomas Creek. And while it’s not my favorite beer of theirs, their River Falls Red Ale would definitely be included in my pack.

It’s their flagship beer and the one that got them started, not to mention one of their more award-winning ones. Additionally, the River Falls are one of the best parts about Greenville, and Thomas Creek’s beer names do a great way of showcasing what the South Carolina outdoors have to offer. While not as big as their Up the Creek Extreme IPA or full and flavorful as their Deep Water Dopplebock, River Falls Red finds a good place in the middle and a spot on my list.

If you’d like to see what the other five bloggers picked for this project included on their list, here’s links to their respective posts:

Opining on pints: My thoughts on the Pint Bill so far

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As the S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee meeting progressed yesterday afternoon, I could feel myself sinking deeper into my couch. The group of senators – who repeatedly got caught up on the term “sampling,” the ounce cap, the liability issue and more – seemed to be taking issue with the minutiae of the bill. It concerned me, and made me realize the bill wouldn’t pass through as easily as I’d hoped

Then they started landing punches. The maximum consumption amount was decreased by a pint, and then the hefty insurance requirement was imposed, and then the distinction between “samples” and “purchases” was implemented. I was shouting at my computer screen, asking why some senators couldn’t understand such simple language and applauding those who pointed out this isn’t such a complicated issue.

When all was said and done, I felt deflated. I wasn’t the only one. Twitter was chock-a-block with doomsaying, from brewers saying they wouldn’t be able to build tap rooms to consumers saying they should kill the bill at this point. In my haze of anger and confusion, I was inclined to agree that starting from scratch may be the best course of action at this point.

But then I slept on it. I was exhausted from providing the coverage that I did yesterday and answering questions, and I wanted to give my mind some time to breathe before kicking out my feelings. So, with some hindsight, here’s my concise thought on what everyone should do at this point:

Chill.

I understand the gut instinct of everyone invested in this bill is to be angry. We didn’t get what we wanted – that being the original language and intent of the bill – and we’re upset with our elected officials. I get it, but trust me, this isn’t something to rage about.

At this point in the process, the bill is written in pencil, not ink. Your elected officials are still listening to their constituents and forming a stance. It still has to go through two readings in the full Senate. It can – and very likely will – change from what it is now. The amendments made to the bill yesterday are not the final word. There’s still plenty of time to change things for the better. This is not over.

Based on traffic and comments on this site yesterday, there is clearly an impassioned group of beer geeks in this state who want to work as hard as possible to get the best legislation possible on the books. You can and should still contact your senator and let them know why this bill matters to the state, the business community and you. But just because you might be pissed doesn’t mean you should convey any anger.

What you shouldn’t do is be rude, condescending, offensive or bitter. It reflects negatively on South Carolina’s entire brewing community if you act inappropriately toward the people who ultimately have the final word on the bill. This is not the kind of community we are. Complaining to your senator or representative is not going to help this bill at all. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your voice heard. There’s an easy tool for finding your senator here, and a full list of the S.C. Senate is here. I covered state politics for years and talked with a wealth of senators and representatives. Trust me: Even though you may not think so, your opinion and voice does matter to them.

I stand by my decision yesterday to say the bill had been “gutted” because of the changes made. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration because, to me, I feel the amendments strike right at the heart of the legislation, which is to create an easier path for breweries to dispense their product and make a living. But that doesn’t mean I’ve lost all hope for the bill or think it’s a lost cause. I’ve talked with enough people involved to know there’s constant work going on behind the scenes to get the best bill possible. Right now, people invested in the health and well-being of this legislation are busting their ass to make it as easy to digest as possible.

South Carolina beer geeks should count their blessings. We’re lucky that the Legislature is even taking time to consider such a bill. Other states have it better, but many more have it worse, and the fact this is even something up for debate should be cause for celebration. It wasn’t easy to get the Pint Bill on the radar in the first place, but brewers and beer geeks alike worked hard to show why it matters.

What good comes from giving up now?

Shoddy journalism promotes ignorance, does disservice to Pint Bill’s progress

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South Carolina’s Pint Bill hasn’t gotten much attention from the mainstream media since its introduction last month. Instead, the main sources of information and education about the bill are blogs – this one included – and the social media arms of the state’s breweries. Having been a professional journalist for about five years, I can understand why that is: The bill is more or less a niche piece of legislation that affects a small segment of the population and understandably takes a backseat to other, more pressing issues. While I’d love to see more ink or airtime dedicated to educating people about the bill, I don’t fault newspapers and TV stations for focusing on other issues.

With that being the case, it’s paramount that news organizations which do decide to give the Pint Bill some time in the spotlight do one simple thing: Get it right. Give the facts as clearly and concisely as possible; be informative and direct; and don’t shortchange an issue. That’s Journalism 101, and in the case of the Pint Bill, it’s really not that hard to get all the facts out there for folks.

These are apparently foreign concepts to Kirk Brown of Anderson’s Independent Mail. This past Saturday, March 23, Brown penned a short write-up on the Pint Bill. I was excited to see the legislation finally getting a little more time in the public eye, but Brown’s story was at best a shoddy, poorly written throwaway piece, and at worst an outright ignorant misrepresentation of the bill that should have been spiked from the start.

Let’s begin with the lede paragraph on Brown’s story:

Visitors at breweries in the state would be able to sample more high-alcohol beer under a bill that the South Carolina House of Representatives approved last week.

On the surface, yes, this is true. Under HB. 3554 – and S. 423, its S.C. Senate counterpart – someone visiting one of South Carolina’s breweries would be able to sample more beer that may be high in alcohol. As I’ve detailed previously, the new legislation increases the maximum on-premises consumption amount from four 4-ounce samples to 64 ounces in total, which could be spread among samples or full pints. And yes, those full pints could be filled with higher-alcohol beers of up to 14 percent ABW (alcohol by weight). This much is true.

But from the get-go, Brown perpetuates the ignorance so many people have toward the legislation and South Carolina’s craft beer culture in general. (More on that later as well.) Why use “high-alcohol”? Having that adjective present that early in the story – and without any other description of beer –  injects a bit of bias in just the first sentence. Why not just say “beer”? Or why not mention all the low-alcohol beers people could try? Sure, I could go in and have a pint of some massive imperial stout, but I could also get pints of a session beer or, more likely, a beer with a moderate level of alcohol. Beers with an ABW of 4-8 percent are what constitute the majority of what any given brewery in this state sells, a fact Brown neglects to mention.

Of all the breweries I’ve toured – both inside and outside of South Carolina – I’ve seen one, maybe two beers with an ABW of anywhere close to 14 percent. And if someone had a sample of one of those beers, they weren’t chugging it; they were sipping it and enjoying, as one should. Immediately focusing on just “high-alcohol beers” plants a seed in the reader’s mind, and as the story progresses, more and more skewed information only serves to insult the reader’s intelligence and does nothing to further or deepen their understanding.

In fact, that fostering of ignorance is continued in the second and third paragraphs:

According to existing state law, people touring more than a dozen breweries scattered throughout the state can only have four two-ounce samples of beer with less than 8 percent alcohol content.

The bill sponsored by Rep. J. Derham Cole Jr., a Republican from Spartanburg, would allow brewery visitors to sample 64 ounces of beer with an alcohol content of up to 14 percent.

That first sentence is blatantly false and shows that Brown didn’t take time to read the law. Patrons at SC breweries can sample “no more than four brands of beer brewed at the licensed premises” per day. If a beer is above 8 percent ABW, the pour is limited to 2 ounces. Anything below 8 percent, you get 4 ounces to try. So saying “people … can only have four two-ounce samples of beer with less than 8 percent alcohol content” is flat-out wrong and again grossly misinforms the reader. Brown again focuses solely on the high-alcohol portion of the current law.

Let’s continue:

As part of floor debate on the measure Wednesday, some House members expressed concern that the higher limits in Cole’s bill could cause some brewery visitors to become intoxicated.

Rep. Rick Quinn, a Republican from Lexington, said drinking 64 ounces of beer with 14 percent alcohol would be the same as consuming 19 domestic beers.

Responding to Quinn’s comments, Democratic Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg said, “That is a pretty severe buzz.”

At this point, I began to physically bang my head on the table. Those paragraphs show the extreme ignorance and misunderstanding so much of South Carolina’s population has toward the craft beer community, and highlights precisely the mentality that needs to change in this state.

No one – NO ONE – goes to a brewery with the intended goal of getting drunk. And if they do, they’re an idiot and not someone who actually appreciates the quality and care that goes into making craft beer. It isn’t an issue now with the current cap on volume per visitor and it won’t be if the Pint Bill passes. Why? Because that is not the culture of craft beer drinkers.

We – that being craft beer fans – go to breweries to get educated on how each one does things differently. We go to see what special techniques and methods each respective brewery uses in the brewing of its beer. We go to sample new and inventive local beers and to meet like-minded individuals. We don’t go to get smashed. If we wanted to, we could go to any bar in any city in any state and do that. We go to breweries to experience, share and enjoy, not get tanked.

Let’s say the Pint Bill passes and I visit a brewery that does have a 14% ABW beer on tap. Should I choose to order that beer, it would likely be the only full pint I’d have there, and I’d spend a good bit of time drinking it. Sure, the end result could be that I might get drunk, but chances are high either I or whoever was also enjoying a beer that high in alcohol would make sure to pace ourselves and not get drunk.

(Note: Quinn’s proposed amendment – which would basically leave the current law unchanged – failed to pass by a vote of 64-49. A little too close for comfort, though.)

Brown doesn’t bother to mention the extra liability brewers and breweries will take on if the Pint Bill passes. Brewery owners know full well they’re at fault if a patron at their establishment dies or kills someone due to drunken driving, and I’d expect they’d do everything in their power to prevent that from happening. Like any good bartender, brewers know when to cut someone off when they’ve had too much and call them a cab. If anything, the new law would make brewery employees become even more vigilant and mindful of their patrons.

As I mentioned before, the biggest issue I have with this article is Brown’s perpetuation and promotion of the ignorance most people in this state have toward breweries and the state’s craft beer culture. That ignorance and misunderstanding is glaring in the comments on the story, which includes these gems:

May as well take the rest of the session off if they can’t do anything but pass bills to allow more drunks or should I say drunker people on the roads. They should be trying to get rid of alcohol and nicotine.

Should be amended to require each brewery to administer a breathalyzer to people as they leave.

South Carolina is making it harder for a person to enjoy an after dinner smoke and easer (sic) for a man to get drunk and wipe out an entire family with his car or truck. Yep, makes a lot of sense.

I can’t tell if this is wanton stupidity or just ill-informed ignorance, but it shows just how little most people know – or are willing to learn – about the culture. To them, we’re all a bunch of drunks just looking for the next opportunity to get plastered. They’re the kind of people who think alcohol in any form is evil, as is anyone who uses it. They couldn’t possibly be more wrong.

My friends who know me well know how passionate I am about craft beer. (If you’ve read this far, you probably figured as much, too.) And while they joke about it, they know I’m neither an alcoholic nor someone who drinks just so I can become intoxicated. I drink fairly regularly, and sure I have a bit too much from time to time as a lot of people do. But in those situations I know how to act responsibly and do whatever I can to keep myself and everyone else safe. I’d wager that most people who truly appreciate and respect craft beer are the same way.

But (much) more often than not, if I’m enjoying a craft beer – whether it’s sessionable or high alcohol – I’m taking time to appreciate the intricacies of it. I’m picking out the flavors the hops and malts impart, or looking for notes of something new and different. I’m taking my time, appreciating the craft and skill that goes into making whatever’s in my glass. Unlike your average frat boy slamming a case of PBR because it’s Thursday so why not, I actually respect my beer, and I’m not wasting my time drinking to get drunk.

In Brown’s defense, the piece was a quick-hit sort of tidbit that lacked the depth or detail of your average news story. Had he been given more space to work with – or should anyone else take time to write about the Pint Bill – I’d hope a more complete and thorough analysis of the law and its intent would be given. But what was published this past Saturday was pathetic, unfair and did nothing to actually educate people about the legislation. It leaves people misinformed and does a disservice to the legislation and the paper’s readers.

South Carolina lags its brother to the north in this area. In Charlotte alone, there are seven breweries and more coming online soon. And let’s not even get into how huge Asheville is for North Carolina’s beer scene, much less the culture of the Southeast – hell, the entire country – in general. North Carolinians already have the rights and privileges the Pint Bill would give to South Carolinians. And you know what? You don’t see dozens of people killed on their roadways because some idiot had too much at a brewery. They realize it’s a privilege and they don’t abuse it. I suspect South Carolinians would be the same way were they given those freedoms.

So here I am, having dedicated a couple of hours and a few thousand words to writing about some throwaway piece on some bill in the Legislature. Why waste the time and energy? Because the people who actually give a damn and know what they’re talking about are vastly outnumbered by people who just don’t care, or worse, don’t want to. This bill is about so much more than letting people drink more. It’s about supporting the smallest of small businesses in one of the country’s growing markets, and in a state that prides itself on support those small businesses and the growth of the free market. It’s about giving South Carolina breweries a chance to grow and contend is an increasingly competitive field. It’s about giving people more freedom and responsibility instead of not even giving them a chance in the first place. It’s about seeing a culture and a profession I’m deeply attached to grow and thrive, and knowing there are people in positions of power who want to see the same.

I do this because I care about informing others. That’s more than I can say for some people.

South Carolina’s Pint Bill: The story so far

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Anyone who knows South Carolina politics knows calling it a dysfunctional circus is putting things lightly. Just as we think we’ve escaped one embarrassing misstep, another rears its head, like clockwork. Heck, our disgraced former governor – you know, the one who disappeared for a few days to fly to Argentina to be with his mistress? – is within reach of being elected to the U.S. Congress again. You don’t attempt to understand South Carolina politics; you just go with it.

The state’s legislative bodies are usually no better. They’ve honed the fine art of bickering and nitpicking, and most of the time legislation that seems so easy to pass gets bogged down in the mudslinging. So it’s with that in mind it’s all the more surprising the piece of legislation allowing South Carolina breweries to serve pints on premises instead of just samples is more or less breezing through both chambers of the state’s Legislature. And if the train keeps on rolling, the bill could pass pretty soon.

The past month has been a busy one for the so-called Pint Bill, so here’s a recap of what’s been going on.

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HB. 3554 – a.k.a. the Pint Bill – was introduced in the S.C. House of Representatives on Tuesday, Feb. 19. The gist of the bill is fairly simple: Passage would allow breweries across the state to serve up to 64 oz. of beer per person per day on premises. This is a big upgrade from the current law, which limits on-premise consumption to four 4-oz. samples per person per day in conjunction with a tour of the brewery.

The increase of the volume cap could be tinkered with a lot of different ways. Let’s say a brewery has 10 different beers on tap. Currently, you’d be limited to trying four of those beers in taster glasses. Under the proposed legislation, you could have a sample of every one of those beers, pick which ones you like the most and then buy a full pint of those beers until you reach 64 oz., or about four standard shaker pints.

The reason for the current cap is because of the three-tier system, which is currently in place in South Carolina. Breweries give their beers to distributors who in turn give the beer to bars and stores. Distributors weren’t too keen on the idea of consumers buying beer straight from the source instead of a bar or package store, as they wouldn’t see any profit if you go straight to the brewery for a pint. If you’ve been to North Carolina, where breweries sell straight to bars and stores, you know this isn’t an issue. So when on-premise consumption was OK’d in South Carolina a few years ago, the sample cap was put in place. But a middle ground has reportedly been reached, which is why the distributors aren’t openly arguing against the bill this time around.

The House’s version of the bill came up against little resistance, easily passing through the body’s Judiciary Subcommittee before moving on to the full Judiciary Committee and then the full House. On Thursday, March 21, the House passed its version of the bill after the required three readings. Again, there wasn’t much of a fight put up against the legislation, and a good number of state representatives jumped on board as cosponsors of the bill.

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On Tuesday, Feb. 26, a week after the House’s version of the bill was introduced, S. 423 was introduced in the S.C. Senate. The legislation mirrored that of the House, again allowing the same ounce-per-day cap on consumption.

The Senate, however, is a different kind of beast from the House. As the state’s “deliberative body,” language can be changed left and right in Senate subcommittees and full committees, or bills can just be thrown out all together. (Again, SC politics at its finest.) This past Wednesday, March 20, was possibly the biggest challenge for the legislation so far as it went before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee.

The S.C. Brewers Association knew it would be a big day, and a group of brewers from across the state descended on Columbia to lobby in favor of the bill. Representatives from COAST, Holy City, Palmetto, Frothy Beard, RJ Rockers, Brewery 85, Thomas Creek, Quest and New South were all at the Statehouse to attend the hearing, and they weren’t alone. The committee room was reportedly packed to capacity with people in favor and opposed to the bill.

There were some of the usual detractors – Mothers Against Drunk Driving, etc. – but after the hearing was over, the brewers left feeling fairly positive. I had the chance to talk with the folks from Brewery 85, Thomas Creek and Quest following the hearing, and they all felt confident in the result. It was by no means a slam dunk, but the bill lived to see another day. It passed the subcommittee with a favorable report and only minor cosmetic changes.

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So, what’s next? With the House’s version out of the way, all focus now turns to the Senate. Their version of the bill will have to go through the required committee hearings and readings. If anything major is changed in the legislation along the way, the chambers will have to work out a compromise. But if not, the bill goes before the governor to be signed into law. It’ll be at least two weeks before that happens as they’re now on furlough.

I regularly have people ask me if it’ll pass. My usual response: I honestly don’t know. Some people assure me that it may not be an easy ride, but chances are likely it’ll make it through relatively unscathed. Yet others tell me there’s no way it’ll pass in its current form, saying it’ll either be gutted by the Senate or die all together. Most people seem confident it’ll survive, but a growing number of people I come across – who are also as in the know as the people who think it’ll live – say its death is just a matter of time.

No one’s absolutely sure what’s to come for the legislation. You can never really be sure about these kinds of things. That’s South Carolina politics for ya.

On Glassware

glassware

There’s been much consternation and gnashing of teeth this week over the news that Sam Caligione of Dogfish Head and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada collaborated not only on a beer (Rhizing Bines), but also a glass to go along with and help accentuate it and other IPAs. The bulbous, ribbed Spiegelau glass was reportedly designed to help amplify hop aromas and aerate the beer, coming together in what was dubbed the “new standard for IPA glassware.”

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The much-maligned Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada IPA glass.

As expected with trivial things such as this, social media exploded in a fit of rage and mockery. People fell into either the “Oh, cool. Another one for the collection” camp or “I HOPE YOUR CHILDREN GET CANCER AND HIT BY A BUS &*&^(@&!&” camp. There really are no happy mediums online.

While the glass doesn’t really do it for me – I’ll admit it does look ridiculous and is a bit highfalutin – it did give me an opportunity to write up an opinion piece I’ve wanted to do for some time on a topic near and dear to many beer geeks: glassware.

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My glassware collection. Everyday glasses on the bottom, specialty ones up top.

I’ll say this first: I love beer glassware. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a collector, but I have a sizable variety of glasses I’ve either bought or won from breweries, or received for free as part of a glass night at a local bar or with a bottle release. I’m not sure what it is – small mementos from breweries, interesting designs, uniqueness, etc. – but I’ve always had a thing for breweriana. Shaker pints are my go-to water glasses, and I’ve got enough to take up a whole shelf in one of my kitchen cabinets. Also, I’ve got a plethora of tulips, snifters, goblets and so on of different shapes and sizes.

We’re told that the only way to truly enjoy our beer is to always put it in the proper glassware. That stout isn’t going to taste the same in that goblet, you’re missing out if you put an IPA in a stange and you might as well just drain pour that quad if you’re putting it in a tulip. To an extent, I agree with that, and I certainly find certain glassware suits certain beers better. After going to Belgium and seeing how each brewery picks a specific glass to go with a specific beer, you can tell that people who are meticulous about it want to ensure the most enjoyable drinking experience. If I’m drinking at home and I’ve got a brewery branded non-standard glass – Allagash, Dogfish, Ommegang – I’ll generally pick that glass since I know the brewers likely chose it for a specific reason. But if I go to a bar and someone gives me, say, a doppelbock in a tulip instead of a snifter, I’d never send it back because it’s “not proper.”

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My go-to glassware: tulip, snifter and goblet.

I, personally, have a few standard glasses I use for specific beers: A tulip, a snifter or a goblet. IPAs/DIPAs and really the majority of beers I drink go in a tulip. It’s easy to hold, has a good weight to it and does seem to make the hop aromas pop more. Darker and heavier beers – stouts, porters, etc. – go in a snifter. It’s smaller volume and size is good for sipping and not guzzling 15% behemoths. And generally, all Belgian-style beers go in a goblet. The bigger aromas and flavors are complimented by the wide mouth. Other than that, it’s a guessing game.

Above my bar, I have this poster, which aside from looking cool is good for picking out which style should go in which glass. I don’t take it as gospel, but it’s useful to have if I’m not sure what I should put where. (Heh heh.) But I’m not so anal to the point that if it’s not in the proper glass I don’t think I’m getting the proper “experience.” I agree you should respect the beer your drinking, but there’s a limit.

So, what’s the point I’m trying to get at? If you want to pour every beer you drink into a shaker pint and that makes you happy, cheers. If you’d rather go for a more “appropriate” glassware, I’m right there with you. But if you go so far as to get angry or mock people for trying to achieve a better drinking experience when it does no harm to you, you need to have a beer – you’re welcome to choose whatever glass you like – and chill the hell out.

*** As I was writing this post, I was enjoying a Hopslam out of a Mason jar-shaped glass. I thought about noting how it tasted different compared with drinking it from a tulip, but I’m going to chalk that up to the fact I’m sick and not that anal.