3 new laws expand opportunities for SC breweries, brewpubs and distilleries

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Right before the South Carolina Legislature ended its session for the year, three new pieces of legislation passed (and subsequently signed into law) will give alcohol producers in the state more opportunities to grow and distribute their product.

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Epic brewery map includes SC breweries old and new

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Got a little extra wall space in your man cave? Pop Chart Lab has a new map of US craft brewers, and many old and new South Carolina breweries are included.

If you’re not familiar with Pop Chart Lab, the company makes insanely detailed and gigantic infographic prints on everything from cheese to sneakers to superpowers. The Magnificent Multitude of Beer clock in at 5 feet wide and highlights 500 different beers across 100 different styles and the proper glassware for each. Their Very, Very Many Varieties of Beer print currently hangs above my home bar.

That attention to detail continues in their latest print, The Bountiful Breweries of the United States of America. Measuring 5 feet by 3 feet, the print pinpoints 2,500 American craft breweries, and there’s love for many of South Carolina’s breweries and brewpubs. Stalwarts such as RJ Rockers and Thomas Creek are included, but so too are many newer breweries, including Conquest, Frothy Beard, Quest and River Dog. However, with new breweries coming online all the time, the map is already out of date.

You can see a larger version of the map here. It costs $72 for now and begins shipping January 17, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to throw a dart at a map and travel to wherever it lands, this is right up your alley.

Brewery list for Community Tap Beer Fest unveiled

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Tickets for the second annual Community Tap Beer Fest go on sale this Friday, December 13. And to whet your appetite before the April 5 festival, the Upstate beer and wine store on Wednesday released the list of participating breweries at next year’s festival.

In total, 45 breweries have been announced so far. The list includes nearly every active (or soon-to-be active) South Carolina brewery: Quest, RJ Rockers, Thomas Creek, Conquest, River Rat, River Dog, Freehouse, COAST, Westbrook, Holy City, Palmetto and the Windy Hill Orchard will all be on hand. The Upstate Brewtopians homebrew club will also be on hand again.

Among SC breweries, COAST, Conquest, River Rat, River Dog, Freehouse, Palmetto and Windy Hill are all new this year. Other new additions include Fullsteam, Stillwater and Lagunitas.

Expect a beer list to be announced in the coming months. Tickets are $55 per person and limited to 500 attendees.

New Lowcountry, Upstate breweries in the works

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The South Carolina craft beer boom is showing no hints of subsiding as two new breweries in the planning stages are beginning to make their presence known.

In Charleston – or should I say Charlestowne? – is the upcoming Olde Charlestowne Brewing Co., which just this month started a Facebook pages to keep track of their progression. The brewery is in its infancy – they’re in the budgeting phase of planning and are still looking for a location – so details about the important stuff (read: beer) is still in the ether. But as for aesthetics, the brewery is aiming for an olde school look with wrought iron tap handles and a tap tower topped with a gas lamp. (Note: All of these things could change.)

In the Upstate, the Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom is planning to open in the city of Travelers Rest by the end of the year. The brewery’s 10 BBL brewhouse will brew American, German and Belgian-style lagers and ales directly from the tanks. A down payment was put on the brewery this week as well. Owners Ben and Teresa Pierson have a little experience in the brewing world as Ben is the former brewmaster at the Lexington Avenue Brewery and Green Man Brewery in Asheville, NC.

Not to be left out, at least two parties are exploring the possibility of opening breweries in the Columbia area. Hopefully more details about those will come out soon.

Greenville Brew Tours launches Aug. 10

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With the craft beer scene in Greenville growing even larger in 2013, the region is becoming an even bigger player in South Carolina’s ever-growing craft beer scene. And starting later this summer, a new tour will help highlight the past and the future of craft beer in the Upstate city.

Beginning Aug. 10 and running every Saturday thereafter, Greenville Brew Tours will take visitors on a trip through Greenville’s craft beer scene, including the bars and breweries that play an integral role in the scene. With 2012 being a record year for tourism in Greenville, now’s the perfect time to strike while the iron’s hot, according to Andy Moller, a managing partner in the endeavor.

“Greenville is a dynamic, cosmopolitan city with a lot of momentum that’s attracting visitors from all over the world – we’re untapping a new, unique way for tourists and locals to experience Greenville while discovering more about its growing local beer industry,” he said in a release.

Tours, which cost $45 per person, will begin at Barley’s Tap Room and stop at Greenville’s three breweries: Thomas Creek, Quest and Brewery 85. Guests will get a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process at each brewery, learn how each differs and – of course – get a taste of what each has to offer.

Anywhere from four to 12 guests can be accommodated on each tour, and private and corporate tours are also available.

Visit the company’s website and follow them on Twitter for more information.

Interactive ‘Rise of Craft Beer’ map negates SC growth

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One of the more viral craft beer-related bits of news to make the rounds lately was an interactive map published on the website of The New Yorker magazine that showcased the growth of craft beer across the country during 2012. The map’s usefulness was touted all over social media as a way to dive into where craft beer is growing the most in the U.S. and who’s got bragging rights.

According to the map, South Carolina had 16 craft breweries in operation last year, putting us at No. 36 nationally. Palmetto State craft brewers produced 34,496 barrels of beer (36th nationally), an increase of 25.44% from 2011 (20th nationally), and we have 1.7 craft breweries for every 500,000 people (39th nationally). But as you dig down further into the data, which was provided by the Brewers Association, one upsetting piece of information arises: According to them, zero new craft breweries opened in SC last year.

I tweeted out that information last week and got a flurry of upset and confused responses from people pointing out that we did have one new brewery open in 2012: Ridgeland’s River Dog Brewing Co. I wondered why they might have been left off, so I put on my journalist cap and decided to dig a little deeper.

What I found out was this: The Brewers Association did, in fact, mess up in the data collection and negated to include the growth in the number of SC craft breweries last year.

Since the list of 2012 openings is easily accessible online, I looked for a 2011 list but didn’t have any luck in finding one. Thinking there might be some criteria that would have lumped both River Dog into the 2011 openings list, I reached out to the Brewers Association to find out what happened.

According to Marketing Coordinator Spencer Powlison, both breweries should have been included on the 2012 list.

“Tracking down breweries that open is a very manual, tedious process, and we often update numbers later in the year when we discover that breweries have in fact opened,” Powlison told me in an email.

As for what criteria the BA uses when defining and “opening,” Powlison said a brewery is considered open the day it sells its first commercial beer. I assume River Dog falls into that category.

(Note: If the BA is counting 16 total craft breweries open in SC last year, that list would likely include River Dog.)

And now you know. The next time someone laughs and tries to tell you South Carolina didn’t have any craft beer growth in 2012, put them in their place. Let’s hope the BA does include the five new craft breweries opening in SC in 2013 in their list next year.

A previous version of this story identified Charleston’s Forthy Beard Brewing Co. as having opened in 2012, but the brewery did not start selling beer until 2013. The error has been corrected.

SC Pint Bill introduced

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Here we go, folks.

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, HB. 3554 – South Carolina’s so-called pint bill – was introduced in the S.C. House of Representatives. The bill updates the language of the state’s current beer laws that regulate how much you can drink on premises and how much you can take home with you.

As written, the law allows an individual to drink four four-ounce samples of beer at a given brewery in a given day, and samples must be sold in conjunction with a tour. Breweries can sell up to 288 oz. of beer per person per day for at-home consumption.

What the new language does is alter how much you can drink at a brewery. If passed, the new law would allow for a maximum of 64 oz. of beer consumed on site, meaning that breweries could sell you up to four 16-ounce per day. That total could also come from samples. Brewers still have to pay all applicable excise taxes and must sell the beer for what you’d usually pay at a bar.

There are a lot of other details that go into the beer, and Beer of SC’s Brook Bristow – a good friend and the Greenville-based attorney who drafted the legislation – has done an excellent job of breaking down the legalese of the law and detailing what you can do to help it pass.

You can read the full text of the bill here. Now, go and call your legislator and let’s get this passed.