Brewing up business in the Lowcountry

More local breweries means more beer selection for the Lowcountry (Brandon Geier/WCIV)

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) Charleston is known as a food and beverage town, so it's no big surprise that local beer is becoming more and more popular.

From the barrel to the glass, there is a lot that goes into brewing beer - in fact, it's a rather time-consuming process that requires an early start.

"I have never really been a morning person, so getting here early has definitely been something I've had to train myself to do, but I love coming in. It's a lot of fun to be able to make beer," said Chris Brown, head brewer at Holy City Brewing.

Deciding what goes into the beer allows brewers like Chris Brown at Holy City Brewing to be creative.

"You can kind of look at judging guidelines and style guidelines and things like that to sort of get a base for what a beer is supposed to be," said Brown. "I'll try and stick to those to an extent and then throw my own two cents into it as far as how I want to tweak it or you know change it up or make it different or whatever."

Each brewery seems to have their own style, which is how they all succeed in the same town.

"We really are in this together," said David Merritt, brewer and co-owner at COAST Brewing. "We don't view each other as competition or anything. I think most of the craft breweries in the nation feel that we are better together than we are apart."

COAST may be one of the smallest breweries in town, but has been instrumental in helping the local beer industry.

They helped get the pop-a-cap law passed which allows higher alcohol content beers in the state. The second law they got passed was to allow breweries to sell some amount of beer on-site. Right now folks can buy a case of beer to go, but only drink a small amount there.

"The breweries here, they all have tasting rooms. They are all absolutely trying to do their best to get people in and get them interested. If you can only have four 4-ounce samples even with the best of intentions, you are not going to be there for more than 30 minutes or an hour. There is just no point," said Timmons Pettigrew, local beer writer.

This is why COAST, along with other breweries across the state, is pursuing the pint law.

"The law I think we are hoping to see passed this year would allow limited amounts of pints being able to be consumed at a brewery, which would be huge," said Pettigrew.

Merritt is hoping that the pint law will be passed sometime this year.

"We feel that it would be helpful for not only the brewers but state taxes and city taxes to be able to sell pints of beer and we could get a lot more business into the breweries and it would help us as well as the community," said Merritt.

An event that definitely brings attention to craft beers and brings people to the Lowcountry to hang out is Brewvival.

"Brewvival is a beer festival that the Charleston Beer Exchange, beer store downtown, and COAST Brewing ourselves started{}four years ago as a way to kind of promote small breweries during a time when sometimes your sales are a little sluggish but it's a great time of year being the end of February in Charleston. The weather is nice," said Merritt.

This event, which takes about eight months of planning, has helped bring people to the area the past several years.

"It's arguably the best beer festival in the Southeast," said Pettigrew. "It's kind of on the calendar, on the map for all the beer nerds, beer geeks, people that are excited about it and they have sold out almost every year as far as I know. They bring in thousands of people out spending tourist money in the city. It's all good for Charleston."

With the way business has been going lately, all the craft breweries in town are hoping to expand.

Another local brewery, Frothy Beard Brewing, is expected to open its doors to the public within the next few weeks.

"I think we are just kind of getting our feet wet," said Pettigrew. "We were definitely late bloomers when you look at some of the other major cities in the country when it comes to craft beer. There is always more breweries and bars in planning, you don't always hear about this stuff. It doesn't always come to fruition, but five breweries it's going to be pretty heavy duty but I think we have room for more."

And the general consensus among the local brewers seems to be the more the merrier.