After passing both chambers of the South Carolina legislature – due to the hard work of the S.C. Brewers Association, along with the support of a grassroots e-mail campaign – Gov. Nikki Haley signed the so-called “Stone Bill” into law late June 2. The passage is seen as a victory to local craft beer enthusiasts, as well as state economic growth enthusiasts.
So now that the Stone Bill has become the Stone Law, what exactly does that mean for Myrtle Beach, its beer-loving residents and our hometown brewery and brewpubs?
Originally, the bill was intended to change the rules that brewpubs must adhere to. But as it passed, the law loosens the regulations in place for production breweries – and instead allows brewpubs to become licensed as breweries. Existing breweries now have the option to serve food – in order to take advantage of non-capped on-premises consumption. And brewpubs can take advantage of increased production limits and start packaging their beers.
So, for example – Liberty Brewery & Grill at Broadway at the Beach could install a bottling line for retail sales and also start pouring its beer at the next Myrtle Beach Beer Festival. Or New South Brewing could install a kitchen, start pumping out some entrées and serve you as much Dry-Hopped Lager as you’d like with your dinner. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
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While the new law would certainly allow these things, local brewers may not yet be ready to make such a huge leap from what they know best.
“We think the new law is a great step for relaxing beer regulations, but as far as how it impacts us today – it really doesn’t. Don’t expect us to set up a kitchen or start serving food anytime soon. Our first concern is making great beer for the folks in Myrtle Beach this summer,” said David Epstein, owner of New South Brewing.
So, while Epstein and Co. may not be adding a Panini grill or kitchen anytime soon, Epstein also says that he is waiting to hear exactly what the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says when it releases its updated guidelines later this month. He expects that DHEC will give breweries some options as to what constitutes “food service.”
There is the possibility that the food service requirement could be satisfied with something as simple as a hot dog warmer or even a food truck on premises. But exactly how strict DHEC defines the regulation remains to be seen.
So, for now it’s business as usual for brewers in Myrtle Beach.
But, what about the bill’s namesake – is Stone Brewing coming to South Carolina?
Unfortunately, the S.C. Department of Commerce contacted the group spearheading the “Bring Stone to the Beach” campaign – the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation – on Monday and informed the EDC that Myrtle Beach didn’t make the lists of finalists. Maybe Stone will choose another city in South Carolina – and even if not, the doors have been opened and the red carpet is out for other breweries looking to expand.
Brews’n’ the Boulevard
In the shadow of the SkyWheel, Plyler Park in Myrtle Beach, played host to the inaugural craft beer event Brews’n‘ the Boulevard on Friday, as part of the annual wine tasting and foodie festival, Coastal Uncorked. I arrived a little after 6 p.m., dodging the impending thunderstorms and walking through a light summer drizzle to get to the (luckily) tented event.
I was struck by the high value production of the event – large tents sheltered the beer and food booths while benches and cocktail tables flanked the permanent oceanfront stage. Upon entering, I made my rounds – noticing the large number of local and regional breweries in attendance: Foothills, Terrapin, New South, Thomas Creek, Aviator, Red Hare, Highland, Holy City, Lone Rider, RJ Rockers and the new brewery out of Florence, Seminar Brewing. National breweries such as Abita, Sam Adams, Lagunitas, Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada were also on hand pouring their flagship and seasonal beers.
Since I missed the beer dinner a few weeks ago, I headed over to the Seminar Brewing table to sample the offerings. Having brewed a peanut butter chocolate porter myself, I was excited to try Seminar’s take on the style. I was not disappointed. Thei brewery’s version had a nice balanced taste and definite peanut butter presence. I stuck around Seminar’s booth for a bit and tried the IPA, Citrocity. It was a very balanced IPA – not too bitter and not too malty. Perfect for those looking to get into IPAs without losing any tooth enamel. Fruity and fragrant, it was quite tasty. I stopped back by later in the evening and tried Seminar’s wheat beer, Restless Wheat, which was a little hoppier than a run-of-the-mill American pale wheat beer and also quite good.
However, the star of the fest for me was the new Summer Session from New South Brewing. It is a light-bodied ale with lots of hop flavor. The malt bill includes some lightly kilned barley that imparts just enough body to balance the citrusy hops. The addition of local honey dries out the beer to make the hops really stand out, as well as making it crisp and refreshing. I can definitely see myself enjoying a few pints on a hot summer day.
The next monthly meeting for MASH (Myrtle Beach Area Society of Homebrewers), is at 1 p.m. on June 21 at the Homebrewers Pantry in Conway. The winners of the blind draw homebrew competition will be announced and there should be plenty of local homebrew to sample. The meeting is open to the public. For more information on upcoming events, go online to www.myrtlebeachcraftbeer.com/events.