Surge

David Epstein and the Evolution of New South Brewing

By Roger Yale

For The Surge

David Epstein was The Surge’s first ever Working 4 a Living profile in August 2006.

In the ensuing decade, Epstein’s New South Brewing Company has flourished on the Grand Strand – thanks in large part to legislative changes in South Carolina in regard to the brewing industry here which enabled the company to add two key components to its revenue streams: Commercial canning and onsite retail beer sales.

New South Brewing and its slogan, “The Beer from Here,” has long been familiar to many craft beer enthusiasts in the Myrtle Beach area, and its logo can be spotted on hundreds of tap handles across the Grand Strand and beyond. But now, folks can grab a six-pack or enjoy New South at the brewery itself four evenings a week for happy hour.

Epstein and company started canning in 2009.

“That added another component to what we do and opened up a whole new avenue to get New South out to the public,” he said, adding that this process involved getting a handle on the ins-and-outs of distribution.

“You have your on-premises and off-premises accounts, so it was building those relationships with an entirely new set of people out there – the grocery store beer buyers and the chain stores and things like that. It was definitely a new thing for us to learn. Luckily, our distributors really helped a lot in that regard – and they helped us to connect the dots.”

New South White Ale and New South Nut Brown Ale are currently offered in cans, with an India Pale Ale coming soon.

But he said retail sales at the New South bar are probably the biggest catalyst for the brewery’s growth from a purely financial standpoint.

“The first law that changed was that we could give a tour and sell someone beer to go,” he said. “The second law that changed about three years ago allowed us to open up and actually behave somewhat like a bar, but there are still some rules that we have to follow.”

They keep it simple, providing patrons with a happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

He said that these happy hours create an excitement around the beers and the same people are more apt to go for a New South at local watering holes or take a six-pack home with them.

“Not only has it generated retail sales at the brewery, but it has generated more sales for us wholesale because they have been to the brewery. They see that tap handle behind the bar and they are more inclined to drink us around town as well – and it’s a promotional tool for us.”

In our conversation with Epstein ten years ago, we called him a veritable one-man show, and although he still refers to himself as founder, brew master, check writer and keg scrubber, he said he’s now got four guys working for him.

But he still puts in long hours.

“There are still long weeks – more and more time in the office, getting things done on that end, but I like to get into the brewery as much as possible – getting my feet wet and dirty – and there are lots of so-called projects that I am constantly working on. I’ve got a good crew that keeps the core machine running, but I do everything.”

This could be double brewing with head brewer Jilly Garner or going solo if Garner is out, loading trucks on a forklift, or helping out on the canning machine if need be.

“Roddy Graham spearheads the canning machine and the bar,” he said. “If he’s out, then I am running the canning machine and the bar – a little bit of everything.”

New South Brewing has been in operation for 18 years, a number that feels to Epstein like both a blink of the eye and an eternity.

“There has been a lot of hard work and a lot of hurdles to get over, but we persevered,” he said.

Brewing is a continuous learning process.

“I have been brewing professionally for 22 years and I am still learning, which keeps it exciting.”

Epstein lives in Pawleys Island with wife Madeline Epstein and son Ben, 19, who is heading off soon for his freshman year at North Carolina State University.

Know of a local with an interesting job or career that should be given the Working 4 a Living treatment? Contact Roger Yale at rgyale@gmail.com.

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