Touring Charleston Breweries

You might be surprised to learn that there's a lot of beer brewing going on in the Charleston area. Today I joined a bunch of people on Lowcountry Local First's Brewery tour, hitting three breweries.

The tour started off at Palmetto Brewing, then the SCLEEP bus took us to Coast Brewery and finally to the brand spanking new Westbrook Brewing. The even more brand spanking new Holy City Brewing wasn't on the tour today, but maybe it will be for the next one.

You might think that since they all brew beer, once you've seen one, you've seen them all. You'd be partly right, but mostly wrong. All of them have more or less the same type of brewing hardware and follow more or less the same process, but each of them take different approaches to the craft of brewing.

Palmetto was the largest, most automated and produces the highest volume of the three. That doesn't keep them from coming up with some tasty brews though. I sampled the Charleston Lager, Pale Ale and Espresso Porter. The lager was a nice light beer while the Pale Ale was a little too much on the hoppy side for my liking. The Porter was my favourite, with the espresso providing a nice smooth coffee flavour (courtesy of Charleston Coffee Roasters next door).

Showing off the brewing tanks

Coast is the smallest, brewing a volume of around 1/10 that of Palmetto. Coast is kind of my default favourite because they're the first of the local microbreweries I started with. Coast prides themselves on being small and keeping as organic as they can, and it shows in the beers they put out. They had their usual four offerings, but I only had the 32/50 Kolsch. It's a hard one to say no to on a hot day. The Boy King Double IPA is a favourite with most of my friends and although I'm not generally a fan of IPAs, Boy King is one I don't mind drinking.

Coast tastings

Westbrook is new and shiny. Compared to Palmetto and Coast, which are both located in old warehouses, Westbrook Brewing is fancy. New building, shiny new equipment and pretty landscaping.

Westbrook tasting room

You'll even find a few hops vines growing outside, which I'm told produces enough to be used for a couple casks of beer. If you've never seen real hops, stop by and check it out.

Westbrook likes to play with their brewing, adding flavours that you wouldn't normally expect in beer. Here I sampled the White Thai and the Cowboy meets Farmer. Both were pretty hoppy brews that I'm not too sure I liked. I could probably drink the Cowboy though.

Perhaps most interesting was the beer they had aging in oak barrels.

Oak barrel aging room

There was beer aging in a variety of different types of oak barrels: Jack Daniels whisky barrels, pinot noir barrels, French oak, American oak. Wouldn't mind having a chance to taste some of them when they're ready to be tapped.

The tour was a great time, and it was pretty cool to get to see the different perspectives and approaches to brewing beer. I think Coast still remains my favourite though.