There was a day when all beers sold in the USA seemed to end in "Light." Ultra-filtered and seemingly deep frozen, they quenched a thirst but always seemed to leave with an empty promise. Then came the dawn of micro-breweries in the 1980's and the world changed.
The U.S. now has some truly great beers, ones that put the watery warm draft offerings of the UK to shame (and I'm a Brit!). What was missing initially were the outlets, bars that could treat them respectfully and deliver a true quality to the glass.
Enter a world of craft brew bars and restaurants of which Charleston has many. These are spread all over the city of Charleston tucked in out-of-the-way places that out-of-towners might otherwise overlook. But don't be hesitant, get out of downtown Charleston's historic district and find those places off the beaten track. Now that spring is turning into summer and the weather is warming up, nothing is better than a frothy craft brewed beer on a hot summer day.
Start easy with Bay St Biergarten, located downtown on East Bay Street just north of Calhoun. Not too far out and plenty of on-site parking - a huge benefit when downtown on the peninsula. With 24 beers on tap behind the bar you're going to want to go more than once to get through them all. Head further up the peninsula to Edmunds Oast OR head out over the Ashley River to James Island. The Smoky Oak Taproom has a wonderful selection of craft brews in a typical "American sports bar" setting. Head further out Folly Road towards the beach and you will find the Bohemian Bull with good beers in supply and good food too, with an outside garden for the kids to run off steam. Even the Tattooed Moose has added a location on the Sea Islands so you can stop and have a pint on your way to or from Johns Island, Kiawah Island or Seabrook.
My personal favorite was a recent discovery for me. On our way back from a weekly check of our luxury vacation rental properties on Folly Beach, we stopped at the The Barrel located on Folly Road. It's out towards the new Folly Beach bridge but still close to the center of James Island. This is a great place, with a homegrown feel, built by the proprietors and their friends. Good innovative design, great use of recycled building materials and a superb range of beers served by a skilled cellerman. These are not beers just to quench the thirst, but to be savored, the selection is superb and the setting simple and friendly. Sebrina and I sat in the rear garden overlooking the marsh, our son played happily in the gravel with his toy backhoe and the beer went down easily interspersed with about twice as much water. (It was 85 degrees out and that beer was 8% alcohol!).
I'd recommend this establishment to anyone on their way to or from Folly Beach, affectionately known as "the Edge of America," as it seems the perfect way to end a day spent surfing and soaking up the sun.
Thought - some of these beers can be 10 or 11% alcohol. Your usual mental limit filter will not work! That water is there for a reason so drink it first if you are thirsty then to better enjoy the taste of the beer.
Note: If you're considering calling Folly Beach home, or investing in an income property, start searching TODAY and raise a glass to your new home in no time!
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