For most of its storied past, Charleston, S.C., was better known for sweet tea than beer. With just one small brewery in town and velvet rope laws that made brewing, distributing or even buying certain kinds of beer difficult, the town went thirsty. That’s all changed in the last decade, as a sophisticated culinary scene emerged and a few beer-friendly bills from the Statehouse led to seven more craft breweries, three brewpubs and dozens of shops and restaurants devoted to beer—with plenty more on the way.
Charleston Beer Exchange
Venture deep into Charleston’s historic district to find this craft beer haven that boasts more than 900 bottles and nine rotating taps for growler fills. Mark your calendar for Tuesday, when the bar usually taps new kegs.
This historic brewery has roots that stretch to the Civil War, but its current incarnation was born in 1993—still years before any other local breweries came about. With a new tasting room and a popular Friday night concert series on the loading dock, Palmetto continues to be a pioneer in the local beer community.
Bay Street Biergarten
Inspired by Bavarian biergartens, this 60-handle spot offers individual tap tables along with a self-service craft beer wall—just swipe your card at an iPad station to fill ’er up.
Up in North Charleston’s old Navy Yard, COAST’s co-founder Jaime Tenney is a key player in the city’s legislative beer battles. The sustainable operation uses a biodiesel-fueled kettle and energy-efficient processes to craft killer brews like the beloved Blackbeerd Imperial Stout.
Closed for Business
There’s a good reason we count this “draught emporium” among America’s best beer bars: Its selection is consistently outstanding. Stop in for regular tapping events, eclectic flights and specialty local beers like Holy City’s Pluff Mud Porter brewed with Twix bars.
Named for an 18th-century Charleston brewer, this upscale brewpub churns out uncommon creations like the quirky Peanut Butter and Jelly beer brewed with peanut butter, grape juice and milk sugar. Close to 50 taps and a specialty bottle list provide pairing possibilities for chef Andy Henderson’s meaty comfort food.
FYI: Fans of Imperial Doughnut Break from Denmark’s Evil Twin Brewing may not realize that the wildly popular beer has strong Charleston ties: Besides being brewed at Charleston’s own Westbrook Brewing, the 11.5%-ABV imperial porter incorporates hundreds of doughnuts from King Street bakery Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts.