Nestled in the Deep South between two vacation cities and a luxury resort, lies a brewery that entails all that is right with new southern brewing. While attending the Greenville Craft Beer Festival last week and meeting local and established brewers from Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas, along with a few staples like Founders, New Belgium, and Sierra Nevada, I was taken aback by a Lowcountry brewery from Bluffton, South Carolina. For those not familiar, Bluffton sits between Hilton Head, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Ten years ago it was nothing more than a pass-through place to get gas or some snacks on the way to your resort destination. Today it is an up and coming town with modern coastal buildings and a taste for the exceptional off of Interstate 95.
I decided to take a trip from Greenville to Bluffton after I was blown away by a particular beer from the festival. Upon arriving at Southern Barrel Brewing, I met Dana Robert Millen, the VP of Sales Development. I discussed with him how much I fell in love with the Wild Bramble, a 5.3% Berliner Weiss infused with raspberries and blackberries from Oregon. They mix the berries into a puree and the taste is out of this world. It was a perfect beer for a warm, Southern, 85 degree day in November. Heck even my wife loved it and she is not a fan of this style.
During my time with Dana, he explained that Southern Barrel has gone through growing pains and due to their remote location, have had to go through a number of distributors in order to grow. They are also changing most of their labels, which is done with in-house printing to a more color coded approach like you would see with breweries such as Sweetwater. While Atlanta and Asheville beer dominate the landscape in the region they have found a market for popular mainstays like Southern Helles Lager (2016 Grand Champion Helles category USBTC competition). Their most decorated beer, and the one they are making a hard transition to market with, is the Damn Yankee. For the south it is a non-traditional style brought down this way by Brewmaster, Walt Trifari. Walt came from the Connecticut area and has over 30 awards to his credit. The Damn Yankee is a 6.4% New England Style IPA and has won its share of awards such as the 2015 Gold Medal winner at the CAN CAN Awards, and remains #1 on the tap list for beer seekers. Their current seasonal offering is Turtle Patrol, an 8% German style Heller-Bock that has sales proceeds going directly to the Sea Turtle rescue hospital located nearby.
For those who may be wondering, “But do they have any barrels?” The answer is yes. Southern Barrel releases an Imperial Milk Stout called Frozen Barrel. The beer is aged for 3 months in Hi-Wire Whiskey barrels and clocks in at 10% ABV.
Come 2018, the brewery plans to expand their branding, and release some new beers, including a new sour. They recently purchased 4 new 60 barrel fermenters and 3 new 40 barrel fermenters in order to meet projected growth capacity in the upcoming year.
The facility itself has a coastal feel with a large patio deck for parties and very nice classic brewery styling with lots of wood and metal accents. They offer a very family friendly atmosphere with incredible food, amazing burger options, kids menus and even brew 2 sodas in house.
I was pleasantly surprised by the overall atmosphere and feel of the brewery. I felt comfortable and at home. I believe we will be hearing a lot more from this part of South Carolina in the near future. As they start to come into their own, they will find local and long distance support networks. As of now, they are only reaching as far North as North Carolina, but have hopes to grow further. If you are traveling down I-95 on vacation, pull up your map to find Bluffton and check out Southern Barrel Brewery. They offer growler fills and take home cans so you can sit at the beach, relax, and enjoy it Southern style. Cheers Y’all.
For more information visit the Southern Barrel website at www.southernbarrelbrewing.com.
- Words and Images by Peter Perry II