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AUG/SEP 2005 | REGIONAL | SOUTHEAST

Southern Brewing
By Bobby Bush
 


Titanic Brewing
5813 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Coral Gables, FL 33146
305-667-ALES
titanicbrewing.com

Moon River Brewing
21 West Bay St.
Savannah, GA 31401
912-447-0943
moonriverbrewing.com

Hilton Head Brewing
7-C Greenwood Dr.
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
843-785-2739
hiltonheadfun.com

Liberty Steakhouse
Broadway at the Beach
1321 Celebrity Cir.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
843-626-4677
tbonz.com

Outer Banks Brewing Station
Mile Post 8-1/2
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
252-449-2739
obbrewing.com

Hilltop Brewery
1556 Laskin Rd., #134
Virginia Beach, VA 23451
757-422-5652
hilltopbrewery.com

 

DESTINATION BEER

Traditional summer vacation in the South almost always includes a week, or at least a weekend, stay at the beach. By August, the Atlantic coastal waters warm to the mid-80s. Days are drenched in suntan lotion and rolling waves. Nights beckon with dancing and moonlit walks on beaches of silvery sand.

And then there’s beer. No respectable seaside trip should be without the tasty suds of local craft-brewed beer. In this issue’s “Southern Brewing,” we’ll highlight beach town breweries. Yes, there’s more to sun and fun than Corona and lime.

Coral Gables, Fla.’s Titanic Brewing opened for business in 1999. The Miami-area brewpub is helmed by Steve Copeland. A Maine native, the brewer trained at Siebel and entered the ranks of professional brewers at Miami’s now-defunct Firehouse micro. A Navy vet, Copeland found his current position at Titanic via an online search in 2002.

Situated next to the University of Miami’s baseball stadium, his small brewpub features a Cajun-influenced menu and a mainstay of impressive brews. Triple Screw Light, which took a 2000 GABF silver medal, is naturally a big seller. Perfect for the heat and humidity, this kölsch-style ale is light and refreshing, and at only 4% abv, it makes a great summer session drink.

Captain Smith’s Rye Ale, which also scored silver in 2000, is a German-style amber — malty, fruity and spicy. White Star IPA and Britannic Best Bitter are English in style, made with imported malt and hops.

For seasoned beer travelers, Copeland keeps the British-style Boiler Room Nut Brown and full-bodied Steambuilders Oatmeal Stout on tap year-round.

Seasonals include Hurricane Gale Force Ale, an orange blossom–honey blonde ale; Hefeweizen; and a barley wine based on a recipe provided by MASH, Miami Area Society of Homebrewers.

Head north up the intercoastal waterway for a stopover in Savannah, Ga. Housed in the old City Hotel, circa 1830, Moon River Brewing has been around since 1999 when partners John Pinkerton and Gene Beeco reopened the shuttered Oglethorpe brewpub on Bay Street. Since the brewpub’s clientele is primarily tourists, brewer Pinkerton keeps a wide variety of beers on tap. Moon River’s five regulars are Wild Wacky Wit (Belgian style and heavy on coriander), Savannah Fest Beer (lager style made with kölsch yeast), Moon Light (a lighter version of Fest and former best-seller), Captains Porter (full-bodied and chocolaty) and the new best-seller, Swamp Fox IPA (big in alcohol at over 7% abv and dry-hopped hoppy).

Seasonals include an American-style Hefeweizen, which may replace Fest on the regular list; Gallery Espresso Stout (made with coffee from a local coffee house); a malty, nutty, toasty Brown Ale; and a Kölsch that should be on tap in August and September. Pinkerton served a brief stint in Weeping Radish’s brewhouse but credits Frederick Brewing as the primary source of his brewing education.

Following a foiled attempt at a Savannah brewpub, Denver brewpub entrepreneur John Hickenlooper introduced Pinkerton to his eventual Moon River partner, Beeco. Named for the song penned by Henry Mancini and Savannah native Johnny Mercer, Moon River has also become a popular spot for reasons other than beer. Almost every downtown ghost tour starts or finishes at Moon River. Pinkerton claims that he’s never had a paranormal experience in the 175-year-old structure, “although the adding machine started running on its own this morning.” Perhaps a frustrated accountant? Give him a beer.

Just north across the sound, no more than 20 minutes by boat, awaits ritzy Hilton Head Island, S.C. Brewer John Watts has been with Hilton Head Brewing since 1998, though he stepped away from the brewhouse for a year to try his hand at restaurant management. Summer Wheat is his best-selling seasonal. Light-bodied, lightly hopped and served with a lemon wedge, this American-style ale is the perfect post-golf or post-tennis beverage. Calibogue Amber, Hilton Head’s flagship brew, is a well-balanced ale boasting medium body and moderate bitterness. Cascade hops throughout, South Atlantic Pale Ale is American in style, bursting with hoppy aroma and flavor. The blonde Pub Light and darkish Raspberry Wheat are also brisk sellers. Founded in 1994, Hilton Head Brewing is large and well equipped to handle a continual barrage of touristy types.

Summer beach beer? Why not? To every season there is beer!

One of the South’s most famous tourist spots is Myrtle Beach. Greater Myrtle Beach’s wide, sandy shoreline runs from the North Carolina line southward for 40 miles or so. The Strip, as the main drag is called, is a hub of humanity from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Part of the TBonz restaurant family, Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery has been open and brewing in Myrtle for 10 years. Brewer Josh Quigley has been there since the beginning. His shopping center brewpub offers six to eight beers throughout the year.

Miss Liberty Lager is light and refreshing and the winner of a 1997 GABF medallion. Quigley also offers an interesting White Ale, made with his house yeast rather than the Belgian variety; a Raspberry Wheat; and an American Wheat. There’s always either a red or an amber and a pale ale or an IPA ready to pour. Nut Brown is as dark as Liberty gets in summertime, but the porter or the stout has a home for the remainder of the seasons. Quigley learned the brewing ropes at Palmetto Brewing, a Charleston, S.C., micro, and started with TBonz at the company’s Mt. Pleasant, S.C., brewpub.

He also has a side venture. New South Brewing was established six years ago with partner/brewer David Epstein in order to provide kegged beer to non-brewing TBonz restaurants. The all-keg micro also distributes beer throughout both Carolinas.

It’s a pretty long jaunt up to Kill Devil Hills, N.C., where Outer Banks Brewing Station has been doing business since May 2001. According to brewer Scott Meyer, August and September are ideal months to visit. Outer Banks has music every night, an eclectic mix of well-prepared food (mostly Asian-influenced seafood) and, obviously, an array of interesting beer. Lemongrass Wheat, the fall seasonal and 2002 GABF bronze medalist, is an excellent beer, surprisingly refreshing and invigorating. Ölsch is a year-round kölsch-style that’s lively with hops aroma and a supple mouthfeel. The light Sunshower Gold is seductively hopped, while Copperopolis works the chewy, caramelized, malty side of Outer Banks’s beer spectrum. Later in the year, look for Prince of Darkness Porter and Santa’s Little Hammer.

Meyer grew up in San Diego and had his first fling with fermentation in the wine business. While living in Berkeley, Calif., he sold wine by day and learned to brew from Bison Brewing’s nocturnal brewer. He also brewed for a while at nearby Triple Rock before heading eastward to join Aubrey Davis in founding Outer Banks Brewing Station. The two were introduced by a mutual friend. When asked to explain the difference between making wine and beer, Meyer passionately described brewing as “energy-intensive, more engineering and physics” compared with wine’s “slow, biological, passive process.” It’s the difference, he said, “between writing a short story and writing a novel.” Meyer’s novels are must-reads.

Travel another 85 miles northward up the coastline to find the bustling oceanside town of Virginia Beach, Va. Situated less than two miles inland, Hilltop Brewing Company is a friendly, eight-year-old brewpub with an appetizing menu, live music, flavorful cigars, an intriguing martini menu and, lest we forget, beer. Hilltop is the only brewpub in the Tidewater area.

Brewers Peter Goebel, who morphed from homebrewer to Hilltop professional two years ago, and Andy Duck, former Weeping Radish head brewer, work under the cover of night to keep Hilltop’s unfiltered “signature brews” and seasonals fresh for locals and tourists alike. Hefeweizen is a traditional cloudy banana-and-clove ale, contrasted in color and flavor by Beach Brown Ale, a medium-bodied, lightly hopped yet malty beer. Frog Grog Ale is a hoppy California common style beer, while seasonal Helles Bock makes the most of the tantalizing German style, replacing the malty maibock tank that just blew. A Belgian-style wit called Blanche de VaBch has become a favorite summer brew. The sweet and sultry Nut Brown Ale should be on tap for late summer and early autumn travelers.

SOUTHERN FESTIVALS

The 10th annual WaZoo fundraiser celebration takes place on August 6 at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Bay. The “tropical taste explosion” provides samples from breweries around the world and a wine garden. Bay area restaurants provide local cuisine, all accompanied by live entertainment. Check lowryparkzoo.com for more info.

August 13 welcomes Roanoke, Va.’s Microfestivus 2005. More than a dozen breweries are expected at the downtown Elmwood Park fest, which will also present live music. For details, see squaresociety.org/microfestivus.htm.

The Emerald Coast Brew Fest & Beach Party commences its two-day run on September 9. The Pensacola, Fla., fest will include offerings from the local Escambia Bay Homebrewers and a selection of beers from around the South. Saturday, day two, introduces the Beach Party and Beer Olympics. Sounds like, uh, fun.

Charlotte kicks off its seventh annual Oktoberfest in fine fest fashion on October 1. Organized by the Carolina Brewmasters homebrewers club, the fest site is unchanged from last year (a first!) in the North Davidson Arts District. See charlotteoktoberfest.com.

Bobby Bush is just a good ol’ Southern boy who loves his beer rich and tasty and despises all things NASCAR. Comments and sarcasm are welcome at bobbywbush@charter.net.

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