Immediately after Thursday night's gig at Tuckers in Atlanta I headed towards my next destination of Charleston, SC. While I have spent a whole lot of time in North Carolina, I have little experience with the Carolina to the south. I've been to Hilton Head a few times, Myrtle Beach once as a kid, and I played a brewery in Columbia on the past Winter Tour.
I had a day off between Atlanta and the Saturday night show at Charleston's Charles Towne Fermentory, and decided to use the extra day exploring the beaches in the Charleston area. I took a liking to a little island community slightly to the south of the city called Folly Island, and basically spent most of Friday and Saturday playing on the beach there. The weather was slightly overcast but warm, and the Gulf Stream must have already been through, as the ocean water was warm like bathwater. The surf was present but rather calm, and much like at Hilton Head the sand bar reaches out really far... like at least a hundred yards, so if you want to actually swim in the ocean (with it being deeper than your waist) you have to go our pretty far. As I was alone I didn't want to go out that far by myself, so unfortunately I didn't get much of a swim in, nor any body surfing, so I just kinda toiled in the breaking waves with the water between my knee and waist level.
Friday night I found a fantastic little casual restaurant off a desolate road, called Bowen Island Restaurant. A sandals-and-tshirt sort of place, with fresh seafood served on paper plates, and 16 craft beers on tap! While I love seafood, I usually don't eat it fried, but when it's fresh out of the water in a place like this I'll make an exception... and man was it worth the exception! Fried oysters the size of golfballs, perhaps the best crabcakes ever, a massive slab of whiting, boiled shrimp, and amazing hush puppies... fried but not greasy, a huge portion, and even the slaw was good. I had an orange Blonde Ale with it, and what a way to end this day. I slept hard with a full belly, and then basically did the day over again, spending Saturday on the same beach before heading into town to play the brewery.
Charles Towne Fermentory - Charleston, SC
Brews are available on tap, in growlers, and some cans at the brewery. Some beers are distributed in the local region in kegs to select drinking establishments, but at this time retail sale of cans/bottles is exclusively at the brewery.
Charles Towne Fermentory is located in the middle of a city block, surrounded by similar businesses... like a distillery just a few doors down. As has become popular in the brewery community, the store front includes a big bay door that can open the tap room to the street. Just before showtime it started pouring, though, so on this night the doors were closed, and I played to the taproom. The taproom was decent sized, the bar located on the opposite side of the room as the stage area, and stocked with plenty of board games (as well as a couple of foosball tables!).
The rain didn't do anything to cool the evening off, in fact it might have just made it muggier, so it was a pretty hot and muggy night. As such, I decided early to start off with particularly refreshing beers, which this brewery has no shortage of.
I kicked things off with the Sungazer (6.8%) IPA, which is listed on the menu as an IPA, but I'm pretty sure is actually a New England style IPA, as it was hazy, fruity, and a bit on the dry side. The color looked like a hazy pineapple juice, the head was white and fluffy, and the aroma definitely invited you in with the promise of tropical fruit flavor, which it delivered on. The fruit-forward flavor was followed by a slight hoppy bitterness, and then a somewhat dry finish. All in it made for a very refreshing and thirst quenching drink, and especially enjoyable on a hot balmy day.
I knew I wanted something equally refreshing to sip on between songs during my first set, so then switched to the La Vida Gose #6 (4.2%), which is a fruited gose made with guava, tangerine, and lime. I couldn't imagine a combo more refreshing on a hot day than that! Interestingly, its appearance again reminded me of a hazy pineapple juice coloring, and surprisingly the aroma wasn't as citrusy as I expected, but rather had a strange saltiness to it. Appropriately enough, upon taking a sip you are definitely greeted with all that fruity
goodness, but also with a fair amount of saltiness... combining well to provide a well balanced citrusy tangy drink, with a little salt on the finish (sort of like a margarita, but with a much more enjoyable juicy flavor). This turned out to be a very enjoyable sipper throughout my set, right through to the last sip.
Due to the weather and the fact that another establishment down the street was having their final night of operating before closing, there was a decent crowd at first, which started to thin, and then built back up about an hour into my set. As I am apt to do, I decided to play through for a while, as the last thing I want to do is lose a growing crowd by taking a break. I played through for a couple of hours until I was in dire need of a drink.
Again wanting a bit of a sipper for my final set, I opted for the Mars Express (5.8%) American IPA. Again attracted by the promise of tangerine overtones, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. There was a bit of a flavor shock moving from the Gose back to a citrusy IPA, and the IPA at first tasted abit bitter to me, but my palate quickly adjusted and I quickly took a liking to the Mars Express. I sipped on this one throughout my second set, which became pretty a pretty rowdy affair. The crowd had built for my last hour, and there were a few vocal parties who made certain requests, luckily all pretty well in or near my sweat spot. Someone wanted to do Iko Iko in honor of the recently departed Dr. John, so we did a pretty rousing sing-along on that one, and stuck with the sing-along covers theme for the night's finale... hitting a few Stones tunes, and even one by the Band, and then wrapped it up with a soothing crowd-sung rendition of the Grateful Dead's “Ripple” to end the night.
As if by cue, the rain stopped just in time for me to load up my gear, and and I finished up at the brewery with a pint of the Slipstream (6.5%), their American Stout. Brewed with vanilla and aponte cherry coffee (brewed by a local shop), this made for a nice night cap, heavy and creamy, but with an almost dessert-like vanilla and coffee finish.
I headed north into the night, pointed towards Chapel Hill, North Carolina where I would visit family and take care of some business for a couple of days before continuing on to a solid handful of North Carolina beach breweries. I greatly enjoyed my stay and Charleston, and would come back here in a heartbeat. The beaches were nice and mellow, the seafood awesome and affordable, and the beer definitely worth going out of your way for. The people throughout the area, but especially at the brewery were very friendly, and I had many great conversations throughout my stay. Charles Towne Fermentory is definitely a brewery I'll put on my “should visit again” list, in hopes that I can come again and dig even deeper into their beer selection.
Next up, a few days off, then six nights in a row, starting with Salty Turtle Beer Company in Surf City, NC on Wednesday...