CM: Walk us through the changes for Edmund’s Oast.
SS: Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company will be a full-scale production brewery. That means we’ll make beer in much larger quantities than we’re able to in the brewpub and have the ability to bottle, can, keg, and distribute far beyond our walls. There will also be a taproom with seating and food service headed up by Geoff Marquardt, who’s been with us at the original Edmund’s Oast from day one. The current brewpub maintains business as usual, operating exclusively for Edmund’s Oast.
CM: Did you have these endeavors on your mind when you first opened Charleston Beer Exchange (CBX) in 2008?
SS: No, and if you had asked me then if I’d be a restaurant owner, I would have laughed at you. These things have grown organically. When my former business partner, Rich Carley, and I first opened CBX, we saw it as a hobby. But on opening day, there was a line out the door and around the corner. It turned out a lot of people wanted a place to buy craft beer.
CM: What’s changed about the store, apart from the name?
SS: CBX, now Edmund’s Oast Exchange, will be next door to the current restaurant. We will continue to have a large selection of beer, but we’ll also sell wine, books, glassware, cocktail accessories, and some prepackaged foods. Sarah O’Kelley, who cofounded The Glass Onion before getting her sommelier certificate, is spearheading the wine program.
CM: Where did you learn about beer?
SS: Before I moved to Charleston, I was the general manager of Charles Street Liquors in Boston’s Beacon Hill. I started there in spirits, primarily whiskey with an emphasis on single-malt Scotch whisky. The department, one of New England’s largest, had hundreds of Scotches. In the nascent days of craft beer up North—in the early 2000s—I realized it could be an area in which the store could excel. It became a passion for me. I’m still enamored with wine and spirits—and I probably drink more of those in my non-working life—but I really love the beer industry.
CM: So how did you get to Charleston?
SS: My wife, Tracey, had vacationed here since she was a kid. We were ready to leave Boston and took a leap. I wound up working at Ted’s Butcherblock, which had a profound impact on my career. Back then, you couldn’t sell beers over 6.25% ABV, but the owner, Ted Dombrowski, saw my affinity for craft beer and put me in charge of a little beer selection. Once the Pop the Cap legislation passed in 2007 and upped the limit on alcohol content, the craft beer scene could flourish. That’s when Rich and I started planning CBX.
CM: How have you seen the beer landscape change?
SS: In 2008, it was incredibly rare for a store to only sell craft beer. It was a big deal. That exclusivity has now faded with the rising popularity of craft beer in Charleston. But CBX and COAST Brewing [which was one of the first local craft breweries and instrumental in Pop the Cap legislation] paved the way for what was to come. It’s unique to have that feather in our cap.
CM: What’s your ideal beer?
SS: Back in the day, I was all about strong, aggressive, crazy barrel-aged beers. Now, I like tasting them, but I’m too old to be drinking 14-percent anything. I prefer glasses that are pure, clean, lighter-bodied, and perfectly balanced. A really good pilsner is hard to find but as good as you can get. And I’m in love with Belgian lambics for their complexity and acidity.
CM: Do you have biz plans beyond 2017?
SS: This expansion is huge for us. And while I have no intention of additional bricks-and-mortar, we could be really blessed and need a new production facility!