If the closet of a bicycle shop isn’t the first place you’d expect a brewery to be born, think again. Such were the humble beginnings of Holy City Brewing. After attending the American Brewers Guild school via correspondence while working at Gordon Biersch Brewery in Atlanta, Holy City head brewer Chris Brown returned to Charleston in 2009 and together with his friends Joel Carl and Sean Nemitz—owners of Charleston Pedi Cab and Charleston Rickshaw Company, respectively—as well as Mac Minaudo, set up a home-brew station in their companies’ shared bike shed, using spare bicycle parts and old kegs. Not the fanciest digs, but the set-up led to their first great recipe, the Pluff Mud Porter. And thanks to the excitement over that batch, the four men felt ready to take their ideas public.
A nondescript warehouse off Dorchester Road, in keeping with their low-rent beginnings, houses the Holy City brewery today. Their first brews, the aforementioned Pluff Mud Porter and Fish Bowl, were released in July 2011. By this year’s end, they will have brewed nearly 2,000 barrels and are hoping to triple production in 2013. “I didn’t really bring in a recipe book. We started from scratch,” Brown says. “When we had successful recipes, we repeated those.”
But Holy City is no wash, rinse, repeat operation. Brown and team aren’t afraid to experiment. “We want to brew to style,” says Brown. Pecan Dream—brown ale made with local hand-roasted pecans—and Bowen’s Island Oyster Stout—crafted from bivalves caught off the Charleston coast and added to the boil for a dry finish—illustrate their creative bent. “The craziest thing we’ve done so far is put bacon in a porter. It came out better than expected.” So good, in fact, that Holy City sold 180 gallons of the blend at last year’s Brewvival Festival.
To date, Holy City’s accounts are consolidated in the greater Charleston area. “We’re in the process of taking our beer to Columbia,” says Brown. “Now that we have the ability to produce more beer, we’re going to expand. That said, our first goal will always be to take care of Charleston.” With 35 recipes under their belt, a loyal following proudly spreading the Holy City logo around the city through T-shirts and bumper stickers, and taps and growlers stationed at more than 170 locations, the bike-taxi brewers are gearing up for greatness.
(Clockwise from top) Holy City Brewing’s tasting room complete with pool table and the original bike equipment used on their first batch; Holy City’s Pluff Mud Porter; Tim Bettencourt mans the bar; (below right) a pint of Fish Bowl 1
Suds to Sample
Ben Franklin might call these beers a religious experience
Pecan Dream: a 5% ABV brown ale brewed with roasted pecans. Malty and deep brown with pecans in the aroma and finish. Drink it with desserts, caramel, or a bar of Sweeteeth chocolate.
Bowen’s Island Oyster Stout: a 5.5% ABV dry stout can be enjoyed with any seafood, especially blackened grouper.
Pluff Mud Porter: an easy drinking 5.5% ABV porter with slight chocolate notes. This is a workingman’s beer. It’s meant to be enjoyed with pub food, anything fried, and burgers.
Tours & Tastings
4155-C Dorchester Rd., North Charleston
(843) 225-6089, www.holycitybrewing.com
Monday & Tuesday, 4-6 p.m. & Wednesday-Friday, 4-7 p.m.; Saturday, noon-4 p.m.
$5 tour includes a pint glass and four samples; growler, $15; refill, $10.