While attending the South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia last weekend, I met a delightful fellow named Timmons Pettigrew. A memorable name, right? We were on the same panel, along with a gentleman named H.H. “Bubba” Von Harten Jr. Can you imagine the poor audience trying to keep our names straight! Anyway, he has written a book on one of my favorite subjects–beer. His new 144-page book is called Charleston Beer: A High-Gravity History of Lowcountry Brewing (History Press, 2011). So, I asked if he’d like to do a guest blog to promote his new book and he happily agreed. Here is some information he would like to share:
Five Things You Don’t Know about Charleston Beer
1. Charleston’s oldest known brewery and retail beer outlet is The Beer Cellar, operating as early as 1732. It was located at the corner of what is today East Bay Street and Elliott Street downtown, one block from Charleston Beer Exchange, the crown jewel of craft beer retail in Charleston today!
2. Edmund Egan ran a brewery in Charleston in the 1770′s. His beer was so good that local tavern operators would reject beer imported from Philadelphia and Connecticut in favor of his. His original benefactor was a merchant my trade, and he had to sell a particular batch of Philadelphia beer at a loss on the open market because everyone favored Egan’s local brew!
3. South Carolina had a Dispensary System in the late 1800′s, under which the state government was the only agency allowed to sell alcohol in the state. The editorial board of Charleston’s paper, The News and Courier, was a very vocal opponent. Before Ben Tillman was elected governor and enacted the policy, the paper personally attacked him printing that his supporters “haveno toothbrushes and comb their hair with their fingers.” Tillman replied that their “editor bestrides the state like a colossus, while we poor men,whose boots he ain’t fit to lick, are crawling under him seeking dishonored graves”[sic].
4. Charleston’s last major brewery, Germania Brewing collapsed under bankruptcy in 1916, the same year South Carolina signed prohibition into law. There were no commercial breweries in South Carolina form 1916 to 1994, when Palmetto Brewing opened its doors in Charleston. They are still open today, making them the state’s oldest still-operating brewery.
5. Today there are four craft breweries located in Charleston, accounting for about half of the breweries in the state, with at least two breweries in planning. Charleston loves craft beer!
If you’d like to learn more about this fun subject or Timmons book, check out http://chsbeer.org/