Editor’s note: We continue celebrating NC Beer Month by asking some of our friends to ruminate on North Carolina Craft Beer and its place in the world. This week’s guest blogger is Nick McCormac, one of South Carolina’s leading online craft beer advocates, with his take on the synergistic beer relationship between the Carolinas.
If you were to ask someone in the Southeast which Carolina pops to mind first in terms of craft beer, chances are the answer would start with “North.” And with good reason; with 140 breweries and brewpubs producing some of the country’s most increasingly sought-after beer and numerous breweries in the national spotlight, North Carolina has long been the 800-pound gorilla of Carolina craft beer.
As North Carolina’s craft beer scene boomed during the last half decade, South Carolina’s remained fairly stagnant for much of the same period. Of course, breweries were opening (albeit at a slower pace) and those in production were making great beer, but — bogged down by restrictive laws and legislators who saw little use in changing them — North Carolina was looked upon with envy as South Carolinians fought to catch up in both the regional and national craft beer culture.
Fortunately, the past few years have been very kind to both Carolinas. In South Carolina, the passage of the Pint Law (which increased the maximum on-site consumption at breweries from 16 ounces to 48 ounces) and the so-called Stone Law (which afforded more rights to breweries with food services areas) has resulted in a 150% increase in brewery openings since 2013. North Carolina’s continued to boom as well; Asheville earned the title of “Beer City USA” three years in a row, major breweries have opened satellite locations in the state and the national recognition of North Carolina-based brands has helped shift the focus of much of the nation to the Carolinas.
While there’s no direct A-to-B correlation connecting the growth of North Carolina craft beer culture and the growth of that here in the Palmetto State, it’s safe to assume that the shifted focus to Carolina craft beer – and, really, craft beer coming out of the Southeast in general – has aided in the region’s growth, including here in South Carolina.
From a legal standpoint, those lobbying for better beer laws here have often pointed to the acceptance of the craft beer industry in North Carolina and the economic impact its had on the state to help sway lawmakers into adopting more fruitful legislation. And from a drinker’s perspective, there’s been an increasing pride in South Carolina-made craft beer and a thriving “drink local” mentality as individuals and brands alike have each played their part to ensure outsiders no longer view the state as “the other Carolina.”
Personally, I think one of the biggest reasons for the booming growth of craft beer here – and one of the reasons it will continue to thrive – is a strong “why not us” mentality. South Carolinians know we have the talent, drive and – forgive the pun – thirst to see our state’s craft beer culture prosper. What our niche will be remains to be seen, but fortunately we have a northern neighbor to help show what a wider embrace of the culture can do.
Nick McCormac is a communications professional living in Columbia, SC. After starting as a personal blog three years ago, Drink. Blog. Repeat. has grown into one of the regions most recognized sources for advocacy and news regarding South Carolina’s craft beer scene. McCormac also serves as vice president of the nonprofit Midlands Craft Beer Supporters and is one of the organizers of Soda City Suds Week, Columbia’s independent craft beer celebration.