Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Myrtle Beach Beer Scene

We did all the usual vacation stuff people normally do: go to the beach, play golf, go out to eat, etc. I could describe all that and show you the pictures too, but we are here for the beer, and that is what I will focus on here for the other days we were in Myrtle Beach.

Last night didn't show us anything exciting beerwise, but today is another day. We started out at Surf Beverage in Garden City, just south of Myrtle. In keeping with the tradition of stupid alcohol laws, South Carolina has a great one: you can buy beer and wine in the same side of a store, but to buy liquor you have to go through a separate entrance- into the same building. Sure, there is a partition, but what is the reasoning behind it?

The beer selection was surprisingly varied at Surf. There were beers from Schmaltz (makers of Jewbilation) Clipper City's Heavy Seas Collection, all kinds of Magic Hat, Oskar Blues, Flying Dog (including Double Dog, which I saw everywhere in the South, but we don't get it here!), and regionals from Charleston Brewing, Thomas Creek, and Terrapin. We bought Magic Hat HIPA and Circus Boy hefe for some easy drinking but good tasting beer, and Jewbilation 11, which is a one-time release.

Our next destination took us a few miles south to what was the home of Blackwater Brews, a microbrew bar that we were looking forward to. I had read about it first on BeerAdvocate.com and was looking forward to trying the Double Dog that they carried on tap and seeing their selection of bottled beer, not to mention just being in a bar of that kind in the Myrtle Beach area.
Its closed.

So...time to hit Broadway at the Beach, or Chainrestaurantpalooza! as I like to call it. This is a conglomerate of restaurants and shops (The Kite Shop- I'm there!) that attracts all the people who visit Myrtle Beach, or so it seemed as we were trying to find a parking spot.

The reason I wanted to go to Broadway at the Beach was to visit the Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery, and not to drink the beer. I have done that in the past, and while there were a variety of styles available, they all had that chain brewpub kind of sameness to them. That didn't stop me from going back this time to pick up an empty growler. Yeah, I collect them. I waited in the very busy bar and watched a patron order an IPA from the bartender. Without hesitation the bartender poured a beer and give it to the guy. The problem was, they didn't have an IPA, just a pale ale. The bartender didn't bother to tell the guy, so I did. He didn't seem to care. I got my empty growler, after paying $5.95 for it. That's an expensive empty beer glass. I can get a growler filled at Marble for six-something with my beer club discount. Let's move on, I'm starting to get mad.

Also located at Broadway at the Beach ids the Stool Pigeons pub chain. They have 30 beers on tap but the list is chock full of macros. They do carry local New South beers such as the nut brown, white ale and lager, and they also had the great Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Double IPA, so hopefully people are trying something out of the ordinary there.

We noticed a lot of those "urban living centers" on our journey, like the Winrock area is turning into. Myrtle Beach has one too, located on the space previously occupied by an air force base. The Gordon Biersch brewpub chain has opened there, and it can only bring good things for beer education in the area. I learned that the hefeweizen is the most popular beer there (and they make a good one), and the black lager is a big seller too. I wouldn't mind having one of those here. Who cares about California Pizza Kitchen?

Our last stop was to Green's Discount Beverages, which is a chain around the southeasten part of the country. The one we visited is located a block away from the beach, so I imagined walls of Corona and Bud Light. And Miller Lite. And Coors Light.

Which they did, but they also had a surprising selection of Belgians, along with a decent selection of American micros. We picked up a mixed 12-pack of Heavy Seas beers, which had three each of: Peg Leg Imperial Stout (8%), Small Craft Warning Uber Pils (7%), Hang Ten Imperial Weizenbock (10%) and Loose Cannon DIPA (7.5%). I wanted some Loose Cannon after seeing it on tap at Stool Pigeons so it was cool that it was included in the mix. Actually, all the beers are cool. It 's rare that a company puts all "big" beers together in a 12-pack; usually there are a couple of throwaway beers, but Heavy Seas did well.

There was one place that we didn't make it to, one that we learned about while watching the local access channel. Quigley's Pint and Plate is a brewpub run by former Liberty Steakhouse brewer Josh Quigley, and is located south of Myrtle Beach in Pawley's Island. From what I have read about the beer it sounds like they all run towards lighter, balanced flavors. I'll have to give it a try next time I'm there, if they are still there.

So yes, Virginia, Myrtle Beach does have a craft beer scene- you just have to know where to look for it. And be ready to deal with the Summer traffic. So many people drive for many hours or even days to come here, and for good reason. Great food, great golf, great scenery, and, as we've learned, great beer!

Next stop on the trip: Athens

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