Posts tagged Charleston
Posts tagged Charleston
Westbrook Brewing Co.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
Citrus Ninja Exchange Double IPA
About a year ago, Westbook got a little hot and heavy with the guys at the Charleston Beer Exchange. Both were turned on by their mutual love for citrus-forward IPAs, and when their love was consummated, they birthed a beautiful - and delicious - bundle of joy known as Citrus Ninja Exchange. The Cascade single-hopped DIPA was stuffed with 50 lbs. of grapefruit, then dry-hopped four times. Needless to say, it was hoppy, juicy and heavy on the citrus.
Or so I’ve heard. The first born was a draft-only concoction that I never got to try. But this year, they got together again and gave that first brew a younger brother, this time with a simpler malt bill and a blend of American and New Zealand hops for Citrus Ninja 2.0.
Ninja pours a classic deep, hazy orange color. There’s about half a finger of head that disappears pretty quickly, as you’d expect a 9 percenter would. That’s coupled with some very nice lacing and alcohol legs.
If they were going for a citrus-foward beer, they achieved it in spades. The grapefruit wafts out of the glass as you’re pouring, and there’s just an epic grapefruit note on the nose. It’s very astringent and a tad boozy. Just imagine sticking your face in a freshly cut grapefruit and inhaling. It’s like that, but with less pulp.
Tastewise, there’s a slight bitterness on the tongue and a medium mouthfeel. There’s sort of a syrupy sweetness and a New Belgian-esque bready maltiness to it. Of course, that’s all taken over by the gigantic explosion of grapefruit on the back. It seriously tastes like eating pure grapefruit. The alcohol burn on the middle and back of the palate are exactly what you’d get from a fresh grapefruit. There are also hints of other citrus - lime, lemon, orange - but it’s overwhelmingly grapefruit centric. There’s also sort of a pulpy aftertaste and a dry finish. The beer, in a word, is amazing.
Fruit- and citrus-forward IPAs are my favorite. They can have an aggressiveness and power to them, but still mellow nicely and become more enjoyable as your palate adjusts. Citrus Ninja is an assault on the taste buds, what with its huge tartness and astringency, but it’s one you just want to keep drinking. The flavor is full, lush biting, but just oh so damn good. Here’s to hoping this becomes an annual collaboration.
Coast Brewing Co.
Bull’s Bay Oyster Stout
Coast’s oyster stout is, surprisingly, an oyster stout. But what makes it special is it’s brewed with local oysters, and instead of using just oyster juice, they throw full oysters into the brew. The calcium in the oysters imparts a dry but creamy characteristic on the beer, and keeps it in sessionable territory.
The beer is black as night. It pours a thick and viscous black with maybe a half a finger of head on top that doesn’t stick around for long. There’s some decent lacing and minor alcohol legs.
On the nose is a huge dark chocolate and dark roasted coffee notes with a little bit of salt to it. There’s a creamy sweetness to it, but it’s dried out from the calcium. It’s a very robust and rich smell.
The taste starts like velvet in your mouth but ends with a nice bite of carbonation. There’s an incredibly smooth and creamy mouthfeel from the calcium in the oysters, and a big chocolate note on the front and middle that morphs into a lingering roasted coffee note on the back. There’s definitely a briny and slight salt note to it. Again, it’s dry, but balanced with the creaminess.
I prefer stouts that are rich, flavorful and thick, so I usually don’t like dry stouts. Coast’s is an exception and a welcomed change. I was told by the brewers that while it is a low ABV stout, the calcium from the oysters will impart more of a creaminess as it dries the stout out. I don’t plan to keep the other bottle I have in my cellar for too long, but I’m interested to see what it does with a little age.
Also, it should go without saying, but drink Charleston beer.
I was in Folly Beach, SC, for the night a couple weekends ago, and since it’s in proximity to Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, I decided to show some love for great local beer by swinging by two of my favorite local breweries: Coast and Westbrook.
While I had been to both before - and to Coast about a month ago for Brewvival - I always make a point to stop by and try some fresh product straight from the source.
First up was Coast, located in North Charleston. Coast was founded in 2007 by David, a longtime home brewer, and his wife Jamie, a bio major from New Jersey. While the couple makes some of the best beer in the state, I have even more respect because Jamie led the Pop the Cap SC movement, which revolutionized beer in the Palmetto State
(Quick background: Before 2008, SC breweries could not sell beer on premises. A bill passed by our state Legislature changed that, and allowed beers up to 17% ABV to be sold in the state. Before then, it was the beer dark ages in SC. Visitors are allowed only four 4 oz. samples per visit in conjunction with tours, and sales as restricted per person, but it’s better than nothing.)
The brewery sells growlers and bottles on site as well as conducting tours of their brewery, which is basically one small room with all the necessary equipment. While it was St. Patrick’s Day when my fiancee and I visited, the brewery was dead, so Jamie was bussing us samples and talking with the cliental.
On tap that day:
With the crowd light that day, Jamie was able to talk to everyone on site and give a tour of the brewery, which was albeit a quick one. She talked about some of the upcoming beers they’ve got, including the next release of their barrel-aged versions of Blackbeerd, their incredible imperial stout, and Old Nuptial, their equally as incredible barleywine.
After an hour or so at Coast, we made our way over to Mt. Pleasant for a stop at Westbrook. The brewery, founded by Ed Westbrook, another longtime home brewer, is one of the state’s newest breweries. They just celebrated their first anniversary with the release of Mexican Cake, an excellent imperial stout brewed with habanero peppers.
Westbrook is a sharp contrast to Coast. Whereas the latter is located in a small building in a naval yard, Westbrook is in a huge, brand new building tucked away at the back of an office park. The brewery itself is huge, cavernous and, for the most part, spotless. In addition to all the usual equipment, a small canning line was recently installed, and there’s an impressive barrel room off to the side.
Of the beers on tap that day, I tried:
Rant time: This was my second time visiting both Coast and Westbrook, but likely my last time visiting the latter. For the second time, Westbrook’s taproom staff was snobby, rude and discourteous to the people in the taproom. The two girls working that day completely ignored those with empty glasses, stood in the corner talking with each other most of the time and seemed burdened by the fact they had to fill up 4 oz. tasters for paying customers. I understand working on a Saturday sucks, but if you don’t like doing it, then quit or at least try to make your customers feel welcomed.
In fairness, I was contacted by Westbrook after my visit and assured changes would be made. (Sounds as if I might not have been the only one with complaints.) And I’ve heard from plenty of others they’ve always had a great time during their visits. Still, not an enjoyable experience for me for the second time in a row, but one I hope to not see repeat again.
Coast? No complaints. Those folks are nothing but awesome.
Complaints and accolades aside, both breweries make great beer. South Carolina’s lacking when it comes to breweries, but not when it comes to quality. I highly recommend a stop at each if you ever get a chance to visit the coast.