This weekend I tagged along with my wife Nicole to Hilton Head Island to do some field work for an article she is writing for a Charleston-based food magazine. I was able to go as her travel companion and chauffeur, while reaping the benefits of some great food.
We were both very excited about this weekend, and Nicole did a lot of research to find just the right places for us to hit. Before beginning our food tour on Friday evening, she thought it would be a good way to begin for our first stop to be at only brewery on Hilton Head, the Hilton Head Brewing Company.
Once we were finally able to find the brewpub (and I use “pub” lightly), as it was hidden away in a maze of a 1980s-style shopping center, we came up to the door where they had the beers on tap written on a chalk board with a description of each beer. Their selections were a summer blonde, an IPA, an amber, and a porter. Seemed good, so we went in.
As soon as we walked in, I knew something wasn’t quite right. It screamed of “sports-bar”. When we sat down, I asked our waiter if they offered a flight so that I could sample their beers. He had no idea what a “flight” was, but he said he could bring a sample of each beer out. Not wanting to argue about semantics, I agreed to have the sampler.
The first beer we tried was the summer blonde. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t too bad. No noticeable aroma, malt, or hoppy character, kind of like your standard light lager, except it did have an interesting tartness in the aftertaste. At this point I was still optimistic, because that style of beer is usually my least favorite, so I figured I would enjoy the other styles more. Unfortunately, it was all down-hill from there.
The next beer up was the IPA. I was surprised at the very creamy body of the IPA when I first tasted it. After that, I was just surprised at the lack of taste and the lack of hops. It kind of had the same finish as the blonde, a little tart, but not quite right.
The amber was where things really got interesting. I was amazed at first because this beer had no aroma. None. At all. The bar wasn’t smokey, and I wasn’t stuffed up. It just had no smell. It also had some really bad off flavors, including a very sour finish, and not the citrusy sour of casacade hops, just sour. It was so bad that we didn’t even finish the dixie cup sized sample we had.
At this point I was just praying that the porter would redeem our experience. After all, it looked like a nice, dark, chocolaty, stout. Nope. The aroma was that of dust. It tasted like they took our the uniform of our old CofC mascot, Dusty Clyde the Cougar, and dropped it in the brew casks. The after taste can only be described as “strange”. I renamed it the Dusty Clyde Porter.
After making our way through the sampler, we should have just cut our losses and left, but being the dedicated beer lovers that we are, we decided to each get a pint of the summer blonde, as it was the least offensive. I hoped it would get better as I acclimated myself to the beer, but I had no such luck. Somehow, I was able to persevere to the end, but it was not easy.
The purpose of my blogging is primarily to highlight great beer and share those beers and experiences with others. I don’t want to become a beer curmudgeon (although it is fun sometimes). However, it was obvious to me that the brewers at the Hilton Head Brewing Company really don’t care about their beer. They are in it for the late-night college crowd that shotguns their Michelob Ultra and downs shots of tequila. They should do us all a favor and just take out the brew kettles and use the floor space for something more productive, like a stage for the drunk college girls to dance on.
Oh, and the worst part? They charged us $2 for the sampler. Ugh…
There is a brewpub space in Durham, NC that is apparently built on an Indian burial ground. Or perhaps when the Weeping Radish pulled out, they hired an old gypsy woman to put a curse on the building. Whatever the case, it went through several owners while we were in town, and each incarnation was worse than the last.
I forget the name of the place (it was after the nouveau New Orleans place that put shaved carrots on their red beans & rice went deservedly belly up), but in one of it’s phases a friend and I gathered our waning hopes and paid a visit. The menu sounded promising, and the brews they claimed to be fermenting in the tanks should have been decent, but it turned out to be some of the worst food and definitely the worst beer I had in Durham. The ONLY enjoyment we got out of the place was writing snarky comments for our fictitious food column:
“What spices there were sat demurely across the plate, refusing to mingle with food of such low breeding.”
“The beer’s buttery mouth feel was a welcome distraction from the predominate flavor of week-old gym socks.”
In some situations, you find enjoyment any way you can.
I’ve been drinking beer for years and writing about it for a decade…but I have to admit that I’ve rarely heard the term “flight” attached to a beer sampler.
As to being charged $2 for one; that’s cheap. You’re expecting free beer?
The “flight” was not what I normally would associate with a beer sampler, which is at least a small 6 oz. glass of each beer. What we got was a little plastic dixie cup of each beer. If they want to charge for it, that’s fine, but at least let us know ahead of time. When I saw that charge on the bill, it was just the final twist of the knife in an over-all terrible experience.
And by the way, thanks for posting! How did you find my little start-up site?
Your retelling of our experience at the brewing company gave me a hearty laugh. Wow. You know I hope for the best, but, man….the IPA was creamy, but tasted like soap. I was having flashbacks from childhood.
The next morning, we learned more about the brewing company from a reliable, local source. :) It’s changed ownership several times. I was comforted to know that when the brewery first opened, the original brew master was passionate and made some really good beer.
On a side note, on Saturday night, we ate at an awesome place called Street Meet that made fusion hotdogs – dogs with crazy, themed toppings. I washed my meal down with two schooners of PBR. And oh, the beer tasted GLORIOUS.
I enjoyed reading your review of Hilton Head Brewing Company. I am still laughing about your server not knowing what a flight was. “No, but I can bring a sample of each beer out.” Ha ha!
Thanks for all the great info and reviews on your site. I’ll be sure to let you know when I give high gravity beer a shot. Although I am a wine lover, I am looking forward to training my palate to appreciate high gravity beer too.
Brian, Brian, Brian,
Consult me before you go to a “brewery” in Hilton Hell. I don’t know if I ever told you this, I’m just too ashamed, but I lived in HHI for a few miserable months of my young adult life. I remember HHBC. Well, when I say I remember, I mean that loosely. Too much drinkie, drinkie sometimes. They had cool t-shirts. The only good thing that ever happened at that place was “jazz” night. I think it was on Tuesdays or Thursdays. You see when you live in HHI you go to whichever bar is having a night of some sort for entertainment because that is all you do there. I heard a very amusing rendition of Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” which is reggae, but it had a great electronic jazz spin to it.
I have to say that I am proud of you and Nicole for finding the “Barmuda Triangle”. You guys were hanging out with the locals! Thank goodness you didn’t go to the Salty Dog or the Tiki Hut.
Great to sign onto a beer blog and read your wife’s comment of: “I remember HHBC. Well, when I say I remember, I mean that loosely. Too much drinkie, drinkie sometimes.”
Good stuff Brian – look forward to reading more – you should come back to 5pts and do a review on $5 pitchers of beer at the various local dives.