A couple weeks ago I was in a wedding for a good friend in Charleston, SC. As an aside, if anyone is thinking about a destination wedding, Charleston is probably one of the best locations in the country. Lots of beautiful, historic churches and outdoor marsh scenes, quaint hotels, good bars and the best dining you’ll find in a city that size. It’s a great atmosphere and there’s a lot for you and your guests to do and enjoy.
The Charleston Beer Exchange
The wife and I decided to extend our weekend by going down on Wednesday, as we wanted to check out a new specialty beer shop we’d been following from afar called The Charleston Beer Exchange. Ted’s Butcherblock was also having a beer dinner that night featuring Stone Brewing Company. How can you beat an entire day of quality beer? It was a no-brainer.
We started out by getting to the Beer Exchange around 2:30. As soon as we walked in to the store, we were reminded of how small a world South Carolina is. “Have we met before?” was the question immediately asked. And as a matter of fact, we had met owners Scott Shor and Rich Carley when we lived in Charleston about a year ago. We had met the guys at a couple events we went to at Ted’s and a homebrewers club meeting (www.lowcountrylibations.com).
Scott and Rich were gracious enough to spend some time talking with us about the store and all the stuff they have going on. Increasing their graciousness, they actually gave us a couple samples from the growler filling station. (I love being a beer writer!) After all, you can’t talk beer without drinking beer.
Scott (left) and Rich in front of the growler filling station
What caught my attention about the Beer Exchange a couple months ago when I first heard about it was that it is the first dedicated specialty beer store that I’ve seen in South Carolina. Obviously I had to check it out and make sure they are legit. And they are. There is no Budweiser or Miller to be found. That’s dedication, Holmes. They have about 400 different beers in stock. But, as the sign says over the beer fridge, “We don’t have Fat Tire.” Obviously, that question has come up more than once. So if you want Fat Tire, I suggest writing New Belgium and tell them to get their asses out here. They’re overdue.
My favorite thing about the store is that they have a growler filling station. Now all you readers in other parts of the world might say, “Why is that so special? I’ve been filling growlers for years!” Well, we in South Carolina are a few decades behind, and this is the first time I’ve seen one in a beer store. I’m not sure I could work in a beer store that has a growler filling station. I think I’d turn into Homer Simpson at Moe’s Tavern when Moe leaves the bar. It would get ugly.
They have five selections on tap and provide the growlers for you. It’s a really great idea and I can’t believe no one has done this before. Not only does it allow you to drink draft beer from the comfort and security of home, but it is also a very eco-friendly process. You can refill the growlers, and the kegs are sent back to the breweries when they float. You can drink with a clearer conscience.
The Beer Exchange does more than just sell beer, they give it away! They have free beer tastings on Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 to 7 pm, and often have Rare Beer Tuesday. After we wrapped up our afternoon session, we came back to the store around 6:00 to check out one of the tastings. Brandon from Carolina Craft Distributors was there to distribute some Founders beer to us. I had my first experience with Founders as a Christmas gift. It is fantastic stuff.
From the tasting it was on to Ted’s for our beer dinner. I’ve already gone on long enough, so I won’t go into every detail about Ted’s, but the food was great and you can’t really go wrong with Stone. (Although, I may write later this month about my feelings of Stone. Not saying positive or negative, I’ll just leave you with that teaser.) The highlight of dinner for me was a chive tempura cheddar curd that was paired with Stone Smoked Porter.
Basically, the cheddar curd was breaded and fried cheese. There is no possible way that could be not good. I’m not a huge fan of smoked beer on its own. As a matter of fact, I once had a Rogue Chipotle Ale and couldn’t finish it because it was just too smokey. But, that’s most likely because I was drinking it on its own. The Stone Smoked Porter was pretty good when I tried it before receiving my fried cheese, but it wasn’t the type of beer I’d have when sitting down to watch a football game.
But, when the cheddar curd arrived, it was like a match made in heaven. When you had the oils from the cheese lingering on your palate, the Smoked Porter was mellowed out a bit and you were left with the flavor of slightly smoked, creamy cheesy goodness. Man, it was good.
So after dinner we were invited back to the Beer Exchange for a supplemental tasting. I wrote about this experience in my post comparing the three vintages of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine. That was the perfect cap to a great day. It’s probably good that days like that don’t happen very often or I wouldn’t make it out of my thirties.
If you’re ever down in Charleston, you have to check out the Charleston Beer Exchange. They have a great selection and the guys are very cool. They have a passion for beer that is evident and they are eager to share that with their customers. Plus, swing by Ted’s if you have a chance, you can get fresh sliced bacon!