It’s time for me to come clean. I admit, I have Asheville envy. Nine breweries, self-distribution and a kick-ass beer store, Bruisin Ales. As a beer lover, sometimes I wish I had moved 60 miles up highway 25.
What’s been missing is the beer store. Sure, the big boys have a good selection, but I’m talking about a craft beer store, run by owners who are as passionate and more knowledgable than I am, who are willing to stock a beer than only 10 people in the city are likely to try just so they can say they carry it, and who are around and actually want to talk beer with their customers.
The void has been filled. On July 1, The Community Tap opened on Wade Hampton Blvd. Mike Okupinski and Ed Buffington not only had the dream, they took the leap, and the rest of us are here to reap the spoils.
The 1,600 square-foot shop was built out entirely by Mike and Ed, along with their fathers and the help of a few other friends, including Josh Beeby, the owner of Barley’s Tap Room. According to Mike, “We wanted to build a store we’d expect to find in a residential area, that we would want to walk into ourselves.”
The store features a wide range of beer, which is sure to get more diverse as they get more entrenched in the market. Whenever the pair has some downtime between customers, they are working the phone, talking to their distributors to get new products, or contacting breweries directly to get them to send their latest and greatest to South Carolina.
In some cases, Mike and Ed also contact breweries that don’t even distribute in our state to let them know there is a market if they want to bring in their beer. It’s good to know we have beer lobbyists out there working tirelessly to bring exciting new beer to us.
|Mike and Brian in front of the growler station|
While the bottle selection is good, the highlight of the store is the growler filling station. Built out like a real bar, there are six taps to choose from. You can use one of the Community Tap provided growlers or bring a container of your own.
Mike also stressed the fact that they can special order beer, even if they don’t usually carry it in the store, “Anything out there you see, odds are we can get it.” So if you have any requests, let them know.
Also, with the next beer tasting laws that just passed, The Community Tap will be having their first in-store tasting around the last week in July. Check back with their website for more info.
What, Wine at a Beer Store?
In addition to beer, The Community Tap also has carries a selection of wines in the store. As a beer apologist, part of me was, let’s say, curious when I heard about the wine. I’m sure some of you may be thinking, “They better have a good excuse for this, other than higher margins.” Ok, I was thinking that.
Rest assured, they do have a good excuse. In addition to loving beer, Ed also has a passion for wine. Understanding the intricacies of wine helped form the bridge that brought him into Craft Beer Land.
|Ed talking wine|
The Community Tap doesn’t carry any Yellow Tail. The wine inventory consists of small, independently owned wineries. Ed and Mike have personally tasted and approved each bottle. Wine is not simply a token gesture to increase profit margins and cater to high-maintenance women.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part. Almost every wine bottle in the store is under $25. I say bring it on!
I highly recommend that you check out the store. They’ve got good beer, a cool atmosphere, and Mike and Ed are very helpful. Don’t be shy about letting them know what you want to see on the shelves, either. They are committed to uniting us with the beer we want to drink, and the entire beer community will benefit.