COAST Brewing is located in a small brick and concrete building on the old Charleston Navel Base in North Charleston, S.C., a stone’s throw from where Noisette Creek feeds into Cooper River. The location is non-descript, and easy to miss. Shaped like a surfboard, the COAST Brewing sign hangs on the side of the building. Its font is reminiscent of a wave. You can climb the concrete steps up to the building or take the sloping concrete ramp. Stair rails are solid iron, slightly rusted. Familiar brewery smells of boiling wort, spent grain, and cleaning chemicals permeate the air as you approach. Once you have found them and have sampled each of their distinct beers you will be glad you made the trip.
The brewery is so small that it is even hard to find COAST’s beers around town in Charleston, North Charleston, and Mt. Pleasant. Currently COAST is found at three locations in North Charleston, including EVO Pizzeria, ten downtown Charleston locations including Chai’s, Charleston Beer Exchange (beer store), Charleston Beer Works, Closed for Business, Fleet Landing, Fig, Griffon Pub, Hank’s Seafood, HUSK, and Mellow Mushroom. Out on Sullivan’s Island you can find Coast at Poe’s Tavern, and in Mt. Pleasant at several restaurants including Brixx, Coleman Public House and Red Drum and at local retail stores Whole Foods (bottles)and Wine A While (bottles). Out of the Charleston area the beers are found in Columbia at Green’s (Bottles) and Total Wine and in Greenville at Community Tap, Green’s , Greenville Beer Exchange , Total Wine and Whole Foods.
The brewery is owned and run by a great team made up of David Merritt and his wife Jaime Tenny. David is the Head Brewer and takes care of all the day-to-day brewing duties while Jaime tends to run more of the business side and paper work. The couple pride themselves in running a business that is energy efficient and environmentally conscious. The brewhouse runs on waste feedstock biodiesel. Spent grains are given to a John’s Island farmer for cattle feed. Even those his beers are not certified organic, Merritt uses many organic ingredients. As their website states, “we do it because it’s the right thing.” They do not market their beers as organic, it’s just a bonus.
David Merritt started home brewing in 1996 when he received a home brewing kit for Christmas. His passion for brewing grew with each batch he made. He made regular trips to the local home brewing store, Charleston Beer Works, where he was on a first name basis with everyone who worked there. He was always asking questions and improving on his brewing knowledge. This passion turned into a desire to make brewing a career. David headed out to Davis, California and entered the American Brewers Guild, completed their program, and upon returning to Charleston he started working with Frank Hughes at Southend Brewery & Smokehouse. Frank was the original brewer at Southend and was a great mentor. Frank was well known in the southeast for producing quality brews at Southend. David’s knowledge and on-hand brewing experience grew as a result of their relationship. When doors opened in 1999 at Charleston’s original brewery, Palmetto Brewing Company, David jumped at the opportunity. At Palmetto, David was involved in all aspects of running a larger microbrewery, as opposed to the experience from working at a brewpub. David learned about packaging on Palmetto’s bottling line and kegging station, as well as new filtration techniques and many other aspects one needs to run a brewery. The system was bigger but more importantly it was different. The experience in running equipment that was different from what Southend used provided David with more knowledge he would later use at COAST.
In 2007 Merritt had financing in line for his own venture. When the Texas Cattle Company Brewpub in Macon, Georgia closed for business, he purchased their small seven-barrel brew house. The equipment from Specific Mechanical systems was loaded up and transported to North Charleston. David and two friends moved the equipment by themselves on a flat bed truck.
In March of 2007 the equipment arrived and was moved in to the old Navy Yard building that David had purchased. Merritt then spent seven months setting up the brewery. Utilizing all of his garnered experience from working at Southend and at Palmetto, where attention to detail was most important, and the brewers were incredibly hands on in all aspects of mechanical upkeep, David started the installation with the help of friends and family. That spring and summer was spent putting the brewery back together and cleaning up the space. In April the brew house was assembled and plumbed. By the third week the fermenters were standing and electrical issues were being addressed. In late May, power was installed. David started to wire the brewery. During this time the local home brew club starting having meetings at COAST. In June the steam lines were run, electrical work continued, and the team started painting kegs that were purchased from Old Savannah. Jamie and David continued to work their full-time day jobs all the while and finally on September 14, 2007 the first brew was made!
For this initial batch, the grain was milled at Palmetto in downtown Charleston and transferred to the brewery. They started with their HopArt India Pale Ale and then their 32/50 Kolsch was followed by Chocolate Rye. By the end of September brewing was well underway and the duo was working long hours to get their brewery up and in full operation. On October 24, the first kegs left the brewery for the distributor and were put on tap down the street at Evo in North Charleston. The beers were the first all organic beers to be brewed commercially in South Carolina. After three months of operation, the brewery had maxed out in production and has never been able to catch up. Demand for COAST beers remains high.
David and Jaime played key roles in changing the South Carolina State laws that regulate tasting and selling beers from within their own brewery. Jaime headed up a group called Pop The Cap, that worked with Republican Rep. Bill Herbkersman (former owner of Columbia Brewing Company, Hilton Head Brewing, and St. Simmons Brewing). Pop The Cap help to change the legal limit of alcohol content allowed in beers from 6.2% to 17.5% by volume, and that allowed a greater variety of beers to be both produced and imported and sold in the state.
At COAST Brewing they brew what they enjoy to drink. Jaime describes their beers as “organic eclectic. We make what we like to drink, everything from session ales to extreme beers. We like it all.” Beers that are in production year round are HopArt and 32/50 Kolsch. The HopArt is a wonderful IPA, light golden-orange in color, with wonderful citrus, floral, and fruity aromas from the hops. David uses 11 pounds of hops per batch of beer. The malt backbone to this hearty brew holds the hops in check, a perfect balance of flavor. The artwork on the label is as enticing as the beer within. The 32/50 Kolsch is actually the number one rated Kolsch on Beer Advocate in the United States! See reviews on Beeradvocate beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/16354/39238.
The beer pours a beautiful golden color with a creamy white lacy head, is incredibly well balanced between the malt and hops, and is perfectly carbonated. The beer is very easy to drink as there is nothing in the beer that overpowers the flavor profile. It finishes clean and crisp.
We do not have any of COAST Brewing’s recipes to share with you but please enjoy the links to the beers – all described as Coast has posted on their website. If you have something to add send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see about adding your thoughts to their brew posts!
- HopArt IPA
- 32/50 Kolsch
- Blackbeerd, the Imperial Stout
- Rye Knot Brown Ale
- Red Legs Scotch Ale
- Honey Wheat Pale Ale
- ALTerior Motive
- DIS Dry Irish Stout
- AYE SB Extra Special Bitter
- the Boy King Double IPA
- Double IPA #2
- Porter, Smoked
- Single Hop Cascade Pale Ale
- Harold is an American Stout!
- Carnie Fire. A hoppy red.
- Oyster Stout. Foreign Extra Stout.
- Milk Stout
- Old Nuptial Barleywine
- Angry Mash Oatmeal Stout
- Smoked Rye Pale Ale
- the BELAFONTE