Probably the most notable of 2000 Great American Beer Festival awards went to New South Brewing Company. Brewer David Epstein won two medals in the same category using different recipes and two brewery names. In the American-style Amber Lager classification, New South Oktoberfest garnered gold. Brewed in the same kettle, under contract for the T-Bonz restaurant chain, a bronze medal was awarded to T-Bonz’s Oktoberfest.
Just one year prior, at the 1999 GABF awards ceremony, the Myrtle Beach, SC micro scored its first two medallions. Twin bronze trophies were bestowed upon New South Lager Beer and New South Pale Ale, the latter in the tough Classic English-style Pale Ale category. Four prestigious medals in just their first two Denver festivals is not only astonishing, it’s amazing. Obviously Epstein is extremely proud of the medals hanging on his office wall, but that cold metal does little more than glisten. It’s his beer, a product of hardwork and dedication, that speaks volumes with its goodness.
New South was established in 1998 with a two-fold mission. The busy brewhouse produces house beers for the growing T-Bonz Steakhouse chain, which has seven restaurants in Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Augusta. The microbrewery also markets its own brand of New South beers, serving a customer base of over 75 taps, mostly on the local Grand Strand but also in Florence and Charleston.
Assisted part-time by Liberty Steakhouse brewer Josh Quigley, also an owner in the micro, New South brews five recipes for T-Bonz plus a few seasonals, three regular New South beers and five New South seasonals. The restaurant beer line-up includes Cooper River Red, T-Bonz Lager, American Brown Ale, Market Street Wheat and T-Bonz Raspberry. The New South brews cover a broader stylistic range. Falling somewhere between styles, the 2000 bronze winning New South Pale Ale utilizes British hops but also includes American-grown Chinook and Cascade, finishing with 40 to 45 bittering units. Oddly, the Pale recipe calls for an American ale yeast. The other 2000 bronze beer, New South Lager, is a hybrid as well, walking the line dividing American lagers and European pilsners. Czech Saaz hops meet US lager yeast in a light but biting (about 35 ibu’s) mouth feast. Close to mild English Nut Brown in style, New South Brown plows the lighter end of the Brown spectrum and is lightly hopped with Kent Goldings.
And then there’s the New South seasonals. For most craft breweries, their best selling product is usually one of the year-round beers. However, at New South the GABF’00 gold winning Oktoberfest earned that honor. Thanks to South Carolina’s antiquated laws, Epstein was forced to brew his Oktoberfest with less alcohol content than the GABF Oktoberfest/Marzen specification. Oktoberfest’s loss is American Amber’s gain. The beer is smooth, malty and extremely satisfying, a touch of Munich on the Atlantic. New South Porter, a robust porter, is richly malty from Caramel 40 and black patent malts, blessed with a bouquet of hops bitterness from Chinook and finishing Hallertau hops. A heavy caramel malt bill, both 80 and 120 lovibond, Munich malt and a touch of black patent give New South’s Strong Amber Ale full body and complexity. New South White Ale is Belgian is every regard, including coriander and dried orange peel, with the exception of yeast. This light, hot weather beach beer, fermented with American ale yeast, does not exhibit the clove, banana estery taste typical of the Belgian style. In fact, it is crisp and less cloying than its pure bred Belgium brethren. A new addition, Pelican Ale, was originally introduced as a special brew for sale only at the local single-A baseball park, in honor of the hometown Pelicans. This extra pale ale hit a grand slam. It’s now out of the ballpark and can be found at other coastal venues during baseball season.
Epstein entered the brewing profession in grand manner. A native of Charleston, he worked for three years, 1994-1997, at Rockies Brewing in Boulder, Colorado. Because the regional microbrewery is huge, producing scores of different recipes, the rookie brewer was exposed to all aspects of brewing and packaging. Tiring of the Rocky Mountain high, he landed a job with T-Bonz’s brewpub in Mt. Pleasant, a Charleston suburb. That job also entailed brewing T-Bonz Homegrown Ales under contract at Palmetto Brewing in Charleston with Liberty Steakhouse brewer Quigley. During that 1997 time-frame, he also ran a separate homebrew supply store and put some time in working for Josh at Liberty Steakhouse’s Myrtle Beach brewpub. But by 1998, with backing from the T-Bonz corporation, he had the distinct pleasure of assembling equipment for the new New South Brewing. Situated in the beach town’s warehouse district, the large building houses a 20 barrel brewhouse, four 40 barrel fermenters and one 80 barrel fermenter. A sizable walk-in cooler contains two 40 barrel and one 80 barrel bright tanks. New South produced 1,700 barrel in 2000, about half the boiler plate capacity of the equipment.
Plans to add a bottling line have been shelved, allowing the all-keg microbrewery to do what it does best: brew flavorful, consistently drinkable beer. Unfazed by style, honored by GABF medals, David Epstein and New South Brewing Company are setting new standards for excellence “in a region that has no brewing tradition.”
Note that since this was originally written that Dave Epstein is now the sole owner of the company and while still great friends with Josh Quigley the original owner, Josh has moved on to run his own Brewpub in Litchfield Beach, S.C. called Quigleys Pint and Plate