For hundreds of years in South Carolina and the nation, local distillers and brewers plied their trade free of federal or state regulation. If you could make it, you could sell it.
Even before Columbia was founded, local breweries dotted the Midlands, particularly in the Dutch Fork and Saxe Gotha districts that were settled by German immigrants. And many distillers also plied their trade, turning out liquor from rum to corn whiskey.
All that changed in 1920 with Prohibition, when drinking alcohol was declared illegal. Upon its repeal in 1933, the federal government began licensing and taxing beer, wine and liquor, and states set up individual laws regulating its sale.
But recent changes in South Carolina’s liquor laws have loosened regulations on distilling spirits and brewing beer. Now some consumers are raising their glasses to toast two new industries – locally produced craft beer and liquor – in Columbia and the Midlands.
In 2009, South Carolina passed legislation with less restrictive regulations for local distillers. But the trend was slow to take hold, as the Great Recession caused entrepreneurs to move slowly on purchasing equipment and opening businesses. Now that the economic woes have faded, three new distilleries have popped up in the Midlands, offering moonshine, vodka and bourbon.
Copper Horse, Columbia
929 Huger St., Columbia
Owner: Richard Baker
Distiller: Richard Baker
Phone: (803) 779-2993
Located in the Vista next to Stronghold Gym, Copper Horse was the Midlands’ first distillery, established in 2011. It began selling its aged spirits in August.
It produces premium, small-batch spirits in three handcrafted brands: Old Mill Vodka, a limited edition seasonal cream whiskey series and the still-aging Copper Horse Bourbon. The bourbon is aging in oak barrels that were handmade and toasted by Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, Ky.
Copper Horse spirits are made exclusively from grains milled at Columbia’s Allen Brother’s Milling Company, home of Adluh Flour. This fall, the distillery will bottle a limited edition series of cream whiskeys in three flavors: Pecan Praline, Chocolate Salted Truffle and Red Velvet Peppermint.
The tasting room and distillery are available for private tastings and tours.
Dark Water, Camden
923 Broad St., Camden
Owners: Carl and Shannon Monday
Distiller: Carl Monday
Phone: (803) 420-2678
Dark Water opened in April, distilling straight, 100-proof moonshine. (It will produce 180-proof on special order.)
It now offers apple pie moonshine, as well as muscadine, cherry and peach. In the future, the distillery will produce bourbon, gin, vodka and tequila. All will be made on a 50-gallon still.
The operation is family tradition for co-owner Carl Monday, a veteran federal detective and fourth-generation distiller.
The distillery is located in historic downtown Camden. The tasting room is open Monday through Friday 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Moonlight Distillery, Lexington
711 E. Main St., Suite OB2, Lexington, at The Old Mill
Owners: Beth Sanders, Brian Dawson
Phone: (803) 399-1529
Moonlight is the Midlands newest distiller, featuring a soft opening Oct. 25 and its grand opening Nov. 8 with a band.
The distillery uses a pot still with thumper to emphasize the flavor of the corn and texture of the spirits. It is opening with five flavors: Twisted Cinnamon, Blackberry Poison, Fuzzy Peach, Apple Pie and straight Moonshine.
The distillery, located in an outbuilding in Lexington’s Old Mill, has a tasting bar. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tours are available, and a commemorative run of its shine is available on its website.
In 2013, the General Assembly passed the "pint law," which increased the amount of beer customers can consume in craft brewery tasting rooms to 48 ounces – or 3 pints – from four 4-ounce samples. It also allows patrons to purchase up to 288 ounces (the equivalent of a case of beer) that patrons can buy in large jugs called growlers. Since then, three craft breweries have opened in the area, all in Columbia and all within walking distance of Williams-Brice Stadium.
947 S. Stadium Road, Bay 1
Owners: Joseph Ackerman and Matthew Ellisor
Brewers: Joseph Ackerman and Matthew Ellisor
Phone: (803) 521-4081
Columbia’s first microbrewery opened on South Stadium Road, near the Loose Cockaboose and Columbia Budweiser, on July 1, 2013, and had 700 customers in one day.
The brewery was opened by Ackerman and Ellisor, who quit their full-time jobs to focus their passion. They feature a blonde, India pale ales and a stout year-round with seasonal brews.
Conquest’s beers are distributed by Budweiser Columbia and sold in some area restaurants, including Yesterday’s in Five Points, British Bulldog Pub in Irmo and Liberty Tap Room in the Vista, among many other locations.
The hours for the tasting room are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The brewery also features the Balanced Brews yoga class on Sunday at noon. Cost: $15 and includes a beer.
Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company
921 Brookwood Drive, off Bluff Road
Owners: Ed and Daniel Boy
Brewer: Daniel Boyd
Telephone: (803) 252-0250
Website: www.swampcabbagebrewing.com (still in development)
Columbia's third and largest microbrewery as far as brewing capacity started brewing in July. The tasting room opened Aug. 15.
Swamp Cabbage makes five different ales – amber, ESB, a blonde, chocolate brown and a porter. The brothers plans to expand the list seasonally. They are being sold in Liberty Taproom and The Whig, among other locations.
The tasting room is open Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
1231 Shop Road, Columbia
Owner: Mike Tourville
Brewer: Mike Tourville
Telephone: (803) 724-5712
It’s named for the three rivers that run through Columbia, and the working-class men who labored on the canal here more than a century ago.
The brewery pours an American Kolsch, an Abbey Ale, a double IPA, a red ale and a brown ale. The beers are featured at the British Bulldog Pub in Irmo and Bourbon on Main Street, among many other locations.
The brewery features a tasting room, wide lawn and large deck. It is open from Wednesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
WINERIES, BREWPUBS AND A BREW BUS
A sampling of other booze-related businesses in the Midlands:
The Enoree River Winery, Newberry
Telephone: (803) 276-2855
Mercer House Estate Vineyards, Lexington
Telephone: (803) 957-7102
Website: www. mercerhouseestatewinery.com
Brew Bus, West Columbia
Offering tours of breweries
Telephone: (757) 871-8150
Old Mill Brewpub, Lexington
Telephone: (803) 785-2337
Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse, Columbia
Telephone: (803) 748-0540
Website: www .huntergathererbrewery.com