COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Cottontown Brew Lab shipped their first keg in December 2017.
Owner Zack Jones says he was just a home brewer, but when changes to South Carolina law became more accepting of craft breweries, he went ahead and opened his own.
“When you start a brewery you basically are faced with a question up front are you just going to sell on premises or is your business model going to rely on distribution,” Jones said.
Jones said his brewery ships about 40 barrels a month. They have the capacity to make about 270 barrels a month. He said it can be difficult to break into different markets across the state because of contractual obligations with distributors. “Getting a fair playing field in the distribution market is really important to us.”
Some legislation being debated in the South Carolina Senate would allow breweries to open a satellite taproom away from their production area. Jones said a satellite taproom could benefit his brewery and others across the state. “That gives us the ability in the one area of businesses we make money. To be able to expand and make more money.”
Right now in South Carolina, breweries can only serve a person 48 ounces of their product in their taproom.
Customers can take home 288 ounces of beer. Another bill would remove that take-home limit.
Wholesalers and distributors are worried this legislation could signal the beginning of the end of the three-tier alcohol distribution system in South Carolina. Lance Boozer with the South Carolina Beer Wholesalers Association said, “When you look at the bills, you can see this small group is attempting to invade the other tiers and seek advantages that apply only to them.”
The legislation is currently being debated in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee. Breweries say they will be working with wholesalers as lawmakers continue to listen to their testimony.
Brook Bristow with the South Carolina Brewers Guild said, “We’ll probably end up compromising on some of these. Because the industry is stronger when everyone works together.”
The South Carolina Brewers Guild said there are 84 breweries and brewpubs in South Carolina.