Beerman for Nov. 1, 2012

Convenient craft beers

For Weekly SurgeOctober 30, 2012 

At about 8 a.m. on a Monday morning, I stood in front of an incredible selection of craft beers: Abita, Brooklyn Brewing, Highland, New Holland, Magic Hat, Pyramid, and Myrtle Beach’s own New South.

I know what you’re thinking: “Burch, everyone knows Monday morning can drive a man to drink, but most of us know better than to follow through with that feeling.”

True. I wasn’t planning to drink. I was on my way to work.

I was standing in a convenience store – the Scotchman at the corner of Gardner Lacy Road and U.S. 501 – hoping to find some Pop-Tarts because I didn’t get my ass out of bed early enough to make breakfast.

But then there was this gorgeous set of shelves just inside the door and to the right.

Beer consciousness began expanding in convenience stores and drug stores some time ago, but I haven’t seen many selections quite like that Scotchman at the corner of Gardner Lacy Road and U.S. 501.

My neighborhood Rite Aid drug store often carries beers such as Blue Moon and Samuel Adams, two beers that are a step up from Miller High Life and the like. Of course, I remember a time when drug stores didn’t carry beer or wine at all, and the best beer you could get at a gas station was Budweiser.

Consider this Scotchman just the latest chapter in the ongoing Grand Strand Beer Renaissance.

It’s also a Scotchman that’s made a very smart business move.

At the recent Convenience Store News Beverage Retailing Summit in Chicago, retailers learned that 53 percent of total packaged beer sales happen at convenience stores. Packaged beer sales increased 4 percent during the year ending in mid-August, Danny Brager, a vice president with the Beverage Alcohol Team at Nielsen, told summit participants.

Crafting a beer economy

Speaking of beer sales, demand for craft beer increased 12 percent during the first half of this year, according to the Brewers Association.

I’m not sure if that means a single sector of the economy is booming – or if a bad economy makes beer more necessary for overworked, overtaxed Americans who can’t hope to be heard by their big bank-whore elected representatives.

“Most breweries are at capacity. They can barely make enough beer to meet demand,” Bob Pease, chief operating officer for the Brewers Association, told

Billy Klingel, head brewer at Oyster House Brewing Co. in Asheville, N.C., spoke to about one thing that could help him hire more people and expand his brewed offerings: kill the federal excise tax on small brewers.

The federal excise tax takes $7 for each barrel (two kegs) of beer produced by breweries up to the first 60,000 barrels per year. From the 60,001 mark to the 2 million barrel notch, the tax takes $18 per barrel.

Oddly enough in our polarized times, a possible solution has support of Democrats and Republicans – and many craft brewers.

It’s the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act, from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). It’s also known as the Small BREW Act.

The act would cut the tax on the first 60,000 barrels to $3.50, and drop the tax on the 60,001-2 million zone to $16, reported.

The U.S. Senate version sponsored by Kerry and Crapo, and a U.S. House version, were introduced in 2011, but both versions are still stuck in committees, according to

Neither of the two major presidential candidates mentioned the bill in recent campaign stops, reported.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens, the late British novelist, said of our beer and our economy.

A few to look for

Here are just a few of the worthwhile beers you should be able to find in our area now or in the near future:

Founders Backwoods Bastard

Smuttynose Pumpkin

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace

Bear Republic Red Rocket

Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Stout

Contact Colin Burch at and visit his blog at

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