The Myrtle Beach area is comprised of a few small towns and a couple of larger cities spread out over 60 miles of beach. Nothing is centrally located. So, when a group of folks go out to get a drink, they will usually pick a bar close to work and/or home. And until very recently, local craft beer enthusiasts would have to drive to Myrtle Beach or Conway to get a pint of a newly released beer.
But now there are craft beer spots popping up all over the Grand Strand and more and more craft beer-devoted events, such as this weekends inaugural Beer, BBQ & Bluegrass festival at The Market Common. And chances are, if your neighborhood doesnt have a bar with a crafty beer selection now it will soon.
Yes, you can still find BMC (Bud, Miller, Coors) pretty much everywhere you go. But the worldwide craft beer boom has finally hit Myrtle Beach and in a big way. Many bars that used to simply carry the fizzy yellow stuff, now carry a growing selection of craft beers. While other bars, such as Bumsteads Pub, Crafty Rooster, Hurricane Maggies and the just-opened Atlas Tap House have narrowed their focus to showcasing a wide variety of craft brews from local, regional and national breweries. From the laid-back beach atmosphere of Atlas Tap House and Pawleys Island Tavern, to the upscale gourmet food and ambiance of Perrones and Fire & Smoke Gastropub - the variety of local bars that serve high-quality beer is growing, too.
The days of bars being able to get away with carrying only the large domestic brewers swill is over. Patrons have tasted real beer and now they crave it. They want fresh, out-of-the-ordinary beers that are coming from local breweries and the multitude of breweries in the Charleston area. In these days of social media, we see and hear about new beers daily. And luckily, there are lots of places you can go around town and get your fill.
To help you navigate this brewing phenomenon, I have compiled my list of the Top Ten bars along the Grand Strand to get the best selection of craft beers.
No. 10 - Bullys Pub and Grill
4868 U.S. 17 South, Barefoot Landing, North Myrtle Beach
Located in Barefoot Landing, Bullys is not only a great place to get a beer while ditching your visiting family who is busy shopping, but also a great spot to pre-game before a concert at the House of Blues, or spend several hours shooting pool or watching the game. Grab a seat at the bar or on one of the wooden benched tables or head outside to the picnic tables on the porch and feed the giant carp. With 32 different beers on draft, shot specials and a full menu of wings, sliders and steaks, Bullys should have enough to please anyone in your group. Play darts, shoot pool or play a large format video game with a cold beer in arms reach.
On my last visit, I sat at the end of the bar, caught up on The Masters and had a pint of New Belgium Ranger, and my buddy had a Holy City Pluff Mud Porter. Also on draft was Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale as well as regulars and seasonals from Goose Island, Sam Adams and New Belgium. The bottle selection was not terribly impressive with a handful of Caribbean imports and a few ciders. But what Bullys may lack in selection, it makes up with its atmosphere, friendly bartenders and great location.
No. 9 Liberty Tap Room
7651 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach
With a killer Happy Hour menu and a selection of 36 different draft beers, Liberty Tap Room is a great place to meet up with friends or hang out on the patio and watch a game. The full-service restaurant inside focuses on the giant bar that stretches the length of the patio. Inside the restaurant, but open to the outside patio, the bartenders buzz back and forth, making cocktails and pouring beers to the large crowds that can be easily found here most evenings and nights of the week.
Since the Liberty beers that are brewed at the Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery at Broadway at the Beach by Brewmaster Mike Silvernale cant be taken off premises to be sold at Liberty Tap Room, the Tap Room carries an assortment of locally-brewed New South beers including a few contract brews for Liberty, such as the Miss Liberty Lager and the Rockets Red Ale, as well as other regional and national brews such as Terrapin, RJ Rockers, Goose Island and New Belgium
The last time I went to Liberty Tap Room, our group enjoyed some cheaply priced and ridiculously tasty appetizers. We got some fresh baked pretzels, chicken fingers and spinach dip all priced at $4-$5 and pints of New South IPA for $2.50. We enjoyed fantastic, friendly service and a tiny bar tab. Liberty Tap Room is an amazing value, as well as a comfortable, more upscale place to end a long day at work or start an evening out.
No. 8 - Pawleys Island Tavern
10635 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island
You could drive around Pawleys Island for months before you see the small sign beside the mailbox just before the South Causeway. Tucked back in the trees behind the Island Shops is an oasis of good beer and great food named the Pawleys Island Tavern, or the PIT to those in the know. After navigating the dirt parking lot, visitors walk up to an outdoor seating area and Tiki bar, along with the sprawling tavern itself. Upon entering the tavern, you are immersed in a cavern wallpapered from floor to ceiling in dollar bills. The short bar seats about 8, with small tables behind and a dining room beyond. A small stage is in the corner, ready for a musician or two. Past the stage, a door I almost couldnt see because of the dollar bill wallpaper, reveals an outside patio with another bar that was closed when I was there, but could easily accommodate a huge Saturday night crowd.
I bellied up to the bar and ordered a Holy City Pluff Mud Porter. Also on draft was New South Nut Brown, Sierra Nevada Summerfest, River Dog IPA and the ever-popular PBR. For a Saturday afternoon, the place was bumping with a decent lunch crowd. I watched the drinks go out from the bar lots of wine, cocktails and Budweiser flowed to the hungry patrons. However, Bob, my neighbor at the bar was enjoying a Golden Monkey from Victory and told me about the rotating selection. The glass refrigerator on the other side of the bar proudly displayed cans of Westbrook IPA and White Thai, bottles of Bitch Creek ESB, Bells Pale Ale and Victory Swing, along with imports such as Maisel and Harp. Going with the island vibe, Red Stripe and Kalik were also in attendance.
I ordered the Black and Blue Burger and was not disappointed. My burger was medium and it came out obviously hand-patted, perfectly cooked and very juicy. The blackened spice and blue cheese crumbles paired well with the roastiness of the porter. While not an enormously diverse selection of craft beer, the Pawleys Island Tavern had plenty of choices to enjoy with a great meal or while catching some live music on a weekend night. The PIT is more of an experience made complete with good beer.
No. 7 - International Café
221 North Main Street, North Myrtle Beach
In the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach, sitting between shag clubs and gift shops, is the International Café. Besides its location, and the fact that its one of the few bars in the area thats not a shaggers hangout, the distinctive thing about International Café is its beer selection. While other bars on this list focus primarily on American craft beer, International Café as its name implies, focuses on imported beers, as well as a few carefully-selected American craft beers.
International Cafés beer menu contains brews from more than 40 countries and serves beers that you dont find much anywhere else in town, including Bitburger from Germany and Xingu Black Beer from Brazil. Eight taps regularly carry beers from New South, Dos Equis, Warsteiner and Dogfish Head. Bottles from Rogue, Sam Adams, Stone, Delirium Tremens, Chimay and Victory are chilling in the cooler. On my last visit, I enjoyed a plate of fish and chips paired with a Highland Oatmeal Porter.
With only two TVs in the bar, the focus is on enjoying the company you are with and interacting with the other patrons. This is easy to do, as the crowd on weekend nights gets lively and the regulars are friendly and eager to talk. International Café is a great spot to go with a group. The beer geeks will find plenty of treasures and will be tempted to try some rare imports they may have never had. While others should find plenty of great cocktails served by fast bartenders who may even have a Jell-o shot or two behind the bar just for them.
No. 6 Atlas Tap House
1004 Chester Ave., Myrtle Beach
Recently opened by brothers Mark Giffords and Aaron Giffords, Atlas Tap House is located at the corner of Mr. Joe White Avenue and Chester Street, diagonally across the street from Dagwoods Deli and Bumsteads Pub, where music venue The Sound Hole was most recently. After an extensive renovation, Atlas Tap House opened in March and has filled its fridge with more than 60 beers from the likes of Great Divide, Harpoon, Terrapin and Bells Brewing and 25 taps with beers from Westbrook, Red Hare, River Dog, Quest Brewing, New Belgium, Aviator, RJ Rockers and locally-brewed New South.
After deployment to the Middle East, Mark Giffords dreamed of opening a bar with his brother. They just needed to find the perfect space, and after months of being in the arid desert, the beach looked like the place to be. So, the brothers packed up their belongings and moved to the space above the bar and started working on the renovation. They put in all new flooring, extended the bar and resurfaced the bar top. They placed a pool table in the back and TVs throughout. They breathed new life into an outside patio and bar in the back that overlooks the SkyWheel. A large selection of top-shelf bourbon lines one wall and theres a smoker in the back, smoking a variety of scrumptious barbecue. Parking can be a bit tricky in this part of town, but I have always been able to find a spot out front. If you are visiting during the daylight hours, make sure and bring quarters for the meters. There are also public lots close by.
Last time I went to Atlas, I got a pint of Sam Adams new west coast IPA, Rebel IPA, and ordered a pulled pork sandwich. The pork was smoky and tender with a touch of sweet sauce on a ciabatta bun. The waffle fries were fresh and hot. The barbecue paired perfectly with the IPA and I made quick work of both. The brothers were working on the Tiki bar on the back patio when I was there and had local artists gluing down craft beer bottle caps to the bar top. They had several refreshing summer beers on draft on the back patio. With the short distance to downtown tourist attractions, great food, awesome outdoor space and growing beer list, I can definitely see Atlas as being the place to be this summer.
No. 5 - Bumsteads Pub
400 Mr. Joe White Ave., Myrtle Beach
Next door to the aptly named Dagwoods Deli in downtown Myrtle Beach, sits Bumsteads, a Euro-American bar with a beer list of more than 130 different beers. The classic wood paneling and booths can make Bumsteads look a little dark even at 4 p.m., but craft beer drinkers will see the light in the two well-stocked refrigerators behind the bar. Fifteen taps carry beers from Goose Island, RJ Rockers, Magic Hat, Sweetwater, Harp and Guinness, but the fridges hold some real treasures. They contain bottles and cans from New South, Aviator, Red Hare, HeBrew, Abita, Highland, Duvel, Chimay, New Belgium, Brooklyn, Stone, Bear Republic, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head, Duck Rabbit, Avery, Allagash, Lakefront, Left Hand, New Belgium, Sam Smith, Shine, Victory and Rogue. A wide variety of imports are also on hand, including Tusker, Taj Mahal, St Peters, Spaten, Warsteiner, Sapporo, Pilsner Urquell and Grolsch.
I met a friend there and we caught up over a couple of beers. I enjoyed a Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA and he had the Stone IPA. Both were cold and served in chilled shaker pint glasses. I know that many craft beer aficionados look down their noses at chilled glasses, but I dont mind them. It usually takes me so long to drink a pint that they have plenty of time to warm up to cellar temps, regardless of how cold the glass was first served to me. However, the shaker pint glass is not my favorite vessel to enjoy certain style beers in. But I also noticed that there was a wide variety of beer glasses hanging from the bar that leads me to believe that if I had ordered a Belgian beer, it wouldve been served to me in the proper glassware.
We didnt order any food, but hear that its good. Mostly English pub fare with a smattering of burgers and sandwiches. We were there early in the evening and it was still pretty slow, but Ive been there at night and it has a tendency to get pretty smoky. Living on the north end of town, Ive grown accustomed to non-smoking bars and restaurants. So, its always a bit of a surprise now to see someone light up inside.
No. 4 - Perrones
13302 Ocean Highway (U.S. 17), Pawleys Island
In a small strip of stores across from Litchfield Plantation is the gourmet Mecca of Perrones. Serving a lunch and dinner menu that has items such as French fries cooked in duck fat, Wagyu beef and ten different bloody Marys, Perrones is a one-of-a-kind destination. But dont let the display of one paltry row of beer bottles surrounded by an impressive wine rack fool you. If you look hard at those wine bottles, youll find an Imperial Biscotti Break by Evil Twin lurking in there. And then open the menu and youll see the big secret owner Steve Perrone is bringing his customers a craft beer experience like no other on the Grand Strand.
Boasting more than 60 different craft bottles and zero BMC (Bud, Miller, Coors), Perrone gets excited about sharing his blossoming selection and knowledge with his largely more experienced and traveled clientele. Make no mistake this is no dive bar. Perrone will enthusiastically share recommendations and opinions on any and all beers served in his restaurant. And with an adjoining tapas bar set to open in a few weeks, he will be inviting the nighttime crowd in for a Mediterranean menu and an expanded beer list and three new draft lines. And if you come in looking for Magic Hat or Blue Moon, you may be disappointed Perrones personal tastes run closer to rare and distinctive. You can still find a selection of Stone, Dogfish Head, Victory, Allagash, Avery, Founders and Bells, but you can also find more off-the-beaten path offerings, such as American wild ales from Weyerbacher and Allagash and a large variety of Belgian beers. I enjoyed a French witbier, Bieré de Blanche Meteor and a grapefruit beer, Steigl Radler that tasted exactly like fresh-squeezed grapefruit. Both low in alcohol and full of flavor.
Believing strongly in pairing craft beer with gourmet food, Perrone not only uses some beer in his recipes such as the Wagyu beef that has been cooked sous vide for 15 hours in Youngs Double Chocolate Stout for the Wagyu Beef Reuben, but he is also planning his first beer pairing dinner, with Victory Brewing. Happening in May, the beer menu and food menu hasnt been decided upon yet but I can only imagine that with Perrones expertise in the kitchen and behind the bar its going to be a great experience.
No. 3 - Mellow Mushroom
1571 21st Avenue North, Myrtle Beach
The Mellow Mushroom was the first craft beer bar/restaurant that I discovered at the beach. In fact, the very first Myrtle Beach Area Society of Homebrewers (MASH) meeting was held at the Mushroom in February of 2010. With many Mellow Mushrooms around the Southeast already pouring good beer, the Myrtle Beach location followed suit boasting an impressive 41-tap draft beer list and more than 40 different bottles.
The bar area is usually packed from about 5:30on, most nights including weekdays. A loyal regular crowd, monthly craft beer dinners and New Beer Mondays bring in lots of folks resulting in the pouring of plenty of good beer. And because Mellow Mushroom pours a lot of beer and has been doing so for several years, that means that the establishment will usually get dibs on the most sought-after kegs when they come to town. On my recent visit, I was able to get a pour of the delicious and very-limited Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Ive had it many times out of the bottle, but this was my first experience having a draft and it was pretty spectacular. Rich bourbon and coffee plays off the chocolate and a hop bitterness a bit more prevalent in the draft version.
I ordered a small House pizza and polished off my KBS. Once the pizza arrived, I asked my bartender for a Hairy Eyeball from Lagunitas. I probably shouldve gotten something a little hoppier to pair with the pizza, but with beer and pizza, you cant really go wrong. Also on draft was New South, Sam Adams, Lagunitas Sucks, Holy City Pluff Mud Porter, RJ Rockers Peachy King , Sweetwater IPA, Red Hare Rauchbier, Highland Oatmeal Porter, Terrapin Tree Hugger and several Sierra Nevada taps just to name a few. The glass fridge to the side of the bar held a variety of treasures, including Smuttynose, Sam Smith, Green Flash, New Belgium, Allagash, Bells, Abita, Avery, Westbrook, Oskar Blues, Stone, Aviator and New South. A few imports rounded out the selection with Carib, Chimay, Peroni, Bass, Maisel Weisse and Franziskaner.
The Mellow Mushroom has a few surprises up its sleeves for this summer. First, a beer dinner is being planned for May that will be the Myrtle Beach debut of Seminar Brewing a brand new craft brewery from Florence. Seminar Brewing is already creating a buzz locally with a starting lineup of a peanut butter porter, an IPA brewed with Citra Hops, a robust American Red Ale and an American Wheat Beer named Restless Wheat. Second is big news to us north-enders. The Mellow Mushroom is opening a location in North Myrtle Beach in the building that formerly housed Dirty Dicks Crab House. The new restaurant will focus even more on craft beer with a planned 60-tap bar.
Ive always believed that its important to be creative and unique in everything that I do. Mellow Mushroom is the perfect brand for me because we (Mellow) really dont consider ourselves as a franchise. Were more a collection of restaurants with a focus on great food, great service, and a large variety of craft beers. No two Mellows are alike in looks, and no two Mellows have the same beer selection. And now with the addition of a NMB location, we have another opportunity to continue on our tradition of offering the best craft beer selection, said Mellow Mushrooms Matt Duke.
No. 2 - Crafty Rooster
1125 3rd Avenue, Conway
Whether the name of the bar came before the beer selection is about the same as asking co-owner, Sean Kobos, which came first the rooster or the egg? With 18 taps, a refrigerator full of craft bottles and a selection of great burgers, sandwiches and salads, the Crafty Rooster makes the drive to downtown Conway totally worth it.
Decked out in Coastal Carolina University colors and memorabilia, The Bird on Third as it is also known, has been open since 2011 and has boasted a nice beer selection since the beginning. Plenty of TVs surround the bar and tables showing various sporting events. A dartboard, jukebox and video games are also available to help pass the time between pints. A large chalkboard adorns one wall with the extensive tap list. New beers are tapped every Tuesday and immediately go on sale. And each day brings a different lunch special.
The Crafty Rooster continues to host monthly beer dinners and sponsors two local beer festivals. Known previously as Craftyfest, this springs event is called the Rivertown Music & Craft Beer Festival, and it takes place on May 3.
On my last trip to the Rooster, I ordered the chicken fingers and a Maggies Peach Farmhouse Ale from Terrapin. The food was fresh and hot and the beer cold and delicious. What more could you ask for? Recently, the Crafty Rooster has tapped limited kegs of Stones Enjoy By IPA and Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. So, if you are looking for the most sought-after beers in town, you can be rest-assured that they are on tap at the Crafty Rooster.
No. 1 - Hurricane Maggies
7710 North Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach
Owners Sheila Younger and Rick Younger moved from Virginia to the Myrtle Beach area to live out their dreams of opening a bar. The opportunity arose to purchase the bar formerly known as For What Its Worth and the couple took the plunge. While the couple may not have been fully versed on craft beer at the beginning, with star bartender Jeremiah Goff behind the bar and a built-in cast of regulars already accustomed to having their choice of finest beers in the area, the couple embraced their new mission and committed themselves totally to the craft beer cause.
The Youngers have dedicated lots of time, money and energy into renovating and updating the bar. They have totally redone the upstairs and patio areas, as well as brightening up the downstairs with new lighting and more TVs. Six additional taps are in place upstairs, bringing even more selection to patrons. On my last visit, I finally got to try the delicious Stone Go To session IPA, and there were plenty of other choices, including Ballast Point Sculpin, Coronado Idiot IPA, Lion Export Stout, Bells Oberon, Founders All Day IPA and the surprising Kasteel Rouge plus another 60 or so bottles.
Hurricane Maggies has a full lineup of live music and entertainment each week.
Make sure you get an order of chicken wings to go with your beer while you are there. This bar takes a different approach, grilling wings instead of frying them. The result is a smoky, tender wing that almost falls off the bone. My favorite is the blackened wing, which doesnt require any sauce besides the cold beer in your glass and the water that floods your mouth when the aroma of the wings hits your nose.
Hurricane Maggies believes not only in pairing food with beer, but also pairing people with beer. The bar has recently started pouring flights of five different beers in 4-ounce glasses. Bartenders are also more than happy to pour a small sample of a draft beer to a patron. The idea is to introduce new beers to more people without them having to commit to a pint they may not want to finish. Knowledgeable bartenders are always eager to share what they know about a beer. Owner Sheila Younger says that even though she isnt a fan of IPAs, she tries every one that goes on tap so she can expand her palate and know her product better.
We believe enjoying craft beers should be an experience that includes the variations of fragrance, taste, and even the little fun facts about the beer or the brewery. There are a tremendous amount of great beers available locally in the Southeast, as well as nationally, and everyday we strive to see how we can make the best of the best available to a growing legion of specialty beer lovers in Myrtle Beach, she said.
A mere 5 years ago, this list wouldve been shorter, and the beer lists even shorter. But thanks to the booming national and even worldwide craft beer movement, we can find a watering hole in our own neighborhood that will, not only scratch our itch for good beer, but also introduce us to new breweries, rediscover classic imports and intrigue us with food pairings.
My Top Ten may be leading the way, but there are even more bars and restaurants around town that may have narrowly missed my list, or who have just opened and are carrying an assortment of great beer. They, too, are recognizing a trend towards more flavorful beer, or maybe are more interested in supporting small local and regional breweries, or simply answering the requests from their regulars for some variety in their beer lists. Thus I have my list of those bars and restaurants that get an honorable mention: Island Bar-Surfside Beach, Pine Lakes Tavern, Handleys Pub and Grub, Joes Restaurant and Grill, Beef OBradys-Carolina Forest, Good Time Charleys, Damons-North Myrtle Beach, the Beer Lagoon on The Deck at the House of Blues and TicketReturn.com Field - home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
Maybe Ive left some out, and there are even more bars on the Grand Strand serving its patrons a wide variety of craft beer. Please spread the word and tell them to drop me a line Ill gladly come check the place out and knock back a pint or two.
Contact Surges Beerman, John Jilly Garner at MBCraftBeer@gmail.com and follow him at www.facebook.com/TheNewBeerman.