New laws should boost SC’s growing beer and distilling industries

Distillery owner Phil Crouch talks about the size of bottles he was allowed to sell.

COLUMBIA, S.C. —South Carolina has some new laws that should further boost the state’s growing craft beer industry as well as local distilleries.

One of the new laws allows breweries to also sell liquor, which is helpful to brewpubs like Hunter-Gatherer in Columbia. Owner Kevin Varner says the previous law wasn’t clear. “This law just went ahead and provided that clarification and allows a brewpub to transition to a brewery, and for a brewery to have a liquor license. Therefore I can open a second brewery without having to make any changes at the existing place,” he says.

Another new law allows breweries and distilleries to donate their products to charities for things like fundraisers and festivals. It also allows them to provide the equipment and people to pour their products. Varner says, “It helps non-profits as much as it does breweries. It gets the word out for breweries and spreads it around, with the non-profits get the benefit of possibly having free beer.”

Another new law deals with micro-distilleries, like Crouch Distilling in Columbia, which makes whiskey, seasonal brandies, and rum. One part of the law allows distilleries to serve mixed drinks to people who visit and take a tour. Under the old law, distilleries could only serve their products as straight liquor. Since a lot of people don’t drink their alcohol straight, that limited sales and tourists’ ability to sample products, owner Phil Crouch says.

He says the new law also gives them more flexibility on the sizes of the bottles they can sell visitors. “We could sell three bottles per person per day but it was only of the 750 milliliter size. So some folks wanted to get a smaller size so they could get more than one product or some people maybe wanted just one bigger bottle, so now we’re not limited. We can sell different sizes of bottle. We’re still limited to the total volume we can sell but it can be in different packaging,” he says.

He thinks it will increase the number of tourists who come to his distillery for tours, most of whom are from out of state.

South Carolina’s craft beer industry really took off after two other laws the state legislature passed in 2013 and 2014. One allowed breweries to sell pints to visitors of the breweries, while the other allows the breweries to also sell food.

According to the SC Brewers Guild, the number of breweries in the state has gone from eight before the law to 41 now, with a big boost in the number of jobs in the industry and its economic impact on the state.