Beaufort News

Could a microbrewery come to northern Beaufort Co.? There’s interest in Port Royal

Antiquated laws are hurting the state’s prized microbreweries

Cottontown Brew Lab owner Zack Jones breaks down how distribution fees hamper the microbrew industry in South Carolina.
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Cottontown Brew Lab owner Zack Jones breaks down how distribution fees hamper the microbrew industry in South Carolina.

The craft beer craze that spawned multiple microbreweries in southern Beaufort County could soon move north of the Broad River.

And the changing town of Port Royal is an area garnering interest.

Developers working to transform the Port of Port Royal — the waterfront property along the town’s village core — have discussed a couple of potential locations for a microbrewery, believing one or two would fit perfectly in the redevelopment plans.

Two Lady’s Island residents, Alex Velasco and fiancee Alison Evans, told the Port Royal Town Council this month that they plan to start a microbrewery in the town.

“We decided Port Royal needed one the most, and it would bring a lot of tourism and attention down here, which would help everybody,” Velasco said Wednesday.

Velasco and Evans moved to Beaufort County from Colorado, where Velasco attended brewing school. The Florida natives had operated a furniture-restoration business in Colorado and said they sold everything and moved to South Carolina to follow the dream of owning a microbrewery.

Evans’ degree is in hospitality, and the partners envision a full menu of craft beers, pizza, outdoor games and entertainment.

They are eying The Shed, a town-owned property on Paris Avenue across the street from Town Hall., but have not finalized a space.

Microbreweries have been a growing business in southern Beaufort County.

Restauranteur Nick Borreggine, owner of Fat Patties in Port Royal, added a location in Old Town Bluffton in 2015 and brews beer upstairs with a business partner as Salt Marsh Brewing. The business brews in Bluffton but distributes beer primarily to accounts in northern Beaufort County, Borreggine said.

Available space for a brewing operation in northern Beaufort County is limited, but such a business could be viable as the population continues to grow, he said.

The popularity of craft brews appears to have staying power.

“It’s a whole culture,” Borreggine said. “It’s taking the family out and having a good time together. It’s great.”

Southern Barrel Brewing Company turns out its small batch brews off Buckwalter Parkway, with a dog-friendly beer garden.

Hilton Head Brewing Company on the north end of the island and River Dog Brewing Company in the Okatie area are other options for craft beer lovers south of the Broad River.

Northern Beaufort County will soon be home to a distillery in a former Kmart under renovation on Boundary Street in Beaufort.

Developers involved with a major redevelopment project believe Port Royal could be an ideal spot for a microbrewery..

“The whole vibe is what Port Royal is all about,” said Whit Suber, a real estate broker and one of the port’s developers. “I’d love to see it.”

The amount of required space and the cost of equipment are challenges for prospective brewers and often drive them to lower-cost areas, Suber said. He said he explored the possibility of a brewery co-op, where brewers would share warehouse space and the cost of equipment.

Port developers are in active discussions with someone to operate a microbrewery on the waterfront property on Battery Creek that was previously a state-owned terminal, Suber said. He said developers are also interested in The Shed, either buying it or seeing that it’s developed in a way that complements the work next door at the port.

The town has multiple possible suitors for the approximately 6,000 square-foot, industrial-looking building, which it bought in 2011 and has used as an event and recreation space since. The building could need about $50,000 to $60,000 in roof and heating and air upgrades and would be sold as-is, town manager Van Willis said.

The most recent appraisal, which included The Shed, the building behind it and adjacent undeveloped lots — valued the property at $1.1 million. Port Royal plans to issue a public request for bids soon that would include only The Shed and neighboring greenspace, Willis said.

A microbrewery would be an allowed use under current zoning, though there are certain conditions for consideration of neighbors, Willis said.