Locally brewed beer, wine, mead and spirits infuse Bluffton with plenty of Lowcountry cheer.
Mike and Juliana Tripka, the owners of the soon-to-open Bee-Town Mead and Cider on May River Road, started out brewing beer at home nearly 22 years ago.
After entering a brewing competition, they won a packet of mead yeast and decided to try their hand at creating this honey-based fermented beverage with a high alcohol content. Following some experimentation, they perfected their recipe and won medals in national competitions.
Now, Mike and Juliana are getting ready to open South Carolina’s first production meadery in Bluffton, using local ingredients like honey from Hardeeville, as well as a wide range of fruits, berries, herbs and spices.
“The recent farm-to-table culinary movement is a natural tie-in with our meadery, using local and regional honey sources,” Mike explains. “We source right from the beekeeper to our fermentation tanks. Having a local, artisanal product to offer and showcase the bounty of the Lowcountry adds to the uniqueness of mead. Visitors to the area are looking for local experiences and products. Providing mead made with local, Southern ingredients meets that need.”
Mike and Juliana are part of a growing army of creative artisans, many of whom are based in Bluffton, offering a decidedly Lowcountry twist to locally produced beer, wines and spirits. From rum to moonshine, coastal South Carolina abounds with handcrafted beverages infused with the spirit of sun-kissed beaches, warm ocean breezes and tidal saltmarshes.
Matt Allen, the owner of Big Jim’s Wine and Spirits on Bluffton Parkway, has noted a significant uptick in the interest in local spirits in recent years.
“We are seeing both locals and tourists express interest in local spirits,” he says. “Distillers are also doing a good job being seen. We have local distillers conduct tastings onsite. This allows them to meet people and answer questions and gives customers the opportunity to try the products prior to purchasing them.”
Big Jim’s features a high-profile “Buy Local, Drink Local, Low Country Spirits” display at the front of the store, showcasing more than 15 spirits produced locally.
“As a small business owner, I think it is very important to support and promote local products,” Matt explains. “Local distillers have put a lot of time and effort into crafting spirits that people enjoy.”
This holiday season, consider giving spirits with a local twist. Here’s an overview of some of our favorite Lowcountry selections.
River Dog Brewing Co.
This Okatie tasting room features an impressive menu of scratch-made Lowcountry ales. Don’t miss the Lowcountry Ambrosia, an American wheat beer brewed with honey, or the Kindred Spice fall ale. If you’re feeling up for adventure, try the Imperial Perkolatte, an imperial milk stout brewed with cocoa, coffee and vanilla beans that packs a punch with an 11.2% alcohol content.
Salt Marsh Brewing
This craft brewery located in the heart of Old Town Bluffton combines Southern hospitality with Lowcountry charm. Fall and winter beer highlights include Oyster Town Brown, Southern Fella Vanilla Stout and Pick-a-Peppa Pumpkin Porter.
This award-winning, Bluffton-based brewery turns out handcrafted beer 24/7, offering a cozy beer garden, bar and restaurant featuring locally sourced ingredients. New seasonal delights include the Imperial Frozen Barrel Milk Stout and the Wild Bramble Raspberry Ale.
Available at bars and pubs throughout the Lowcountry, Wooden Skiff Beer Co. was born in Hawaii, when co-founder Tayloe Cook started experimenting with a five-gallon home brewing kit. Today, popular microbrews like May River Sunset Blonde, Hilton Head’s Irish Red and Blackwater Porter charm beer drinkers throughout the Palmetto State.
Embodying the spirit of the Lowcountry, Bulrush Gin combines juniper berries from Bulgaria with lavender and ginger from South Carolina, creating a unique distillation incorporating 10 different herbs and botanicals. Crafted in copper stills using maceration and vapor infusion, this small-batch gin will thrill G&T lovers.
Daufuskie Rum Co.
Give the gift of handcrafted rum, which is artfully distilled and bottled just across the river on Daufuskie Island. For an extra kick, try Fuskie Fire, which is infused with a spicy dose of cinnamon and cayenne, or go upscale with the Gold Reserve, which is carefully aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels.
Hilton Head Distillery
Founded in 2016, Hilton Head Distillery earned the distinction of being Hilton Head Island’s first and only distillery. Share premium, innovative craft spirits, from Mountain Peak Espresso-Flavored Rum to Aermoor Vodka, which is handcrafted from a granulated molasses base and distilled 49 times.
Lucky Duck Distillery
Hearing his grandparents talk about moonshine always intrigued Lucky Duck Distillery owner Chase Flowers. Today, he creates small batches of bourbon in addition to apple pie, cherry and peach-flavored moonshine in Yemassee.
This kitschy Ridgeland store offers a wide selection of moonshine, small batch spirits, local wine and novelty gifts. Popular moonshine flavors include Apple Pie, Moon Pie Chocolate, Blackberry and Salted Caramel. Or, select a gift from the store’s extensive wine selection, including handcrafted, small batch and locally made wines from vineyards and wineries in South Carolina.
Bluffton Coffee & Tea
If your loved ones prefer their locally-brewed beverages to be nonalcoholic, here are a few selections that make ideal stocking-stuffers during the holidays.
Bluffton Tea Company
Tea lovers will appreciate the artisan teas crafted by the Bluffton Tea Company. In addition to traditional black, green and white teas, options include herbal and medicinal blends. Don’t miss the Bluffton Blend, which layers papaya, peach and ginger on a base of black tea, blackberry leaves and sunflower petals.
This café roasts its own coffee beans on-site, crafting unique options with a local twist, like the May River house medium blend and the Pluff Mud house dark blend. Give the gift of coffee as a one-time purchase or as part of the monthly PERKscription subscription service.
The Grind Roasters
This Bluffton-based company offers a wide variety of single-origin coffee beans from all over the world. Discover flavored coffee by the pound, like hazelnut, vanilla and pecan pie, as well as a vast selection of loose leaf teas and chai.
Local herbalist Amy Spadafora-Thompson formulates teas that are harmonically blended with organic and wildcrafted herbs, enhancing their natural medicinal properties. Emotional Rescue Tea, Harmony Tea and Mindfulness Tea are designed to serve as natural mood-enhancers for loved ones on your holiday shopping list.
Article By Allison Hersh