The number of microbreweries across the country is increasing and Charleston County is taking notice. County officials are considering zoning changes that may make the Lowcountry more enticing to these beer makers.
According to the Brewers Association, the country is consuming more beer, and not just any kind.
"It appears that in our culture there is a change in what people appreciate in terms of beer, they want a variety of different types," said Dan Pennick, Director of Planning and Zoning for Charleston County.
Pennick says Charleston County wants to keep up with the emerging industry of microbrewing. By definition, microbreweries brew and produce less than 5,000 barrels of beer per year.
The oldest brewery in the state falls into that category and is located on Huger St. in Charleston. Founded in 1993, the Palmetto Brewing Company's sales manager, Chris Winn, says they're relieved to see their industry being recognized.
"It's really nice to see Charleston County looking at microbrewing as a positive industry," said Winn.
The county may soon be expanding zoning options for companies like theirs, to allow for operation in different commercial and industrial areas that they are not permitted to use now.
"We've had interest by at least two other brewers," said Pennick.
The county isn't just doing this for the beer makers and lovers, they believe it will also have a positive impact on the local economy.
"Local breweries employ local people, business is here and for every dollar that's spent on local beer...much more of it stays in the community than beer that you're buying from outside of the state," said Winn.
Pennick hopes that by allowing small, start-up brewing companies available space in commercial areas, more will come to the area.
"I hope it flourishes for those that are interested, I think it could be a good venture for a lot of people," said Pennick.
Pennick said he even hopes that one day, a big name beer will come out of the Lowcountry.
"As more breweries show up in our state and as the barriers to enter are reduced, what we'll see is a wider acceptance to local beer," said Winn.
"Charleston should be the place that those things can occur," said Pennick.
Another part of this proposed zoning plan is defining what a brewpub is. Pennick says a brewpub is any bars or lounge that produces some beer in house, but much smaller quantities than microbreweries. By defining it, it will makes it easier for restaurants to become that in the future. Pennick says several have already expressed interest.
A council committee will vote on these zoning changes on March 20, then it will go to full council for review. Pennick says so far, it's received good reception from council members.