January 2015

The Brewing Co. Hilton Head Island

Author: Becca Edwards | Photographer: Photography by Anne

When it comes to beer, there are some stout dates you should know. According to craftbeer.com, in 580, Saint Arnold of Metz helped end the plague by telling people to drink beer, not impure water. In 1716, the tavern Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would later immortalize in Tales of a Wayside Inn opened in Sudbury, Massachusetts. (Nearly 300 years later, it’s the oldest continuously operating inn in the United States.)

In 1933, the U.S. government finally said farewell to Prohibition with the 21st Amendment. And in June of 2014, Governor Niki Haley signed H.3512, also known as the “Stone Bill,” which lifted restrictions on alcohol consumption and allowed production breweries to serve food, among other toast-worthy wins for small beer companies like Hilton Head Brewing Company.

“Brew masters were leaving us notes saying how great our product was,” said John Rybicki, brewer and co-owner of Hilton Head Brewing Company. “We knew we wanted to take our company to the next level, and with the law changes and our new space, we can now offer patrons a fully functioning tap room with food service. Whereas before, you could only try four 4-ounce samples, now you can drink as many full beers as you wish, and we will be pairing our signature beers with high quality food.”

“Barmuda Triangle” goers, fear not! Your favorite seat and bar food bite at Hilton Head Brewing Company’s restaurant will still be waiting for you at its south end location, but—and you will want to add this to your beer timeline, too—as of March this year, you will be able to also buy a six-pack, heck make it a case, of your favorite fermented flavor from any area grocery store, or better yet, directly from their brand-new production brewery at 1 Cardinal Road, Suite 13.

From left to right:Brew partners John Rybicki and Juan Brantley stand by the custom painted brewery mural. Juan serving it up at the handcrafted stone and concrete bar in the Tasting Room. The stainless steel tanks will produce 1000-1200 cases a month.

There, you can also consume more than just beer. The expansion includes a retail section complete with Hilton Head Brewing Company merchandise including shirts, hats, cups and gift baskets. And you can soak up knowledge. “We will also provide beer tours,” said Rybicki, who is truly excited about serving you a healthy pour of craft beer-making education. “I want people who don’t drink beer to go on the tour and stand back and say, ‘Wow that was cool.’”

Rybicki is equally keen on giving Hilton Head its own beer to drink and be proud of. “Typically, when you go somewhere, you ask, ‘What do you have locally on tap?’” Rybicki explained. “Now people can drink a quality product that is made, distributed and sold here and is reflective of the area.”

According to Rybicki and his partner Juan Brantley, Hilton Head Brewing Company’s two core beers give you a palate pleasing taste of the island. “We live by the beach,” Rybicki said.

“You wouldn’t want to serve a 10 percent alcohol imperial style to someone going to the beach. Our core beers are just under five percent, and both have tropical, citrus-flavored aspects and are light and hop forward.” Using mouth-watering words like papaya and tropical stone fruit to describe their tropical lager in more detail, Rybicki and Brantley transport me to a warm sunny day with sandy feet and a cool, beer-wielding hand.

With tours and tastings starting in March, Rybicki is busy doing what he does best – making beer.

I am also taken with their teamwork and entrepreneurship. Rybicki is a self-described “hop head” who admits, “When I got into brewing I was amazed you could make a craft beer taste so much better than a regular beer, and I thought, ‘If someone else can make it, so can I.’”

Brantley, who is a Hilton Head Island native “born and raised,” has been working in the food and beverage industry for nearly 20 years. His business motivation is to bring something new and dynamic to the area.

“When John came into the business, I shifted my focus from the food to making the beer. It was really eye-opening,” Brantley said. Since then, Hilton Head Brewing Company has made several changes: switching from extract brewing to grain brewing (three years ago), adding new equipment, and experimenting with new flavor profiles and styles. “This year, we hope to produce 2500 barrels and 1000-1200 cases a month,” Brantley said.

Both Brantley and Rybicki say they don’t just want to sell beer; they want to create a craft beer experience. When asked what a craft beer experience meant to them, they pointed out that beer making really is a creative process. “I mean, we turn water into beer,” Rybicki joked.

To facilitate your experience and make drinking their brew both knowledge and thirst quenching, Hilton Head Brewing Company has hired a well-trained staff and looks forward to offering its signature and seasonal beers, not only on-site but at many of Hilton Head’s yearly special events. “We are excited about what we are doing here,” Rybicki said. “Over the next three years, we have an aggressive business plan and hope to go multi-state.”

Rybicki and Brantley’s success, as well as the continued success of other craft brewers in Charleston, Savannah and Ridgeland, gives us one more celebratory moment to put on our beer timeline—the beginning of the Lowcountry making its mark on the micro brewing scene. Cheers to that. 

  1. “You wouldn’t want to serve a 10 percent alcohol imperial style to someone going to the beach.

    What is the highest % alcohol you brew? Best of luck to your team!

    — Tom Lillis    Feb 3, 06:32 pm   

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