Arthur Lucas has a dirty little secret. He's been outfitting his operation, Freehouse Brewery, in a remote, industrial corner of North Charleston for the better part of a year, and barely anyone knows it. Eater got a peek at the fledgling brewery this week, and it's remarkably far along. In fact, you can expect a functioning tasting room in the next couple of months. For now, here's the low down.
1. The view is incredible. The backdoor of Freehouse leads to a custom-built deck overlooking the Ashley River. WWII ships once docked nearby for hospital visits. The prospect of sipping pints outdoors, a few feet from the water, far enough from traffic that you can hear the crickets, is enough to give you warm fuzzies.
2. The tanks were made in 'Merica. Lucas is a man of principle, and that shows in his equipment. Whether it's a pair of repurposed water tanks from a dairy farm, his 15-barrel brew house, pair of 30-barrel fermenters or 15-barrel brite tank, it was all fabricated in America. The only real exception is the cooperage (beer-speak for kegs), as there simply aren't good, affordable domestic sources for steel kegs. You can get American-made plastic kegs easily enough, but those have proven problematic and dangerous.
3. The beer will be organic and sessionable. Freehouse will seek USDA Organic certification for all of their products. This means brewing with organic malt, organic hops, organic spices and even using organic cleaning products. It's a damn sight more expensive, but, as previously mentioned, the man has principles. The beer will mostly be low in alcohol, allowing for patrons to safely and comfortably have a few. This includes their first three beers-in-planning: Ashley Farmhouse Ale, Green Door IPA (no relation to the restaurant) and an as-yet unnamed Tropical Stout (a.k.a. Foreign/Export Stout) brewed with Belgian Yeast.
4. If you're in the tasting room, you're in the brewery. There will intentionally be very little separation from the tasting room and the brew floor. The idea is: if you're at Freehouse, you're at a functioning brewery, with no fancy glass walls or separate tasting areas. The main bar will be constructed from salvaged wood, acquired from a 120 year-old seed mill in Abbeville, SC., and will be situated inside. The tasting area will lead to the outside deck, where a great deal of congregating is expected to occur.
5. What's in a name? Lucas spent his junior year of high school and some subsequent years in the UK. Pub culture drew him in, and he soon learned that many pubs were owned by large breweries and had to meet a sales quota of their owner's beer. These "tied houses" offered a limited selection. On the other hand "free houses" sold whatever they wanted. Often, this meant locally brewed, organic, high quality beer. That piece of British history lends it name to the brewery, but "free" has many connotations: free and open to all comers without exception, free of inorganic ingredients and chemicals and free to offer another alternative in the marketplace.