Johns Island is about to welcome their first brewery, the twelfth in the Charleston area, when Low Tide Brewing opens their doors to the public this Saturday, March 12 at 4:00 p.m. Eater connected with Owner/COO Mike Fielding and Head Brewer Andy Elliott ahead of their debut to learn about their background, approach, and unique business model.
Who are the members of the Low Tide team and your roles?
Fielding: There are two members who have started Low Tide Brewing: Mike Fielding (Owner and Chief Operating Officer) and Andy Elliott (Head Brewer).
How did you guys first meet?
F: Andy was hired after applying for the job posting on a professional brewer's website. [I] brought Andy out to Charleston for an interview where [we] explored the potential for a new brewery in the local market.
What got you into craft beer?
F: I was originally drawn to craft beer because of the flavor and variety of the beers offered. They were such a refreshing change of pace from the mass produced adjunct beers that represent most of the market. When I started home brewing, I was exposed to the science and art of what goes into a craft beer and I never wanted to go back.
Elliott: Growing up in Colorado, I learned about craft beer at an impressionable age and knew that being a brewery owner would be my idea of the perfect job. Being a brewery owner is an exciting blend of both technical and social skill sets that make it both challenging and rewarding.
I have always enjoyed beer: the science, the people in the industry, and the historical and social aspects.
It's one thing to like beer and another to want to go pro. What drew you to the industry and to Charleston?
F: I have always enjoyed beer: the science, the people in the industry, and the historical and social aspects. After getting to know a few brewery owners including some friends in Columbus, OH who started North High Brewing, I knew this was something that I could accomplish and would enjoy.
Originally from Upstate New York, I had been coming to Charleston at least yearly since I was born. After college (out-of-state) I got an apartment in Charleston and quickly realized this would be my eventual home. I ended up moving around a bit before I came back for good to start my dream of owning a brewery by the beach in the city that I love.
E: I feel that breweries have an outreach to the local community un-paralleled by most other businesses. People come to a brewery to socialize and have a connection to a local business that is creating more than just alcohol. Many people have respect for those who create their own path and the brewing industry is filled with resourceful and creative entrepreneurs. I wanted to be a part of that group of people that continue to bring new exciting ideas to how we look at beer. I believe that being in the industry would give me the chance to interact with people through my flavors but also with my idealism of small community economics.
What drew me to Charleston was the surplus of privately owned small businesses, especially in the food and beverage industry. Charleston has pride in who we are and what we expect from ourselves. People here don't look outwards for inspiration but inwards — being emerged in that type of culture pushes you to always be improving your craft.
People here don't look outwards for inspiration but inwards — being emerged in that type of culture pushes you to always be improving your craft.
What kind of system will you start with?
F: A 10bbl system with five 20bbl fermenters, but it's not the system that makes us different; it's the way we intend on using it. Our brewery model does not rely internally on making Low Tide beer. It is our intention to use our brewery as a resource for other restaurants and bars to develop their own brands of beer.
We believe that brewing creativity should not only be in the hands of those who own breweries but for anyone who has a passion for selling craft beer. We have already begun brewing custom beers for restaurants and bars in Charleston that will be sold exclusively through their location. [We are] essentially handing the creative keys over the food and beverage owners, chefs, and managers.
Will you be draft-only to start? Or will you hit packaging early?
F: We will be draft only at first.
Tell us about your tasting room and Grand Opening plans?
F: [The] Grand Opening will be Saturday, March 12, from 4:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.. We are located on 2863 Maybank Hwy., next door to the Wild Olive. The tasting room can seat 40 people and we have a front patio that could fit an additional 20. We plan to extend our tap room hours to fit seasonal demand and have additional square footage in our building to increase seating and even add a kitchen down the road.
How would you describe your approach to brewing (stylistically, or otherwise)?
F: Brewing should be about making beer people enjoy. Some enjoy stylistically technical beers while others prefer creative, never-before-brewed batches that might only be done as a single batch. It is my job to be skilled and knowledgeable enough to approach a beer in many different angles.
Having our business model built on brewing custom craft beer for other establishments, I try to be flexible with beer styles while remaining stubborn to the basics of proper brewing science.
Do you know what beers you'll be starting with, and/or what you flagship(s) will be?
F: Our custom beers will be the main push for us in the market. We already have beers ready for Charleston Beer Works (Yuzu Lemon Blonde) and Bohemian Bull (Bohemian Czech Pilsner).
In addition to the custom beers we are bringing to market, we will have the "Down the Hatch" Session IPA that will be distributed throughout Charleston.
When can we expect to be drinking our first pint of Low Tide outside of the brewery?
F: We plan to start distribution with Bear Island Distributors on March 17th, just in time for St. Patrick's Day and March Madness. Check out our first custom beers at Charleston Beer Works and Bohemian Bull. Also keep an eye out for our Session IPA and other styles making their way into the market.
However, we hope you choose to come to the brewery this Saturday, March 12th and purchase a growler or "crowler" (a 32oz can that we fill and seal right at the bar). The crowler is more convenient than the growler and is the easiest means to bring fresh craft beer to wherever your Charleston lifestyle will take you. Then you can enjoy a pint outside of the brewery.