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Golf and Beer: Visit Breweries in Hilton Head for the Perfect SC Vacation

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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Who doesn't love a cold, frosty beer after 18 holes of golf on a warm South Carolina Lowcountry day? Golfers in the Lowcountry can drink South Carolina-produced craft beers after playing one of 20-plus courses.

Four local breweries produce craft beers on tap for tasting rooms and golf clubhouse grills, for takeaway in 64- and 32-ounce growlers, and in six-packs and 22-ounce "bombers" for groceries and restaurants.

A look at the Hilton Head-Bluffton craft beer scene:

Hilton Head Brewing Co.

Two locations: 7C Greenwood Drive/Reilley's Plaza, Hilton Head;

1 Cardinal Court, Hilton Head; (843) 785-3900

Juan Brantley worked in construction until 2006, when an opportunity became available with Hilton Head Brewing, which had been in business since the 1990s. The 36-year-old Hilton Head native decided to pair his desire to run a restaurant with the booming craft beer market and added a second facility (Cardinal Court) to increase production to 1,500 barrels in 2015, with capacity for 4,000 barrels.

Hilton Head Brewing - which offers 12 varieties of lagers, IPAs, porters and more - began canning beers for local groceries and restaurants in summer 2015. "We've got an aggressive three-year plan," Brantley said. "We want to get to 8,000-9,000 (barrels a year)." Both locations offer full menus of food.

River Dog Brewing

591 Browns Cove Road North, Suite H, Ridgeland; (843) 645-2302

Mike Nerhus moved to Bluffton to help run his family's brewery, which began operations in 2013, and hasn't regretted it. "I grew up in San Diego, drinking local craft beers, and I much prefer local beer," the 32-year-old said. Being "passionate" about golf also made the move an easy call.

With a 10,000-barrel capacity, River Dog is expanding from its 2014 production of 5,000 barrels. Brewmaster John Federal, formerly of Raleigh Brewing, has a dozen staples (brown ales, IPAs, porters, blondes), plus seasonal beers. Altered State Red IPA is popular, Nerhus said, and Bradley Brian Pale Ale, named for his special-needs brother, is gaining fans.

Southern Barrel Brewing

375 Buckwalter Place Boulevard, Bluffton; (843) 837-2337 (BEER)

President Matt Green says Southern Barrel's Pennsylvania-based owner (who has a vacation home on Hilton Head) saw "a unique opportunity" among the 21-45 demographic. The company started big: a 12,000-square-foot facility including a 2,500-square-foot tavern, with a chef hired from a local resort. A restored grain silo out front marks the tavern location.

Production capacity is 20,000 barrels, but the brewery is at 5,000 while testing the market. Varieties include brewmaster Walt Trifari's flagship Helles-style lager, IPAs, stouts, Belgian Witte, plus a seasonal rotation. Plans are to distribute canned beers in grocery stores and restaurants on Hilton Head, in Bluffton and Beaufort, and eventually statewide.

Wooden Skiff Brewing

141 Island Drive, Suite 16, Hilton Head; (843) 290-4364

The area's "little guy" with 30-, 60- and 90-barrel batches, Wooden Skiff started in February 2014 as a contract brewer, importing two beers - Hoppy Blonde and Irish Red Ale - from Beltway Brewing in Sterling, Va. Tayloe Cook Jr., co-owner with his father, says the company has plans to move to a larger location and begin full microbrewery operations. Beers are available on tap or in growlers and bombers; plans are for a 16-ounce canning and 24-ounce bomber mobile unit.

Cook, 30, began home brewing in 2011 while living in Hawaii, and wants to try brewing beer in whisky and wine casks. Wooden Skiff is available on tap - and popular, Cook says - in local restaurants such as Lucky Rooster, Mellow Mushroom and Chow Daddy's.

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.