When longtime friends Michael Willcox and Kolby Garrison decided to quit their corporate jobs to open a craft brewery in their hometown of Spartanburg, they didn't want just another beer joint. They had in mind something unique, for two very good reasons: their wives.
It was Willcox's bride, Rachel, who had the idea to go into the craft beverage business. "We were on a date at a tap house (in nearby Greenville)," he said, "and she said, ‘Why don't we do this in Spartanburg?'"
"I guess we were at that point in our careers that we needed to make changes."
Thus, on Sept. 15, 2015, the duo opened Hub City Tap House at 197 E. St. John's St., across from Spartanburg's Chapman Cultural Center. The bright, airy and roomy space has become a local favorite and, after opening as a craft-beer bar, they began brewing and selling their own beers and ciders in October 2015.
The friends share the workload, with Garrison the primary brewer and Willcox running the tap house. "We both run it at times, so we can get a night off now and then," Willcox says. "It's a labor of love; our love for the town of Spartanburg."
What makes Hub City Tap House different - in South Carolina, and one of only a few in the US - is that it is a brewery, winery and cidery (or, as the partners spell it, cyderi) all in one. That last part is where Garrison's wife, Cindy, comes in. The full name is "Hub City Tap House, Home of Ciclops Cyderi and Brewery."
"Cindy once got a card to ‘Cindy with one I,' which is where the Cyclops/Ciclops name came from," Willcox says. "Also, she doesn't care for beer, and told us, ‘Make something I can drink'" - i.e., cider.
Ciclops is one of only two cideries in South Carolina. As for the "winery" part, Willcox says that's a technicality: "By law, any ciders with more than 7 percent (alcohol) are considered wines." And Hub City has a variety of tastes and strengths in its ciders.
On any given day, there are 15-16 beers and ciders available on Hub City's 30 taps, with charcuterie and hummus platters and other food offerings. The partners rotate new beers, but favorites are Dead Man TNT, a milk stout; several German-style beers, including top-selling Austrinken (German for "drinking"), a hefeweizen or wheat beer; Boniato, a white sweet-potato brew; Callitris "I'm Easy" ESB, an English-style bitter; and C.A.L. (for "complete absorption of light"), a black IPA.
"We're still working toward what we hope will be the ‘perfect' IPA," Willcox says.
For Cindy Garrison and friends, Hub City's ciders include the most popular, Ta Si Daeng, a Thai-themed drink made with kaffir lime, lychee fruit and hibiscus. "It's purple, so when people have trouble with the name, they say ‘give me the purple drink,'" Willcox says.
As 40-somethings, Willcox and Garrison are older than most craft brewers, and family and community are a recurring theme. Hub City's LLC name is DiRe Enterprises, which uses parts of their wives' names.
They're part of a growing craft beer presence in Spartanburg, including RJ Rockers Brewery and another craft-beer bar, Growler Haus. "Spartanburg is an up-and-coming town," Willcox says. "It's becoming discovered as a neat place to visit and have a good time."
Hub City Tap House is a fine place to do just that. For more information, call 864.541.7379 or visit www.hubcitytaphouse.com.