It seems all the world is in love with the craft beer phenomenon, so it was only a matter of time before bars started focusing on satisfying the thirsts of lovers of IPAs, lagers, stouts, wheat and fruit beers - the list goes on and on.
With nearly 50 craft breweries in South Carolina, it was also inevitable that beer fans would want places where they could sample not just one brewer's work (e.g., the breweries and brewpubs), but a variety of craft beers in one place.
Thus, the rise of the craft beer bar: a friendly local watering hole that sells and rotates others' beverages in bottles, cans and on tap. Dozens are now in business across South Carolina.
Here are our top 10, plus noteworthy honorable mentions:
Edmund's Oast Exchange - 1081 B, Morrison Drive; 843.990.9449 In early 2017, Charleston Beer Exchange and Edmund's Oast (a brewpub and high-end restaurant) merged their craft beer retail sales next door to the brewpub, in the area's Pacific Box & Crate development. With about 1,000 craft beer varieties, owner Scott Shor also offers wine, glassware and food items from the Edmund's Oast kitchen. There's a porch and garden area for sipping on site.
Charleston Beer Works - 480 King St.; 843.577.5885 This is a come-as-you-are craft beer bar, modern sports bar and fresh kitchen wrapped into one fun gathering spot for locals and visitors. You're welcome to sit at any of the three bars located upstairs, downstairs and on the patio. The Certified Beer Servers can help guide you across a long list of local and regional craft beers that are updated weekly. With 48 beers on tap, plus more in cans and bottles, you're sure to find lots of favorites.
Craft & Draft - 2706 Devine St.; 803.764.2575 Owners Kellan Monroe and Andrew Johnson have built a loyal clientele since opening the cozy, large-windowed storefront in 2013. Beer lovers can sit at the bar to sample from a dozen rotating taps (Carolinas beers are always featured), or purchase cans and bottles for takeout. No food on site, but food trucks often set up on weekends and for special events in the large parking area behind the store.
Random Tap - 1059 Two Notch Road, Elgin; 803.262.3285 With 30 rotating taps and a wide selection of bottle and can craft beers in coolers (also growler stations, plus singles and six-packs to go), this cozy "locals" location in a nondescript shopping center has seating inside and an outdoor area out back. Visitors are welcome to bring in food; Pontiac House of Pizza is a short walk away and grills are available for do-it-yourself cooks.
Community Tap - 217 Wade Hampton Blvd; 864.631.2525 Owner Mike Okupinski and partner Ed Buffington opened in 2010 to provide Greenville with a bottle shop and growler bar. They've since moved into a larger space nearby and offer more than a dozen wines by the glass and 20 beers on tap, as well as wine and beer to go. There's indoor seating and a deck with room for 60 more. Snacks and sodas, and food from home or order-in pizza are welcome, with food trucks for events.
The Whale - 1108 S. Main St.; 864.263.7529 In the world of craft beer, a "whale" is a rare and highly sought-aftere beer. At this cool bar, you'll find a vast slection of carefully selected beer from some of the finest producers in the country and around the world. The offerings include everything from meticulously crafted classic styles to cutting-edge creations that push the boundaries.
Keg Cowboy - 108 E. Main St.; 803.957.2337 Starting out as a store to buy home-brewing gear, co-owner Natalie Nelson's place now offers craft beers and wines on tap at the stand-alone bar or from coolers. Its gastropub kitchen offers such delicacies as duck panini and duck confit dishes, local art for purchase on the walls, and board games for guests to enjoy while they sit at large tables to imbibe. "Our motto is ‘no crap on tap,'" Nelson says. "We want people to step outside the box by buying something new."
The Claw House - 4097 US 17 Business, Murrells Inlet; 843.651.4415 This is actually a New England-style lobster house and raw bar, featuring fresh seafood from the Atlantic Ocean. But the Inlet Tap Garden, open all day, features 70 craft beers, along with water views, climate-controlled outdoor deck, horseshoe-shaped oyster bar and an aquarium.
Atlas Tap House - 1004 Chester St.; 843.945.9122 With 25 craft drafts, plus more than 80 types of bottled and canned beers, Atlas also has a variety of food including appetizers, sandwiches, tacos, burgers and in-house smoked barbecue. A local favorite is its "Sunday Recovery" brunch, with plantain pancakes, shrimp and grits, beef brisket hash, and bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys.
Growler Haus - 113 N. Church St.; 864.585.6000 One of several Growler Haus locations in the Upstate, this two-story bar in the heart of Spartanburg's downtown offers two dozen craft beers on tap and a selection of bottle and can beers. Upstairs, Popi's Tacos (a Greenville franchise) serves up tacos of all varieties.