MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Years behind other cities around the country and the state, Myrtle Beach is catching up on the craft beer scene.

“Myrtle Beach is becoming a hotbed for breweries, and we are so excited to be a part of that,” said Patrick Gibson, the brewmaster at Tidal Creek Brewhouse in the Market Common. 

Part of that boom has to do with a shift in tourists’ mindsets, according to Karen Riordan, the president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. 

“They want to eat like a local, they want to shop like a local — so just seeing that trend intensify — and they want to go to the same places that we as residents go,” she said. 

A building trend

Riordan said that businesses like Crooked Hammock and Grand Strand Brewing have made more people pay attention to the craft brew scene.

“In general, Myrtle Beach is actually a little bit later than other communities,” she said. 

Customers seem to have a snowball effect. Once they try one, she said, they’ll go to find more in the area. Riordan said the chamber is considering putting together a “tasting trail” to show people where they can find craft beer. 

“It is a rising tide that lifts all of the breweries, because people want to check them all out when they are here,” she said. 

Craft breweries typically have a different vibe than a bar. There’s often outdoor seating, live music and things like games for children and yoga events.

“It is remarkably family-friendly, and I think that is something at first blush people wouldn’t necessarily connote with beer,” Riordan said. 

The scene is more popular with younger professionals, but is attracting more and more of an age-diverse crowd. 

Riordan said there’s great camaraderie with the handful of local brewers she’s worked with, and said it’s a win for the economy, tourists and locals.

She can see more breweries opening in the area. “We certainly aren’t oversaturated, so I think there is opportunity,” she said.

New South Brewing in Myrtle Beach was the second brewery to open in South Carolina, accordingBrook Bristow, of Bristow Beverage Law, but that wasn’t until the late 1990s. Since then, the state has continued to be fairly late to the scene.

There is a rise in breweries opening, said Bristow, who points to a 2017 law that allowed brewpubs to convert their licenses to brewery permits and introduce cocktail programs. There is also a temporary law set to expire next May that allows breweries to sell twice the amount of to-go product than they were previously able to.

New South Brewing opened in late 1998 and produces about 3,000 barrels a year, according to its website. News13 reached out to the brewery for an interview, and did not hear back.

Fostering a community

Palettes are stacked in the back of Tidal Creek Brewhouse, along with pounds and pounds of grain. On one side, a coffee roaster yields 4 lbs at a time that’s sold in-store. On the other, equipment is at work brewing beer, creating about 300 gallons at a time. It’s a “tame” operation, according to Patrick Gibson, the brewmaster.

“Everything you get here is fresh,” Gibson said. “Our ingredients are fresh.”

Outside is a dog park (named after the brewhouse pup, Argus, who has a lengthy bio and list of qualifications of his own), a beer garden, a pavilion and a container bar next to hammocks and seating. It also hosts trivia contests, live music and “yappy” hours.

The brewery, which opened last year, wants to be a place to bring the local community together for good food, good service, good beer and a good experience. 

“Your team needs to be engaged, excited, motivated, and really kind of connected with you and your customer base,” said Adrian Sawczuk, who co-owns the business with his wife, Dana Liberatore-Sawczuk. “We wanted to develop our plan. We wanted to be a cross between ‘Friends’ and ‘Cheers.’”

Sawczuk has been a homebrewer, and they went to breweries often. They studied different models and came to a decision about what was important for a business. There was the obvious — location, location, location. They wanted to have a place where locals could walk or drive a golf cart, which led them to the Market Common. 

The second thing they wanted was good food. Sawczuk said of about three dozen breweries in Charleston, only a handful have a good location and good food.

They also wanted to add coffee to the model, which they said is unique in South Carolina. The brewery is also open early for breakfast and serves brunch on weekends.

Tidal Creek Brewhouse has 20 taps available, with about 15 made in house. Gibson describes the beer as crisp and enjoyable, with the goal of having a type available for everyone.

“They want to try what’s local, they want to try what’s fresh,” he said. “They want to try what’s new, and we are here for them.”

But opening in the middle of a pandemic, Sawczuk said, has been challenging. Due to restrictions, the business opened at half capacity, and had to spend unexpected money on personal protective equipment and enhanced training. Even though he said people in Myrtle Beach were going out more than in other parts of the country, sales weren’t what they wanted, especially on the coffee side with fewer people commuting to work. 

That led the team to accelerate its distribution plan and the opening of its beer garden. The company’s beer can now be found in Total Wine, Harris Teeter and in hundreds of bars and restaurants around the area and across the state. 

He attributes Myrtle Beach’s craft beer wave to the farm-to-table movement, along with customers wanting a fresher product that’s locally made.

“I think there’s some push away from large, national-type brands into more of a local — and even a hyperlocal — craft scene, and people are starting to appreciate that more,” he said. 

While a local product with fresh ingredients will be more expensive, he said, customers are supporting the area’s economy. 

Dara Liberatore-Sawczuk, the brewhouse’s co-founder and president, sees the trend continuing to grow.

“I do think it will become a craft beer scene in Myrtle Beach,” she said.