They say it takes a village to raise a child, so it stands to reason that it might take a region to build a brewery.
At least that’s the thinking of Jaime Tenny and David Merritt, the husband-and-wife team who own Coast Brewing in North Charleston. After years of being bottle-necked in their expansion plans, the small brewery is asking its fans for some backing to help it grow.
The 6-year-old brewery, located on the former Charleston Navy Base, has launched a campaign on the local crowd-funding website fundingcharleston.com to raise $40,000 to help it add a taproom and increase its brewing capacity from 900 barrels a year to 10,000.
That’s still somewhat on the small size for a brewery, when you consider that Sierra Nevada’s new facility near Asheville expects to pump out 300,000 barrels per year. But it’s a big step up for Coast, which has struggled to keep up with demand for its products, which include the popular HopArt IPA.
“This will allow us to make a lot more beer in the same amount of time,” Merritt said.
Tenny said the brewery has obtained a loan backed by the Small Business Administration to fund much of the expansion, but she and her brewmaster husband thought it would be fun to build some local participation into the project. So they turned to the local crowd-funding site, which launched in February.
“We really wanted to involve the community, who have been supportive of us since Day 1, and have a strong local component to this,” Tenny said.
Contributors are rewarded with gifts in return for their donations, ranging from a website shout-out for $10 to a grand package that, among other things, offers naming rights to a brew for $10,000. As of Tuesday, they had raised $9,225. The campaign runs until April 15.
John Osborne, founder of the Broad Street-based fundingcharleston.com, said he started the “hyper-local” site to connect local investors with local projects. The difference between his site and the much larger kickstarter.com is that projects get their donations whether they meet the fund-raising goal or not, he said.
The Coast project already is drawing a lot of page views, Osborne said. “They’re building a lot of buzz about their expansion before it even happens,” he said.
With the new tank system already on order, the biggest question now is just where the Coast expansion will take place. Tenny and Merritt thought they might have to move because of a planned rail line to the new port on the base. But an agreement has shifted the line elsewhere, sparing the building.
They would like to stay at 1250 N. 2nd St., and North Charleston, which is to receive the land from S.C. Public Railways and wants to support them in the expansion “as best we can,” North Charleston spokesman Ryan Johnson said.
“Coast has been a terrific part of our business community and has advanced the local, craft beer market tremendously since opening in 2007,” he said. “We would very much like to see them remain in the current location.”
Tenny, who heads the S.C. Brewers Association, was instrumental in spearheading the Pop the Cap campaign that brought high-gravity beer to South Carolina in 2007. The state’s taste for stronger, more challenging brews has steadily grown since that time, and craft beer now makes up more than 5 percent of the market. The state is home to a dozen breweries, including five in the Charleston area.
Tenny and representatives of eight other breweries traveled to Columbia this month to push for a change in state law to allow breweries to sell beers by the pint, as is done in North Carolina. State law now limits breweries to four, 4-ounce pours at tastings.
The brewers association has argued that the limit inhibits their revenue and growth potential. Tenny said the change is crucial to Coast’s plans for a taproom, where they would like to host music as well.
Laura Hudson, executive director of the S.C. Crime Victims’ Council, has raised concerns with lawmakers about the potential for brewery visitors to get too inebriated on the high-octane beers during tours. “It’s a huge safety issue with me,” she said.
Tenny said brewers welcome the opportunity to work through these concerns and create educational programs to teach brewery workers proper serving techniques and limits.
The House approved the bill last week and sent it to the Senate for consideration.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.