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With an IPA brewed in his honor, Joe Cunningham kicks off 2020 craft brewery campaign

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Joe Cunningham Brewery tour 2020

As a candidate, Joe Cunningham kicked off his 2018 brewery tour at Johns Island's Low Tide Brewing. He'll do so again to gear up for 2020, this time with a beer brewed in his honor. File/Wade Spees/Staff

For his work to regulate one precious liquid, U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham will be honored with another.

Low Tide Brewing on Johns Island plans to unveil a specialty brew in honor of the Democratic congressman from Charleston, whose offshore drilling ban legislation, H.R. 1941, was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month. The bill seeks to ban the search for oil and gas off the country’s coastline.

“When it comes to this beer and Joe Cunningham, he’s been a big supporter of craft breweries and we’re very against offshore drilling,” said Mike Fielding, Low Tide’s founder. “Banning offshore drilling should be in the interests of everyone in Charleston.”

Cunningham’s bill still has to make it through the Republican-held Senate and pick up a presidential signature, so it's not a ban yet. Still, Low Tide’s taproom on Maybank Highway will begin serving Don't Drill India pale ale on Sept. 21 regardless. That date coincides with the beginning of the congressman’s 2020 brewery tour, a part of his overall reelection campaign.

Cunningham confirmed to The Post and Courier he will be on hand to answer questions, engage with constituents and “highlight craft breweries and the amount of good they do for our community.”

Don't Drill is a citrusy, West Coast style double dry-hopped IPA brewed with four hop varietals and Carolina malts. It clocks in at 7 percent alcohol by volume and 60 international bitterness units.

“We asked Joe what he likes to drink, what he wants in a beer,” explained Fielding, pointing out that though IPAs may not be everyone’s absolute favorite, they’re the most popular single craft beer style in the segment.

In addition to Low Tide’s own taproom, Don't Drill will also be served at Taco Boy and Butcher & Bee in downtown Charleston, said Fielding.

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Though brewed in his honor, Cunningham hasn’t had the beer yet. It’ll be kegged on Thursday in advance of the Saturday gathering. ("We like to serve our beer fresh," explained Fielding.) Even before tasting it, the first-term congressman is savoring the brew's significance. “This is a sign that what we did ... to protect our coastline is a passion that’s shared by tons of people,” he said.

Offshore drilling was a centerpiece of Cunningham’s platform in his 2018 bid. So was craft beer. The ocean engineer and lawyer-turned-lawmaker visited all 25 breweries in the 1st Congressional District during his  campaign as he touted his affinity for full-flavored local brew.

“We even went to some breweries that fell outside of our district boundary,” he recalled. “I didn’t want to leave anybody out.”

Once elected, the rest of the country learned of his passion for South Carolina craft beer when he was stopped trying to bring a six-pack of it to the House floor. (Not to drink, his aides said at the time; simply to swap with a fellow lawmaker on the House's craft beer caucus.)

In pursuit of reelection, Cunningham will hit the ale trail in the district once again, starting at Low Tide. He hopes to replicate the breadth of the 2018 campaign’s beer barnstorm.

“When we kicked this off last (cycle), we had no idea how well it would go over,” he said. “Now, as a sitting congressman, I use this as a way to take these stories that people tell me and be a conduit to Washington, D.C.”

If the lawmaker wants to bring Don't Drill back to Capitol Hill, though, he'll have to snag a growler. Low Tide only brewed 20 barrels of the IPA, and none of it will be canned. 

Reach Dave Infante at 843-937-5320. Follow him on Twitter @dinfontay.

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