When Palmetto Brewing Co. in 1994 pulled a pint of red ale from a tap hooked up to its very first keg, it was such a big deal that The Post and Courier sent a reporter over to the Huger Street brewery to witness it.

At the time, craft beer supporters predicted that drinkers would make much longer trips to sample beer brewed in small batches. They weren’t wrong: Researchers from University of North Carolina Greensboro recently found 13 percent of visitors to the state’s breweries had hit the road specifically because they wanted to try North Carolina beer.

But with more than 7,000 breweries now operating across the country, craft beer tourism is a niche, not a necessity. According to findings released in December by the Brewers Association, a trade group representing independent breweries, 85 percent of adults who’ve reached legal drinking age now live within 10 miles of a brewery.

As an increasing number of craft brewers can their products, those consumers might not have to leave their homes at all. Yet brewers, unsettled by reports that the sector’s heady days of growth are over, and concerned about the consequences of states and cities legalizing marijuana, hope beer fans will instead start to think of nearby breweries as their neighborhood bars.

The Brewers Association calls that “community,” and there are plenty of places where Charleston area beer drinkers can find it. The Charleston Ale Trail, which publishes the best print and online guide to local breweries, comprises nearly 30 venues open to visitors.

Boy, is that a bunch of breweries. So other than patronizing whichever’s closest, how is a drinker supposed to choose which facility to haunt on a regular basis? If, like this reporter, you’ve spent years writing off breweries as places where people with dogs and babies drink, what’s the starting point for an investigation?

Perhaps it’s not as cool as it once was, but this is your chance to play craft beer tourist.

It’s impossible to taste the many hundreds of local brews on draft on any given day, and hopeless to expect your favorite will still be around after you’ve concluded your survey. But you can, as I did, pinball from one brewery to another, getting a sense of their beer aesthetics and taproom vibes. (In other words, 25 years on, reporters from The Post and Courier are still going to gape at local beer producers.)

Here’s the basic structure I followed: Find a brewery that’s currently open. Try what’s on offer until you find a beer you like. And then ask a knowledgeable employee to select your next destination. To wit:

Tradesman Brewing Co.

While I’m accustomed to maneuvering around bachelorette parties on downtown Charleston streets, I rarely encounter their male counterparts, which is another clear sign that I don’t frequent breweries. I encountered my first pack of similarly aged men at Tradesman, an ideal pick for any kind of upbeat gathering.

Tradesman last year opened a looker of a brewery in the self-designated Charleston Brewery District that runs along The Neck, just four years after launching as the first brewery on James Island. When writers Matt and Ted Lee paid Tradesman a visit on behalf of The New York Times, they were initially distracted by the detritus of construction, including heaps of gravel and portable toilets.

Now, though, the facility fairly gleams, albeit in an overtly industrial way: In keeping with the brand, its two dozen tool-shaped taps are set into a silver wall framed by corrugated silver siding. A shipping container sits on the outdoor patio, along with wooden tables and benches, should drinkers want to play oversized Connect Four, as the bachelor party did.

As for the beer, I landed on Don’s Lemon Pale Ale, a crisp citrus number that would probably play well with spicy noodles (at Tradesman and most area breweries, the only menu item is a snack bag of Lowcountry Kettle chips, unless a food truck’s made arrangements to drop by.)

Since I was pro-Don Lemon, co-owner Chris Winn suggested I make Munkle my next stop; he endorsed a pilsner.

Munkle Brewing Co.

Opened in 2017 by Palmer Quimby, Munkle (named for Quimby’s monk uncle) focuses almost exclusively on Belgian-style beers. But the brewery will make exceptions for German styles that have a passable connection to monastic traditions, whether through ingredient or production techniques.

The pilsner passed the close kin test, but I instead ordered an Evening Post Porter, assuming fellow newsman Don Lemon would approve. Quimby’s grandfather, Doug Donehue spent 40 years at the paper, finishing out his newsroom career as managing editor. His 2006 obituary didn’t note whether he liked the occasional chocolate bar, but that flavor so predominates the porter which honors him that another person who tried it asked if the beer was made with nibs.

At Munkle, the brewing equipment is hidden behind closed doors, which enhances the feeling of sitting in someone’s high-ceilinged rec room with his pups. The painted walls are mostly bare, save for a few Belgian-themed prints, and there’s a pool table in the corner. When I visited, the mood was too mellow for anyone to consider picking up a cue.

The bartender was friendly, but she’d started her job at Munkle the same day I showed up. Accordingly, she wasn’t entirely sure where to point me based on the porter I drank, but immediately suggested the same brewery that every person first mentioned when asked for guidance: Revelry.

Revelry Brewing Co.

Founded in 2014, Revelry is literally on a different level than most Charleston area craft breweries.

While the beer cognoscenti are flocking to The Hold, a sour-only production facility that Revelry last year opened one block away, casual drinkers are drawn to the main brewery’s rooftop. The view of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is so pristine that Revelry can’t cater solely to the beer crowd: It has a fairly complete by-the-glass wine list and serves food, too.

Still, there are a number of beers here that could easily win over drinkers whose palates aren’t tuned to beer. Revelry’s had tremendous success in national competitions with its carefully plotted beers, including an aged quadruple IPA that picked up a gold medal at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival, but its brews designed for fun are just as pleasing.

Since I arrived at Revelry without specific instructions, I ordered a can of Made From Hatch, a low-ABV Mexican lager created in collaboration with Lewis Barbecue. Hatch is a reference to the chiles that energize the beer, with an assist from lime zest. I certainly don’t want to discourage my friends from availing themselves of the full second-floor experience, but this is the beer I’m now planning to bring to every summer party.

Unlike the breweries I’d visited up to that point, Revelry had an all-female crew behind its bar. Coincidentally or not, one of its bartenders sent me to Lo-Fi, a brewery totally in touch with its feminine side.

Lo-Fi Brewing

Although the bartender who directed me to Lo-Fi didn’t know I was newly converted to Mexican lager, it’s the signature style at this resolutely austere brewery: Other than Lo-Fi Lager, which is smooth and clear, visitors may only have another beer or two from which to choose.

Of course, to even reach the ordering stage, drinkers have to reassure themselves that the unsigned warehouse really is open to the public. Inside, there’s a bar sized for a home kitchen, and a massive amount of open space, with brewing equipment on the building’s east side and assorted seating to the west. None of the equipment is roped off in any way, so drinkers can conceivably get very close to the production process.

Or they can play with the brewery cat, a definite outlier in a very dog-friendly industry. Lo-Fi, created by Pisgah Brewing co-founder Jason Caughman, is also unique in its merchandise selection, dominated by T-shirts and tanks shaded pink and cut for women, and its use of a unicorn in its logo.

That’s about it, as far as decorations go. Folks who aren’t inclined to spend money without visual evidence of how much the business owner wants it will probably want to pass by Lo-Fi, but beer drinkers fearful that the soul’s gone out of craft are guaranteed to love it.

Prompted to pick a brewery she loves, Lo-Fi’s bartender (after being told Revelry was out of the running) recommended Freehouse.

Freehouse Brewery

By car, Freehouse is 10 minutes from Lo-Fi, but it looks nothing like its Neck counterparts: It’s situated at the back of an industrial neighborhood, right along the Ashley River. So long as patrons spend a decent amount of time with the brewery’s basket of bug spray, they can sit at picnic tables just removed from lush greenery at the water’s edge.

Between the scenery and main building’s barn-like construction, Freehouse’s overall feel is more ski town hangout than Lowcountry bar. The guy strumming his guitar only underscored it.

Clearly, there’s enormous diversity in Charleston’s growing brewery scene, but what all of the breweries had in common was a general reluctance to get behind any one draft.

Eager to try the breweries’ best work, I phrased the question every way I could: Which beer best represents your philosophy? Which beer makes you proudest? In each instance, the response was a variation of “What kind of beer do you like?”

I suppose that’s a hospitable way to handle the situation, since there are probably pale ale devotees who can’t tolerate stout, and vice versa. But it strikes me as strange: If presented with 14 of my stories, I could immediately say which one is worth reading.

In any case, the unproductive conversation went on longest at Freehouse. Finally, I settled on a bright sour ale brewed with peaches, even though I got the message: When it comes to Charleston craft breweries, it’s all good. Might as well start exploring.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.