A lot of plant matter goes into those delicious craft beers that we South Carolinians love to drink, and the people behind the Certified SC Brew Bill are looking to incentivize the use of South Carolina agricultural products for breweries for the benefit of farmers, the breweries and consumers.

The incentive would be the ability to self-distribute in some capacity. Currently, there is no incentive for breweries to use South Carolina-grown products like grains, fruits, vegetables and honey in their beers, other than personal preference. However, there is an incentive for wineries in the state to use South Carolina-grown products — they have the ability to self-distribute if more than 60 percent of their finished product is comprised of South Carolina-grown items.

W. Brad Thomas, an Upstate lawyer and part-owner of Carolina Bauernhaus Ales in Anderson, thinks that it’s time to have that perk available to breweries. This winery incentive has been in place since 1996. Thomas is leading the charge to get his bill passed for the benefit of his brewery, all in-state breweries, and of course, the farmers who would be selling their wares to become future booze.

The proposed bill, according to Thomas, is an ag bill, not a brewery bill.

“It’s something that farmers and breweries can use if they want, or if they don’t, things will continue like usual,” says Thomas.

He also stresses that the potential adoption of the bill will not and is not meant to upset the current three-tier distribution system in place in the state, which says that breweries cannot self distribute; they must sell their alcohol to a distributor, who in turn sells it to bars, grocery stores and retail outlets for sale there.

“It will just give another option for people,” says Thomas.

He is optimistic about the ability of the bill to pass during the next legislative session.

“It’ll be hard to say no to something that already exists for wineries,” says Thomas. “It’ll just be applying it to breweries so that they get the same perk.”

Beyond benefiting breweries and farmers, Thomas hopes that passage of this bill will spur beer agritourism in the state and further growth of both the craft beer and agriculture industries in South Carolina.

An information session on the proposed bill will be held in Columbia on Thursday, Aug. 16, from 2-4 p.m. at the South Carolina State Farmers Market.

Want Big Melons?

Bradford watermelons, grown in Sumter, are available for presale by the Bradford Watermelon Company. These heirloom melons have been grown by the Bradford family for generations and have been made popular in recent years after they were discovered by food historians who brought out the story of these enormous, delightfully sweet melons that fell out of favor in the marketplace due to their poor shippability.

Melons can be reserved at bradfordwatermelons.com and picked up at the farm in Sumter. Quantities are limited and subject to the whims of the harvest. The anticipated harvest date is late August, and melons must be picked up within seven days. Each melon goes for $20 and these suckers are pretty sizable, generally weighing in at 30–40 pounds.

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