brewery tour Joe Cunningham.jpg (copy) (copy)

Now-congressman Joe Cunningham at Low Tide Brewing on Johns Island, the first stop on his "Cunningham Brewery Tour" in July while he was running for office. File/Wade Spees/Staff

Maybe Charleston's new Democratic congressman Joe Cunningham has picked up a new nickname: Joe Six-Pack.

The freshman lawmaker, who won in November partially with the strategy of visiting 1st District breweries, got busted Friday trying to bring a six-pack of craft beers onto the House floor.

That's a Capitol Hill no-no.

The backstory is pretty simple: Cunningham was talking up Lowcountry breweries and wanted to share some of the local tastes with other lawmakers.

That included giving a South Carolina six-pack to U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, co-chair of the House's Small Brewer's Caucus.

Cunningham had carried the six-pack of cans up to Washington in his luggage earlier this week and, pressed to make his flight back home early Friday afternoon, figured he could just hand deliver it to DeFazio in the House Chamber.

Bad move. He was told it wasn't allowed. 

“ 'It’s Friday, too,' he said laughing as he turned around,"  national political reporter Laura Barron-Lopez quoted Cunningham as saying on her Twitter feed.

The six-pack involved was a compilation of three different Charleston-area beers, including Dead Arm from Coast (a pale ale at 6 percent alcohol by volume), White Thai from Westbrook Brewing Company (a Belgian wheat) and One Claw, (a pale ale) also from Westbrook.

Coast signaled on Twitter it recognized the congressman's choice but had some advice on another pick.

"For the record, I would have added our 32/50 Kölsch.....it's very bipartisan," they said.

Cunningham communications director Rebecca Drago said her boss was simply pressed for time since he had to drive to BWI Airport for his midday flight home.

He otherwise could have sent it to DeFazio's office, she said.

Promoting the brewery caucus may sound like an excuse to party, but the group has some power in terms of membership and promoting small business. It boasted some 234 House members in 43 states and the District of Columbia as of July, according to its website.

Cunningham alluded to the caucus in his Twitter response.

"Making friends when you’re a freshman is hard and I thought I’d grease the skids with some Lowcountry beer. Thankfully got it in the end! Can I join the beer caucus now?," he messaged.

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He also went on to issue a firm defense of the Lowcountry beer scene.

"The Lowcountry has the best craft breweries in the country (don’t @ me Asheville)," he tweeted. "They’re run by entrepreneurs who create thousands of good local jobs and produce the finest beer around. I’ll never apologize for promoting them."

Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2017 show the number of brewery jobs in South Carolina reached 403 for all of the state, about half of them in Charleston County.

The S.C. Brewers Guild says the craft beer industry accounts for over 3,000 jobs, according to its numbers.

Some in Washington called Cunningham's beer promotion flat.

Republican National Committee spokesperson Mandi Merritt issued a statement saying Cunningham's six-pack stunt proved Democrats "aren't serious about working with Republicans to address the growing humanitarian and security crisis at the border."

"We knew Democrats were playing partisan games with our national security, but now, they apparently want to play drinking games too," she added. "Rep. Joe Cunningham should be ashamed."

While Cunningham learned a lesson about where beer can be carried in D.C., the six-pack did land where it was supposed to, his office confirmed.

"DeFazio did end up getting the beer," Drago said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.