Hilton Head Summer
By Bobby Bush
Hilton Head Brewing Company opened in 1994 as the South Carolina island’s only
brewpub. Seven years later it still has that title, though over the course of the past year or
so, HHBC has morphed into a fun-time family restaurant and hot night spot as well.
Clowns, magicians and puppets entertain on Sunday afternoons. Keeping gluttonous
adults satisfied, lunch and dinner menus consist of fresh seafood, pasta, “serious certified
Angus steaks and an array of sandwiches and pizzas. Guests are encouraged to feed
ducks, turtles and fish from the sideyard deck, which also serves as stage and dance floor
for nighttime activities. Yep, there’s plenty to do for all ages, but especially for beer
Situated in Hilton Head Plaza, just outside the gates of Sea Pines, Hilton Head
Brewing reinvented itself to everyone’s best interest. Brewer John Watts is pleased with
the brewpub’s emphasis on his beer. Delicious accompanying foods. Live music or disco
almost every night, the state’s first brewpub since Prohibition is hectically producing
almost as much beer as one man can brew. In fact, the night before we visited, the serving
tank holding Old Duck Dark Porter ran dry. There was no immediate replacement. John
was working to get Calibogue Amber on tap, but it was half-day away from ready.
So we sampled the other three. South Atlantic Pale Ale was fruity in mouthfeel
and flavor. Sweetness was countered by a floral hoppy taste which terminated in a curt
bitter finish. Hmmm, golden Pub Light was a tricycle beer of note, light in body and only
mildly bitter, while Raspberry Wheat carried a berry bouquet and sweet-sour tart finish.
After serving an apprenticeship at fabled Marin Brewing in Larkspur, California,
Watts returned to his hometown where he eventually took over as Hilton Head brewer in
January 1998. His job is tough - brewing with an extract system to produce mostly lighter
tourist-oriented beers - but he seems to take it all in stride. Seasonal recipes allow a little
more creativeness. Depending on the time of year and John’s personal preference, the
wary traveler may just stumbled upon cool pint glasses of Heritage Scotch Ale (full of
chocolate and roasted malt flavors), Hefeweizen, Oktoberfest Dunkelweizen, Summer
Wheat or an IPA, his favorite style. There’s also a house-brewed Hilton Head Root Beer.
Look for Hilton Head Brewing Company’s menu, beer descriptions and more at
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush