Aug 21, 2018

Hilton Head Summer

August, 2001

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 drinkers.

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


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