I always thought that Indiana's liquor laws were screwy, mainly because you couldn't get carryout on Sundays. But South Carolina put me in my place. During my first visits to the Palmetto State, the bars had to make mixed drinks with little shot bottles. A few years ago, they approved legislation that allowed bars to use the big bottles (free pours is what they call them). But liquor stores still close by 7pm every day (except Sunday, when they are closed). And cold beverages (including beer) and liquor can't be sold in the same store, which is why some of the stores are actually split in half.
But what they do have as a leg up on Indiana: cold beer available everyday at the grocery store. And while Reilley's Wine and Spirits in Hilton Head Island is generally considered the best shop for craft beer, it was the Piggly Wiggly that gave me the best selection of beers. And they were all cold and ready to go. Here is a sampling of beers I consumed between June 21st and June 28th:
By far, the best of the beers that I consumed on Hilton Head Island was the Kona Brewing Company's Fire Rock Pale Ale. It had a great copper color and white head. There was a slight hops smell, but it was very clean in nose and mouth feel. What was surprising was the nice balance of malt and hop. If you think DFH90 is too hoppy and could be maltier, I would suggest this. If not, well, I would still suggest this. A good stand in for Two Hearted if you are outside of Bell's territory. I had this in the bottle.
The Kona Longboard, on the other hand, was not as good. I had it on tap at the Wild Wings Cafe ($2 draft night on Mondays...woo hoo!). This lager had a strong strawberry and mixed fruit nature to it. It was sorta Belgian-like in taste. Very wheaty without being wheaty. The nose was funky, and it got funkier as it warmed.
Also at Wild Wings, I had the Sun Dog Amber Wheat, which had a sweet fruit wine character to it. Very soapy in consistency. It is a A-B craft beer attempt. Not a favorite by any means, but drinkable.
I had a lager from the nation's oldest brewery: Yuengling. The first time I had it, I thought it was an Asian brand. But only because of the name. The lager is similar to Budweiser, only slightly more sour. One bottle and I was done.
From South Carolina, I had two offerings from Palmetto Brewing Company of Charleston: a pale ale and an amber. Both were on tap at the Old Oyster Factory (top notch restaurant). The Pale Ale was tasty, but not as hoppy as the Fire Rock. It had a creamy texture and fruit notes. But not much nose. The Amber had a subdued flavor. The mouthfeel was very pleasant, somewhere between milky and watery. Again, not much nose.
At the Kingfisher restaurant, I had a pint of their Kingfisher Lager. It seemed vaguely familiar. Like a Bud. So I asked the bartender who brewed it for them. Turns out, this is the second A-B beer I unwittingly consumed on vacation.
In Savannah at Spanky's, I had a Moon River beer on tap (I didn't hit their brewery... everyone was too hungry at dinner time to make it to Moon River). I believe it was their Savannah Fest bier. I didn't make many notes, but I can tell you, it wasn't very memorable. But I did finish it, though.
One of the few beers of interest at Reilley's was Stoudt's Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout. This was a fascinating beer. The oatmeal stout was there, but it was layering with chocolate flavors. A chocolate chip oatmeal cookie beer, if you will. Enjoyable.
The last beer I want to point out that I remember consuming was the Victory Hop Devil, which will soon be in Indiana (if it isn't already). It has a surprising caramel malt in the nose and flavor. The hops make an ashy mouthfeel. Surprising and pleasant, this will be a nice addition to the Indiana craft beer market.
There were many other beers I didn't get around to consuming...Carolina Brewing Co., Hook and Ladder No. 2, Black Dog Ale...but it appears that the Magic Hat Brewing Company is the one that I should have tried while I had the chance. Maybe next time.