Gene’s Haufbrau

West Ashley. 817 Savannah Hwy. 225-4363

For those curious about Gene’s claim to be one of the oldest bars in town, it’s confirmed: they’ve been open continuously under the same name in the same location since 1951 (compared to, say, Big John’s Tavern, which has been open continuously since only 1955). Six decades after pouring their first glass of suds, the place is just as popular as ever, winning three categories in this year’s City Paper readers’ poll.

Gene’s first major push to expand the beer selection came about in 2001 when the folks who own Vickery’s took over. These days, there are plenty of microbrewed and imported ale and lager bottles and drafts to choose from.

“When the Vickery’s folks came in, that’s when the decision to have the most badass beer selection was made,” says Gene’s bar manager Richard Weld. “We have 13 taps in all; 12 stay the same and one is a rotating ‘seasonal’ tap. We sell a lot of English beers, like Samuel Smith, St. Peter’s, and Tanners Jack. And German beers, like Weihenstephaner and Hirschbrau. As far as beers from the U.S., Abita does really well, as does Highland Brewery from Asheville. We keep around 170 bottled beers, and the selection is constantly growing.”

Several kegs worth of Spaten flow during the venue’s annual Oktoberfest celebration — replete with a live polka/oompah band under a large beer tent in the adjacent parking lot. There are always stacks of bratwurst with sauerkraut, long picnic tables, raffles and giveaways, drinking contests, and an oddball lederhosen-clad crowd.

To some, the Best Cold Beer category may seem silly, as any dive can sling a can of Bud at nearly-freezing temperatures. But a freezing-cold can doesn’t necessarily make for a great drinking experience. Gene’s actually serves the pints at a cooler-than-usual temperature, but the ales aren’t too cold, which is nice.

“I think the ‘cold beer’ refers mostly to the beer we keep in our rolltop cooler, which is damn cold,” says Weld. “But those are our big domestics — Bud Light, Miller Lite, etc.”

Their win for Best West Ashley Bar ties in with the welcoming atmosphere of the place — whether it’s a lazy early happy hour or a roaring Friday night. Why has the place become so revered and remained popular among West Ashley regulars?

“I think mostly because it’s just an easy bar to go to,” says Weld. “We have a solid core of bartenders who know most of the people who come in. We have a huge beer selection. The food is good. The atmosphere is very conducive to all sorts of moods, whether it’s playing pool, sitting at a table with 10 of your good friends, or sitting at the bar by yourself.”

Love Best of Charleston?

Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.