Jesse Van Note and Andrew Ross said the name of their shop is a reference to the rarity of in-demand beers | photo courtesy ByrdHouse PR

Jesse Van Note and Andrew Ross are bringing their 4-year-old craft beer collective and tasting room to the new Refinery development on upper Meeting Street, where they’ll offer 20 rotating drafts and 150-plus options in cans and bottles. The Whale is set to open in August, but Van Note and Ross are making a splash in the Charleston beer scene this week, with the launch of “The Whale is Coming,” a collaborative beer with Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. that will be available statewide. 

“We’ve just kind of always loved Charleston,” said Van Note, who opened the original Whale location in Asheville in 2017 before adding a second outpost in Greenville in 2019. “Charleston and Asheville are very interchangeable as far as the vibe, as far as food and drink. When the beach people want to go to the mountains, they go to Asheville, and when the mountain people want to go to the beach, they go to Charleston. I think it’s just the natural choice.” 

Once open, The Whale will sell a curated list of sometimes-hard-to-find beers sourced from around the world, along with wine, sake, cider and non-alcoholic options. 

“In the beer world, hard-to-source beers or rare beers — which can even just be beers not from your area — they’re considered whales,” Van Note said. “It’s kind of like a reference to the white whale.”

According to the duo, who met while working at popular Asheville brewery Wicked Weed, the idea for The Whale came to them one night while drinking post-shift beers. 

“It really just came to us that there wasn’t a place to drink non-Asheville beer in town,” Van Note said. “For being such a beer-centric city, it just kind of seemed odd to us that there wasn’t a place to drink beer from around the world.” 

So, what can you expect to find at The Whale Charleston? Well, there will be a little bit of everything. Belgian ales and classic German styles will be mainstays, and there will be a house pilsner that will be unique to Charleston. The Whale will also feature a wide selection of gluten-free options, sparkling rosé — both of which will be available on draft — sake, non-alcoholic beer and more, Van Note said. Patrons will be able to enjoy their drinks on-premises or take them to-go for the same price. 

“A lot of it comes from Ross and I being big travelers and going around the country and always seeking out a beer bar to go to,” he said. “We both realized that it was a passion of ours to kind of find that spot, and we’ve used those places as our starting point for inspirations for this.” 

The duo plans to have a food truck parked outside most nights, and they think that along with their non-alcoholic options will make The Whale a place for everyone. 

“That’s another thing that separates us,” said Ross, describing The Whale’s selection of 20-plus non-alcoholic beers. “We’ve built a very large non-alcoholic beer program as well because I think that’s one of the things that’s been missing from beer culture. Being able to still enjoy the bar without having to drink has been a big thing. Right now, the stuff that we’re liking is [from] a brewery called Untitled Art, and they’re doing everything from a hazy IPA to fruited sours to big stouts, and they’re all non-alcoholic.” 

The Whale is coming to Charleston in August, and its new collaborative beer with Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. will be available throughout North and South Carolina starting this week. 

“It’s Ross and I’s favorite beer style, which is a smoked helles, so it’s a light German lager with a little bit of roasted malt,” Van Note said. “[Edmund’s Oast was] very open to helping us launch the brand in Charleston so definitely very excited.” 

The Whale is targeting an August 2021 opening. Once open, its hours will be
12-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 12 p.m.-12 a.m. Friday-Saturday. For more information, visit thewhaleavl.com