[image-1]Go down Azalea Drive in North Charleston, turn onto Industrial Avenue into a maze of long, rectangular buildings and chainlink fences, then left on Pringle Street, over an abandoned railroad track and there you’ll see it: Freehouse Brewing.
Getting there isn’t one of the many scenic drives the Lowcountry is so well known for, but upon arrival visitors can begin to appreciate the beautiful plot of land that the brewery occupies. Situated on the Ashley River, the only thing between the tap room and sweeping views of the water is a grassy field and a sprinkling of trees.
Freehouse owner Arthur Lucas knows he has something special here, and he has plans to make the most of it.
Lucas recently acquired the entire river-front building, of which Freehouse currently occupies only the middle 3,000 square-foot space. Right now, the brewery has a small tasting room and bar on one half of the room with all of its brewing equipment on the other half.
But all of that is about to get much, much bigger.
Freehouse is planning to pour a new 5,000 square foot concrete production brew floor in the massive space that flanks the left side of the current facility. On the other half of the building, Lucas plans to tear down an existing wall which will triple the size of the tasting room and create room to add a kitchen. They’re also adding a 1,500 square foot screened-in porch off the back of the building for people to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
“I was deeply inspired by visits to Sierra Nevada’s facility in North Carolina,” Lucas says. “And as a result of those trips last summer, I knew we had to live up to our potential here, to make a unique and inspiring permanent home for all things Freehouse that reflects our commitment to quality and originality.”
Lucas says Charleston should “expect something you won’t find anywhere else,” and as he shows off the plans and architectural renderings for the expansion, it’s clear he intends to deliver on that idea. The space will be new and updated, but Lucas hopes to incorporate as much of the building’s existing character as possible. Built in 1942 as part of the Army’s Stark General hospital — which housed patients being treated for World War II injuries — its floors, walls, and ceilings are all constructed with the type of woodwork builders spend a fortune on to recreate now.
While Lucas is hesitant to provide specific timeframes yet, the work will be completed in phases with the new brewing facility being the top priority. Freehouse is completely maxed out on space, but that isn’t stopping them from expanding their distribution. In addition to the new brewery plans, Lucas is also moving ahead with a new canning operation.
Starting in the next few weeks, Freehouse beers will be available in the form of six packs. Two of their staple brews — Green Door IPA and Folly’s Pride Blonde — are getting their own cans. In addition to the brewery, the cans will be available in major grocery stores around Charleston, bars, restaurants, and bottle shops.
“We picked these beers to can because they are both crisp, lighter beers that fit in with what beer drinkers want in the South — especially by the coast: light, easy drinking, but still with flavor,” Lucas says.
Freehouse is also planning to can its new pale ale, Little Nug, along with a light beer that is still in development.
Getting their beer in cans has been two years in the making. Lucas wanted to make sure Freehouse could can the beer itself in-house and he wanted real, printed cans, not plastic wraps or stickers. Once they had the equipment, the design fell into place.
“Keep [the can design] simple, clean, and elegant, like our beer,” Lucas says. “We also exposed parts of the aluminum to leverage the raw material as part of the design. Use what you have already and use less ink. It fits into our organic and sustainable approach to making beer.”
The brewery expansion and the new canning operation are all part of what Lucas calls “Freehouse World,” a place and a brand that allows consumers to enjoy high quality, local, organic beer.
“That’s our goal,” Lucas says. “Better beer, all the time, every day.”