Pricey kegs and plenty of kids
The founders of Hobcaw Brewing Co. in Mount Pleasant don’t know what it’s like to run a brewery outside of the biggest economic crisis in a generation. Fresh off celebrating their first year in business, we sat down with Hobcaw owner Chris Mottram — whose wife, Tiffany, is also co-owner — and head brewer Chris Percello at the Long Point Road taproom to talk about growing a brewery when fewer people were going to breweries.
City Paper: It’s been a year. What’s the experience been like?
Chris Mottram: The biggest surprise to me is that we’re still dealing with this pandemic. We opened during COVID. We’ve only been open during COVID. So, we have no idea how much COVID has done to our business.
I wouldn’t complain about how business has been during the first year, but if there wasn’t a pandemic, would we be doing X-percent better? I have no idea. COVID is the reality, so it’s not even really important.
CP: I’m sure at some point there was a list of next-up items for after you get open — if there wasn’t a pandemic. Where are you on that list?
Chris Percello: Nowhere. [laughs] Well, we’re going into distribution.
Mottram: That’ll be soon. We’ve already signed on with a distributor. We’re getting 20 kegs tomorrow. Kegs are a problem right now — they’re super expensive. We were able to find 20, used, locally and I’m trying to find some more online.
It’ll be light distribution to start. Distribution is kind of a marketing thing until you get to a huge scale. We want to pick places where people are going for craft beer. You won’t find us in a restaurant or somewhere you’re going for food mainly. We signed with a smaller distributer — Holy City Distribution. They’re super flexible and willing to work with us. If we signed with a bigger one, we’d just get lost.
We’ve been open a year, but obviously there’s plenty of people that don’t know we exist.
CP: So do you have the capacity to produce enough for the taproom and for distribution right now?
Percello: Coming into the holiday, with football and holiday times, we do have a bit of extra capacity. But when spring ramps up and we’re crazy-busy, there might be a week or two where we’re like [to the distributor], “Sorry, we can’t get you anything.” And they’re cool with that.
Mottram: The tough thing for us is that the IPAs are always our bestsellers. So, how much of that do we want to put into distribution? But, we also want that distribution because that’s a significant thing for us. The IPAs we can absolutely sell through in four or five weeks — all in the taproom — and make maximum profit. Or we can put a keg into distribution and get pennies to what we’d make here.
CP: What’s surprised you so far?
Percello: For me, not being from here, something that I think was easier that I thought was going to be harder was us being well-attended from the get-go. The amount of support we got as soon as we opened, how that’s kind of just continued over the past year, has been awesome.
Mottram: It’s good to see the vision we had for it embraced. We are in Mount Pleasant, the vision was to be family-friendly, dog-friendly. I know there’s probably people that would be turned off by it, to see kids running around. But I think we would do far worse if we were not family-friendly, given our location.
Percello: If that’s the biggest problem, I’ll take it.
Hobcaw Brewing Co. is located at 496 Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant.