Thought everyone might like an update on where we are in terms of actually getting the brewery up and running, so here goes:
Location - We've narrowed it down to two possibilities, one in Mt. Pleasant and one in the upper peninsula area of downtown Charleston. We'll be making a final decision on this fairly soon. Once the location is nailed down, we can make plans for any necessary construction/renovation, buy equipment, and get the TTB approval process rolling.
Equipment - We know that we want to start with a 25 or 30 barrel (bbl) capacity brewhouse (1 bbl = 31 gallons). It takes the same amount of labor to brew 7 barrels (average size of a brewpub system) as it does to brew 30 barrels, so we figure it's best to get the biggest system we can afford. We've been looking at various sources of new and used equipment and are ready to go as soon as the brewery location is certain.
Pilot Brewing - I just moved down to Charleston permanently last month and have been brewing on the 5 gallon all-grain "system" I started with more than 3 years ago (system in quotes because it's not really a system at all, just a bunch of misc. stuff). I've brewed some great beer with that equipment but it's much too labor intensive and can only make 5 gal. at a time, so I've ordered a shiny new 20 gallon brewsculpture from MoreBeer, which should be arriving in about a month. This should help me be more consistent from batch to batch and also make it easier to split batches between multiple fermenters to experiment with different yeasts, dry hopping , etc.
Government approval - Alcohol producers are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). In order to apply for the Brewer's Notice (basically the federal license that allows you to operate a brewery) you need to have your location, your facility/equipment layout, and a bunch of other stuff. Once we get the Brewer's Notice, we'll be able to apply for a license from the SC Dept. of Revenue.
As you can see we have a lot of work ahead of us before we can actually start brewing beer. Our goal is to be open for business by this time next year, which I think is definitely possible.