Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the May-June issue of Down Home Magazine, published by The Herald.
Something new brews in York County.
Tucked in a park on Carolina Place Drive off S.C. 160 near Shutterfly is Fort Mill’s first brewery -- Full Spectrum Brewing Co.
If it’s a brewing day, a sweet and funky aroma of simmering grain, hops and malt welcomes guests with their first steps in the door. The black walled, clean lined room is more liken to a tasting room -- similar to wineries -- with a view into the back room where the craft beers are made.
The brewery has a few televisions, some board games and short list of snacks, but co-founder Charles Bergman explains Full Spectrum is more about production and distribution.
“This is fun for us and for people to come see where it’s made,” he said.
Make no mistake: this is not a bar. It’s a brew pub in all it’s stripped down glory.
Patrons can sample beers as tasters, half pints, pints, or sample several in a flight. Take favorites home in a 32- or 64-ounce growlers, or a six-pack of cans. Full Spectrum sells six-packs in cans rather than bottles for a couple of reasons, according to Bergman:
“Ease of access. We have the opportunity to do business with Benford Brewing's mobile canning line, which works well for us,” he said, and “Ease of use. Cans are more versatile than bottles, for use on the boat, at the pool, etc.”
A Fort Mill native, Bergman brewed his first batch of beer at Montana State University to be ready for his 21st birthday.
“My first batch was pretty terrible,” he said. “I started brewing again, started kegging my beers, and they were getting better and better.”
He dropped out of medical school “to chase this dream.”
The Winthrop University graduate and Army veteran joined with friend Troy Bigelow, a native of Upstate New York, as head brewer.
“He’s the true genius behind the beer,” Bergman said.
The duo opened the brewery in August 2015 with a one-barrel system and a goal to make a good beer and market it. Thirteen months later, they have a 30-barrel system, and up to 10 or more beers on tap at a time.
Their goal: to make “approachable” craft beers, Bergman said.
That’s where the name comes in. All the beers are named for light waves on the color spectrum, with a beer experience for everyone, they say.
For those dipping a toe in the craft beer pool, or who prefer a mellower brew without the bitterness found in hopped-up ales, Bigelow has a couple of suggestions.
“If you're new to craft beer, I would recommend our Alabaster Cream Ale or our Upstate Orange Wheat. Both are low on hops and bitterness and are smooth and easy to drink,” he said.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Reaper Roast Amber (7.8 ABV) and Infrared IPA (6.4 ABV), offer a range of complexity and harmonious notes.
“I would say the Reaper Roast is something unusual,” Bigelow said.
Look for a bourbon barrel beer coming soon -- for a limited time.
The Reaper Roast is an example of Full Spectrum’s quest for locally sourced ingredients.
Made with the hottest-in-the-world Carolina Reaper pepper first developed in Rock Hill and now based in Fort Mill, Reaper Roast Amber is tamer than the beta version. Before he figured out how to work with a concentrated version of the pepper, Bigelow’s first batch literally made the drinker sweat.
“We are particularly proud of the Reaper Roast Amber,” Bigelow said. “First, two Fort Mill businesses provide ingredients, cold brew coffee from Forte Legato, and of course, the Carolina Reaper Pepper from Puckerbutt Pepper Co.
“Second, it's not like any other beer I have had before, coffee, malty sweet up front, with a nice bite on the back of palate, a very different beer, but still beery.”
They also united with Springs Farm and Breadsmith in Fort Mill and try to keep it as local as possible.
“For our Pecan Brown Porter, we go out of our way to ensure we get fresh South Carolina pecans,” Bigelow said.
Bergman, owner of CrossFit gym next door, said the gym’s motto is fitting for Full Spectrum, too: “Do the common uncommonly well.”
Catherine “Kitty” Muccigrosso started her journey into craft beers with pale ales decades ago. She has sipped suds at micro brews and larger craft breweries throughout the U.S. and Europe, including Germany, Ireland and Italy.
▪ Reaper Roaster Amber, 7.8 ABV
Didn’t think I’d like it for one big reason: I don’t like hot, spicy, especially beer. But this beer is so complex with a locally roasted cold brew coffee, and a little kick, it has a lot going on. My taste buds were stimulated like no other beer. Although the Carolina reaper pepper was certified as the world's hottest chili pepper by Guinness World Records in 2013, don’t fear the reaper here.
▪ Upstate Orange Wheat, 6.5 ABV
I don’t like fruit beers - no lime, no lemon, just beer. But this “breakfast” beer is bright and surprised me. The orange is appealing. This American wheat beer is light and could be great for a bridal luncheon or hot days of summer. But be aware of the alcohol content.
▪ Alabaster Cream Ale, 5.1 ABV
This clear beer, the clearest among the craft, tastes light and refreshing. It’s definitely a gateway beer into tasting crafts and a good go to.
Michael Harrison was first introduced to craft beer in northern California in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until around 2014, when he became friends with a home brewer in Fort Mill, that he tapped his inner connoisseur. Now an aspiring home brewer himself, he’s brewed one batch under the tutelage of his friend.
▪ Pecan Brown Porter, 5.3 ABV
The equivalent of my ideal body weight worth of pecans went into this earthy, nutty brew and it’s evident in every sip. Even before the first sip, as the aroma conjures up the image of big, wooden barrels brimming with the fruit of the iconic Southern tree.
▪ Shamrock Stout, 5.8 ABV
Since the early 1980s, when I hit that magical birthday that allowed me to walk into a pub and legally order a beer, Guinness was the only Irish stout I knew, and I loved it. That was before the craft brew revolution and while Guinness will always have a warm place in my heart for all the good times with which I associate it, compared to craft stouts, it’s flavored water. Full Spectrum’s malty, festive Shamrock Stout will have you up and river dancing and talking blarney in no time –but with a more refined palate.
▪ Cold brew coffee
Throwing a curve here, I know, but it’s worth mentioning. Anyone who loves coffee will appreciate this bold pick-me-up brewed with beans roasted by Fort Mill's Forte Legato Coffee Company. Mellower than espresso, but hardier than your garden variety bean, this flavorful brew is just what the doctor ordered if you’re looking for the opposite of alcohol.
Want to go?
Where: Full Spectrum Brewing Co., 2168 Carolina Place Drive, Fort Mill
Hours: 4-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon-9 p.m. Saturday and noon-7 p.m. Sunday
By the Barrel
Full Spectrum Brewing Co. is a 30 BBL (Barrels of Beer) house capable of double batching. That means they can brew twice in a day to produce a 60 BBL batch.
5 - Tanks for brewing: 3 60-BBL fermenters, 2 30-BBL fermenters,
3 - Tanks for storage/serving: 2 60-BBL brite tanks, 1 30-BBL brite tank
30 - BBLs brewing at one time
150 - BBLs per week when brewing at full capacity
300 - BBLs brewed in 2016, with fewer tanks
2,000 - the estimated number of barrels they expect to produce in 2017
A few beer terms
Alcohol By Volume. Unlike hard liquor, beers aren't measured by proof, but most commonly by ABV— alcohol by volume. This number simply lets you know what percentage of your beer is alcohol.
Hoppy beer. Synonym for “bitter,” but there are beers that use loads of hops and aren’t bitter.
Stout: Traditionally a term for the strongest or stoutest porters.