Winding along a somewhat hidden business park behind the new Hampton Inn off S.C. 160, it's hard to ignore the collection of mismatched buildings and storefronts: Industrial shops and offices mingled with a funeral home, recording studio, massage salon and a mega church; There’s a thrift shop, car care service, CrossFit studio and the biggest of them all – online specialty retailer Shutterfly.
Nestled among them is perhaps the most unique operation in this sliver of unincorporated York County just outside Fort Mill town limits. Full Spectrum Brewing Co., which has been concocting and pouring its own craft beers during a soft opening the past couple of weeks, is getting ready to make its official debut Aug. 29.
For the uninitiated, the sweet and funky aroma of simmering hops and malt that wafts through the front door to the parking lot is the first step of a journey on a new beer drinking experience.
Charles Bergman, the Fort a Mill native who opened Full Spectrum with brew master Troy Bigelow and their partner Bill Stayduhar, said their initial collection of beers is designed to appeal both to experienced fans of craft brews and those with less refined palates who might be tasting their first non-Coors Light or Budweiser.
“Troy’s beers are very approachable,” Bergman said.
“If you’re a real beer connoisseur, he makes some very good, well rounded, well-crafted beer. But if you’re a beer novice and you don’t like a lot of extreme flavors or overly hoppy or sweet beers, they’re still very approachable. Our tagline is, ‘We have a beer for everyone on the spectrum.’ It doesn’t matter if you like Bud Light or Guinness, we have a beer you’re going to enjoy.”
First introduced to craft beer while spending a year at Montana State University, Bergman, a 2003 Fort Mill High grad, decided to try his own hand at home brewing while counting down to the birthday that would bring legal drinking age status.
“The craft beer they had there was huge,” he said.
“I really got into craft beer. Living in the dorm room out there, I was about to turn 21 so I did the math backwards and figured out when I could brew beer and have it ready when I turned 21.”
Like many first-time brewers, Bergman found out it takes time to learn the art.”
“My first batch was pretty terrible, but I got over it and had a good time out there,” he said. “I started brewing again, started kegging my beers and they were getting better and better.”
A decade later, Bergman, who went on to graduate from Winthrop University, attend grad school and serve in the U.S. Army with deployments to Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan, is focusing on the business end of things while Bigelow handles the alchemy duties.
“Troy is our brew master and runs all our brewing operations,” he said.
It was while he was attending grad school in Charleston that Bergman started exploring the idea of opening a brewery in his hometown. After realizing the extent of the initial capital investment, he came up with the idea of combining two of his passions to finance the venture.
“I realized it would cost quite a bit of money upfront so I put a plan together to start a CrossFit gym, grow the gym and put the brewery in the back,” he said. “The idea was the gym would pay rent and that way we wouldn’t have to invest a ton of money up front and get the brewery off the ground.”
The end result was close to the original plan: Bergman opened a CrossFit studio first, but Full spectrum is free-standing. It’s the Township’s first brewery. Skull Coast Brewing Co. had a Fort Mill business address when it started up a few years ago, but was a contract brewer whose beers were crafted elsewhere. That gives Full Spectrum its own entry in Fort Mill history.
It’s open Friday and Saturday evenings – days and hours might eventually expand, Bergman said – and like opening night will feature food trucks. Some nights will include live music and Bergman said he’d like to host a home brew competition.
“There are a lot of home brewers in this area and they really enjoy their craft, so we’re looking to put it together as quickly as we can,” he said.
While throwing around the words “approachable” and “accessible” while talking about his beers, Bigelow said he’ll have something for refined palates, too, such as his Infrared IPA (all the beers are named for light waves on the color spectrum).
“It’s not over the top,” Bigelow said. “It’s a basic West Coast IPA, not totally hopped on, and we try to balance it, keep the malt going to balance the bitterness and add a little bit of mouth feel and a good nose.”
Another is their shamrock style made with California ale yeast.
“The shamrock style evolved from the first two we came up with. It’s very drinkable. A little sweet with not much bitter in it,” Bigelow said.
Full Spectrum will also roll out seasonable beers, including a cucumber IPA. Customers will be able to take home their favorites in growlers for about $10.
A couple of Full Spectrum beers have been on tap at grapevine Wine Bar/Wine Shop in Baxter Village. Owner Melanie Sills said she got to know the Full Spectrum trio the past couple of years.
“They’ve been asking me questions,” she laughed. “They participated in our home brew competition.”
Both Sills and her partner, husband David Sills, said when it comes to the craft beer, scene, the more the merrier.
“The funny thing is, downtown Fort Mill is finally coming back to life and I’m surprised someone hasn’t opened a ‘Fort Mill Brewing Company,’” David said.
Although Full Spectrum isn’t downtown, it’s close. And Bergman said geography was part of the plan all along.
“It had to be Fort Mill,” he said. “This is where I grew up. Fort Mill needed a CrossFit gym and a brewery.”
Now it has both. Who wouldn’t drink to that?
Want to go?
What: Full Spectrum Brewing Company
Where: 2168 Carolina Place Dr., Fort Mill, South Carolina
The grand opening is 4-8 p.m. Aug. 29. Admission is free, but tickets are needed to drink that night. Purchase tickets via the Full Spectrum Facebook page.