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Brewery, restaurant coming soon to former Rock Hill auto dealership site

Mike Krail, brewmaster at the Legal Remedy Brewery on Oakland Avenue, pours a sample of pale ale for testing.
Mike Krail, brewmaster at the Legal Remedy Brewery on Oakland Avenue, pours a sample of pale ale for testing. dworthington@heraldonline.com

In a civil court there are three legal remedies.

A judge can awarded damages – money. A judge can order a person or company to do what it promised, called equity. A judge can decide how the law applies to a set of facts, called a declaratory judgment.

Rock Hill attorney Chad McGowan and his friends want a fourth remedy that is unlikely to be legally upheld except in the court of consumption – beer.

Of course, they came to the conclusion after drinking a few beers.

And the discussions may have been prompted by one of their favorite books, “1,001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die.”

McGowan, a home-brewing enthusiast, got the book as a gift. He was faithful in his pursuit of beer and was more than halfway through the book’s list when he stopped recording his beer-a-thon. He switched to using an app on his cellphone – adding another 500 unique beers to his list.

Ask McGowan which one of the more than 1,001 beers on his list is his favorite and he will likely quip, “Bud and free.”

But when clearer heads prevailed, McGowan and his partners realized maybe beer did indeed need to be a legal remedy, allowing them to take their passion from their kitchens or basements, where they crafted home brews, to a larger public arena.

“There was no one here feeding our habit for good beer,” McGowan said. If no one was feeding their habit, there must be others in need, they reasoned.

Hence, Legal Remedy Brewing was started in 2009 to legally sell their best beers to retailers.

This fall, Legal Remedy will take another big, legal step: meeting all the state and local rules to sell food – and beer – at a pub on Oakland Avenue near downtown Rock Hill.

They are converting the former Williams auto dealership into a brewery, restaurant and outdoor beer garden. The showroom where the Williams family once sold Chryslers, Plymouths and Jeeps will now feature taps for 24 different beers, home-brewed non-alcoholic sodas and even a cold-brewed coffee with nitrogen that is chilled in a keg and served on draft with a foamy head like a Guinness ale.

In the former service bays is a large array of small and large stainless steel tanks and accompanying plumbing.

That’s where brewmaster Mike Krail practices his craft.

There was no one here feeding our habit for good beer.

Chad McGowan of Legal Remedy Brewing

Basic beer is a combination of water, hops, malts, barley and yeast. Each step of the process has its own language. Crushed malt is called grist. The grist is mixed with heated water in a “mash tun,” which uses the natural enzymes of the malt to break down its starches into sugars.

The mash is pumped into a “lauter tun” where a liquid called “wort” is separated from the grain husks. The wort is pumped to a kettle, boiled, and then hops are added. It’s boiled again to remove any malt or hops particles and then cooled.

Yeast is added to start fermenting the beer, converting the sugary wort in alcohol.

The now “green” beer must age to develop its flavor and finish. It’s then filtered and transferred to large “bright” tanks. Multi-gallon tanks that are “essentially like a giant can of beer,” McGowan said.

There the beer “rests” before it is put into kegs or cans.

Very little of what Krail wants to do, however, is basic.

Yes, Legal Remedy will have its staple of beers, but it’s the ideas fermenting in Krail’s mind that will separate this brewery from others.

If the necessary permission can be obtained, Krail would like to make a Krispy Kreme stout, and a peanut butter and Captain Crunch beer. He also wants to make a chocolate cake beer.

His most outlandish – and quite possibly most popular – idea is what he called a “Canadian Maple” beer, one that combines maple syrup with lots of bacon. He predicted the perfected beer will have a strong, smokey, “bacony” taste.

How will he know if he has succeeded?

“When the beer is ready, you let the beer talk to you,” he says.

How do you know when the beer is talking to you?

“By the taste,” he said.

McGowan insists Legal Brewery will focus on bringing quality beer to the area and offering a “genuine” beer-drinking experience, not to make money. Bad-tasting beer, he insists, will be used to water the lawn or the hops garden.

But the brewery and pub, slated to open around Labor Day, are coming at a strategic time for South Carolina beer.

State laws were tweaked in 2013 to allow for operations such as Legal Remedy. In 2013, before the legal change, the Brewers Association estimated legal South Carolina brewers made 47,000 barrels of beer worth $254 million.

The S.C. Brewers Guild estimates the value of state-made beer is now more than $275 million, and the value and volume of beer is rising.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 • dworthington@heraldonline.com

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