Drinking is easy. Finding the right bar, not so easy. We’re here to help. As a public service to all of you thirsty explorers, every week we highlight the best bars in America and tell you what makes them so damn great. This week we’ve got a Southern brew pub that doesn’t settle with just serving great beer.
NAME: Edmund’s Oast
LOCATION: Half Mile North, Charleston, South Carolina
ON THE JUKEBOX: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Interpol, Beck
WHAT TO ORDER (NEWBIES): An exotic, house-brewed beer such as the Red Wine Barrel Sour Red
WHAT TO ORDER (REGULARS): The Red Wedding cocktail: Elijah Craig small-batch bourbon and Averna Italian liqueur, chilled with hibiscus-ginger-thyme-sweet tea ice cubes
WHY WE LOVE IT: Why just be a good beer bar or a good cocktail bar or a good wine bar when you can be great at all three? That’s the motto at Edmund’s Oast brew pub in Charleston, South Carolina. “We have an extensive craft beer program, a major cocktail program and a thoughtfully curated wine program,” owner Scott Shor says. “Not to overuse the word program or anything, but we put a heavy emphasis on taking all forms of beverage seriously.”
Designed to resemble a rustic farmhouse in the English countryside, Edmund’s Oast serves as an unusually comprehensive drinking environment in a neglected part of central Charleston. “When we opened two years ago, people thought we were crazy—that’s always how it is in a new neighborhood,” he says. “But people really dig what we’re doing. Now this is suddenly the most popular place in town for people to eye for a new location.”
In addition to its look, the bar also draws its name from English history: Edmund, a local figure who brewed the most sought-after beer on the East Coast during the Revolutionary War, and Oast, a kiln house used for drying barley and hops. The bar’s centerpiece is its long line of 48 taps. Six are dedicated to draft items like wine, cocktails and sodas, and the rest are devoted to beer. “Most of our beers are from other parts of the country, other parts of the world, as well as our local friends here in Charleston,” Shor says. “And to complement those, to add some diversity, we brew some unusual style beers in-house.”
Edmund’s Oast’s five-barrel brewhouse is located behind a glass wall in one corner of the bar (you can ask for a tour if you’d like) and focuses on sours, wilds and more experimental stuff. The bar’s most famous—or infamous, depending on whom you ask—is the Peanut Butter & Jelly, which smells and tastes just like the sandwich. They also do historic, old-world recipe recreations. One of Shor’s favorites is the refreshing Australasia, a rare sparkling ale made with Australian yeast, New Zealand hops and malt from North Carolina; he only knows of one brewery in Australia that exports this style to the U.S. At any one time, you can find a dozen or so of Edmund’s Oast’s own creations on tap.
Bar manager Jayce McConnell also gets experimental with the cocktail menu. “Many of the cocktails harken back to old, colonial styles like punch,” he says. “Keep in mind, this is Charleston; you have to keep things light and refreshing.” He often takes cues from the kitchen, incorporating local citrus or farm-fresh eggs into his drinks, and from the brewery, barrel-aging all kinds of things. “Sometimes people will come in and say, ‘oh I feel bad drinking a cocktail with all of this beer around’,” he says. “But really everything’s great, so whatever you pick you’re going to be in good shape.”
Take McConnell’s barrel-aged Manhattan. The oak cask itself has a history. First it was used to age sorghum whiskey at a distillery elsewhere in Charleston. Then Edmund’s Oast filled it with a strong, dark wheat ale. When that was done aging, they emptied the barrel and McConnell re-filled it with the contents of 3,000 tiny bottles of Underberg, a bitter German digestif. When that was done aging, they emptied the barrel and filled it with an imperial stout. (The aged Underberg is available behind the bar.) And then finally, when the stout was done, 15 gallons of Manhattans went in. It sat for six months. “I’m pretty crazy about it,” McConnell says. “It encompasses a lot of what this whole place is about.“
Alyson Sheppard is the resident hangover specialist at Playboy.com. Find her on Twitter: @amshep