By Mimi Wood, The Island Eye News Senior Staff Writer
When Sullivan’s Islanders Brandon Perry and Scott Hansen met at the home of a mutual friend on Daniel Island in 2008, it was an instant bromance. They just clicked. Both were in technology fields, had kids of similar ages, like-mindedness with regard to leisure activities. Their wives became fast friends, and the two families began hanging out, vacationing together, embracing the Lowcountry lifestyle. So when Hansen decided to participate in the Conch Republic Cup, a sailboat race from Key West to Cuba, the Perrys, along with Hansen’s wife Meghan, flew down to Havana to act as “race support.” Heeding the age-old adage “don’t drink the water,” the couples sagaciously drank beer…enough to realize that the Cuban beer market was sorely hurting. “There were basically two kinds of beer being served,” quips Perry, “not great.” A dream emerged…a dream to change the face of Cuban beer. Stateside, reality smacked hard as the insurmountable logistics in supplying beer to Cuba immediately became apparent.
What also came to light, however, was the gaping hole in the American market for a great, easy-drinking craft lager. Hence, Island Coastal Lager was conceived.
Launched on IOP and Sullivan’s the first week in October, ICL has “been flying off the shelves,” exclaims Perry. “The validation we’ve received from the food and beverage industry has been both overwhelming and humbling.” Hansen adds, “Our neighbors have been incredibly supportive,” as evidenced by approximately 500 of their closest friends packing into Mex 1, a local cantina, at the public launch party on Oct. 5. Island Coastal Lager is the “high quality version” of an American lager, filling a void “between the Bud lights and the craft world,” explains Perry. “We use only the highest quality ingredients when brewing ICL; Vienna malt, pearl hops and cara pilsner,” Hansen expounds, “resulting in a more artisanal beer. We don’t use any adjuncts, or low-cost fillers, such as corn or rice that are found in mass market beers. The result is the finest American Craft Lager made for easy drinking, we call it ‘crushable craft!’.” The recipe developed as the partners “worked really hard doing research over the past two years,” according to Perry. Engaging a number of brewers, one emerged as their “Yoda,” perfecting the color, clarity, “mouth-feel” and, of course, taste. “Every aspect of this beer has our fingerprints on it,” enthuses Hansen, whose energy is uncontainable, “from the recipe to the branding and everything in between. This is our beer!” he preens. As if “establishing a regional stronghold” within the next 18 months isn’t enough, the two reveal they are busy creating an open-air bar on Shem Creek, slated to debut in March 2018. “The Island Taproom will be the flagship outpost for our beer and our brand,” Hansen states. The brand, he describes, “is the embodiment of the coastal lifestyle. Made for easy.” The distinctive turquoise blue and white colors of the logo are reminiscent of the sea and sky; the font a nod to vintage Cuba. There’s even a tiny surfboard incorporated in the design.
“Everything on the can has meaning for us,” Perry notes. Serious for a moment, he confides, “We’re printing a message on the bottom of each can, hoping to drive consumers to some good causes. We want to give back,” citing Waterkeeper Alliance, a nonprofit whose sole focus is clean water, as one of their favorite organizations. Perry and Hansen will bring Island Coastal Lager full circle this January, as both are participating in the 2018 Conch Republic Cup. “We’ll be in Havana by February 3,” Hansen grins, “with literally a boatload of beer!”