The Eighth State Brewing Co. finds success in collaboration

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Blue algae and fruit juices create the vivid hues in The Eighth State Brewing Co.'s beers. Photo by Will Crooks / Greenville Journal

No, the founders of The Eighth State Brewing Company are not Free Masons, as some have suggested because of the eye in the logo. Nor is the brewery so-named because South Carolina was the eighth state to join the Union.

Brewers Cameron Owen and Adam Cribbs are quick to ascribe zero judgment to those observations – they’re big on inclusion – but those assumptions aren’t accurate.

Instead, the symbol chosen to represent the experimental brewery in the former Upstate Craft Brewing space at 400 Augusta St. is a nod to the Timothy Leary (and crew) eight-circuit model of consciousness.

“The real goal, though, is not to look at it as that but really to evaluate social consciousness as it is at a given point in time,” Owen says. “That’s why we have different cocktails always rotating, we have beer rotating all the time. We’re going to start rotating our food menu a little more. We have the gallery aspect of it. We’re trying to basically keep things where they’re changing, showing where we are as, kind of, as a society, and that’s kind of a hard thing to do as a brewery because people hear the word brewery, but I think this is a good way to start changing people’s perception of really what a brewery can be.”

The medium is a brewery, but the purpose is deeper:

“Our goal is to be as inclusive as possible,” Owen says.

Eighth State sets itself apart in a variety of ways: entertainment and the arts are integral, not just background noise; half a dozen draft cocktails, including a frozen slushie option, are features rather than merely alternatives to the beer; the rotating beers include vivid hues not normally associated with a sour such as blue, green, red, and orange; and the food menu is ever-changing and part of the experience rather than a means of satisfying state liquor laws.

After only six months, the model they’ve set up is working.

“I did not expect to be making money,” Owen says.

In fact, they’re looking for investors who might want to help them expand because their current tank system can’t keep up with demand. This is one of those times when constantly running out of beer is a good problem, but it means they have to figure out a solution, Owen says.

Midori Illusion, on tap. Photo by Will Crooks / Greenville Journal.

Owen, who previously promoted some of the biggest music festivals in the world, knew when he launched the Eighth State project, collaboration was going to be key to accomplishing the underlying purpose.

In terms of entertainment, the goal is to have live music every night, and not just mood music, but local musicians who are working to grow the local music scene.

“It’s curated music. . . We want to align ourselves with the Greenville music scene,” Owen says.

The work of local visual artists decorates the walls in another effort at connecting with their community.

The innovation at Eighth State from brewers who have worked in various local breweries for several years points to a growing and evolving local brewery community.

“It’s come a long way. It used to just be Thomas Creek, then Quest, then [Brewery] 85,” says Cribbs. “We have all these breweries that are two or three years old now. And now we’re about to have, like, four, that are all brand new.”

And that means more and more beer collaborations with not only local restaurants and breweries, but breweries from all over the country.

“If there’s not enough people trying to push progression in beer, we’re not going to evolve,” Owen says.

For instance, a recent collab with Boneflower Craft Mead Co. of Indiana led to a Old Forester bourbon barrel aged honey and eventually a s’mores imperial stout aged in the same barrel. Then there’s the experimental pop-up from the Raleigh-Durham area, Ancillary Fermentation, whose collab beer Owens describes as “bougie” — caviar, sea salt, and chocolate infused they’ll serve in 6 ounce milk bottles sealed with gold wax. At 12-14 percent alcohol, that pour size won’t seem so small.

That is a fraction of the collaborations already on the books through May. Both Owen and Cribbs are thrilled with the response so far and with their participation in the local brewery scene.

“It’s small and about to get really big, but I think I have no idea really what to expect from that,” Owen says.

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