The Mack House Brews Up Creativity and a Loyal Following
It would be easy to pass over the small retail bay on your way to laser tag next door if it weren't for the large, lit-up, red letters burning "Brewery" into the night sky. Still, the strip-mall vibe belies the nanobrew-level scale of experimentation and uniqueness that emerges from inside.
CandaceWest.com Head Bartender Stevie Dice pours a brew.
The brewpub is the inner heart of the line of Holy Mackerel beers that grace store shelves across the state: Special Golden Ale, Panic Attack, and Mack in Black. But these aren't brewed on premise. The commercially distributed brews are fashioned up at the Thomas Creek brewery in Greenville, South Carolina. What you'll get at the Mack House are small-batch, one-of-a-kind beers available only at that location.
Since October 2012, owner Larry Hatfield and his son Kyle have been working to make this slice of beervana into a hangout for local beer lovers.
"We wanted to have another platform to feature our beers," said Kyle Hatfield, the brewpub's general manager, "somewhere we can do anything we want to do with them."
Taking over the space that was occupied by Stage 84, a venue that hosted live musical acts and open-mic nights, the Hatfields moved quickly to have beers produced onsite. Even though they purchased the Holy Mackerel brand from creator Bobby Gordash in 2011, they kept him on as head brewer and tapped into the local beer scene.
"The first few months were slow and tough," Hatfield remembers. "The name recognition wasn't what we hoped for."
After a few months, Gordash moved on (on good terms) to work for Florida Beer Co., and the Hatfields immediately sprang into action.
"We somehow got invigorated by it," Hatfield explains of Gordash's departure. The search for a head brewer was on, but it ended up being short. Justin Miles was the first and immediate choice. "He had always brought his homebrewed beers to us when it was still Stage 84, and we've always liked them. It just seemed natural.
"The biggest transition from doing homebrewing to this commercial setup is keeping up with the pace," Hatfield says. "And at home, you can be a little more experimental as well, since anything that turns out just awful you can dump it. But here, I have to serve everything I brew to customers or it's wasted time and space."