Thursday, February 27, 2014

Holy City Brewery--Home To Top Notch Craft Beers And A Lowcountry Landmark.

It was the party before Brewvival. The place was Holy City Brewing. In collaboration with RJ Rockers Brewery, Holy City produced a beer using cold-press coffee from Coastal Coffee Roasters in Summerville and dubbed the perky stout Half Calf. I was there to celebrate the preview with my good friend Brad Mallett, owner of the popular and trendy coffee shop.

Half Calf was one of four collaborations brewed for the Brewvival. The other three were with NoDa Brewing Company(Shades of Grace), Southbound Brewing Company(Sister City Saison), and Wicked Weed Brewing(Holy Weed with green tea leaves from Charleston Tea Plantation).

The enterprise is a success story of immense proportions bearing a rightly acquired name synonymous with Charleston, Holy City. A four-team venture, three of them CofC graduates, the brewery is a converted 4000 square foot warehouse originally owned by the non graduate of CofC, Mac Minaudo.

The main section of the warehouse is an efficient collusion of working space and showroom highlighted by a shiny, deep blue floor covered with a collection of brightly polished, stainless steel tanks with the remaining space dominated by a long bar transplanted from the original Cumberland's of downtown Charleston--on this day lined with patrons downing pairings of samples and full glasses of the brewery's latest collaborations in celebration of this years edition of Brewvival.

The exterior of the warehouse, like the beers brewed inside, is a Lowcountry work of art. Painted in a palette of earth colors, it is covered with scenes of the Charleston skyline, jelly fish, hammerhead sharks, marine birds, an alligator, a curious pterodactyl and a lone bicycle rickshaw--significant of the fact Joel Carl and Sean Nemitz are business partners in Charleston's rickshaw business. The establishments most prominent feature is a very long trash bin painted with a full length scene reminiscent of Charleston's beautiful waterfront with the name Holy City transparently etched in white over it.

A labor of love that began in the garage of Joel and Sean's rickshaw business where they built a 15-gallon, all-grain pilot system that produced roughly a dozen signature brews, later joined by professional brewer Chris Brown and beer enthusiast Mac, Holy City has grown into a dominant player in the craft beer market of Charleston.

Throughout the Lowcountry, the Holy City brand is as original as joggling boards and its taps are as common as the palmetto. Holy City Pilsner and Holy City Pluff Mud are two of the house beers served at my favorite Summerville stomping grounds, the previously mentioned Coastal Coffee Roasters; and the place where I was introduced to Holy City Brewing by way of the occasional beer tasting event hosted there--a fabulously frothy good time.

The day's large crowd was conclusive evidence of the brewery's success. The picnic tables were full, the tasting room standing room only. For entertainment, the Bluestone Ramblers churned out bluegrass tunes while Refueler's Mobile Cafe served up the food. With a brew in one hand and a camera in the other, the happy beer lovers took their turns documenting the occasion by posing for a memorable snapshot in front of the semi truck long, panoramic painted, one-time trash collector--including yours truly.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The B.I.R.D.S. Project And Summerville ROCKS--More Reasons To Tour One Of The Top Ten Walkable Downtowns In SC

This past year Summerville has gone for the B.I.R.D.S., but to make things even better, this coming March, it is going to be off its rocker, and I am not just playing with words. Year after year the Summerville D.R.E.A.M. continues to work tirelessly at dreaming up ways to make Summerville a source of pride for residents and a destination of choice for visitors. The B.I.R.D.S. project and the Summerville ROCKS initiative coincides very nicely with the fact Summerville has been chosen as one of South Carolina's top ten most walkable downtowns.

B.I.R.D.S. is an acronym for Birds in Residence Downtown Summerville. The project is a collaboration between Summerville DREAM, Sculpture in the South, and the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest to highlight Summerville's native bird species and celebrate its growing reputation as a cultural arts destination. The life-like bronze bird sculptures are being placed at various locations throughout the downtown area.

So far, I have found five. This coming March 20th, eight new sculptures will be introduced. When the project is finally completed, twenty of the bronze feathered-friends will have been placed in their permanent locations with the objective to draw visitors and residents to explore the streets, businesses and restaurants of Summerville on a bird scavenger hunt guided by the B.I.R.D.S. poem, which will contain clues.

The Nuthatch was the first to be placed. Do you know where it is located? Finding it will bring a smile to your face. The Canada Goose, the most expensive of the installations, will eventually be installed on Hutchinson Square. You, as a resident, can assist in the expense by purchasing one of the 2013 holiday ornaments available at the B.I.R.D.S. booth on Third Thursdays as well as at Four Green Fields Gallery. All proceeds from such purchases will be donated by Four Green Fields Gallery back to the B.I.R.D.S. project. Two other ways you can participate is by being a sponsor or by making a tax deductible donation. You can do that by clicking on B.I.R.D.S.

The rocking chair is as American as sweet tea and as Summerville as the azalea and pine tree. It has a notable place in Summerville's grand history. The once-upon-a-time illustrious Pine Forest Inn housed various large parlors where people dined, read books, did needlework, drank wine, and talked about the business of the day. One large parlor was called the Rocking Chair Room. It was said to have contained a sea of over a hundred rocking chairs.

The Summerville ROCKS initiative encompasses artistically painted rocking chairs, painted by a local artist, and their placement throughout Summerville and surrounding locals. For a cost of $100.00, anyone can be a sponsor--the money goes towards the purchase of the wooden rocking chair. The sponsored rocking chair would have to be completed and displayed at its location by March 20, 2014, which is when the event begins. The event will conclude May 31, 2014. At that time, the painted rocking chair will be auctioned off to support a scholarship for a local art student and other community charities.

On March 20th, maps containing the locations of the rocking chairs will be distributed for residents and visitors to view. An example of a painted rocking chair can viewed in the lobby of the James F. Dean Theatre on South Main Street across from Hutchinson Square. For more information contact

A little bird told me Third Thursday is Summerville's night to shine. The B.I.R.D.S project and the Summerville ROCKS initiative is a part of the allure. So, get up off your rocking chairs and come downtown Summerville to join the fun. While you are on Short Central, look in the alley between Four Green Fields Gallery and Eclectic Chef. Your discovery will leave you humming a tune.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Betrayal"--Opening Night At The South Of Broadway Theater--Absorbing

Betrayal is an absorbing and intimate Harold Pinter play about three friends and their duplicitous relationships with one another over an eleven year period. The inspiration for the writing of the play came from Pinter's own personal experience. It is considered one of his best dramatic works. A notable highlight of the play is his use of an unconventional format in the structuring of the sequence of events.

The production begins with the end and ends with the beginning. Emotionally entangled in an extra-marital affair, Emma and Jerry meet at a pub two years after breaking off the adulterous affair that started 11 years earlier. During their meeting, Emma tells Jerry that her marriage to Robert was over; who is also a close friend of his with related careers. A revelation that would in due course uncover more betrayal.

The absorbing drama opened at the South of Broadway Theater on Thursday, February 13th. It was my first visit to the South of Broadway Theater and first experience with its seating in the round. The Harry Pinter production of Betrayal was the perfect introduction.

The Play's nine scenes were as open and as bare as the relationships of its characters. A window, a door, a chair, a couch, a changing table setting, and some necessary other props were all that were needed for transitioning from scene to scene. I was too absorbed with following the intimate exchanges between Emma, Jerry, and Robert to even notice the absence of walls and ceilings. Besides, walls were of no consequence because you, the audience, were endowed with the symbolic power of x-ray vision to peer through any such barriers directly into the characters private lives from all angles. Ultimately, in the end, all artifices had become stripped away.

The well-seasoned three person cast was exceptional. Kristen Kos portrayed a persuasive Emma. From the opening scene to the last, her body language, facial expressions, and voice inflections were convincingly realistic and captivating. Sitting in the audience as an observer, I at times felt the discomfort Emma was experiencing, especially the opening moments in the pub while she awaited Jerry's arrival. Equally convincing was Craig Trow's rendering of the anxious and totally-unaware-of-some-pertinent information Jerry and Larry Perewiznyk's depiction of the composed and not-so-in-the-dark Robert.

Afterward, I hung out with the crew and cast to discuss some of the finer points of the play and satisfy some of my more inquisitive questions--one of the benefits of community theater. Thank you South of Broadway for the delicious treats and celebratory champagne.

You now know the ending, which is the beginning, and the obvious beginning, which is the ending, but you still don't know how it all started. For that and everything in between, you will have to experience it for yourself. Betrayal will be playing February 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22 at the South of Broadway Theater and later in the month, beginning on February 27, it will have a two week run on the proscenium stage of the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville. Purchase tickets here for South of Broadway and here for the James F. Dean Theatre.

Other notables are Jason Pallay; the waiter, Jean Gaston; stage manager, Angelique Cunningham; costume design, Janet Peck; lighting design, Mark Gorman; set design, Mary Gould; set decorator, and JC Conway; director.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Magical, Mystical Place With An Unsurpassed Beach And Southern Plantation Legends

Bleak Hall, Sea Cloud and Botany Island are names that stir ones imagination. They bring to ones mind images of foreboding estates surrounded by half-dead, moss covered, aging trees wrapped in a perpetual state of gloom, portraits of salty, blue waters and wooden tall ships and pictures of far-away, palm tree-laden inlets on secluded islands visited by treasure hunting pirates. Apocryphal and fanciful places you would expect to read about in stories and poems written by the likes of Emily Bronte, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and James A. Michener. In some respects, these are very real descriptions of a place on an Atlantic coastal island not far from where you live called Botany Bay Plantation.

Botany Bay Plantation is a wildlife preserve on Edisto Island consisting of 3,363-acres under the
management of SC Department of Natural Resources. Formed in the 1930's when Dr. James Greenway combined the two previous plantations originally owned by the Townsend family, Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud, it got its name from the barrier island that was near, but not a part of the Bleak Hall property--Botany Bay Island. Some of the island's previous names were Tucker Island, Watch Island and Clark's Bay. The last owners, John and Margaret Meyer, deeded the property to the state.

Botany Bay Island was much larger in the early days of Bleak Hall Plantation--covered with an impenetrable tropical jungle of wild oaks, palmettos, and cedars just twenty yards from the shoreline. Over the years, the ocean has encroached on the land. Now, only a narrow, pristine strip of beach two miles long and lined with a sun-bleached boneyard of weatherworn dead timber remains--loved by photographers. It was separated from the large plantation by an inlet and a smaller island named "Porky," a shortened name from "Pour-quoi." While crossing the marsh to the beach, you will pass an outcropping of trees and plants called Hammock Island.

So-called Bleak Hall because of its proximity to the gales of the Atlantic, just a mile away, its name was also inspired by the title of a book written by Charles Dickens, "Bleak House."--John Townsend was an admirer of Dickens. The original great mansion of Bleak Hall was two-and-a-half stories high on a raised basement. A distinguishing feature of the mansion, a cupola, was later added after the house was built so the homesick bride of one of the Townsends could look across the river to her former home on Wadmalaw Island. It towered over the surrounding oriental gardens and the now famous ice house, which still exists and is an outstanding example of Gothic revival architecture. The road into the plantations came to a fork where a turn to the right went to Bleak Hall and the one to the left went to Sea Cloud--sometimes called "Seabrook's Folly."

At the outset of the Civil War in 1861, by orders from the Confederate government, the steamboat "Beauregard" evacuated everyone from Edisto Island and the plantations. Both Confederate and Union troops used the cupola on Bleak Hall as a lookout. At the wars end, the plantations laid devastated. The valuable silver, china, and furniture that was left behind by the Townsends were carried away or destroyed by Freedmen and the Federals. When the Townsends returned in 1866, the house was occupied by former slaves. Shortly thereafter, it burned down. A new one was built in its place, but later torn down and a modern house was built nearby. Neither houses of Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud remain.

Like all Southern plantations legends abound. One involves a "bee hive well" called Jacob's well--a well surrounded by a wall of tabby with a steeple-shaped roof and the name "Jacobus Fecit" cut into one of its sides. In its early days, it was rumored to be a place where lovers secretly rendezvoused. It is believed a little gray man stands guard over the well to keep its waters pure and only allow the "pure in heart" drink from it.

Another story involves the plantation cemetery located at the fork in the road where you turn right to go to Bleak Hall or left to go to Sea Cloud. After leaving a clearing, you enter a narrow road surrounded by dense undergrowth and trees. Here you will feel the first wave of hot air hit the back of your neck, then again and again until you leave the area. The slaves believed this hot air to be the "Hags breath" and if you linger, she will cast a terrible spell that could even cause your death.

A third legend speaks of a Portuguese man wearing large gold earrings and a red bandanna fashioned into a turban who roams the shores of Botany Bay. Seven of his victims were discovered on the beach--all of them standing straight up in the sand.

Botany Bay Plantation is a magical place with a secluded beach unsurpassed on the Atlantic coast and located on Edisto Island not far from Edisto Beach. In fact, from Botany Bay's shell-covered beach you can see Edisto Beach to the right and Seabrook Island to the left. You can take a tour of the plantation featuring 15 points of interest by car. Keep an eye out for the Portuguese man and do not linger near the cemetery if you feel a waft of hot air on the back of your neck--Botany Bay Ecotours. Location: Botany Bay Rd., Edisto Island, SC--Map