The day I visited the Bay Street Biergarten the plan was to spend the evening on their outdoor patio listening to the jams of local singer/songwriter Chelsea Summers. A late afternoon thunderstorm moved the party indoors. It was packed out with soccer enthusiasts decked out in the colors of their favorite teams watching the games on large screen TVs located throughout. Its flag-draped, wood-beamed, high ceilings gave it the feeling of spaciousness. Booths lined one wall while larger circular tables were located on a step-up area. The communal tables were scattered about in front of the main bar.
The location of the Bay Street Biergarten historically was at one time called the Wilmington Railroad Depot--also referred to as the Northeastern Railroad Depot in other accounts. During the evacuation of the Confederate Army from Charleston in 1865, the depot was the scene of a horrific tragedy. Filled with powder and explosives at the time of the exodus, women and children of Charleston rushed in to see what they could get. Some of the gun powder caught on fire and the building was blown up. In the explosion, 250 of the women and children were killed and wounded. The remaining ruins was reconstructed in the late 1800's.
An I witness account by Lt. Moses Lipscomb Wood, of Company F, the 15th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment, "The Thicketty Rifles," recorded the event in his "War Record" as follows: "I was in Charleston on the night before and the morning it was evacuated, and was put in charge of a detail of about 75 men to load what cars (of the Northeastern Railroad) we could ahead of us. We had not been out of the depot long before the women and children rushed in to see what they could get. The depot was filled with powder and explosives and caught on fire and was blown up—causing the most pitiful sight I saw during the war. Women and children, about 250, were killed and wounded, and some were carried out by where [we] were in line on the streets, with their clothing burned off and badly mutilated."
It has 24 beers on tap behind the bar, 60 taps throughout the building, all delivered by a state of the art tap table system. With the purchase of a preloaded RFID card, you can access a selection of flavors, information about the beer, how much you are pouring and your pouring history at the stationary iPads at each communal table and Bier Wall. The beer flows from a keg cooler in the back of the building and is pumped by a glycol cooling system through 156 feet of draft lines. To help you avoid the oversized head foam, you can download information on how to make the perfect pour off of their website.
The communal tap tables do not need reservations--first come, first serve. A great setting for making new acquaintances, building new friendships and sharing food. It was enjoyable watching people pour their own beer and talk about what went wrong--return customers had a bit more experience. After the rain passed and towards the end of the night, we had a couple of shots at the bar on the large, outside brick patio--skillful and friendly bartenders.
Aside from having the most progressive technology the beer industry has to offer along with giving you the experience of pouring your own beer, the Bay Street Biergarten also has its own parking lot, which gets a big "cheers" from me. No searching for quarters to put in the meters or driving into parking garages and paying high fees.
Bay Street Biergarten is as close as you can get to an authentic Munich beer hall in the south with a goal to support Charleston’s local, ever-expanding brewing, distilling and farming communities. It offers Southern food with a flavor of Bavarian inspiration paired with the finest craft beers and quality socializing. It was as fresh as the bay air coming in from the nearby port and as charming as Charleston history. It was a stout experience.