Friday, March 3, 2017

Bay Street Biergarten--Bavarian Inspired And Southern Made Located On Historically Solemn Ground

Remaining skeleton of the Wilmington Depot.
The location of the Bay Street Biergarten historically was at one time called the Wilmington Railroad Depot which was on the Northeastern rail line at Chapel and Alexander Streets. 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.

With Sherman in control of the South Carolina rail line running into Branchville and Charleston by Wednesday, February 14, Beauregard ordered Hardee to complete an evacuation immediately before they lost the last railroad that connected Charleston with Florence to the north and to leave nothing for the Union army. Cannons were spiked, quartermaster’s stores were destroyed, and ironclads and ships were scuttled. Cotton storehouses filled with an estimated 6,000 bales waiting to be shipped were set on fire. Saturday morning, February 18, aware of burning cotton bales at one end of the depot, but unaware of the roomful of gunpowder stored next to the burning cotton, and the trail of gunpowder between the two, starving civilians entered the station and gathered what they could.

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."

Another account written by Pauline Dufort stated, "But our trials were not yet ended, for there came another terrible explosion--louder than any yet--the smoke of which darkened the sun as its hideous folds curled skyward. It was the Northeastern Railroad depot that had been blown up, and with it a number of persons who had gathered there in search of provisions. Some were killed outright and their mangled bodies and limbs were scattered and buried under the burning ruins."

The Richmond Dispatch, Friday, March 3, 1865 wrote, "The Charleston Courier of the morning of the 20th--its last Confederate issue--thus describes the horrors of the evacuation of the city (Charleston). The terrible scenes through which this community has passed since our last issue can only be conceived by those who witnessed the dreadful reality." This preserved printed account historically verifies the story connected to the solemn ground on which Bay Street Biergarten honorably resides today.

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.

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.

Essential to the overall experience of enjoying a good craft beer is making the perfect pour. There is nothing more frustrating to a beer drinker than having to wait for an oversized head to dissipate, and not to leave unmentioned, it is less appealing. Creating the right amount of foam head adds to the overall presentation, but even more important than the aesthetics is the proper releasing of the beer's aromatics. It is an acquired skill first time patron's of the Bay Street Biergarten soon learn comes in handy when using its forward thinking communal tap tables--tables with self serving beer taps.

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 fresh as the bay air coming in from the nearby port. It was a stout experience. And while you are there, take a moment of silence and after, raise your glass in honor of the lives that were lost in one of Charleston's little known and most horrific event.

549 East Bay St
Charleston, SC

All Days 11am-2am

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