Idiosyncrasies abound in the U.S.’s state-by-state approach to booze regulation, and South Carolina is home to plenty of them. Up until the mid- to late 2000s, bars in the state could only serve hard liquor out of mini bottles, and beers couldn’t legally exceed the 6.25 percent ABV threshold. Which is why, in 2005, Jamie Tenny and her husband David Merrit took a cue from craft brewing colleagues in North Carolina and started Pop the Cap SC, a grassroots organization bent on increasing the state’s then-limit on beers’ alcohol by volume.
At the time, Tenny and her husband were laying the groundwork for what would become their own brewery, COAST Brewing Company, but Tenny knew that the laws in place would hold back their brewing potential. “It was like opening a pizza place where you could make a pepperoni pie, but not sausage,” she says.
This realization spurred a two-year battle with legislators to undo the state’s wonky post-Prohibition laws. There were petitions signed, pamphlets made, and many day trips to Washington D.C., taken, all in the name of “popping the cap.”
In March of 2007, barely a month after Tenny and Merritt signed a five-year lease on their new brewing facility, the “high gravity” bill passed, bumping the ABV limit on beer in South Carolina to a whopping 17.5 percent. To this day, ABC stores in South Carolina still can’t sell alcohol on Sundays, but liquor laws in the state have come a long way — in no small part — thanks to Tenny and Merritt’s efforts from 2005 on.
On this episode of “Taplines,” Dave Infante is joined by Jamie Tenny, who tells the tale of scrappy outsiders making noise in the Deep South, all in the name of bigger and better beer. Tune in for more.