Summerville’s first-ever brewery is in the national spotlight. Oak Road Brewery was recently included in a list of the 50 fastest-growing small and independent craft-brewing companies of 2018 by the Brewers Association.
The only South Carolina brewery to make the prestigious list, the operation secured a No. 3 spot, much to the surprise of CEO Benjamin Bankey. One of three major co-owners of the business, he said it was “shocking” to see the listing.
“We still consider ourselves amazingly super small,” Bankey said.
Oak Road also has several other co-owners.
When the Flowertown-based brewery opened in 2014, Oak Road was considered a “nano-brewery,” producing only a limited quantity of beer.
Bankey said he and his three co-owners at the time started the venture with small fermenters. But it didn’t take long for the new operation’s name to spread across town and beyond.
The demand drove the four entrepreneurs to expand, and they added four 10-barrel tanks to the brew room/taphouse, located at 108 East 3rd North Street. But it’s a one small-barrel pilot system that brewer Brian Cox uses to create the specialty beers.
Once the Brewers Association published the list, it was picked up by business magazines and shared across various social media platforms, reaching Bankey’s radar.
“My phone was blowing up,” he said.
Even U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, R-SC, who stopped last fall at the area business as part of his brewery campaign tour, tweeted a congratulatory message to the brewery owners and its employees.
“Great beer and even better people!” he said in the post dated March 27.
According to Bankey, all the attention has “felt good,” but he’s more focused on “keeping on the path.”
“It’s good to get accolades, but don’t get caught up with them,” he said. “Just keep your pedal to the floor.”
Another top co-owner and head brewer Brian Cox, also nicknamed “beer master,” expressed how humbling it was to learn the exciting news.
The third major co-owner, Brad Mallett, also owns neighboring Coastal Coffee Roasters. Like Mallett, all the owners maintain full-time jobs outside of Oak Road Brewery.
Cox, who works as an emergency room nurse at the Medical University of South Carolina, explained his simple brewing beginnings were a domestic hobby.
“Brewing was a passion of mine for a long time at home, and I really just enjoyed the creativity and the science behind it,” he said. “And then the art of bringing the creativity and the science together.”
Soon the owner trio plan to celebrate Oak Road’s fourth anniversary by introducing a new canned micro-line of beer to sell out of the front door.
Cox said their long term goal is to slowly roll out most of their brands into a six pack sold in-house. Oak Road currently offer 12 beers on tap, along with food trucks, trivia and bingo.
Cox also dispelled a myth about brewery atmospheres, explaining how most are far from a simple bar hangout
. He said Oak Road is a community gathering place where customers, including families, can enjoy respite and refreshment.