Beer And Politics: Josh Cook Interviews Quest Brewery’s Don Richardson, Liberty Activist Dan Pope

In this episode, Joshua Cook interviews Don Richardson, the owner of Quest Brewery, and liberty activist Dan Pope of Pints 4 Liberty. We will be discussing great craft beer with Don, and speaking with Dan about the government regulations that are stifling innovation in South Carolina.

Below is an excerpt of the interview:

JOSHUA COOK: You know, I feel just as someone that is passionate about changing people’s minds sometimes I feel bad when I see a guy drinking a lager and I’m like wow, you know really you need to try some craft beer you know. Try and get some flavor in your life- and so they will try it and they’ll just convert. So tell us a little bit about the craft beer boom and also what inspires your philosophy as far as the different flavor profiles that you choose?

DON RICHARDSON: The different styles that we choose as I mentioned with selling beer and numerous trips to Belgium, the Belgian beers are a true love of mine, so we try and do a lot with the Belgian style. We very rarely brew pure German, we’re typically brewing with different with, we have the watermelon wheat beer on, we’ve got a cucumber jalapeno saison.

JOSHUA: So you are pushing outer limits?

DON: We do and we try to with that, with the flavors. We also really try to focus our beers around balance and flavor profiles as well and not trying to overdo something or make it over sweet. All of the fruits and vegetables that we are using right now in brewing are all fresh. We prep them all here, puree them ourselves so we are not using any concentrates or extracts so that’s one thing that we feel very strongly about. It’s very labor-intensive but it’s a labor of love. That’s is one of our philosophies. You know probably our most mainstream beers are our IPA and I feel like IPA is still hot. It’s still the same beer, people love their hops. I love them myself, so that’s probably one of our more mainstream. When we ventured out and started brewing, we decided to go with the Belgian pale ale, just something a little different.

JOSHUA: Do you do any porters?

DON: We do, we do a smoked porter. Yes actually with our house yeast which is a Belgian blend yeast… not a full-on Belgian, but it gets that nicely little rounded extra character to it and with that a lot of chocolate malt and then we use some cherry wheat sweet malt and our beer as well.

JOSHUA: Let’s talk about the watermelon wheat beer, the trend now is really down to women are really attracted to trying beer, whereas in a couple of years ago maybe not, seems like demand, there are a lot of females that are really interested in craft beer, can you walk us through that evolution?

DON: Being here in the South and spending time in the West… you’ve got folks that are just trying to learn and still trying to figure out what they like. And maybe they don’t like a big hop bomb or they don’t like the imperial stout or something like that.

So that’s why we try to offer a few beers like that, that are kind of what we consider intro beers- kind of the beers with training wheels. But also you know we like to brew beers like that, that people can get introduced, but also beer connoisseurs can come back and say oh that’s a really nice well-balanced beer and that’s interesting as well. You know it is fun when people come in to our place and they have never been into a brewery or have only been into couple of breweries- they really don’t know that side, for us to really kind of teach them. Also it’s really good for us to kind of get our brands in front of them and kind of figure out what they like and then try and in our tasting room, up to about 11 different beers that we have on tap at any given time, so it gives you a nice little variety.

JOSHUA: Absolutely, and Dan, I want to bring you in, because we talked about North Carolina and South Carolina laws and how that affects the industry. What are you doing right now with Pints 4 Liberty as far as trying to change the laws to make South Carolina laws a little more beer friendly?

DAN POPE: Right now, my biggest biggest pet peeve in South Carolina is that we’re losing so many jobs to North Carolina. It’s just right over the border in Asheville and Charlotte just because one, our taxes for alcohol sales. And then also our problem with our three-tier distribution network in South Carolina.

North Carolina is unique in that you can self-distribute up to 25,000 barrels of beer a year which is, makes you a pretty big brewery to be brewing that much. And you can self-distribute up to, I think it used to be 25 miles- now it’s almost 150. For a regional or small startup craft brewery, the ability to be able to go from top tier down to the actual retail package store really lets you compete with some of the bigger more macro-sized breweries that are gobbling up a lot of the precious real estate and resources around.

Also a lot of the precious retail real estate which is another issue, and that makes breweries like Oscar Blues, and Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Stone- that makes them overlook South Carolina as an option. Even though we’ve got great water, a great craft beer scene, we’ve got lots of good real estate and a really good highway network. But the fact that it really handicaps and handcuffs a lot of these big employers from coming here is a really big pet peeve.

Locally we are working on, we are going to putting a lot of focus towards passing the Sunday alcohol sales referendum in Greenville County. So that any retailer, any wholesale store and any restaurant can sell alcohol on Sunday and be able to compete on an equal level with downtown Greenville and the city of Mauldin that already have these laws in place so that it’s good for the local stores.

JOSHUA: And for people that are wanting to get involved with the movement, how do they get involved, is there a Facebook page?

DAN: We will be putting together on a couple of Facebook pages, but for the most part just tune in to Pints 4 Liberty, it’s just [] and that will be a good way to keep abreast of what’s going on and then also come to the local monthly Pints 4 Liberty meeting.

JOSHUA: Yeah the chapter, excellent. So [to Don] how is the community in the Upstate? How are they viewing Quest Brewery? I know when I worked for a local retailer, you know you guys really popular with your beers. So how did people receive you when you first started?

DON: I have to say it seems to be well, we hope so, but now I think everything’s been going very well for us for our first 2 years in. I feel like we are getting better and better as we go along even having 20 plus years experience. This is a new brewery, this is new yeast we are working with, this is a whole new thing as far as you know our whole new brand development.

So it does take a little bit of time even with the experience to kind of feel that you are getting things dialed and getting the recipes and the quality of what you need. But I feel like we’re better than we ever have been and continued to get better, but I feel like you know our support here in the community is far exceeded- what my partner Andrew and I when we put this together- than we expected on this. So it’s been awesome just to see the support and everybody, you know really rallying for us. We try to do a lot of things with the community, we do live music every Thursdays here, it’s a free show, that’s become very popular for us.

JOSHUA: Absolutely you have a beautiful facility here, looks really nice inside the bar.

DON: Thank you I appreciate that. We wanted to set it up, that was one of our visions is we want to be the brewery that has a lot of events outside on our stage and everything. Live music and just really kind of create a fun place that people can come in and experience our beers. Whether it’s the first time you’ve been here, or you’ve been here a hundred times, you know it’s a fun atmosphere and then we like to send people home with that warm fuzzy feeling that they want to go find Quest at the other retailers and around town.

JOSHUA: Is there any beers or upcoming beers that you can tell us about that you are working on?

DON: We’ve got, as I mentioned we’ve got our cucumber jalapeno, that’s our cucumber jalapeno saison that we do, that’s the second year we’ve done that, that’s our summer beer. The next one we’re working on is going to be our pumpkin saison. Third year that we’ve done that. We just started canning a fourth of our legendary series, so we have four beers and that series of fourth one we just put in a package which is our Ellida IPA in 16 ounce cans.

And then our next canning project, we are hoping by winter to have our pecan porter in cans if not by spring then summer, we will start doing the cans with our seasonal beers as well. So we are working on a few different things like that as well as we’ve got a collaboration we are working on next month. We’ve done several collaborations here- we’ve done Tarrapin, we’ve done one with Burial, our friends have a Trophy Brewing company up in Raleigh, our next one will be with Holy City and Chris Brown is going to come up here and we want to brew one batch here, another batch down in Charleston.

JOSHUA: That’s nice, that’s cool.

DON: Just kind of a fun little thing, you know putting brewers together. It’s always fun to sit down on a brew day with that and bounce ideas around, plus it gets our brewers around here involved in it, gets everybody kind of thinking about new ideas.

JOSHUA: That’s great, and they’re a good company down there.

DON: Yes they are, really good people, and they’ve done great stuff, so and I haven’t done collaboration up here in the Upstate yet, so we are excited about that.

JOSHUA: Don, I appreciate you so much for your time, and Dan thanks so much for coming out and I would encourage everybody to go- your website is

DON: We’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well.

JOSHUA: So definitely hit him up, get him lots of likes and spread the word around, and Dan thanks so much for what you’re doing trying to spread the liberty and I know it’s going to help entrepreneurs and get more breweries that would come to South Carolina and hopefully we can lower the excise tax and have a little more free market system here in the state, so I know you’re working hard on that.

Well guys thanks so much for tuning in I appreciate you coming back and please check us out on, thank you.

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