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Columbia brewery strikes partnership with two South Carolina farms

Christina Lee Knauss //September 13, 2023//

Columbia brewery strikes partnership with two South Carolina farms

Christina Lee Knauss //September 13, 2023//

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McLeod Farms near McBee provides the peaches for Peak Drift Brewing Co.'s Peach Cobbler Sour Ale. (Photo/Christina Lee Knauss)A Columbia brewery has developed a fruitful new relationship with two South Carolina farms.

Peak Drift Brewing Co., an award-winning brewery with facilities located on N. Main Street in Columbia, recently launched its first Certified South Carolina products, two signature sours featuring locally sourced fruit from McLeod Farms and Coosaw Farms.

McLeod Farms, located in Chesterfield County in the Pee Dee, is one of the state’s oldest enduring peach farms. Established in 1916, the family-owned and operated farm produces more than 50 varieties of peaches on nearly 1,000 acres.

Coosaw Farms, located in Fairfax in Hampton County in the Lowcountry, is a major area grower of several types of watermelon as well as blueberries. The farm also has a satellite location on St. Helena Island in Beaufort County.

The flavors of Watermelon-Blueberry Sour come from Coosaw Farms in Fairfax. (Photo/Christina Lee Knauss)McLeod’s peaches are used in Peak Drift’s new Peach Cobbler Sour Ale, while watermelons and blueberries from Coosaw Farms add a unique tang to the new Watermelon-Blueberry Sour.

“Peak Drift has always been committed to being an eco-friendly operation that builds relationships with local farmers,” said Sara Middleton-Styles, co-owner of Peak Drift. “Local is better, and our new Certified SC products exemplify local collaboration and innovation that support our state’s farmers.”

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Clint Leach, assistant commissioner for external affairs for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, said this type of partnership aligns perfectly with the department’s goal of helping farmers bring their products to more markets and increase the financial impact of agriculture on the state’s economy.

“We’re excited to be involved in this partnership because we are in the business of helping farmers add value to their crops and farms,” Leach said. “You can see the passion Peak Drift has for supporting South Carolina agriculture, and this is just the beginning.”

Leach said programs like Certified South Carolina have been instrumental in helping the department reach a long-term goal first proposed more than a decade ago to make agribusiness have a $50 billion impact on the state’s economy by 2020. That goal was reached, he said, and the impact continues to grow, with current estimates showing 260,000 people statewide are employed in agribusiness, with an annual impact of $52 billion.

The Certified South Carolina program is a cooperative effort among farmers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and the Agriculture Department that helps consumers easily identify goods grown and harvested in the state. Launched in 2007, the program currently has more than 2,000 agricultural producers as members.

The peach and watermelon-blueberry sours are just the first in a series of seasonal signature beers that will be produced with Certified SC products, said Ashley Kinart-Short, master brewer for Peak Drift. She said future seasonal beers are set to include apples, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries.

The new partnership is extremely special to Cal Hucks, lead of coastal operations for Coosaw Farms.

“When we can partner with a local business, that helps people know where their food is coming from and who grows it,” O’Neal said. “The opportunity to see our logos on a can of beer that’s going to be in stores all over the state is a remarkable thing. We’re overjoyed at this opportunity and thankful to Peak Drift for including us.”

This is the first time McLeod Farms has partnered with a large craft brewery, said Rachel McCormick, marketing coordinator for McLeod Farms. The farm’s peaches have been sourced for limited use by a few microbreweries, she said, but this is by far the biggest use of the farm’s signature product for beer, she said.

“We as farmers understand that waste is not a good thing, and collaborating with a company like Peak Drift gives us an opportunity to use peaches that might not make it to produce stands in stores because of bruising,” she said. “Those peaches are perfect for making juice for beer.”

Using produce from local and regional farms to flavor its signature beers has always been one of the major goals of Peak Drift, a big part of the reason the company’s owners purchased state-of-the-art in-house fruit processing equipment from Austrian company Voran.

The equipment makes it possible for the brewery to directly take peaches from McLeod and blueberries from Coosaw and blend them into sours. Because the watermelons from Coosaw have rinds, they must first be processed at a facility on St. Helena Island in Beaufort County called Seaside Farms, which is located near the Coosaw facility and partners with them extensively for processing fruit.

The new Peak Drift sours will be available in restaurants, bars and stores around the Midlands and in the Greenville area as well as at Smoked in downtown Columbia.