FMU professors open new brewing facility


Photo by: Rachel Ankers

Seminar Brewing has 15 custom brews on tap for patrons to try. The brewery continues to add new beers to the lineup in addition to the regular crowd favorites.

Rachel Ankers , Copy Editor

After months of renovations and preparations, Seminar Brewing’s new facility is now open in downtown Florence.

Seminar Brewing opened at its new location on Sept. 2 and will have a grand opening on Saturday, Sept. 23. The grand opening will feature performances by Cheap Chardonnay and Kelly Cheats and will allow patrons to taste craft beers produced at the brewery and the food prepared in Kanza, the new restaurant.

The brewery is owned by FMU professors Dr. Bryan Fisher and Travis Knowles and their partners, Shawn Steadman, John Mattheis and Dave Peters.

“One of the biggest constraints we had at the old location was lack of space,” Knowles said. “We knew that was not a great place for a retail business. We wanted this place to become a destination for people, and this was the result.”

Fisher said that they purchased the new space in December 2016 and spent several months getting the space ready to open.

“We ran into common difficulties, delays and cost overruns that happen to many, if not most, construction projects,” Knowles said. “We had an insulation fire between the walls that didn’t really do any damage; it just slowed things down. We didn’t get here as quickly as we wanted, and we were out of production for at least six months.”

While the preparations and renovations took longer than expected, Fisher and Knowles said they are happy to be open in the new facility.

“We’re really excited to finally be here and be open now,” Knowles said. “At last, we made it, and here we are. So, cheers.”

Fisher and Knowles said that their original plan was to have a larger space, but their smaller location allowed them to establish themselves as brewers.

“Our initial dream and first idea was to have a larger space that would be a brew pub,” Knowles said. “We’d have a smaller brew capacity and a restaurant all under one roof.

Knowles said they had trouble finding the right location and were constrained by start up costs, so they ended up renting a smaller location to start with.

“It was small, but it was a good space for us to begin our operations on a small scale,” Knowles said. “It really allowed us to establish our bona fides as brewers and show that we had a good product that people wanted. There was high demand for it around the state.”

Fisher said that they had 1,100 square feet to work with at the old location next to Red Bone Alley on West Palmetto Street. In the new warehouse, they have 13,000 square feet.

“The fun fact that I like to bring up is that our old space would fit in our beer cooler here,” Fisher said.

Knowles and Fisher said that before the move, they only had space for people to stand around tables and that they were mostly focusing on selling wholesale to a distributer instead of selling directly to customers.

“If you’re a huge facility, you can survive on wholesale,” Fisher said. “If you’re a small brewery, there’s no way you can do it. You have to have good retail business, and there was just no way to have good retail business in that tiny little space.”

The larger space has allowed Seminar Brewing to expand the number of craft beers they have on tap at any given time. Seminar now has 15 different brews available for customers after only being able to offer 6 to 8 beers at the old location.

The custom brews include flavors such as Tan Lines Summer Ale, Citrocity, Crow Foot Shout and Pecans Gone Wild.

“I like Citrocity; it is the best seller,” Fisher said. “We’ve just rolled some new things out, so it might just be out of habit that they’re buying that one. People have been missing that beer and treat it like an old friend.”

A bigger facility has also allowed the brewery to partner with Kanza, a local restaurant, to provide food for patrons.

“Alan Cooke, the genius behind Rebel Pie, is now in control of his restaurant Kanza,” Fisher said. “We’re open for lunch and dinner. There’s a really nice menu and really good food.”

Fisher said that serving food at Seminar Brewing allowed them to take advantage of a law called the Stone Bill. According to Fisher, the law states that if they have a DHEC approved kitchen and serve food, Seminar Brewery no longer has to track how much beer each person consumes at the establishment. Before the restaurant was added, Seminar Brewing was limited to selling only three pints to each person, but now they are just like any other bar or restaurant, Fisher said.