A graduation present some 20 years ago has turned into an award-winning business for Chris and Kevin Haborak.
The owners of Coastal Empire Beer Co. of Savannah won two bronze medals in blind tastings in July at the 2016 United States Open Beer Championship in Oxford, Ohio. More than 5,000 beers and ciders from over 20 countries competed to win in a number of different beer, cider and specialty categories.
“It all started back in 1995 when we gave Kevin a home brewing kit as a college graduation present,” Chris said. “He definitely got pretty good at it.”
The brothers, both natives of Charleston, S.C., and graduates of the College of Charleston, lived in the Atlanta area but grew homesick for coastal living. Chris moved to Richmond Hill 13 years ago and Kevin followed nine years ago. Now they live one house apart.
Coastal Empire Beer Co., which celebrates its fifth anniversary this month, started after Kevin told Chris he wasn’t enjoying his job.
“The next day we decided to go for it,” Chris said.
They now work full time at the business, with Kevin handling the product end and Chris the business end. They won the bronze medals last month for their Dawn Patrol Imperial Molé Stout brand in the Chili Beer category and for their White Caps Imperial White IPA in the Out of Bounds IPA category.
This is the second time in two years that Dawn Patrol Imperial Molé Stout has medaled in an international beer competition as it also received a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014 in the Herbed and Spiced Beer category.
“2016 to date has been fantastic,” Kevin said. “Our Coco Piña Gose won a silver medal at the 2016 Best of Craft Beer Awards and since 2011 we have received seven medals in international competitions. With our fifth anniversary party coming up on Aug. 27 we have plenty to celebrate.”
Coastal Empire Beer Co. is located at 79 Ross Road in Savannah and features a tasting room that is open Thursday through Saturday. Patrons can tour the facility, sample the beers and take home up to 72 ounces of souvenir beer — basically a six pack. Their beer is also available in stores.
“The tasting room is kind of like a sounding board for our new beers,” Chris said. “Kevin will make up a small batch and people will give us feedback.”
The Coco Piña Gose started off that way.
“It’s a very sour German beer that usually has salt in it, so we added coconut, pineapple and sea salt and people loved it,” Chris said. “They started calling it the piña colada beer and the name stuck.”
Chris said a Richmond Hill location “is in the cards” for the future, depending on what the Georgia Legislature does regarding craft brew regulations.
“Georgia has been kind of slow when it comes to updating the laws in this untapped craft brew market,” he said. “A lot of other states allow direct sales. We’ll have to see what happens but it would be great to have a location right where we live.”