Jaime Tenny and David Merritt are the husband-and-wife power duo behind COAST, Charleston’s second brewery. Together with Charleston Beer Exchange, they started Brewvival, which is rapidly becoming known as one of the best beer festivals in the country. They’re cool parents, extreme beer-philes and people who make damn-good brews.
But we don’t want to talk about any of that.
Instead, let’s talk about how Jaime and David are changing everything for South Carolina’s breweries.
A brief history: Since the early 2000s, strict statewide beer laws have limited a brewery’s production and sales, inhibiting them from earning a living from their business. As a result, Jaime and David have been working full-time jobs in addition to running COAST. Jaime founded Pop The Cap, now South Carolina Brewer’s Association. Without a lobbying budget, the craft beer alliance has helped pass three laws, allowing COAST to pay their bills and significantly improving life for South Carolina breweries.
And now: they’re fighting for a fourth law, The Stone Bill, which would remove restrictions on what breweries can sell on site and allow them to function freely.
In four words: they need a beer.
“We won’t rest until a small brewing company can be dedicated to what it’s doing and make a living off of it,” Jaime says.
“She’s tenacious,” David says of his wife. “She always keeps a positive outlook.”
The work may not be inherently fun right now, but Mr. & Mrs. COAST are having fun. Their brewery is only open nine hours a week, but their visitors rock it. They’re expanding: they’ve acquired new, custom equipment and are revamping their warehouse in order to quadruple their production, offering more year-round and seasonal beers. Brewvival will keep growing and showcasing interesting beer, great food and good music.
When asked why they even bother, David says, “The past seven years have come down to passion. If you love what you do, it is the driving force.”
For Jaime, her goal from the beginning was to support this dream however she could. “He was born to be a brewer,” Jaime says. “I was willing to do whatever it took for him to have his own brewery. It happened to be changing beer laws.”
Jaime adds: “For me, David is pure energy. I really don’t know how he does it. When I’m tired, I look at him and think, ‘Damn, I’m lazy. I better get back at it.’”
Very much a team, Jaime and David are focused. “My goal was simple: make a living making a little bit of good beer,” David says. “It’s growing beyond that, so I try to take one day at a time.”
One beer, too.
Words by: Jessica Kenny
Photography by: Sully Sullivan