A Remedy for What Ales You
There is a distinct difference upon entering the doors of Legal Remedy Brewing Co. Greeted with a bright smile and genuine “hello” by a team of hostesses awaiting to assure your visit to LRB is a great one, the bright, open, air-conditioned space is notably unusual for a brewery.
This space, once an auto dealership, now boasts 11,000 square feet for guests to enjoy. The gavels across the taps and on the tables, the “Alibi Pale Ale” (their flagship beer) and their motto (“Justice never tasted so good”) lead me to realize “Legal Remedy” is more than just a way to recover from a long day.
Rock Hill’s only brewery was created by five friends who won homebrewing competitions and, building on that passion and success, decided to create a commercial space, opening its doors two years ago. Today, LRB has grown to be a place for locals to eat, drink and socialize, and in the spirit of being eco-friendly, focuses on sustainable practices, both in and out of the brewhouse.
I wander around to find exactly where to take my place today. The outside beer garden is huge—lined with hops growing in whiskey barrels and raised walls filled with herbs, keeping the children and dogs contained. Live music and yoga classes take place in there too—under a large cover that most folks would assume serves to shade the concrete where the dealership parking used to be. I came to discover those covers actually support a 30-kilowatt solar power system that offsets about 35% of LRB’s electricity. In addition to the solar panels, all the lights in the building are LED. Composting and recycling are practiced, and LRB returns spent grain to farms for pigs and cows to eat; all an intentional sustainability strategy with the goal of leaving their place and the environment better than they found it.
I find my place at the inside bar, a corner seat so I can see all the “usual suspects.” I am greeted by a kind face, Jesse, who has been at Legal Remedy since day one. Jesse epitomizes the image of a brew aficionado—full beard, man bun, vegetarian; “all things you would expect from a millennial,” as he tells it. Most important, Jesse knows his beer, and which particular Legal Remedy brew his guests would enjoy, even if their beer of choice is Michelob Ultra; there’s a tap for that!
“You know, we make all the beer, so why not make everything else? Our food is what differentiates us from other breweries. Our food is fresh and made from scratch.”
I start with a flight, and then decide on the Justice Juice IPA, to start. With 24 beers on tap, making this decision is not easy, but I know I have made the right one, for this day, anyway.
I am joined by Jim Ogburn, general manager, and our conversation leads on as if we were old friends. He proudly shares their commitment to sourcing local and sustainable practices.
“You know, we make all the beer, so why not make everything else? Our food is what differentiates us from other breweries. Our food is fresh and made from scratch; we have folks come in just to eat and grab a sweet tea, and never look at the beer list.”
Ogburn stops mid-sentence and asks me if I saw the silo—clearly a high point for him. The big, yellow silo recently added to the front of the brewery is filled with grain that is syphoned into a grain room and then pushed into barrels as needed (and you won’t miss the silo—it’s HUGE). Our conversation is cut short, as he had to pick up his kids and take them to soccer.
The executive chef, Mike Ramsey, steps out of the kitchen and into the hot seat. Ramsey is on the board of Catawba Farm and Food Coalition, where he sources much of his product. (Read more about the CFFC at catawbafarmandfood.org.) There is no freezer in the kitchen; all meats are smoked fresh daily. A quick glance at the menu and their commitment to local farmers and growers is apparent. His biggest seller is the kielbratsa, a custom blend of kielbasa and bratwurst made specifically for LRB by Sal at The Peach Stand in Fort Mill.
On Saturdays, patrons can take a free brewery tour led by the owners of the LRB. This day, however, is Wednesday, and I am lucky enough to have Zach McNeely, their head brewer, show me around his office. With an “Exhibit K” in his hand, McNeely gives me the grand tour—15-barrel system, a small batch system, grain room and canning facility. (I even get a sneak peek/taste of their imperial pumpkin stout…AMAZING). McNeely tells me the last time he came to Columbia was to meet Patrick the Gorilla at Riverbanks Zoo. He brought six ingredients to Patrick, and what Patrick chose, McNeely brewed. What is now known as the Gorilla Law Cherry Hefeweizen came from Patrick’s pick of cherries, banana, clove and Bavarian-style wheat. What’s cooler than a gorilla choosing your beer? A portion of the sales is being donated to Riverbanks Zoo.
As the brewery tour comes to an end, I finish my All Rise Session Pale Ale, and reflect on all the great work done at LRB. When 1,200 people show up to your third “Beerthday,” you know you’ve made an impact on your community. Legal Remedy plans to continue the momentum, furthering their reach with canning and distributing six packs, starting with World Court Mocha Blond Stout. Their kegs are sprinkled throughout the state, making the chances of drinking LRB beer greater. Avoid that scavenger hunt and take the hour or so drive up the road—it will be worth its weight in grain. There’s nothing better than a fall beer, from the local brewery, fresh from the tub. And while you’re up there, tell Jesse I said hello.