This article was originally featured in the March issue of Rock Hill Reader the magazine
Worried that a brewery takeover might spell trouble and create an oversaturated market in Rock Hill, we went to Aaron Klingenschmidt, co-owner of Main Street Bottle Shop in Old Town Rock Hill to see what’s going on in the craft beer industry. His insight into the community and expertise in beer will put troubled minds to rest and give encouragement to the idea of Rock Hill becoming a place people come to for entertainment instead of Charlotte. From the latest in localism movements to how his customers dictate what’s on tap, Aaron has it all under one roof.
Aaron explains that craft breweries staying small and local is a strategy. But why stay small when there is so much to gain from going big: More profit, more beer, more recognition. Not so, says Aaron. “Most new breweries don’t want to be like Bud Light and Miller. People are asking where can I go to have a local beer/what’s on tap that’s locally brewed?” And brewery owners are listening. Luckily for them, staying small reduces overhead and risk, helping create a community, not a corporation. Places like Slow Play, set to open summer of 2018, will focus on very limited distribution with a food truck and music stage. Others, Aaron says, have bottle releases in the taproom only, driving more people to stay here instead of going to Charlotte. This means that with little to no distribution costs, reduced marketing needs, and increased freshness, breweries become destinations that provide an experience closer to home.
With a new opportunity to stick close to home, not only will folks stay in Rock Hill, so will the money. Things that stem from breweries like live music, good food, and all the social aspects that come with the beer scene will help to create an experience right in our own backyard. Focus on community operation like sourcing ingredients is also an important aspect. Thames Farm in Fort Lawn is reaping the benefits from the spent grains of Armor Artis Brewing, using it as feed. Meanwhile, Aaron tells us, Brian O’Neal from Benford Brewing uses the honey from his bees to make their Irish Honey Ale. The trend of new breweries is not only to remain locally focused on volume and production but also sourcing of ingredients.
As a bottle shop, Main Street Bottle Shop is positioned perfectly in Old Town and serves as the nucleus of the local beer world. “Information comes to me a lot of times,” Aaron says. He goes on to explain that with the influx of breweries in the area, people assume competition will become fierce. However, that isn’t the case. “A lot of these guys have been friends for awhile and they want to see each other succeed”. Aaron explains that those who enjoy craft beer are not committed to just one brewery anyway, “that’s a macro beer problem. A Bud Light or Miller Lite problem. You drink one and you don’t drink the other – where you’re attached to a brand.” Craft beer is not like big beer. “The average craft beer consumer is really starting to expand what they expect from beer,” he says. Aaron says he doesn’t stick to one brand himself, but does particularly enjoy IPAs and tries different ones from different places.
In addition to having the lowdown on who’s who in the local brew scene, when Aaron talks about his customers, he explains the diversity among the crowd in tastes, their thoughts on brewing local, and some surprises that have come along with owning the bottle shop.
Interestingly, tastes among customers do not shift as much as one would think from one season to another, “I always have to have one dark beer on tap,” Aaron says. “There are enough people that want stouts and porters in the summer.” He always has 1-2 taps with sours, and of course, dark beer sales tend to spike in the winter, but Aaron doesn’t have to change everything all at once, keeping his selection fluid for his customers’ needs.
Regulars are the “lifeblood” of Main St. Bottle Shop. When asked what the community is like, he says regulars are really varied and he gets perspectives from a lot of people. “There’s excitement for the growth of beer in Rock Hill – and that’s across the board.” This perspective comes from people who work in the city, Winthrop teachers, lawyers, and more. “People from all different backgrounds are really excited. They want to experience this closer to home”. Which is really encouraging for RHs growth. “Rock Hill is going to be a different animal”, Aaron says. “2018 is going to be a very big year for us and Rock Hill in general.”
Main Street Bottle Shop is located at 153 E. Main Street in Downtown Rock Hill
They can be found on the web at