January 2015

The Brew Master at Southern Barrel Brewing Co.

Author: Laura Jacobi | Photographer: Photography by Anne

According to some historians, man learned to make beer before bread. Concrete evidence of beer production dates back roughly 6,000 years ago, when Sumerians in ancient Mesopotamia were said to have shared a drink from a communal bowl. And a Sumerian poem from 1800 B.C. honors Ninkasi, the goddess of beer, which describes a recipe for an ancient brew.

Walter Trifari, the head brewmaster for the new Southern Barrel Brewing Co., says he respects the history and craft of brewing a delicious and aromatic beer that is not only pleasing to the eye, but to the palate.

Southern Barrel Brewing Co. broke ground in Buckwalter Place in October, where it is building its 12,500-square-foot flagship headquarters. Bluffton’s first microbrewery will include a state-of-the-art facility featuring a 10,000-square-foot production facility, a 2,500-square-foot tavern serving food, and an outdoor beer garden. Slated to open in early spring of 2015, Trifari has already moved to Bluffton and is ready to start creating the company’s first line-up of beers.

“I want to take it back to basics,” Trifari said. “The tradition of brewing beer is sacred in my eyes, and I want to create solid, stylistic beverages that will bring people together.”

The term “craft beer” has been thrown out and used rather excessively lately. According to Trifari, “craft beer” is any beer that is hand crafted with “tender love and care.” Some brewmasters have taken it a bit far lately, he said, including using too many bizarre and unnecessary ingredients.

“You can’t just throw a million ingredients at a beer and expect everything to stick,” Trifari said. “It’s a creative process, but it’s also about creating beers that a classic beer drinker would enjoy.”

There are only 4 ingredients needed to make beer: water, hops, malt and yeast. But it’s how those ingredients are blended and infused that make an interesting beer, Trifari explained. “It’s not necessarily the recipe that makes a good beer, but the attention to the process,” he said. “It’s incredibly easy to make bad beer.”

Southern Barrel will begin crafting eight separate types of beer including lager, amber, IPA, stout and wheat beers. Once the facility is up and running, some of those beers will be aged in barrels formerly used to house bourbon, rum, tequila, whiskey and wine.

Meet the brewmaster
Trifari studied criminal justice in college but quickly realized after graduating that he didn’t want to become a beat cop. It was in 1997 that his older cousin took him on a tour of the brewpub where he worked, John Harvard’s Brew House in Westport, Connecticut. According to Trifari, his cousin laid out all the beers in front of him. Trifari was fascinated by the colors and tastes, even though he wasn’t too fond of the beers tasted at the time. But after seeing the inner-workings of the brewery, he was hooked, and his palate has enjoyed the ride ever since.

He became the brewmaster’s assistant, doing everything from cleaning tanks to learning the techniques and proper process needed to brew beer. Since then, he’s worked at other brewpubs and microbreweries, most recently as head brewer of a mid-sized microbrewery in Fordham/Old Dominion in Delaware. In his 10 years there, he took the company from producing 7,500 barrels a year to 24,000 barrels a year and winning several awards along the way. He is nationally recognized in the craft brewing industry, having received several National Grand Championships and Great American Beer Festival medals.

Although successful in his craft, Trifari says he missed the interaction with his customers. The microbrewery brewed the beer but didn’t have an attached space where customers could enjoy his creations. That’s why he says he’s so excited to join the team at Southern Barrel.


ARTIST RENDERING OF THE FINISHED FAÇADE OF SOUTHERN BARREL BREWING COMPANY, WHICH IS SCHEDULED TO OPEN IN MID-MARCH OF THIS YEAR.

“It’s a hybrid microbrewery,” Trifari said. “It’s a traditional microbrewery in the fact we should be able to brew up to 14,000 barrels a year, but we will also offer a space for people to stay and experience the beer including tastings, delicious food pairings and opportunities to learn more about the beer they’re enjoying.”

As Trifari says, drinking beer is truly a social experience, and this way he will be able to converse with his customers and learn their preferences about his beer.

“Beer creates conversations and breaks down walls,” Trifari said. “It’s more than a beverage; it brings people together.”

The idea of bringing together the community of Bluffton and beyond to enjoy, experiment and savor his beer brings a huge (and sometimes goofy) smile to his face. Trifari says his wife, Kelley, and their four children are all excited to embrace the Southern hospitality Bluffton has to offer and make this unique town their home.

Southern Barrel Brewing Co. is located in Buckwalter Place, next to CareCore National and Station 300. Learn more at southernbarrelbrewingco.com or like it on Facebook.

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