Story at a glance
- A South Carolina brewery recently launched a “hurricane season lager” to educate people on what to do when a hurricane hits.
- The lager is a California common, a type of steam beer that crafters say is a light and crisp drink for the hot summer months.
- Drinkers can use their phones to scan a QR code of the back of the beer to learn about hurricane safety and preparation on the state website.
As hurricane season rears its ugly, wet head and promises to be as destructive as last year, one South Carolina brewery is working to educate locals on how to safely weather incoming storms — one can at a time.
Tradesman Brewing Co., located in Charleston, recently launched a new “Hurricane seasonal lager,” a California common that will be sold in select grocery stores and tap rooms in the state until the end of November.
“Our focus is not necessarily to promote drinking, it’s to promote educating in a different format to people that were probably going to pick up a four pack anyway and drink responsibly,” said Sara Gayle McConnell, vice president of operations at Tradesman Brewing Co., who runs the brewery with her husband Scott McConnell.
The beer comes in silver cans decorated with the state’s ubiquitous blue and white hurricane evacuation sign on the front and a QR code on the back. If drinkers wish, they can use their phones to scan the code and be directed to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s online hurricane guide.
Once there, drinkers can download the department’s emergency manager app which teaches users how to prepare for hurricanes of differing strengths, how to find shelter and how to find and travel along the state’s numerous evacuation routes.
South Carolina’s population has increased over the last few years with U.S. Census data showing it was the fastest growing state in the nation from 2020 to 2021 due to an influx of people moving in.
In April 2022, Tradesman was approached by Dorchester County Emergency Management to create a “hurricane” beer to help spread the word on hurricane preparedness and educate Charleston’s newcomers who might not have experience dealing with hurricanes or handling extreme weather. The idea stuck, and the department even helped with the cost of creating the lager’s design and labels, according to a Dorchester County spokesperson.
“It’s very important for us as locals and as we see our population increasing and people moving here, while we appreciate everyone wanting to live in our city, we also know the really, really bad side of people not knowing what to do and maybe taking storms for granted,” said McConnell.
Both McConnells are natives of South Carolina and know firsthand how serious hurricanes can be.
McConnell, who grew up on a barrier island outside of Charleston, was in college when Hurricane Hugo made landfall in 1989. The Category 5 hurricane left widespread damage across the Caribbean and the southeastern United States affecting about 2 million people and resulting in about $11 billion in damage.
“It was the storm of the century for us until Katrina came,” said McConnell. “I didn’t live in my house for a year.”
McConnell recalled that when she went to check on her house after Hugo hit, she had to wear jeans, snake boots and carry an ID showing her address to take a ferry out to her home since the Ben Sawyer Bridge had been so severely damaged.
The “hurricane lager” has been available since hurricane season began last month and, in that time, Tradesman has tracked the number of QR scans and website visits to measure whether the information is getting to South Carolinians.
In the first two weeks of the beer’s distribution, 120 people have scanned the code, the majority being based in Charleston or in the larger Dorchester County area. A few scans have come from people from as far away as Toronto and New York City, which could potentially mean vacationers are scanning the codes as well, according to McConnell.
The next step is to check if the number of scans spiked after Tropical Storm Collins, which formed just before the Fourth of July weekend.
“Our hope is to bring it back next year,” McConnell said. “Release it on day one of hurricane season and put all that new education out there.”
Note: This article was updated July 7, 2022 at 12: 20 p.m.
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