Updated: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 11:33

Small brewer goes commercial

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Kevin Haborak with the new cans.   Photo by Tony Judnich
Photo by Tony Judnich
Kevin Haborak with the new cans.
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One of Kevin Haborak’s award-winning libations is coming to a store near you just in time for the holidays.

Haborak, founder of the Coastal Empire Beer Co., in Richmond Hill, and his Savannah Brown Ale is being sold in six packs in local stores.

It’s the first local craft beer available in cans and is priced comparably to other craft brews, he said.

Haborak describes the ale as having a rich malt flavor, balanced by a crisp hop finish. He said his company’s German-style ale, called Tybee Island Blonde, should hit local store shelves by the first of the year.

The journey that brought Haborak’s brews to commercial distribution took off more than a decade ago, when he received a home-brewing kit from his brother and business partner, Chris, and their sister, Dana Pattison.

 

Liquid dreams

Haborak received the kit in 1995 after graduating from the College of Charleston in his hometown of Charleston, S.C.

“My first batch wasn’t very good,” said Haborak, 40, who also works as a geophysicist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “It was drinkable, but at the time you’re just excited about making beer.”

Experience gained through trial and error, however, eventually led to a much better-tasting beverage.

“The comments I heard went from ‘Yeah, this is good’ to “Wow, this is something you can sell in stores!” he said.

With financial support from his brother, Haborak officially launched his Savannah Brown Ale in August 2011 at the Distillery in Savannah. Less than a week later, the beer won first place in the People’s Choice Award at the inaugural Savannah Craft Brew Fest.

Several more honors were on tap.

In July, the ale won a silver medal in the American Brown Ale category at the 2012 U.S. Open Beer Championship in Atlanta. Then, the Tybee Island Blonde received the People’s Choice-Best in Show award, and the Savannah Brown Ale earned the People’s Choice-First Place award at the 2012 Savannah Craft Brew Fest.

“It was very exciting,” Haborak said. “And to repeat this year (at the Savannah fest), that’s just amazing.”

 

Cool cans

Savannah Brown Ale and Tybee Island Blonde are made at the Straight to Ale brewery in Huntsville, Ala. and delivered by Savannah Distributing. While fans of these beers can buy them in cans at stores such as Habersham Beverage in Savannah and Jeff’s Beverage in Richmond Hill, they will continue to find them on tap at businesses such as the Crystal Beer Parlor, Satisfied and World of Beer in Savannah and 69 East in Richmond Hill.

Customers have been asking where they can buy packaged Savannah Brown Ale and Tybee Island Blonde, said Joy Driggers, a bartender at Satisfied, 301 W. Broughton St.

“They’re great sellers,” she said of the draft versions. “Tourists, and locals too, often come in looking for a local beer.”

And the new cans, which feature colorful artwork produced by Savannah’s Paragon design studio, could become keepsakes. The Savannah Brown Ale can features a great blue heron and a skiff on a serene coastal waterway, and the Tybee Island Blonde can shows a blond-haired woman petting a black Labrador on a beach, with a lighthouse, the sun and the ocean in the background.

The cans include the Coastal Empire Beer Co.’s motto: “Live. Relax. Savor.”

Chris Haborak, who likens himself to “a cheerleader with a vested interest,” said his brother’s ideas for the artwork capture part of their youth. Such memories include “the beach, good food, good beer and a slower pace of living,” he said.

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