Westbrook Brewery is ascending.
It's ascending so quickly that it has left Edward Westbrook inundated with orders from around the world: “We are still not making enough beer to fill our orders. It has been that way for the past two years.” With such a great problem to have, Edward and Morgan Westbrook, partners in business and marriage, have drummed up an even better solution.
“The new warehouse! We have to tell you about the new warehouse," Morgan says with a spirited smile as she walks me through the new production line that will rocket Westbrook to new-found levels of productivity. “It's going to be for packaging. Right now, Ed and the brewers do it all on their own, but the canning line is so slow. The new warehouse will allow us to do a 60-barrel tank in the morning, grab lunch, start another in the afternoon, and finish up by 6 p.m. We're really excited to take this next step.”
Morgan and Edward were not always lovers and producers of craft beer. “I spent half of my college years drinking beer like Budweiser, stuff like that. I was pretty much a beer guy, but had never had good beer.” Edward trails off as Morgan grabs his shoulder and exclaims, “Just Budweiser? Can we talk about that, Sir Mix-a-Lot? I remember your little college cocktail obsession!” They laugh at their slightly different versions of their long and loving past. He allows her hand to linger on his shoulder as he continues. "Anyway, I went to Spain, tried a Guinness at an Irish pub and remembered how great it was to enjoy the actual taste of beer. I've been obsessed with trying new beer ever since.”
With anything labeled as "craft," there is the inevitable perception that it must be rooted in art. Edward would not wholly disagree. “Brewing is an art. It's also a science. It's definitely both.”
Edward sees little difference between his career of making fermented, frothing masterpieces and a head chef creating a pilaf, once unheard of, now ripe and ready to be explored. “The experimenting with different flavor profiles in a single batch takes creativity; experimenting with flavors can take a long time.” He stops, smiles. “Being able to replicate that uniquely flavorful beer is where the real science comes in.” Edward and Morgan begin talking themselves into a fervor, waxing on about novelty goses, stouts, and countless others, as an upcoming beer festival comes to conversation. “We're going to Norway for a beer festival! We are so excited to have been invited by Jeppe!” Jeppe, a storied and proficient gypsy brewer who frequents Charleston, found himself at the great Norwegian Beer Festival last year. He was told to recruit four great American brewers. Westbrook was one of them.
For Edward and Morgan, their unparalleled success is something they are appreciative and proud of, but the growing process is something they will never give up. Selling beer internationally—as well as in the Carolinas, New York, Colorado, and Georgia—pushes them to keep going, to keep producing the finest of lip-smacking, thirst-quenching abundance known to Charleston. “We're really excited to nerd out, learn what others are doing overseas, and hopefully bring some techniques back to what we're already doing.” Their daughter pipes in with a high-pitched laughter that makes all in the room stop and smile, changing the flow of conversation. "Ever since we had this little lady, doing business has been a bit more exciting,” Morgan says cheerfully, before Edward finishes where she left off. “It has been. It's very interesting being married to a person you work with every day. We have different personalities.”
“It is great, though,” Edward says in a thoughtful tone. “Each person brings something important to the table. The process is not always pleasant but the result is something better than we could have made on our own,” he says, not clarifying whether he is talking about the craft of brewing, marriage, or both.
Morgan and Edward are crafting more than exquisite beer. They are crafting low-lit conversations between enamored lovers in scenic Lowcountry bars, or respect-brimmed conversations shared between a 21 year old and his father; they are crafting the cultural grease that allows conversations to flow a little easier, eyes to lock a little more honestly. They are here to grow, but more importantly, they are here to stay.