Two years ago, the Goodwood Brewery brand was launched when brewmaster Joel Halblieb and his partners exited an agreement to use the name Bluegrass Brewing Company for their brews.

Today, that move is looking pretty good, as the Goodwood Brewery at Main and Clay is now distributing product in 11 states, and its distribution has grown more than 50 percent in the last 10 months. Its remodeled Taproom is home to live music several nights a week.

Joel Halblieb at Goodwood
Joel Halblieb at Goodwood

While celebrating the brand’s distribution into South Carolina this week, Halblieb honored a 12-year tradition with the “Blessing of the Keg” by Father Joseph Fowler and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, kicking off the city’s St. Patrick’s party at the Taproom.

Halblieb said that the challenge of growing distribution for a craft beer brand at a time when a new brewery seems to be opening every month isn’t easy.

“It’s getting difficult because the marketplace is crowded with brands, and distributors are being selective,” he said. “In 1999-2000, if you could produce a beer in a package people would buy it, no matter what. Now you’re pitching a distributor and they’re looking at whether your product is going to match their portfolio. So there’s a lot more vetting with distributors and producers. Quality is becoming a huge selling point. It’s tough to put out a product that has good shelf stability as a small brewer. You have to spend more money on quality control and equipment to make sure your beer has greater longevity on the shelf.”

Halblieb said he’s excited about the latest addition to Goodwood’s lineup, a tart beer with a special ingredient that wasn’t easy to obtain. The Hemp Gose is now available on tap and in cans.

“I looked at our entire portfolio and looked for holes in it, for what flavor profile we were missing,” he said. “The easiest target was some type of sour or tart beer. The sours are really difficult to make for a brewery that makes mostly clean beers, so I decided on a tart instead. It has hemp extract. I’ve tasted a lot of hemp beers, most use toasted hemp seed that gives a nutty flavor. I don’t think that’s what people think of when they see hemp on a label as the flavor profile.

“I’ve worked with an extract producer that processes raw hemp into CVD oil, and found they were discarding terpenes.  They isolated the terpenes for me and gave me a concentrated extract. We started working with that and wanted to add a level of complexity, not dominate, the Gose flavor.”

We talked in the Taproom, which has come a long way in a short time.

“When we rebranded we gutted the Tap Room,” he said. “It had the feel of your crazy uncle’s closet, with beer signs from other breweries. We wanted to make our customers feel it was a clean and comfortable atmosphere, not the dirty place around the corner.”

And while there’s still an understated feel here (it’s easy to miss the sign on the corner), it’s easy to foresee a future in which the Taproom, located just north of NuLu, could become a go-to nightspot. Already, the lineup of musical acts has improved, for which Halblieb credits renowned musician Alanna Fugate, who also tends bar here.

“It’s still a small venue that you can really enjoy the music. You can be close and intimate,” he said.

Across the street, workers are busy adding floors to a condo project, while on another corner apartments are in the planning stages. Halblieb said he’d love to see another project come to the other corner, which, for now, is a transmission shop.