Tybee Business Spotlight: Back River Brewery
Located on 1st Street in a bright blue building, you’ll find Back River Brewery, Tybee’s one and only brewpub, which opened on the island in June of 2022. Since opening, the brewery has quickly become a favorite hangout for Tybee’s craft beer buffs.
“Business has been solid. . . We’ve garnered really great local support. We love our everyday locals. We have people who come in here every day, and really, that’s probably one of the most important things to us, [having] our local crowd accepting us, liking what we’re doing and supporting that,” said Frazier Smith, one of the co-owners behind Back River Brewery.
Frazier, whose background is in welding and metalworking for local breweries and distilleries, naturally became good friends with brewery owners in the region. They discussed opening up a brewery on Tybee because there was a gap in the market here. As the brewing industry continued to grow in popularity, the lack of a spot for locally-brewed craft beer on Tybee was glaringly apparent. Frazier enlisted the assistance of a good friend, the owner of Fat Tire Bikes – who has lived on Tybee for more than 30 years – in launching Back River Brewery. Having such a partner helped cement the business’ credibility and made opening the brewery a much easier process.
“The fact that my partner knows everyone and has a really good report with pretty much everybody on Tybee allowed us to expedite some of the processes of getting approval and getting the business started,” said Smith.
Though Back River Brewery is the only brewery on the island, it stands out from others throughout the Savannah metro area primarily because of its size.
“We are much smaller. Our output is much smaller,” Smith stated. “We are constantly putting out new beers. . . We brew two new beers every week. . . There are some other breweries that do that, but they aren’t quite as small batches as we are.”
In addition to the new weekly brews, Back River Brewery also pours up a few house regulars. One of their most popular beers is their About Time Golden Ale.
“It’s a very light, crisp beer that is very drinkable. It’s something we brewed to gear towards those hot summer days on the beach or in the boat,” Smith described.
He said another top-seller is their Bongwater Bay IPA, which is a session IPA.
“It’s kind of an inside joke on Tybee. There’s a local who lives on Tybee Creek, and his nickname is Captain Bongwater. So, we call that bay where he moors his boat and he lives, we call it Bongwater Bay. . . I just thought it was a catchy name,” he explained, describing the IPA as a boozy dry beer that’s got floral and piney notes from the hops with none of the bitterness.
One of Smith’s personal favorites is the Wild Hair Prickly Pear Sour, made, as the name suggests, from prickly pear, which grows wild on Tybee.
“I thought it was a really good way to represent and highlight some of the local vegetation. . . It’s something that grows in people’s yards on cactus and it ripens, it falls off and it dies, and nobody ever thinks twice about it. But it’s actually a very sweet fruit, the fruiting body off of a cactus, and it makes a beautiful beer. It’s got the right amount of sweetness and some sour. It’s got enough going on where it’s not just all acidity. It’s got some complexity to it,” he shared.
In addition to the great selection of beers, Back River Brewery will soon offer food, allowing patrons to enjoy tasty bites that complement the brews they serve.
“We’ll have an in-house menu, and we will be catering that menu to be paired with the beers we make, which I don’t know anybody that does. Our goal is to make food that complements the beer,” Smith explained.
Among the highly-anticipated menu items is a prime rib melt with smoked gouda and a horseradish aioli and pulled pork sliders with house-made pickles and house-made barbecue sauce. They also plan to offer an in-house beer cheese as an add-on. Like the brews, the food will be small batch as well, just 100-150 plates per day. Another distinction is that everything they serve will be hyper local.
“We’re using only locally purveyed food. We’re using Auspicious Baking Company for our bread. We’re using Davis Produce for all of our veggies. And we’re going to start working with some local seafood purveyors. One thing we really want you to know is that you won’t be getting frozen seafood. You really won’t be getting anything frozen. So, everything’s made fresh and when we sell out if it, we sell out of it,” said Smith.
The menu will change with seasonal availability, which works well with the business model because beer is also seasonal.
“There’s different types of beer that are good in winter that you might not drink in the summer. And so, we can use that changing supply of food to give us variety on the menu that will match the variety of the beer that is also changing seasonally,” he added.
Smith encourages the public to come out and support Back River Brewery because “we make good beer.”
“We are putting an emphasis on quality over quantity. We want to add something to Tybee that enhances the experience of somebody who lives here as well as a visitor. We want something that’s different,” he expressed.
He hopes that seeing the success that Back River Brewery has enjoyed thus far will encourage other businesses with something new and excited to offer to come to Tybee.
“We want to have that for a newer generation of people who are moving out here. Younger people . . . are investing out here now, which [means] there’ll be businesses that are a little more current coming in. I think that we’re just one of the first to be a different kind of business out here. . . There’s the crystal and mineral shop down on the other end, there’s Sea Wolf, there’s Salt Island,” he said. “I think that supporting us would show that something different and newer and hip works out here. It will get more businesses out here. . . I think that it will be good for the city of Tybee. It’ll be good for people visiting. It just makes the experience out here more current and with the times.”
Back River Brewery is located at 402 1st Street Upper. Follow them on Facebook for the latest updates and news about their brews.