Hub City Tap House
For decades, bars and pubs have been cornerstones of communities, bringing people together over beers and connecting them through conversation. Hub City Tap House, which opened in downtown Spartanburg in September 2015, is looking to continue those traditions, while putting their own spin on what it means to be both a bar and a brewery.
“Spartanburg has this very strong arts and crafts and local vibe, but it’s not overwhelming,” says Michael Willcox, who is co-owner of the taproom. “Underneath it all, there’s a very strong feeling of comfort, a sort of blue collar vibe. It feels like home.”
Willcox and his business partner, Kolby Garrison, wanted their bar to be a place the entire community could come together and enjoy unique beers and ciders (the space is also home to Ciclops Cyderi and Brewery) in a welcoming and multi-functional atmosphere.
“There’s the darker, more romantic and quiet part (of the space) where couples will come in every week for date night—grab a beer and just talk for hours,” Willcox says. “We’ll get college kids working along the counter on laptops, even my pastor has worked on sermons there.”
Large community tables, an area designated for a game of corn hole, and sprawling outdoor seating meet the needs of virtually every customer.
So do the brews that Garrison is producing, and he’s come a long way from blowing up the first home brew set his wife bought him as a Christmas gift years ago. Even if the first batch was both literally and figuratively a bomb, Garrison has continued to hone his skill, while staying true to his individual style.
From a cider that harkens back to a warm cup of rooibos tea, to a beer brewed with baseball bats (yes, baseball bats), Garrison refuses to compromise what he’s learned after 30 years in the food industry or his own personal tastes.
“When I told people I wanted to put cream in my coffee stout they said, ‘Oh no! You can’t do that!’ and I said, ‘Can’t do it, or shouldn’t do it?’” recalls Garrison. Coffee from a local coffee shop, Bella Latte, in his Bella Double Ciclops stout with a splash of cream turned out to be a risky revelation worth reveling in.
If the spaces and the sips aren’t enough to prove that community is a key component to the business built by Willcox and Garrison, their use of seasonal ingredients, partnerships with fellow breweries like RJ Rockers, and inclusion of local artisans had better be. There’s even a Hug Club with over 100 members who sip their beers out of hand-thrown mugs made in Spartanburg.
“We’ve always maintained an unofficial business model of ‘People over profit,’” says Willcox.
Garrison agrees, “When we’ve got people coming to the door at 2:55 when we open at 3, we’re doing something right. And we’re going to keep doing it.”