Rick Rice never brewed a barrel of beer for a local brewery or sold a single six-pack at a local store.
But the former Asheville radio DJ and sports announcer is extremely knowledgeable about craft brewing and tirelessly promoted the city’s ales and lagers on the air and in a video series.
After being laid off last August at Asheville’s Rock 105.1, Rice started looking for his next job and fittingly found one in beer. He recently began work at Palmetto Brewing Co. in Charleston, S.C., which is now owned by North Carolina’s Catawba Brewing Co. and the Pyatt family.
As Palmetto’s location manager, Rice oversees the brewery’s tasting room and current employees. “A larger part [of the job] will be outreach — getting Palmetto Brewing more involved in the community there,” he says.
Open for 25 years, Palmetto is South Carolina’s oldest craft brewery. “For most of that time, the goal was to sell beer wholesale,” Rice says. “I want to get Palmetto better known in the Charleston community. I don’t think they’ve had a bad reputation, but they need to be more defined.”
Rice adds that Palmetto is undergoing a major renovation and expansion. He also expects that both Palmetto and Catawba beers will be made at multiple locations within the company, including at Catawba’s Morganton, Charlotte and Asheville breweries. He says the process “will be very intertwined” but notes that Palmetto will maintain its own identity.
Palmetto’s beer lineup includes its flagship Amber Ale, Mango IPA and Huger Street IPA. Its offerings are sold in both Carolinas and out of the taproom in Charleston, where more breweries have opened nearby in recent years. “There is definitely a Charleston beer scene,” Rice says. “It’s growing, and it’s getting better.”
Rice had been a fixture in Asheville radio, beer and sports for almost 20 years. In addition to his DJ job, he was the longtime park announcer for the Asheville Tourists baseball club.
After his layoff from Rock 105.1, Rice had not planned to leave Asheville. His wife, Stacy, was born and raised here, and Rice was happy in Buncombe County. “We have a lot of friends here,” he says. “We have roots.”
But when he was offered the Palmetto job by owner Billy Pyatt, the couple talked it over and decided to make the move. “Catwaba has great resources and good people working with them,” Rice says. “Having access to all of Catawba’s research will go a long way with Palmetto.”