Charleston-based High Rise Beverage Co. crafts hemp-derived cannabis beverages infused with natural ingredients. High Rise re-envisions the modern drinking landscape as a place where imbibers can indulge, relax, and socialize without the presence or effects of alcohol.
In an interview with founders, Matt and Libiss Skinner, TLP learned about their unique non-alcoholic seltzers, passion for cannabis education, their new venture, High Rise Dry Bar, and road to national acclaim.
The Inception and Journey of High Rise Beverage Co.
TLP: Tell us about Charleston Hemp Collective and how your journey shifted to the beverage industry?
Libiss Skinner: Our journey really began with my diagnosis with ulcerative colitis. It was a relief to find out what was going on in my body, but overwhelming once the meds started getting prescribed. I was intent on a lifestyle that didn’t involve popping 10 pills a day, and turned to cannabis as a mechanism for pain relief. I quickly realized what was a game-changer for me could help many others.
No one really wants to stand up and talk about bathroom issues, but I decided to embrace vulnerability and share my journey on Lowcountry Live. Our phones started ringing off the hook with others seeking pain relief or sleep aid. Establishing our mission for education helped us connect with so many people, and those hard moments of vulnerability changed everything.
Matt Skinner: We’ve been personal proponents of hemp and cannabis for some time, and Charleston Hemp Collective was born out of our desire to make hemp products accessible and normalized. Cannabis not only induces relaxation and pain relief, but is also a way to regulate body systems. Our goal was not to make hemp “cool” but comforting, something approachable and helpful. We started by opening two storefronts in Charleston and launching a medicinal and a culinary line including hemp-infused honey, oyster mignonette, and olive oil.
Our partners in Boone, North Carolina, suggested we launch a beverage. I remember thinking, “no one is going to get this,” but, soon after, we found our seltzers served in local favorites like Home Team BBQ and Halls Chophouse, then things really started moving.
TLP: How do you feel the perception of hemp and cannabis has changed?
Matt Skinner: Being in the Southeast, prior to the pandemic, launching a successful hemp company without negative connotations seemed totally out of reach. We always tell this story of taking my mom to lunch and explaining the business we were going to launch. She broke down crying and begged us not to “sell drugs and taint the family name.” We say this with laughter in hindsight, as our parents are now some of our biggest supporters. Of course we wondered about backlash from the state early on, but we developed a really solid relationship with the state departments to collaboratively cultivate how cannabis is viewed in South Carolina.
In addition to this, the landscape for drinking is changing rapidly. The majority of Gen Z is either avoiding alcohol or actively seeking alternatives. Our seltzers are only 20 calories and are made with pure ingredients like macerated fruit purée, organic cane sugar, and hemp extract. We’ve kept up a hard fight to maintain the integrity of our recipes, no matter the logistical cost. People are drawn to this healthier alternative, and the growth has been astounding. Just this year, we were asked by SONY to be their official partner for the CMAs. It was wild to see the likes of Old Dominion and Elle King sipping our seltzers!
TLP: Tell us about High Rise Dry Bar and what it aims to provide the Charleston community?
Libiss Skinner: The dry bar appeared on our radar organically. We were set up on Sunday afternoons for yoga at the Charleston Pour House and noticed nearly every attendee was grabbing a High Rise after class. When a space opened just down the street, we jumped on the opportunity to open South Carolina’s very first dry bar. Our vision for the bar is to create a safe space for cannabis education and a socialization without alcohol.
We’re really encouraged to see the prejudice against non-alcoholic beverages melting away. Soon, it will be a seamless transition for bartenders to alternate between cocktails and mocktails with no eyebrows raised. We didn’t get into this business for the money, but for health and wellness, and it’s amazing to see people latch on to that. Many days I look over at Matt and say, “Can you believe we built this–us?!” and feel immensely grateful and humbled for how far we’ve come.
3 High Rise Beverage Co. Mocktail Recipes
- by Amber Chase
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Erin Byers Murray
- by Hannah Lee Leidy