“You growns up and you growns up and you growns up!”
– Trent, Swingers
In May 2008, I quit my job in Charleston. Nicole was one year into running Big Gnome. With the world at our finger tips we thought, “Why not move to Greenville? It seems like a nice place.” In fact, Greenville came up as the #1 place for us to live on findyourspot.com, whatever that means.
I had been brewing for a little over a year, and I had only done extract batches to that point. This blog was a year old and Nicole was still helping me clean up my writing style. We were neophytes in the beer world and didn’t know what we didn’t know.
When we arrived in Greenville, we found an apartment within walking distance of Barley’s Tap Room. Barley’s was a beer oasis, as there were few other options for good beer at the time.
Blue Ridge Brewing was (and still is) the only brewpub in town. Thomas Creek was (and still is at the time of this writing) the only production brewery. Green’s, Total Wine and Whole Foods were the only places to buy good craft beer.
Slowly, things began to improve in the craft beer community. Laws in South Carolina were changed, allowing breweries to sell limited amounts of beer and give samples on-site. The Community Tap and Greenville Beer Exchange opened their doors in 2010, bringing the experience of dedicated “craft-only” bottle and growler shops to the city.
New bars and restaurants began to pop up that were committed to craft beer, including Velo Fellow, Nose Dive, and Trappe Door. Now, we have options.
I feel as though Greenville is in a position to bust out as a beer city. Several other craft beer stores have opened in the past year and two new breweries are on the way in 2013. The Community Tap and Barley’s have started putting on fantastic rare beer festivals, and efforts continue to change South Carolina’s laws to make it more brewery and craft beer-friendly.
It is with this backdrop that I announce the bittersweet news that I am taking my talents to South Tampa. Well, we’re actually living north of Kennedy Blvd, so it’s not technically South Tampa, but it doesn’t have the same LeBronian ring to say “I’m taking my talents to Old West Tampa.”
I am certainly disappointed to be leaving Greenville when there are so many great things happening. While I have played a tiny role myself, the vision and hard work of many people that I have come to call my friends has made this possible. It’s those people that make it hardest to leave. I wish I could be here to see them succeed and support them along the way.
On the positive side, opportunity abounds in Florida and they need craft beer advocates, perhaps more so than even in South Carolina. From what I’ve seen in the times I’ve visited, there is a blossoming craft beer community in Tampa, and there is still a huge amount of unrealized potential for education and growth.
The good people of Florida need me, and I am heeding the call. I know that I am leaving Greenville in good hands, and the experience I’ve gained here has prepared me for my arrival in the Big City.
As a tribute to Greenville, I will leave you with my list of recommended establishments, places you can go to procure a beer to take home, or to hang out and enjoy a tasty beverage or three with friends.
THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO THE GREENVILLE BEER SCENE
Thomas Creek Brewery
Not just on my list by default because it’s currently the only operating commercial brewery in the city, Thomas Creek is the Godfather of Greenville Beer. Founded in 1998 by Tom and Bill Davis, it’s grown slowly and steadily over the past 15 years.
With a year-round lineup of eight beers and now numerous seasonals, Thomas Creek has a diverse portfolio. My favorite beer of theirs is the Deepwater Dopplebock, which is perfectly balanced between malty sweet and dark roasty.
Be on the lookout for Thomas Creek’s monthly Cask Night. For $5, you get to drink from a cask or two specially prepared for that day. Cask Night has grown to often include a food truck and live music. It’s become quite the to-do.
Anticipating a June launch, Quest Brewing is about to take Greenville by storm. Brewmaster Don Richardson is one of the best brewers I know, and he has the experience, imagination and gusto to brew some daring and delicious beer.
I’ve been to the brewery in it’s pre-launch stage, and it’s going to be a cool place to hang out. There will be a tasting bar and outdoor patio. The goal is to make the brewery a comfortable place to gather and enjoy the company of good beer and friends. Positioned right next to the downtown airport, you can also watch planes take off and land, if you’re into that kind of thing.
The initial lineup of Quest beer will include an IPA, Belgian pale, coffee stout and smoked porter. All are good, and the coffee stout is my favorite. There will be a barrel-room in the brewery, so be on the lookout for barrel-aged sours and other treats. There is sure to be some great stuff coming from Quest soon.
I first met Brewery 85 founder and brewmaster Will McCameron at an Upstate Brewtopians meeting shortly after arriving in Greenville. By the end of 2013, he will join the Brewtopians’ other esteemed alumni Ed Westbrook (Westbrook Brewing), Fred Block (Bottletree Beer Co.) and Ken Anderson (Grape & Grains) as the fourth former member to go pro.
Brewery 85 will come out of the gates with four year-round beers: Southern Style Pale Ale, Yeoman’s Brown Ale, (864) Weizen and Great Danish Ale, which is a Belgian-style ale brewed with local honey and turbinado sugar.
Currently, the location of Brewery 85 is a secret. They’re running a competition to see if you can determine where it is. If you’d like to play along, check out the Hunt For Brewery 85.
Opened in 1995, Blueridge Brewing is still Greenville’s only brewpub. I find that astounding. Would someone please start a brewpub in the West End, it’s crying out for one!
Blueridge Brewing has been a staple on North Main for nearly two decades. They have four year-round beers, a German blonde ale, pale ale, ESB and stout. My favorite of the four is the ESB. They typically have one or two seasonals on tap at any time as well.
The food at Blueridge is noteworthy. They have really good burgers, a wild game sampler that includes venison, antelope, quail, rabbit and boar, and the best beer-battered fish and chips in town. And while I’m not typically a proponent of ketchup, their house-made ketchup is made with amber ale, and it is the best I’ve ever had.
CRAFT BEER STORES
The Community Tap
Truly your “neighborhood beer store,” The Community Tap is nestled at the edge of the North Main area on Wade Hampton Blvd, just a few blocks from Stone Ave. Staying true to their name, they go beyond any other craft beer retail store in the region to bring people in and establish, for lack of a better term, a community.
The foundation of the store is a diverse selection of bottles and ten taps for growler fills. They also have a small, carefully chosen selection of wine bottles, along with three wine taps available for filling half-growlers. However, that’s not whole story.
In December 2012, The Community Tap acquired their on-premise license, meaning you can now buy pints to enjoy in their back tasting room. In a perfect symbiotic relationship, you will often find one of Greenville’s food trucks parked out front. You are welcome to bring in food and drink a few pints with your meal.
The Community Tap always has something going on. They’ve started doing bottle share nights, where people break out a special bottle from their personal cellars to share with the crowd. It turns into a mini-beer festival, often featuring 20+ aged or rare beers that you can’t get around here. They also have regular beer and wine tastings, so check their calendar often for what’s going on.
The Greenville Beer Exchange
Speaking of symbiotic relationships, The Greenville Beer Exchange, Barley’s Tap Room and Trappe Door have turned the corner of Washington and Laurens into perhaps the World’s Greatest Beer Corner.
An offshoot of The Charleston Beer Exchange, Greenville’s sister store is densely packed with a selection of craft beer that rivals anything you’ll find in the world. If it’s craft and it’s available in the state of South Carolina, you’ll find it at GBX. There is also an epic 16 tap wall for growler fills and awesome assortment of beer glassware.
The size of the store limits what they can do event-wise, though every Tuesday they feature a rare beer that’s available for growler fills starting at 5 pm, and every Thursday is a free tasting of four or five selections featuring a brewery, style or various theme.
There are a lot of places in Greenville to get a good beer. However, to be considered a “beer bar” I have a few criteria:
- The tap and bottle selection rotates frequently.
- There is a broad representation of styles.
- There are always at least a couple rarities that you would have troubling finding in a grocery store or another bar in town.
Based on those criteria, there are really only two true beer bars in Greenville. They also happen to be on top of each other.
Barley’s Tap Room
Barley’s owner and Beer Mogul Josh Beeby knows what the beer geeks like and he gives it to us. 40 taps at the downstairs bar, 30 taps upstairs. An extensive bottle list, including a reserve list that would top almost any beer geek’s cellar.
New selections are added every couple weeks, and they are very attentive to seasonals and new releases. Even though I’ve given Barley’s more money than anyone in Greenville other than my landlords and Publix, I can always find something new to drink that I haven’t had before.
There’s always an event or two on the horizon, whether it’s a beer dinner, a release party, theme competition or even The Most Arrogant Bash on June 13, which promises to be an epic occasion not to be missed (although I’m going to miss it…)
The menu at Barley’s is simple, yet perfect to accompany great beer. They have very good pizza and calzones, as well as a selection of underrated salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes. My favorite sandwich is the Italian Sub, and the Voodoo Pasta is phenomenal if you plan on consuming a few beers… or more.
Barley’s is not only my favorite place to sit and drink great beer in Greenville, I’d put it up there with some some of the best beer bars in the country. It’s unpretentious, comfortable, come-as-you are. I always feel welcomed, and I’ll miss it more than any place in town.
The Trappe Door
The Trappe Door is the upscale, Belgian version of Barley’s. It’s also directly underneath it.
There are only 10 taps at the Trappe Door, but they are changed out constantly. If you go every other week, you won’t see the same beer on tap twice. There is also an impressive bottle selection to peruse.
All of the beers are Belgian-styled, or at least have a Belgian twist. Since many American craft breweries have embraced Belgian brewing traditions, there are many American brewed beers to accompany the majority of beers from Belgium.
The food is excellent at the Trappe Door. They have a section on the menu for mussels, gourmet burgers and Belgian-inspired desserts. They also have an amazing array of dipping sauces for their thin-cut frites. My favorite items on the menu are the Lamburger Sliders, Carbonades Flamandes and Pork and Cherry Sausages.
The following places receive an honorable mention in the beer bar section. They all meet at least two of the criteria for beer bars, but not all three.
My favorite hang out in Greenville after Barley’s. It’s an English-style pub with six taps that change frequently and a good selection of bourbon. It’s an eclectic atmosphere with good pub-style food. I recommend the Chicken Potted and Pied, Eastern Feature (which rotates and has always been great) and the Fish & Chips. Ask for the chips to be extra raw, they nail it if you like real raw fries.
Addy’s Dutch Cafe
A Dutch bar and restaurant owned by a real Dutch person, Addy. There is a fine representation of Belgian and German beer, as well as an excellent food menu. It’s a small, cozy bar with a comfortable atmosphere and lots of wood. I hear it gets more rambunctious late-night, but that’s past my bedtime, so I wouldn’t know.
Nose Dive features an effective craft beer list. They represent the major styles well, and you’ll always be assured of finding a good beer. They don’t feature the rarities I would require to elevate them to “beer bar” status, but they do rotate new stuff in from time to time. The food is upscale pub-style. While good, it falls short of great.
Mac’s Speed Shop
Mac’s has a wide variety of beer on tap and a good representation of bottles. They also have good barbeque and one of the largest patios in town if you want enjoy an evening outside.
Carolina Ale House (Main St.)
The Ale House on Main Street features a retractable roof that makes for a perfect setting on a nice day. There are a plethora of TVs, which makes it my favorite venue for watching a game. The tap selection is impressive, though it rarely changes. The food is sub-par at best, and the atmosphere tends to get a little “college bar-like” at night, so it’s not my scene after 9 pm. Yes, I’m old.
Brixx Wood Fired Pizza
If you happen to find yourself trapped in the seventh circle of hell known as Woodruff Road and you need an escape, make your way to Brixx. They have a respectable selection of beer and good pizza. It’s about as good as your find in the suburbs. Have a beer or two and wait out the traffic.
I’m not only the president, I’m also a client. Well, at least for another couple weeks.
The Upstate Brewtopians are based on Greenville and represent homebrewers in the Upstate of South Carolina. While the next regime may see improvements and alter the schedule and meeting format, what I’m sure won’t change is the laid-back nature of the group.
The Brewtopians have always been about making better beer and enjoying the camaraderie of the other members. Most meetings contain little business and a lot of homebrew tasting. And food… It’s a good time had by all. Be on the lookout for upcoming meetings and see what the next board has in store after my departure.
Grape & Grains
Grape & Grains is the only dedicated home beer and wine making shop in Greenville. In addition to being a place to buy ingredients, they are also the only dual-licensed winery and brewery in the state, meaning they make their own beer and wine you can purchase to take home.
Owner Ken Anderson and his wife Janel are former Upstate Brewtopians who decided to take their passion for making beer and wine and go pro. They are super-nice and are always willing to take the time to talk you through any recipes or ideas you may have and offer their suggestions.
While the size of the store doesn’t allow them to have the vast selection of the online mega-stores, Ken can special order just about anything you need with a couple days’ notice. Grape and Grains is also the only homebrew shop outside of Asheville to carry Riverbend Malt, which is the only regionally grown and malted barley, rye and wheat in the Southeast.
Thomas Creek has long been a supporter of the Upstate Brewtopians and homebrewers. From a raw materials side (grain, hops and yeast), they will sell homebrewers any of the ingredients they use to brew their commercial beer. With the broad range of styles they make under their umbrella, their selection is extensive.
In addition to the ingredients, they keep a well-stocked supply of brewing and wine-making equipment. If you have a home keggerator, I would recommend going to Thomas Creek for any replacement keg or draft system parts. They have everything you would need for both ball-lock and pin-lock kegs.
That’s all I have. Five years of beer drinking summed up in 3,000 words. I don’t feel like I did Greenville justice for all it offers. If I went any further I’d have to write a book.
And with that, I bid you farewell. On to the next adventure…