Craft beer keeps getting better and better all across Appalachia. Nowhere is this more evident than in Greenville, brewing hub of the Upstate region of South Carolina.
The Greenville brewing scene has recently experienced quite a growth spurt making it a worthy candidate for your next road trip. Not only will you find great traditional styles, but brewers there are truly embracing local ingredients and lots of funk and sour.
At least eight breweries are now open in the Greenville metro. Additionally, the area’s other craft beer outlets have improved to the point that they are competitive with the best of the region.
USA Today even reports that Cigar City Brewing of Tampa, Florida, and Deschutes Brewing of Bend, Oregon, both scouted the Greenville region for possible expansion locations. Doing a beer weekend here, you won’t leave disappointed.
Birds Fly South Ale Project
Birds Fly South Ale Project is making a big splash in the world of rustic beer styles. The brewery has developed a showcase facility in an old cotton warehouse for the production of its Belgian-style sour, funky and farmhouse beers.
Owner/brewer Shawn Johnson honed his skills at saison-maker-extrordinaire St. Somewhere Brewing in Tarpon Springs, FL. If his current beers are any indicator, he learned the craft well.
The 9,000-sq.ft. former cotton warehouse sits on the west side of Greenville and features a very nice taproom. Birds Fly South uses as many local ingredients as possible and an open fermentation system to give its brews a true Upstate terroir. The spacious taproom has plenty of tables and chairs.
Birds Fly South features many small-batch and one-off brews, but you will find a few regular or recurrent beers. While tapped beers do change regularly, look for Paper Airplanes wild ale, the peach-infused Skin & Bones tart wild ale, white wine barrel-aged Rumblefish hoppy saison, Rhubarb Gose, and Brand New Eyes blended farmhouse ale. But, really, you can’t go wrong exploring their tap list no matter what it has on it. Even with all the emphasis on funk, the brewery also finds space to make some delicious IPAs.
1320 Hampton Av. Extension
Birds Fly South Facebook page
Thomas Creek Brewery
Opening in 1998, the brewery offers tours, pints, growlers, and 6-packs. Their homebrew shop offers a great selection of equipment and ingredients for making beer at home. Tours are by appointment only, but the Tap Room is open every day except Sunday.
Among their full-time beers try Class Five IPA, Up The Creek Extreme IPA, Deep Water Dopplebock, Castaway Chocolate Orange IPA,Coffee Oatmeal Stout. Among their seasonals and specialties, look for Pump House Porter, Pumpkin Ale, and Conduplico Immundus Monachus Belgian-Style Imperial Porter. The Driftwood Series is real special too.
Many Thomas Creek bottled beers are available at retail across the region.
Thomas Creek has also nurtured new brewery projects by brewing beers for several during their start-up phase, including some excellent newer breweries like Wild Heaven Craft Beers, a superb little brewery in the Atlanta area, and Greenville’s Birds Fly South Ale Project.
2054 Piedmont Highway
Thomas Creek Brewery Website
They operate out of an attractive modern building housing their production equipment and tap room. Brewery 85 celebrated its 2nd anniversary on January 30, 2016.
Once inside you’ll notice the new 20-tap wall installed to augment the original 10-tap tower. Talk about a great selection of beer. In their two years of operation, they have brewed more than 20 different beers. They keep more than ten Brewery 85 beers available at all times. Extra taps are devoted to guest beers, red & white wine, and one-off brewpub-only beers.
Siebel and UC-Davis trained head brewer Taylor Lamm is adept at both lagers and ales. The crowd favorites include Yeoman’s Brown, Quittin’ Time Helles Bock, and Greenville IPA. All of these, along with Southern Style Pale Ale, are also available in six-packs of 12 oz. cans. Their IPAs are solid, as are their Browns, Stouts, and whiskey barrel-aged specialties.
Brewery 85 operates with a 30 barrel brewhouse and over 250 barrels of fermentation space. This size allows them to produce the wide variety of beer needed to fill those taps. They use their in-house canning system to can beers for distribution. Their kegs are available statewide.
Brewery 85 is open Wednesday through Saturday. The tap room offers pints, flights, growlers and packaged beer-to-go.
6 Whitlee Ct.
Brewery 85 Website
Swamp Rabbit Brewery
Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom is situated up the road from Greenville in the happening little rural community of Travelers Rest. This brewery a nice reason to get out of the city. You can even ride your bicycle up from Greenville on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
The ultra friendly tap room is a great place to unwind and relax, whether indoors or outdoors on the patio. Only opening in 2014, it was voted “Best Local Brewery” in Upstate for 2015.
Swamp Rabbit Brewery is the creation of long-time brewer Ben Pierson. This German-trained brewer has been producing tasty true-to-style brews for over 20 years. Before opening his own brewery, his stops included breweries in Tampa and Asheville.
You’ll typically find an easy drinking Wit, a malty Märzen, a English-style Double IPA and more. The emphasis here is not on hops, but on clean brews with great drinkability. Draught is offered in three glass sizes: half pints, pints and 22 oz. Growlers are available for take-out.
A Swamp Rabbit crowd favorite is their Raspberry White Ale, lovingly known as Red Whitey. Full of raspberry aroma and flavor, it finishes dry and is very refreshing. Offered year-round.
Swamp Rabbit is open seven days a week. No kitchen here, but food trucks arrive most end-of-week evenings. Travelers Rest also has four or five very good local restaurants and most are close by.
26 S. Main St
Travelers Rest, SC
Swamp Rabbit Brewery Website
Quest Brewing Company
You’ll normally find 8-10 Quest beers on tap. Creativity reigns here. Expect to find unique takes on familiar themes.
Don’t miss their Golden Fleece Belgian Pale Ale, Kaldi Imperial Coffee Stout, Smoking Mirror Smoked Porter, or Elida IPA. You can count on some great seasonal and specialties too.
The tap room is open daily except Sundays.
55 Fairview Drive
Quest Brewing Website
Carolina Bauernhaus Ales
This lively brewery tap room in downtown Anderson offers lots of local music to pair with a nice selection of anything-goes ales. The owners say they don’t have a standard lineup of beers and definitely not a flagship. Their creative beers feature fresh regional ingredients, seasonal fruits, and local yeasts—ingredients that are indicative of more beer to come. At the tap room, barrels full of aging beer are very evident.
We first discovered these guys at the 2015 Winter Warmer Festival in Asheville, and were impressed. Owner/brewer Keston Helfrich loves to experiment with wild, sour, funky styles. He opened the taproom in December 2015.
All farmhouse. All the time
Their beer pays homage to the rich agricultural resources of the Upstate region. Expect rustic beers made with locally-sourced ingredients including water, malt, grains, yeast, hops, herbs, and spices. You will find mostly Belgian-inspired styles, saisons and barrel-aged sours.
The downtown taproom is open seven days a week and features a light pub food menu too. It is definitely worth the short drive over to Anderson to visit this taproom.
115 Federal St.
Anderson, South Carolina
Carolina Bauernhaus Ales
13 Stripes Brewery
The 13 Stripes Brewery owners redeveloped an old textile mill building at Taylors, SC, just northeast of downtown Greenville for this recent project. The brewery opened in May 2017 with a 10-barrel brewhouse and 20-barrel fermentation tanks.
CEO/brewer Michael Robinson said they mostly focus on English and a few American styles, seeking a good balance between malt and hops, but adding a few twists.
Check out their Pub Ale, which is an English Mild on nitro, They do a Milk Stout on nitro too. Interestingly, they use a lot of American hops, such as Cascade and ElDorado, even in their English style brews, which gives them a bit of hybrid flavor, but they are careful not to over bitter them. You’ll also find the same balance in their American Pale Ales and IPAs.
They are also releasing regular batches of Belgian style brews and more extreme brews, such as Imperial Stouts, many of which are barrel-aged.
250 Mill St., Suite PW3101
Taylors, South Carolina 29687
13 Stripes Brewery
Upstate Craft Beer Company
Starting up at the end of 2015, this brewery makes its home in a repurposed Claussen Bakery building, on the south edge of downtown Greenville. Their distinction is the Brew-On-Premise operation, where you can make any of 30 different beer recipes. In the plans too is a homebrew shop with a complete line of homebrew supplies.
They make their own small-batch beers and keep a few on draught. They fill out their 20 taps mostly with other regional brews. You’ll find a great bottle selection too. Since they have a brewpub license, you can also order from a nice choice of apps, sandwiches, and flatbread pizzas. The tap room good-looking tap room has quickly developed a local following.
Upstate’s own small-batch beers encompass many styles and are constantly changing. The same can be said of their guest taps. You are sure to find an ample dose of farmhouse, saison, and sour ale styles. So, be in an experimental frame of mind when you visit, and you won’t be disappointed. To be fair, the pub also offers plenty of more-standard styles of beer for the less adventurous.
400 Augusta St.
Upstate Craft Beer Website
TAPROOMS and RETAIL
The Community Tap
The Community Tap is a tremendous craft beer gathering place. It is as good as any we’ve seen anywhere in the Carolinas. Typically offering 20 beers on draught, the establishment has both cozy indoor and covered patio seating areas. The tap room keeps a well-curated selection of draughts from the local area and from excellent regional, national, and foreign breweries.
Since originally opening in 2010, they’ve grown with the increasing interest in craft beer. Their new improved digs opened in 2014.
The bottle shop portion has a very solid list of South Carolina brews. Plus, you’ll be quite pleased with the selection of high end bottles from across America and abroad.
No macros to be found in here. The tap room is open seven days a week. Kid and dog friendly.
217 Wade Hampton Blvd.
Community Tap Website
Greenville Beer Exchange
The Greenville Beer Exchange is the downtown anchor for local beer. This bottle shop has a great array of beer from the Carolinas. You can also get your growler filled with any of 16 craft brews. This six-year old bottle shop is all craft focused.
They do have a fairly compact taproom space too where you can try pints from their many taps. The Beer Exchange is open seven days a week. Watch their Facebook page for regular sampling events, usually on Thursdays from 5:00-7:00.
They offer a bunch of logo items such as glassware and T-shirts, making it a smart stop for gift shopping. Ask the about their policies for shipping beer and merchandise.
And more on the way
Another brewery project in the Greenville metro plans to open in early 2018. Fireforged Craft Beer is now under construction. It will offer four flagships and a variety of culinary-inspired seasonal batches. While still a ways from opening, the Tampa transplant owners are immersed in building out their project. They posted this little pre-construction preview video on YouTube:
Fireforged Crafted Beer