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.
Six breweries are now open in the Greenville metro, with more hoping to come online later this year. 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.
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.
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 start-ups including for Wild Heaven Craft Beers, a superb little brewery in the Atlanta area. The latest new brewery they are working with is Birds Fly South (see below).
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 truck 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
The Community Tap
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 selection 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 five-year old bottle shop is all craft focused.
While right now it is carryout only, they do have a tasting room expansion in their future plans. The Beer Exchange is open seven days a week. Watch their Facebook page for regular free 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.
Upstate Craft Beer Company
Just 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 selection 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
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. Currently brewing on a pilot system, 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 tap room in December 2015.
All farmhouse. All the time
Under construction is their new farmhouse brewery located just outside of town. The beers made there will pay 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. We should see mostly Belgian-inspired styles, saisons and barrel-aged sours. Construction is underway, so it shouldn’t be long. This sounds so good.
The downtown taproom is open seven days a week and features a light pub food menu too.
115 Federal St.
Carolina Bauernhaus Ales
Birds Fly South Ale Project
Birds Fly South beer is already in the market, albeit in small batches. Currently, the brewery has been contracting with Thomas Road Brewing for the production of its Belgian-style sour, funky and farmhouse beers. It also has a collaboration underway with Quest Brewing.
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, this promises to be a very good brewery once he gets in his own facility opened.
Johnson leased a 9,000-sq.ft. former cotton warehouse on the west side of Greenville and will begin installing brewery equipment later this year. Birds Fly South will use as many local ingredients as possible and an open fermentation system to give it a true Upstate terroir.
Birds Fly South is hoping to open its new brewery by the fourth quarter of 2016. Until then, look for their current products at craft beer bars and bottle shops in the Greenville area.
1320 Hampton Av. Extension
Birds Fly South Facebook page
And more on the way
Two other brewery projects in the Greenville metro plan to open in the next 12 months.
Fireforge Crafted Beer plans four flagships and a variety of culinary-inspired seasonal batches brewed in Greenville. While still a good ways from opening, the Tampa transplants are doing collaboration brews with Quest Brewing.
13 Stripes Brewery plans on redeveloping an old mill building at Taylors just north of Greenville. They have their building leased, engineering completed, and permits applied for. Looks like a really cool project that could open by mid-2016.