By Patruus Inebrius
Back in May (I know, this is horribly tardy, but this story is finally being written), my wife drove me to a great little beer joint in Greer, South Carolina. Called The Southern Growl, it is literally tucked away on the side a small shopping center behind a hibachi place and across from the local Sonic.
The simple, but bold storefront gives a sense of the place, with a Hunter S. Thompson quote emblazoned on a window poster as if it’s the company’s mantra: “Good People Drink Good Beer.”
But don’t let it’s location or small size fool you, The Southern Growl proved to be a well stocked brew “joint” as they call it.
Walking in, I was a bit surprised at the small size of the shop. Only a handful of stained picnic style tables filled the front half of the wide room. But the back half was where the action was. A long bar separated me and a wall of 60 taps and three large screen televisions, which displayed the numerical list of the beers available with a short description of each. One of the best uses of high-definition I’ve seen.
The array of beers—all—craft, was wonderful. And daunting. Given the explosion of craft beers, being able to even choose which ones to try for a small tasting flight required professional assistance. So I chatted with the friendly staff and they helped me select a diverse set for the afternoon sampling.
You can choose from a variety of flight sizes, all on handmade paddles, and served in the more tasting-appropriate snifter-style glasses (rather than those “pint” glasses which let the beer get warm too quickly). They put an extra glass filled with mini-pretzels to round out the flight and give you something to cleanse your palate between swigs.
So I sat down with my professionally-selected flight of five beers (plus pretzels) and began the work portion of the visit.
First up was Evil Twin Brewing’s Low Life German Pilsner. Evil Twin is a fairly new company that takes the unusual approach of having its beers brewed at different breweries around the world. This particular one, Low Life, is brewed at Two Roads Brewing Co. in Connecticut. With 5.5% ABV, this light and dry, medium-gold colored pilsner had a strong citrus hop flavor with an overall even taste and a light finish. It would make a good summer session beer with it’s light sweet and dry flavors.
A pretzel later and I tried the second snifter. This Belgian Style Wheat had the cryptic moniker of “White” and is produced by Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. Allagash White was the company’s first beer and was modeled after the “wit” beers of Belgium. It has only 5.0% ABV, putting it also squarely within the potential session beer category. This one has won several awards, including a gold at the 2010 World Beer Cup. The beer itself is a very bright yellow color, and a tad cloudy. Very light aroma, with a hint of spice. A sip revealed a crisp beer with strong citrus fruit, spice (cinnamon and nutmeg), and a pumpkin pie style flavor and finish. Very tasty and definitely one of the sweeter beers I’ve had in a while. And the spicy flavor lingers a bit after drinking. Quite nice.
It took a couple of pretzels to clear the White out, but then I tackled the Scotch Ale, Twisted Kilt. Produced by Thirsty Dog Brewing Company in Akron, Ohio, Twisted Kilt is a dark amber colored brew with very fine bubbles and a light brown head. More than the others in this flight, Twisted Kilt clung to the glass readily. It had a very sweet, caramel and malty nose. A taste revealed it to be a very malty beer with much milder hops than I expected. A bready flavor with just a hint of peat balanced out the flavors for a lingering malt and light fruit finish.
A salty palate cleansing opened the way for the fourth beer, an American strong ale by the name of Kentucky Old Fashioned Barrel Ale by Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company (one of the longer named breweries I’ve seen). Designed as essentially a cocktail beer version of the Old Fashioned, this beer has a stout 10% ABV and has a dark honey and amber color. The flavor is strong and distinctive. A purposefully sweet and citrusy flavor is joined by strong hints of cherry and a smooth bourbon finish. It has a very nice, bold flavor and a smooth transition from the fruit flavors to hops/malt and bourbon. A quick check of their website shows my notes were pretty spot-on, as they say “Kentucky Old Fashioned Barrel Ale is a subtly sweet, citrusy ale brewed with orange peel, then aged with tart cherry in fresh bourbon barrels and bitters barrels.” A good, special occasion beer that would be perfect at the races.
The final beer of the flight (and yes, we were running low on pretzels), was an American stout called Mean Old Tom, produced by the Maine Beer Company. This is a chocolate stout. Let me clarify, this is a very dark, very bold chocolate stout. It’s practically black in the glass with a light amber head and clings readily to the glass. At 6.5% ABV, it was a bit lighter on the alcohol than I originally expected. A quick sniff revealed a strong aroma of roasted oats and coffee. It’s flavor was, obviously, strongly of roasted chocolate with barley and some medium hops. But what appealed to me most was how that bold chocolate flavor mellowed to caramel and a gentle vanilla for the finish. This was a very nice stout and was remarkably easy to drink for such a complex stout. I’ll be looking for this one at the store.
So the flight was a rousing success. Some excellent beers in a very nice establishment.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate that they offered growlers and a wide range of homebrewing supplies ranging from equipment to various hop varieties. I did enjoy the hand knitted growler cozies. Given that Greer, SC is near Clemson, several of the homemade cozies featured Clemson colors. But there was a Minion peering out as well.
So if you find yourself near Greer, SC (which is fairly easy if you ever visit BMW’s grand and expanding American manufacturing plant located nearby) consider a quick visit to The Southern Growl. Have a nice flight!