I’ve been drinking beer in Greenville since, well, let’s just say my undergrad years at Clemson. I don’t really want to think about how long it’s been right now…
That being said, I’ve witnessed incredible growth in the local beer scene in the last decade. After 2007′s Pop the Cap raised the legal alcohol limit, we no longer had to drive to NC to bootleg Dale’s and other fine craft brews into the market. Let’s start where I learned to drink.
Barley’s//25 W. Washington Street
Ever since I was old enough to (legally) drink, I’ve been a regular patron of Barley’s. From the Rogue Pint Nights during my college years to when I moved to Greenville in 2006 (strategically, in walking distance), Barley’s has schooled my beer palate. The tap selection is one of the best in the Southeast. With 40 taps downstairs and another 30+ upstairs, there’s plenty to suit any taste. In fact, I check the taps upstairs and down, regardless of my final destination, so that I don’t miss out on the specialty taps always in rotation. We’re spoiled, really.
The Trappe Door//23 W. Washington Street
When Barley’s owner Josh Beeby told me in 2010 that he had plans for a Belgian-style basement bar beneath Barley’s, I was ecstatic (despite my voiced lack of enthusiasm toward Belgian brews). I took a tour of the dank, completely-unfinished basement and already couldn’t wait to get a drink there. The Trappe Door opened in April 2011, unleashing moules frittes, fancy-pants mayo, and 10 Belgian (and Belgian-style) taps offering rare abbeys, dubbels, trippels, quads and the occasional sour and wit. This conquered downtown Greenville’s beer scene, with three floors of a single building being dedicated to the best kegs coming into the state. The food is stellar, to boot.
The Owl//728 Wade Hampton Boulevard
More recently, I’ve found myself drinking at the Owl. Their selection is a bit smaller, but solid, nonetheless. No taps (yet…), but bottles (and cans!) run the gamut from sessionable lagers to Brewdog’s Tokyo, an 18% imperial stout. With about 50% belgians, including ciders and sours, few styles are underrepresented. On top of that, they eschew the big three as well as any brewery you can find in the average grocery store in support of smaller, more niche brews. Plus, it serves some of the best affordable molecular-gastronomy-by-a-self-taught-chef-in-an-abandoned-Pizza-Hut you’ll find in this town (to paraphrase my friend The Gurgling Cod). Or any, for that matter.
The Community Tap//205 Wade Hampton Boulevard
Breaking new ground in town with growler fills and a large bottle selection, Mike Okupinski and Ed Buffingtion opened The Community Tap to acclaim in July 2010. And I was the first customer, banging on the door just before opening time. Currently, the Tap, in the parlance of our times, sports 12 beer taps as well as three wine taps (which garnered them New York Times recognition). There are also several hundred bottled craft beers to choose from, including a nasty selection of sours, a bevy of Belgians, German brews, even Danish, Norwegian and Scottish ales. And though this is about beer, Ed would ban me if I didn’t mention the 60+ hand-selected wine labels he keeps in stock.
Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery//205 Cedar Lane
This one’s off the beaten path a bit. Well, it’s becoming more beaten every day, with cyclists and pedestrians engulfing the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery is still a sleeper choice in terms of beer, though. It has a small but solid selection of cans, with the likes of Westbrook and Caldera IPAs represented, along with Avery Joe’s Pilsner and a few others to quench your thirst after a long ride down the trail. And they have a covered beer garden. Exactly. So you can bike up, grab a quality craft cold one, and pop it open at the picnic table right outside. Enjoy. I’ll see you there.