Team: Greenville Drive
Affiliate: Boston Red Sox (Single A)
Ballpark Basics: A unique field that will make Boston fans feel right at home.
Blue Ridge Brewing Company
Brew Basics: A place with potential, in need of an all around make-over
Blue Ridge Brewing is apparently the sister brewing company of Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem. We say apparently, because the staff at Foothills first mentioned the affiliation, there were similar beer names, styles and artwork in both restaurants, and to top it off, there was a window graphic on Blue Ridge reading “foothills” but the staff we talked to at Blue Ridge were completely unaware of such a relationship.
Blue Ridge is an older building, starting to fade, with no TVs (but one drop down screen), whose focal point is a ginormous (both long and tall) wood trimmed bar. The place definitely needs some updating as the décor leans toward old tile, 1990’s wood trim, scratchy curtain like material on the booths and fake painted Tiffany lamps. The wooden tables are worth taking a look at, for although they are also faded and scratched, they have blueprint designs of the bar and brewing areas etched out on them. The high booths and low lighting seem to be set up to provide an intimate atmosphere, but it’s not an intimate kind of place, so really it just cuts you off from other patrons.
The brew area brings up questions of its own. We have been told again and again that in the beer business cleanliness comes first, and sterile conditions are crucial for the beer to form properly. But here, the mash tuns are right out in the open, you actually have to squeeze up against them when a large party is seated in the dining area. We assumed they would then just brew before or after hours, but were assured that at any given time (especially mornings) the head brewer is mixing up a batch while the daily restaurant business is going on all around him. So, we don’t know how it works, but it seems to. Like the building itself, each of the beers we tried had potential, but wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. Some tweaking here and there, and they could really have something good. We tried a half dozen that they had on tap:
Kurli Blonde Ale (3.9 ABV/14 IBU) – From the golden, slightly hazy appearance we expected a fruity beer, but it has a dry, wheaty smell. This light bodied beer was presented to us as “an alternative to a lite or an ice”, and we found that to be an apt description. There is a little carbonation, and a bit of beer taste at first but nothing following behind. A simple beer with generic appeal.
Colonel Paris Ale (5.0 ABV/37 IBU) – A sienna mahogany hued beer with just a hint of sweet brown sugar in the aroma. Colonel Paris is slightly bitter beer with medium body that lacks any kind of punch or aftertaste, and just remains consistent throughout.
XXX Total Eclipse Stout (6.7 ABV/43 IBU) – We were delighted with the appearance of this one; thick chocolate color, dark tan head and a light aroma of coffee and brown sugar. However, the taste did not deliver. The Total Eclipse had a thin mouth feel, almost no hops, and just doesn’t have a lot in the sip though the coffee does come through strongly in the aftertaste.
Black Honey Imperial Elixir Stout (10.5 ABV) – The beer they seemed to be most proud of, and the only one advertised on the staff shirts. A high gravity black beer with honey hued lacing that smells just like it should (i.e. like a stout with a hint of honey). We were a bit afraid that the honey would overpower everything else, but it ended up having a malty, roasted coffee taste that was just a bit sweeter than normal thanks to the honey infusion. The Imperial Elixir was so thick, you could actually feel it running down the back of your throat and proved to have the most complex flavors of any beer at Blue Ridge.
Sacred Cow (4.5 ABV) – We asked, but no one seemed to know what kind of beer this was. (We even got, “umm, an ale?”) Our best guess is something in the Brown Ale family. The Sacred Cow has a deep brown tea color, and a minimal, almost musty smell. Like many of their other beers, there is a hint of coffee and something sweet in the taste. This beer is moderately carbonated in the grand scheme of beers, but was definitely had some of the highest carbonation of any of the Blue Ridge beers.
2010 Barleywine (11% ABV) – Amber in color, with definite but still light hops in the aroma. The hops are also notable in the palate, which blends with the barley to create a tart, dry slightly grainy beer. It has a consistent, good flavor that is also a bit tingly thanks to a higher carbonation and is overall more hoppy than a typical pale ale, but not as bitter.
Greenville, SC 29601
Important Bonus Info:
If you’re even vaguely into beer (and if you’re reading this, we assume you are) it is absolutely worth your time to stop at the Greenville Beer Exchange next time you are anywhere near this city. We spent quite a while perusing their amazing selection of American craft beers – they have a large import section as well – and loved the fact that we could ignore the traditional 4 or 6 pack formats, and just buy ONE of any kind of beer.
We tasked them with the challenge of finding us a bunch of their favorites that we can’t normally get living in Richmond, and even as 1 beer + 1 beer +1 beer quickly added up to a case, their reasonable prices protected our wallets, and their unique selection and ability to guide us to certain ones that best fit our taste allowed us to end up with a crazy variety of beers from a bunch of breweries we’d either never heard of or had always wanted to try. We spent much of the summer enjoying the beers from this place and wish we lived close enough to make this our go-to beer pick up and (with 16 beers on tap) growler filling spot. In any case, we will be back as soon as we can and remain jealous of those living nearby.