Team: Greenville Drive
Affiliate: Boston Red Sox (Single A)
Ballpark Basics: A unique field that will make Boston fans feel right at home.
Ballpark Breakdown: The team that currently plays in Greenville went through many incarnations before becoming the Drive, and starting to play at Fluor Field. Following the 2004 season, they changed affiliation from the Mets to the Red Sox. Then in 2005 they moved from Columbia, SC to Greenville, where they initially played at Greenville Municipal Stadium for one season until they could move into Fluor Field, which is named after The Fluor Corporation, an engineering and construction company that is also a large local employer. The final change came when dropped their original Bombers moniker to become the Greenville Drive, a name that is rumored to serve as a nod to the presence of local automobile businesses such as BMW and Michelin.
When any member of the Greenville Drive makes it to the show, the first time they step onto the field at Fenway Park, they will feel right at home, because Fluor Field was designed to have the exact same dimensions as the historic park in Boston. Fluor Field has all the quirks of the major league park, from Peskyâ€™s Pole, the center field triangle, and even their own version of the Green Monster (although theirs only measures 30 feet compared to Fenwayâ€™s 37), complete with manual scoreboard.
The seating bowl at Fluor Field is very close to the action. With all 5,700 seats being between the foul poles and the furthest seat being 13 rows away from the field there really isnâ€™t a bad seat. There is also a grass berm down the left field line that is also a popular place for families. The only real negative (and we really wouldnâ€™t call it a negative) is that the ballpark is so crammed into the area that you canâ€™t walk around the entire park like in most of the new ones today.
Level 500 is a bar in the left field corner that has a different selection of beer than anywhere else in the park. This is also the only place that you can order and drink after the seventh inning stretch and the only part of Fluor Field that has a (small) variety of craft beers on tap. While the rest of the stadium has Bud, Coors and Yuengling, the Level 500 Club has offerings from Sweetwater and three different New Belgium beers but no local breweries. There are multiple hi-top tables where you can watch (an obstructed view of) the game and TVâ€™s which were showing the Sunday Night game on ESPN. Down a few steps is the 300 Plateau level where there is additional seating with picnic tables and a better view of the game.
Main Street is â€“ surprisingly enough â€“ the main street in Greenville, and is divided in half by the Reedy River. While the portion of Main Street south of the river is bustling, the northern area around the park still has a ways to go, but the city hopes that Fluor Field will anchor the development of North Main Street – and it already seems to be working. There are new shops and new condos/apartments popping up along the walk from downtown and an office building with condo units and multiple first floor restaurants even butts up against the parkâ€˜s left field wall. The condos have porches that look out over the field and these were a very popular spot to watch the game from, so many were having viewing parities the day we were there. A Liberty Tap House has taken up a large corner of the new construction near the main entrance to the stadium, complete with a large outdoor area and is apparently an extension of the chain brewery that we visited in High Point the night before. There are train tracks that border the stadium behind the right field wall and it almost feels like watching the Hackensack Bulls in Brewsterâ€™s Millions when a train goes just behind the outfield wall.
There is even a free trolley that supposedly cruises up and down Main Street and can take you to the field on game days (we say supposedly since we never saw a single trolley the whole day). However, after the game there was a trolley waiting at a park exit, so we jumped on assuming it would take us back up the trolley route, and therefore, back to our car. We got back off when we discovered it was actually there to take fans back to cars in a satellite parking lot near the field, but away from the city center. To say the trolley situation was confusing is an understatement.
Although Fluor Field does not have the historic feel of Fenway (there are no pillars obstructing your view of the field, no tight concourses, no cramped seats, etc.) they did try to bring a historic feel by using reclaimed bricks from local mills to construct much of the park. Also unique to Flour Field are pictures of former Greenville teams on the pillars around the concourse as well as pictures of hometown hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson.
(Baseball nerd fact# 12 – The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum is located right across the street from the right field entrance of the park. It is housed in Shoeless Joeâ€™s former house. However it is only open on Saturdays from 10-2 so we couldnâ€™t get in on our visit).
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 â€œfoothillsâ€ 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 dÃ©cor leans toward old tile, 1990â€™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 itâ€™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 donâ€™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) â€“ 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 â€œan alternative to a lite or an iceâ€, 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) â€“ 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) â€“ 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 doesnâ€™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) â€“ 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) â€“ We asked, but no one seemed to know what kind of beer this was. (We even got, â€œumm, an ale?â€) 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) â€“ 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 youâ€™re even vaguely into beer (and if youâ€™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 â€“ they have a large import section as well â€“ 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 canâ€™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 weâ€™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.