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Exploring great local beers while traveling in the south

While traveling in the south recently, it was very comforting to see case stacks of Bell’s Oberon at the local grocery stores.

On the flip side, it was fun to have lots of choices from Lost Abbey and Port Brewing Co., as well as southern locals such as Sweet Water Brewing, Terrapin Beer, and an extensive selection of Against The Grain Brewery.  

In Greenville, S.C., I happily came across the Greenville Beer Exchange which stocks only craft beer and is located right around the corner from the Trappe Door. Such a great name for a beer bar featuring an old world European feel and specializing in Belgian food and beer.

You won’t find any IPAs on the menu, but you will find an amazing selection of Trappist ales, dubbels, tripels, quads, saisons, sours, lambics, and more. As with The Porter that was located near The Highland Inn where we stayed in Atlanta, one visit just left us wanting to stay for another week.

I always like to pick up local beers when traveling, so when in Greenville, I picked up some Westbrook IPA (6.8 percent ABV, IBUs 65) and One Claw (rye IPA, 5.5 percent ABV).

Westbrook is probably best known for its Mexican Cake (imperial stout, 10.5 percent ABV, IBUs 50). This was originally brewed as the brewery’s first anniversary beer, aged on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and fresh habanero peppers. It was such a huge success that they now brew it annually. I have had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy this once before, but unfortunately, there were no bottles left in the area to be purchased.

Also at the Greenville Beer Exchange, I found a bottle of COAST Brewing barrel aged Blackbeerd (9.3 percent ABV), the sixth vintage of the brewery’s barrel aged Russian imperial stout.

Coast Blackbeerd Russian Imperial Stout. Left: 2015 barrel aged version with waxed cap. Right: regular version from 2010 in my cellar. (Eric Strader/Hop Notes)

Each year since the first release of regular Blackbeerd imperial stout (except 2014, when the brewery was in the middle of an expansion project) the beer has been barrel aged, using a variety of barrels including Jack Daniels, Buffalo Trace, and Blanton’s. This year’s batch was the largest barreling project for COAST, using 20 Willett Rye barrels and a few casks that will be brought out for special occasions.

I have only enjoyed the non-barrel-aged version at this point, so I’m very much looking forward to enjoying this bottle. The label for the barrel aged version is the same as the regular version, however, the barrel aged version has a waxed cap.

Vacations are great, but in the end, I found myself looking forward to returning to my regular Goshen hangouts, The Constant Spring and Goshen Brewing Company, and shopping at my go-to Chalet Party Shoppe. Maybe call it the “Cheers” mentality, but it is nice to be a recognized local at all of these places. Here are a few things to look for around town.

It may be gone at this point, but I enjoyed a New Holland Tasmanian Hatter (IPA, 7 percent ABV, IBUs 55) at the Constant Spring during the England vs. Japan Women’s World Cup final. It is the newest addition to the Hatter series and is brewed with Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy hops from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest. I was a bit surprised to learn that there was some wheat malt as well, however, it did not interfere with the mango and citrus flavors from the hops. Overall, I thought it was a pretty well balanced IPA.

There is another new beer on the board at Goshen Brewing Company. Sunny Brown (7.3 percent ABV, IBUs 51) is a hoppy brown, which drinks somewhat similar to a black IPA, but I thought that the malt flavor was a bit more smooth and subtle. There is still plenty of great pine and citrus for any hop head.

I’m not sure that I can say this for any other brewery, but I believe that at this point, I have tasted every single beer brewed from Goshen Brewing Co. I would have to do some tabulating, but I would guess that Jesse has brewed about a dozen different beers since opening, and I am so fortunate that Goshen Brew Co. is just a short bike ride away.

I don’t like to start rumors (or continue them), but I have heard that Sweet Water Brewing (Atlanta, Ga.) and Tall Grass Brewing (Manhattan, Kan.) may both be heading to Indiana soon. At this point, I am not able to confirm this for either brewery, but will pass along any info as soon as I hear more. 

Dark Horse Brewing Crooked Tree variety packs are back at the same price as last year, $25.99. This includes three bottles each of the original Crooked Tree, and three other variants, each featuring a single hop: Apollo, Cascade and Falconer’s Flight. The names of the three variants might seem a bit cryptic at first, but then you will see that in Dark Horse fashion, they have spelled the name of each hop backwards to name each beer.

Also, Stone Ruinten (triple IPA, 10.8 percent ABV, IBUs 110) is back along with Bell’s Oberon 12 packs of 12 oz. cans. Hopefully this will make up for the lack of mini kegs this year. And even though Oberon isn’t my favorite beer, it always makes me feel right at home to see case stacks when I enter any bottle shop.

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