Summertime is upon us and that means traveling. For some of us, that means traveling to places that might not have been the first choice on the “Guys’ Weekend Away” to-see list.
Let’s be honest, some of the family friendly, cutesy quaint, wife-just-found-this-all-you-can-cleanse-retreat locations aren’t even close to making that list. But fear not, my beer swilling friend!
If you are caught up way below the Mason Dixon Line, you just may be in one of the Best Craft Beer Cities of the South.
Craft Beer has been coming on to the scene since the early ’90s and the U.S. is finally starting to get to the point where Europe has been for centuries: Every small town has its own brewery.
That said, there are way too many good beers for me to cover all in one article. Look for Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Georgia here. Part two will be the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
Kentucky has some of the most beautiful country side and women (in my humble opinion) in the U.S., but is the state really in the South? Because they don’t really fit into the Great Lakes Region the Mid-Atlantic States or the Midwest, I have decided to add them in here.
Your choices in Kentucky are a little limited with a few brews here and there in places like Paducah, Newport and Lexington. Louisville, on the other hand, has more than its share of places to quaff.
Eight breweries/brewpubs including Apocalypse Brew Works, Bluegrass Brewing Co., and my personal favorite: Against The Grain Brewery & Smokehouse make for a fine way to spend your day.
ATG is known for smoking everything, including their beers. Look for their Bo & Luke (yes, named for the Dukes), a bourbon-inspired, smoked Imperial Stout coming in at a whopping 13% abv.
For a bite at a bar, head to the Holy Grale for great pairings, small plates and even instructions for the newbies on how to help your Beertender find you the perfect brew.
Most folks headed to the Rocky Tops of Tennessee will be within a reasonable driving distance of Memphis, Chattanooga, or Knoxville, which all boast a robust amount of Breweries, Brewpubs and Bars for the Craft Beer aficionado.
The real gem here is the Nashville with no less than nine breweries/brewpubs. Some of the standouts are Yazoo Brewing Company, Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery, and the Earth-friendly Tennessee Brew Works. Their first-in-the-nation, 25-barrel brew system is uniquely designed to offer a higher level of efficiency and automation resulting in use of up to 50 percent less water, 20 percent less raw materials, and 20 percent less energy than a traditional system.
If you are looking for a good bar to escape to, I highly recommend the Flying Saucer. They are a chain and everyone I have been into has like 80-plus taps and a ton of bottles. The Saucer Bratzel, a pretzel loaded with Swiss cheese, sliced beer bratwurst, and green onions is a must-try here.
More than likely you won’t be vacationing in the Triangle Region (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) but if you are, they are covered up with 26+ breweries/brewpubs in the cities and surrounding area.
Charlotte has its own fair share as well. Asheville, however, has been given the nickname Beer City for a reason. Asheville boasts 18 Breweries / brewpubs in this historic town and most of which are within walking (stumbling) distance home.
Some of my favorites are Highland Brewing Co. (known for their Gaelic Ale), Wedge Brewing Company (The 3rd Rail is their Imperial IPA – Awesome!) and The Wicked Weed. I have heard the locally sourced fare of their restaurant is to die for, but I wouldn’t know. I always end up in their tasting room/patio downstairs gulping many beers and eating free hard pretzels with mustard.
Bar wise, seek out The Thirsty Monk downtown for two full floors of great rotating craft beer with an incredibly knowledgeable staff.
More than likely South Carolina travelers are headed to Charleston, Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head; all family friendly and beer friendly, too.
The Hilton Head Brewing Co. has undergone a beer and food makeover in the last year and is now pushing out some really good brew. In nearby Bluffton, River Dog Brewing Company recently opened and is putting out some good brew.
Myrtle Beach has come into its own in the last year, and Greenville and Columbia offer up a decent smattering of craft fare as well. Spartanburg’s RJ Rockers is gaining fame for its “Son of a Peach” ale. However, the place you’re hoping your spouse wants to go is Charleston.
A good selection of breweries/brewpubs await you here with the likes of Palmetto Brewing Company (the original Charelston Brewery – est. 1993), Holy City Brewing (they have a BACON Porter!) and my personal fav – Coast Brewing Company. Coast has been tough to find and was until recently unable to meet demand. They just opened a 30bbl system, so get ready to see them everywhere. If you should go to the brewery and meet the owners Jaime and David, thank them for getting S.C. to allow higher gravity beer. They were the ones that got the ball rolling.
Get to beer bar Closed for Business Draught Emporium for an incredible beer selection and get the Pork Slap (fried pork cutlet, house-smoked ham, Swiss cheese, green tomato chutney & house sauce served on a soft white bun-Yowza!).
If you are lucky enough to end up in Savannah, your craft beer choices are increasing every month. A city that for a while offered up no more than Moon River Brewing Co. is now branching out to include some choices (Southbound Brewing Company’s got a fabulous Seasonal Belgian Triple) that will make the SAV proud.
Athens has its fair beer share, but more than likely, you are coming to Atlanta. They have 17 breweries and brewpubs to speak of, and another 14 coming in the next 2 years. Although many have heard of Sweetwater Brewing Co., there are many more to explore here. Look for 3 Taverns Brewery who do nothing but Belgian Beers and they do them right.
Monday Night Brewing has Fu Man Brew, a Belgian Style Wit with a hint of ginger that you need to try. New to the scene and probably the most unique of the incoming, Orpheus Brewing is doing an All-Saison beer menu overlooking Piedmont Park. Continuously voted in the top five beer bars in the US, head to the Brick Store Pub and seek out their Belgium Beer Bar upstairs. Then order up their Bourbon Caramel Popcorn, Pimento Cheese & Pickles, Pierogies or Bavarian Pretzels and chow down.
If you are like me and need to dig deeper, I recommend the following sites:
Part 2 coming soon!