Check out our latest cocktailin’ assignment for TALK Greenville – in the February issue on stands now…
This month’s cocktailin’ adventure involves no fancy flourishes or complicated concoctions. We headed out to visit Terri and Tom Davis at Thomas Creek Brewery for a super relaxed brew-tasting experience…and ended up with a surprise or two. One of us has simply never developed a taste for beer…and has, therefore, never, ever drunk a whole beer in her life. Well…never say never! This chick got her brew-groove on in a big way and is now totally on the Thomas Creek band wagon!
When bacteria is your friend…
So what could cause a non-beer-drinkin’ gal to fall in love with what – for all intents and purposes – is a “beer”? Terri, in all her infinite brewing wisdom and experience, explains that dedicated wine drinkers are usually the biggest fans of a good sour. A sour is made with wild bacteria and yeasts, while beers are made in sterile environments with specific yeast strains. Thus, in this case, bacteria rocks! Dedicated beer fans tend to enjoy the unusual flavors in a sour while those who typically don’t take tobeer at all are pleasantly surprised by its kinder, gentler side.
We did some sampling…here’s how it went…
Feelin’ Berry Peachy…
This beer is the lightest of all our samplings. It’s important to note if you are taste–testing, start with this one or you won’t be able to taste its subtle undertones. A touch of blueberry adds some tartness, peaches add a sweet nuance and there is a hint of saltiness on the back end which we thoroughly enjoyed.
This nitro’s name means cherry in Zulu. True to one of these belles’ South African roots, it was an obvious choice both in name and flavor. Distinct but not overpowering, hints of cherry come to the forefront as you sip this creamy, delish, surprisingly dark creation. The name came a long time before the actual brew. We can firmly say this one was worth the wait!
Third up on the agenda was the Sour IPA which is a pretty doggone perfect brew! It melds a sour and an ipa in a very balanced fashion..no easy task in the brewing business. This beer (along with pretty much any beverage on the menu) would be perfect with what claims to be the world’s best Reuben (the key is a mix of pastrami and corned beef…what else would we expect from these masters of blending?).
Deep Water Stout…
The Deep Water Stout was the last, but in no way the least, masterpiece we tasted. Folks often equate a dark beer with a very heavy finish and a strong bitter taste. Not here! Roasted barley is what makes it a stout with a slight hint of coffee flavor. Malt creates the color and adds no bitterness. We found this to be our surprise favorite of the lot, but they are all winners in our book! (And our book is getting pretty big…just sayin’)
After operating Thomas Creek for a full 20 years, Terri and Tom decided to take it a step further in January of 2019 with the opening of their kitchen. Now they are serving up some pretty substantial nibbles to accompany the brews! We are saving up on our calorie and carb counts so that we can treat ourselves to “Peggy’s Pou’tot’” (tater tots topped with cheese curds and brown gravy) and maybe a pizza or two. And if the smoker is goin’ the chopped pork is to-die-for!!
Whether you are heading out there for a quick sip or planning an event, don’t hesitate for even a sec! Their indoor and outdoor spaces work beautifully for casual events, and they are almost always open. No excuses…just go!
Open Sunday 1-8pm and Mon-Sat 10am-8pm
Thomas Creek Brewery . 2054 Piedmont Highway . Greenville . (864)605-1166 . thomascreekbeer.com
drinkin’ on the job…somethin’s brewin’
We headed into Greenville’s hip West End Water Tower District for this month’s “drinkin’ experience”…landing with the cool birds at Birds Fly South Ale Project. We could not believe how cutting-edge we felt as we pulled into this up-and-coming area that was all aflutter, much to our surprise and delight. Owners Lindsay and Shawn Johnson welcomed us to their uber-chill nest of ale activity…and we nest-led right in. You will want to do the same!
First, about the name. Lindsey and Shawn, both with Southern roots, spent years on the fly with the Coast Guard but were always lookin’ to head back South. When the opportunity presented itself, they flew right in and settled in Greenville…thank goodness! Shawn’s passion for beer took root and the rest is history. They make craft beer with a “throwback approach” saying, “we don’t make beer, we wait for the beer to tell us what it wants to be”. We were quite impressed with how smart beer is these days!
Sip and Savor…
Our first foray into this ale-tasting was a surprisingly colorful array of brews. After perusing the vast menu and making some picks, we were presented with a group of 4-ounce pours to sip and savor…giving us the chance to pick a fave or two. Rustic Sunday was one favorite with its hint of rye and golden color, while Anchorage was perfect for a neutral, classic palate. Other offerings ranged from a dark and earthy brew called Parachute to Joos Raspberry with a strong element of fruit (the wine spritzer of beers if you will). Across the board, Shawn’s creations did not disappoint!
Brand New Eyes and Petite Blanc…
We had a tie for our “blue ribbon” award! While this place had us looking at everything with new eyes, Brand New Eyes was a delight for our feminine tastes. Citrusy, mild, smooth and mellow, it’s the perfect sipping ale for a warm day. And Petit Blanc locked us in and kept us wanting more. Because we are foodie-centric, we were particularly pleased with this wine-infused ale. Talk about elevating your average beer!
Keep on truckin’…
The Johnsons keep a steady schedule of local food trucks pulling in for their patrons’ nibbling pleasure, and they bring in live music to keep the crowds entertained (beyond beer, music is another of Shawn’s passions). If it happens to be a quiet afternoon/evening, pick up a game (Cards Against Humanity, anyone?) and have some fun. Their “urban farmhouse” is designed to inspire conversation, exploration and sharing.
If you have not discovered the West End Water Tower District, let us fill you in. The area is home to an old cotton warehouse now known as Hampton Station. Birds Fly South, and their neighbors (which will soon include White Duck Taco) have taken the area up a notch or two. Seems we had been missin’ out on where the cool kids hang out. Now that we have found it, good luck keepin’ us in the city!
Although the temps seem to have been on a roller coaster (mostly uphill) across the south this fall, we like to pretend we have cooler weather to warrant the classic fall/winter recipes we have up our sleeves. Case in point…this Guinness Stew we decided to make for a football-watchin’ crowd a couple of weeks ago…when it was 75 and sunny! It was belleicious anyway…just sayin’. We served it alongside this kale and quinoa salad, courtesy of a dear belle-friend. An-delicious (that’s Irish for very delicious!)
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
12 slices bacon, cut into 1″ bits
12 shallots, peeled but left whole
2 1/2 lb cubed stewing beef
2 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced (we used shiitake and baby bella)
1 qt Guinnesss
1 bouquet garni (we used bay leaf, thyme and tarragon)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Now for the cookin’…
Add bacon, shallots, and beef back to mushrooms (if using dutch oven). Otherwise, place all in a covered casserole, pouring pan juices on top. Add the bouquet garni.
Now for the booze…
Cover and place in the oven at 325 degrees for 2 hours.
***Slow cooker tip #1…if you can start earlier in the day, pop all of this in your slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours…or high for 4.
***Slow cooker tip #2…you could even do this one day, allow to cool, pop in the fridge, and slow cook it for a couple of hours on low the next day. Voila! A belle-ringin’ dinner on a busy day!
And here’s the recipe all-together (screenshot-able perhaps)…
The Belles’ Boozy Guinness Stew
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
12 slices bacon, cut into 1” bits
12 shallots, peeled but left whole
2 1⁄2 lb cubed stewing beef
2 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 qt Guinness
1 bouquet garni
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt butter in large dutch oven. Add a swirl of olive oil
Add bacon and brown. Add shallots and saute 1-2 minutes
Transfer bacon and shallots to another dish.
Add beef, season with salt and pepper, and sear, scraping up bacon bits from pan.
Add mushrooms and saute 1-2 minutes.
Place all ingredients back together in dutch oven (or any large, covered casserole)
Add bouquet garni
Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours
– Although we chose to skip the carbs with the salad, this would be excellent (and authentic) served with mashed potatoes…or add bite-sized potatoes to the stew before baking
Ithe go maith! (that’s Irish for good eatin’)
Our TALKGreenville cocktailin’ adventure this month took us in a slightly different direction. This time it involved less mixin’ and more easy, laid-back sippin’…perfect for this long, hot summer! We headed just outside of the confines of “downtown” to visit Mike Okupinski and Ed Buffington at The Community Tap where the beer gets its deserved attention, but the wine refuses to play second fiddle. We were pleasantly surprised!
Magnum, Jereboam, Methuselah…go big or go home…
While you can always grab your ho-hum-regular-sized bottle of vino for your everyday enjoyment, we get a little giddy at the idea of a super-sized bottle to share while entertainin’! We are thinking a giant Jeroboam (equal to 7 bottles of wine) would make an excellent bar center/conversation piece! TCT has you covered on all fronts.
Leave the corkscrew at home..:
Imagine our surprise when the most talked-about wine in the place was in a…wait for it…can!! Koozie-friendly and “pinkies-down” casual, all three varieties (Rosé, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir) from Union Wine Company’s “Underwood” label are spot-on delicious! And with the loss of glass recycling in the city, it is practically our duty to promote these winning wines!
How could we mention The Community Tap without shining a big spotlight on the TAP!? The first retailer in the Upstate to offer “growlers”, TCT keeps twenty ever-changing taps of beer steadily flowing for their patrons’ enjoyment. Because many of the best craft brewers only produce small batches in kegs, the tap is the only way to sample those wares. Sit-n-sip or take a growler for your sippin’ pleasure at home.
While TCT keeps a few, select nibbles on-hand (don’t miss the to-die-for Swamp Rabbit Cafe baguette – delivered fresh daily), Mike and Ed made the conscious decision to skip the food prep headaches in order to focus on what they do best…beer and wine. But never fear. Patrons have no excuse to leave hungry! These fellas schedule food trucks on the property every day except Sunday. Brilliant!
The Community Tap now has the two of us to count in their ever-growing fan base. We plan to return again and again for the super-cool-casual atmosphere (all of the wood in the place if from an old fertilizer plant in Pickens), a low-brow wine-tasting, or to simply relax on the deck. And when it comes to planning the perfect Fourth of July picnic off-site, how can you beat a delicious hunk of bread, some good cheese, a growler of cold beer, and a six-pack of wine? Easy. Convenient. Done!
Alex Ryan and Angi Einstein – http://www.therarebelle.com