The Blue Ridge Brewing Company is the oldest brewpub in South Carolina, opened by Bob Hiller (right) in 1995 right after the law allowing brewpubs – a law Bob worked and lobbied for – was passed. Johannes Baddorf is the brewmaster.
The mash tun is made of copper and came from the Czech Republic.
The Blue Ridge Brewing Company offers a menu of food to go along with its selection of craft beers.
I’d been to Blue Ridge Brewing before and knew about their fantastic beer and delicious, made-from-scratch food. I wanted to learn more about the story behind South Carolina’s oldest brewpub and how they have kept their tradition alive while continually serving up new brews and dishes.
Tucker and I drove to Main Street, Greenville, one rainy afternoon to visit Hiller and his brewer, Johannes Baddorf. The brewpub feels like a brewpub should when you walk in – you feel at home with friends. The brewing equipment is front and center in front of the windows and stretching along the wall to the edge of the bar.
The equipment is fascinating – the mash tun and fermenter are beautiful, made of copper, and came from the Czech Republic, where they were until they went to California and operated before finally arriving at Blue Ridge Brewing. The tables feature the original blueprints for the brewpub’s design, which was created by Bob’s father, architect Joe Hiller.
Bob became interested in the brewpub concept in the early 1990s. “I fell in love with brewpubs out West,” he said. “I decided I wanted to open up a brewpub in Greenville.” But at the time, there was a law against selling food in a location where beer was being brewed. Bob decided to change that and lobbied to get the law passed that allowed brewpubs.
Bob’s concept for Blue Ridge Brewing came out of his love for the outdoors. The decor, graphics, and beer names all reference outdoor adventure. The brewpub is especially popular with the hiking, biking, and whitewater rafting communities.
The four staple beers the brewpub makes are the same four they’ve been brewing since the beginning. But the beers have evolved as Johannes put his own spin on the classic recipes. Johannes got his start in brewing as a home brewer. He studied chemistry in college and found brewing to be a perfect application of science. “Bob gave me complete creative control over the beers,” Johannes said. Johannes also experiments and comes up with the brewpub’s seasonal offerings.
One of the seasonals available is Johannes’s Barleywine, a true English style barleywine with a light amber color and slightly sweet hint of tropical fruit. You’ll be tempted to drink a lot because it’s delicious, but it packs a 9 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), so you’ll have to restrain yourself.
The Rainbow Trout ESB is an English Style Bitter with a good balance of maltiness and sweetness (don’t let the Bitter throw you off). The perfect beer to go along with the Oven Baked Vegetarian on the menu (an amazing oven-toasted sandwich on rye bread with roasted pepper, goat cheese, and other deliciousness.)
We also tried the Total Eclipse Stout, which is a drinkable stout that Johannes created by combining a medium high malt and low English and American hops. Roasty and tasty, I think I’ll be getting a glass of this next time I’m in.
When you go into Blue Ridge Brewing, you’ll notice a wall full of pottery face mugs on the wall behind the bar. These intriguing creations are made by Travelers Rest potter Greg Patton and are the Mug Club. When you join Blue Ridge Brewing’s Mug Club, you get a face mug (each one is unique), which you keep at the brewpub, and is ready for you when you come in (the mug holds more than a pint glass so you get more beer for the pint price). You also get a Blue Ridge T-shirt, which are very cool, and 10 percent off any future purchases of merchandise.
Blue Ridge Brewing is a perfect place to spend a Friday evening or have lunch when you’re in Greenville. There’s a great quote on the website that reads,
“Never leave a pint undrained;
it gives the glass low self-esteem.”
You won’t have trouble draining your glass at Blue Ridge Brewing.
Other breweries profiled: