RJ Rockers brews nine beers besides Son of a Peach, its signature brew.
The mash tun is on the left and kettle on the right.
The fermenters are lined up at the back wall of the brewery. The building formerly housed the Goodwill Store.
One of RJ Rockers' employees created signs for the tanks brewing Son of a Peach with Mark Johnsen’s face in the peach logo.
If you like beer and you like peaches, chances are you love RJ Rockers’ Son of a Peach, a fresh peach-infused wheat ale. Son of a Peach shot RJ Rockers into the spotlight, but the Spartanburg-based brewery makes several other tasty brews as well. Tucker and I went up Highway 29 to tour its facility and meet the makers of the famous Son of a Peach.
Taylor White, assistant brewer to founder Mark Johnsen (Mark was in Beaufort), met us when we walked into the renovated historic building that Taylor told us was the former location for The Salvation Army. The brewery was busier than usual, as the brewers and other employees were moving equipment, preparing to bring in the new tanks that are needed for an expansion.
Johnsen has long loved craft beer, and began making beer for his friends and family. When he was stationed in Germany as an Army Ranger, he took the opportunity to learn as much about brewing as possible. When he arrived back in the U.S., he was ready to start brewing for the public.
RJ Rockers was born as a neighborhood brewpub in 1997, located where Delaney’s Irish Pub is, on West Main Street. It operated as a brewpub until 2002, when Johnsen decided to follow his passion, and make the transition to a microbrewery. “In 2003, the focus really became the beer,” Taylor said.
The brewery has been through a few expansions, and the focus is definitely still good beer. Care and precision are evident, from the top-quality ingredients to the intricate system they use to make sure each keg and each bottle is perfect. “Son of a Peach put us on the map,” Taylor said, when it won gold at the Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition. And it’s still the brewery’s most popular beer.
RJ Rockers is also conscientious when it comes to the environment. The brewery has a strong emphasis on sustainability and using local ingredients when possible (the peaches used in Son of a Peach come from Aiken). The brewery uses solar energy, and their system reuses 90 percent of the water that would normally be flushed down a pipe. Steam is converted into water while retaining all the water used in the brewing process. They recycle their cardboard and plastic, collect rainwater, and take advantage of windows so that they have no need to use electric lighting during the day.
The RJ Rockers Brewering Company brews nine beers besides Son of a Peach, and the signature beer lovers would do well to branch out and try them. (I was in this category -- I had no idea what I was missing.)
After taking us through the brewery, we went over to the taps. I tried the Black Perle first, which intrigued me because it’s a dark IPA. (I know, right? Who’s ever heard of a dark IPA? It’s actually an emerging style and there are a few brewers out there making dark IPAs, including Rogue and Stone.) It was phenomenal, with a perfect balance of roasty malts and fruity hops.
Next, I tried Rockhopper IPA. Yum. It’s everything you want from a hoppy IPA. Crisp, good citrus notes, nice bitterness, but not too extreme. The Bald Eagle Brown Ale was next, and I had the same response with it as I did the Rockhopper. This is a great, solid English-style brown ale. Smooth, a light caramel maltiness with subtle hops. Good stuff.
RJ Rockers is a fun place. The fermenting tanks have all been given names by Johnsen (there’s a TJ, an Abe, and a George), and one of the employees created signs for the tanks brewing Son of a Peach with Johnsen’s face in the peach logo.
When we were leaving RJ Rockers around 5 o’clock, people were starting to arrive in groups of two or three, heading to the brewery after work for a freshly-brewed beer. RJ Rockers opens its doors with a warm welcome to the public every Thursday evening for brewery tours, growler fills, and cold glasses of brew. And it’s something a lot of people enjoy. “Sometimes people will be lined up from here all the way to the back of the brewery,” Taylor told us. We didn’t wonder why. RJ Rockers is a fun, neighborly place with some delicious brews