Summer brings with it the pleasant pastime of sitting out on the patio and drinking a cold glass of water, tea or, if you’re lucky, locally crafted beer. And because of Upstate beer purveyor Growler Haus—with current locations in Spartanburg and Anderson and a third location planned for Fountain Inn—it’s easier than ever to discover your favorite local suds for any season. Guests can order drinks and relax for a while in Growler Haus’ laid-back pub setting or stop in briefly to get a growler and go. Edible Upcountry recently spoke with Craig Kinley, a Greenville-based entrepreneur and the owner of Growler Haus, to talk about the Upstate’s craft brew scene, “brown beer snobs” and summertime drinking.
What’s the first beer you drank that made you want to get involved in the craft beer industry?
Once I started drinking Newcastle, which is a domestic brown beer, I never looked back and never went back to what they call yellow beer; it doesn’t really have a lot of flavor. It’s just water and a little substance. From that point on, I really sought out brown beers as kind of a “brown beer snob.”
If you could talk beer with any two people, living or dead, who would they be, and why?
I’d like to talk beer with somebody like a Thomas Edison, a bright guy, or just have a couple beers with him.
For more of a conversation where I could gather information to promote beer, I’d probably go back to … that’s tough. You put me in front of
Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, and talk about a community around beer!
What makes the Upstate’s craft beer scene unique?
Really the community that is built around craft beer. I want to give credit to Thomas Creek, RJ Rockers, Brewery 85 and Quest. They’re the guys that have been forging the path for us from 20 years to 10 years to just the last couple years. And I don’t want to forget Swamp Rabbit Brewery. When you look at folks like The Community Tap and Barley’s in downtown Greenville, they really set the stage and the bottle for craft beer long before Growler Haus got into it. It’s really about the community.
Is there one problem in the local craft beer scene that you wish you could solve?
There’s a three-tiered system in South Carolina: The brewers brew their beer, go through a distributor, and then bring it to us—the Growler Haus or pub or whoever. It’s set that way for taxation purposes mostly. But I would advocate a law they have in North Carolina for small-batch self-distribution. So up to a certain barrel quantity—let’s say 6,000 barrels—small-batch brewers would have the ability to distribute directly to Growler Haus. So when they get a batch of brew that’s ready to go, it wouldn’t have to go through a distributor. It could just go out their door, they produce an invoice, I put it on my taps and we’re done.
What’s the most creative local brew you’ve tried lately?
I’m gonna put a plug out there for a local brewery: Carolina Bauernhaus. They’re doing some very unique artisan-type, sour-based beers that are tart and sweet at the same time. And [they have a partner] SouthYeast Labs that takes and extracts the natural elements out of things like strawberries, honeysuckle, tangerines, whatever, and then cultivates the elements into a yeast that flavors the beer naturally. They recently were very successful in producing the Honeysuckle Saison. It’s been so popular that they’re actually bottling it now for the summer. Anything that Carolina Bauernhaus produces is a wave of the future.
If you were to invent your own beer someday, what would it be like?
It would smell and taste like this nostalgic time in your life that you really enjoyed: your growing up around your parents and your grandparents. And that’s kind of what we do. You walk into Growler Haus, and it essentially looks like a coffee shop, but it has your grandmother’s furniture and it smells like your grandmother’s house, like baked cookies. You close your eyes and you can be right back in your grandmother’s world.
What would you name it?
Grandma’s Apple Pie.
As far as beers available in the Upstate, which would you recommend as the best drink for the summer season?
The Thomas Creek Honeysuckle Saison. Another beer that’s really refreshing—it’s a session beer, which means it’s low in alcohol—is called the Oskar Blues Pinner. It’s light and crisp, from an IPA perspective. I call it “grass-cutting beer.” You can have four or five of these, and it’s like drinking a Coors Lite, but it has flavor.
Do you like to drink this on the patio in summer?
Absolutely. I’m not too picky when it comes to that. I’ll drink anything on the patio in the summer.