Saturday, June 30, 2007

Doing South Carolina in 24 hours

It was a whirlwind tour!

Thursday afternoon, drive to South Carolina to work in Greenville all day Friday.

Barley's bartender doesn't waste a drop of the Loose Cannon cask!
Friday evening, introduce the state to cask Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, in Greenville, South Carolina, at Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria.

Then Saturday - very early Saturday morning - drive back to Gaithersburg, Maryland in time for the noon start of the Wine Tasting Festival at where Clipper City's were the only beers to be poured, among many wines.

Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria

The city of Greenville is in the northwestern quadrant of South Carolina, and is only an hour's drive from Asheville, North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains.

The South Carolina government just recently amended its regulations to allow high gravity beer importation and production. And Barley's, a Greenville restaurant and beer bar, is one of those at the forefront of the brand-new high-gravity beer explosion in South Carolina. They have quite an impressive draft array of good beers, - high gravity and not - both in their upstairs bar and the downstairs dining area.

High Gravity

High gravity refers to beers of more than 5.9% alcohol by volume (or at whatever level a state government might peg that).

When a craft brewery produces a higher alcohol beer, it mashes larger than normal amounts of barley - the grain that gives beer its flavor and fermentable starches - thus increasing flavor as the alcohol increases.

Whereas mega-breweries create their higher alcohol beers - usually insipidly sweet malt liquors - by mashing-in, not with barley, but with prodigious amounts of corn or rice. Both are much cheaper grains, and impart little flavor to the finished beer. Thus with malt liquor, mega-breweries can increase alcohol content without adding flavor, and without incurring significantly higher costs.

Cask Ale

Cask ale is living beer - yeast still working inside the firkin (an English stainless steel cask holding 10.8 US gallons). So, wanting the beer to be in its freshest state, I drove the cask down in my car.

The trade-off was that the beer didn't have a day or so to rest in Barley's beer cooler and settle down. So we swathed the cask's topside bung with bar towels. When I tapped the firkin, the towels caught the fountain of fresh beer that erupted. But no worries: things calmed down quickly, and the beer was superbly fresh.

Firkin Friday

Clipper City's cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale was only the third cask ever tapped at Barley's. Casks are slated to become a regular Friday event, anointed Firkin Friday. Proprietor Josh Beeby and bar manager Drew Moren also discussed with me their plans for eventually adding a beer engine and daily casks.

That evening, I met several Loose Cannon and Clipper City beer fans, who expressed their pleasure that they could now buy the beer in town, rather than driving to Asheville, North Carolina, or Athens, Georgia. It was quite gratifying, especially being so far afield for me and Clipper City.

(l-r)Carolina Craft's Jeff LeVine, Barley's owner Josh Beeby,
Carolina rep Chris Woke, Barley's Manager Drew Moren.

After the cask was drained - within the hour! - I went downstairs to the now packed dining room (with a line snaking out the front door) and enjoyed a pizza pie (after all, it is Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria) with the owner and rep from my new South Carolina distributor - Carolina Craft Distributing.

More photos from Friday's cask tapping.

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