Glutton Travels: Going the Distance for Beer

Jan 08, 2014 5 Comments

Trappe Door Greenville South Carolina 3If you build it he will come.  Go the distance. Ease his Pain.  All quotes from the mystery spirit that spoke to Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but all relevant, or nearly relevant, quotes to describe why I was recently bent on making a beer road trip to Greenville, South Carolina.

You see someone built a glorious beer store in Greenville that goes by the name “The Greenville Beer Exchange” where a large selection of Grand Teton Beers are available for those with a hankering for their suds. Being one of the many with such a hankering my thirst compelled me to go the distance and visit the only state on the eastern seaboard where GTB beers are found.  Then consuming any and all beers purchased on said trip quenched my thirst and thus eased my pain.

With this in mind allow me to indulge with you with a tale of what two crazy people did after driving a 499.9 miles from Washington DC just for beer and a bit of southern culture.

First stop: Greenville Beer Exchange

Greenville Beer Exchange South CarolinaSince this was a “beer road trip” we literally drove straight to the Greenville Beer Exchange upon entering the city limits.  Not that there isn’t more than few choice beer stores in the area, but the Exchange had the best selection of Grand Teton along with an impressive selection of around 1,200 domestic and international beers, not to mention a 16 tap growler station.  Simply stated this small shop tucked away on a back street in downtown Greenville is a paradise for beer geeks and novices alike.  The store’s entire inventory, which is stocked like a library by country of origin, is a balance of known and unknown specialty and craft beers.  True the availability of beer varies from state to state in America, but in every section I found multiple beers that my palate had yet to experience. For example a random oak age bock beer from Bavaria or a local Imperial Porter made with biscotti and named “Biscotti Break Natale.” Needless to say there were more than a few bottle additional bottles that found their way into the case + of Grand Teton beers.

Overall Impression: A gem of a beer store and worth the stop if you are ever passing through on the I-85 corridor.  Best of all the Exchange keeps an up to date online inventory of their beer offerings. Click here to peruse.

Second Stop: Trappe Door

Trappe Door Greenville South Carolina 2

Off the recommendation of the fine people at the Exchange we headed around the corner to The Trappe Door for a little lunch.  Like many good Belgian restaurants, the Trappe is located in a brick and wood beamed basement cellar providing all the dark ambiance needed to enjoy all the Flanders or Wallon type Gluttony you need.   Absent of daylight or clocks it’s the type of place one could happily lose an entire lose an entire day in…just like Vegas, except that your pockets and belly will be a lot fuller.

Trappe Door Greenville South CarolinaThe menu is composed of a balance of standard Belgium and bar flare along with some creative twists (click here to view menu).  Our lunch selections were the Heimloom Tomato Soup with a hint cognac and a gruyere cheese sandwich, combined with White and Blue Mussels made from Belgian White Ale, Rogue bleu cheese, bacon, and Dijon mustard.  The soup was rich, perfectly balanced by the cognac, and the adult grilled cheese hit the spot on what was a cold rainy day.  As for the mussels…no complaints from either of us as beer, bacon, and bleu cheese seldom fails to deliver and the Trappe Door’s didn’t disappoint.

What about the beer you say?  13 beers on tap and over 100 by the bottle.  Enough suds to keep you Hap, Hap, Happy well into the morning hours.

Overall Impression: Worth every cent and a place we’d be hanging out on a regular basis if we lived in Greenville.

Third Stop: Hans and Franz German Biergarten

BMW’s first full manufacturing facility outside Germany and first U.S. production facility is amazingly located just outside of Greenville and from my days living in Munich (home of BMW) I knew a plethora of Germans are regularly sent to the plant for work.  So when a little bit of research revealed an German Biergarten/Restaurant was operating close to BMW, there was no question that our final stop of beer gluttony would be Hans and Franz.  After all it was bound to “Pump us up,” right?

Unfortunately Hans and Franz proved to be more deflating than a nail in a tire.

The Gemütlichkeit (ambiance) is great, with the restaurant portion sporting the typical woodenness Americans expect from a German establishment.  The enclosed biergarten outside successfully recreates a portion of what it’s like to in a true biergarten (ordering bar and communal tables). The addition of flat screen tvs add the necessary American touch for watching sporting events.

Hans and Franz Biergarten Greenville South CarolinaThe beer menu is somewhat lacking with around four German beers on tap and an additional four by the bottle.  In fact there are nearly twice as many non-German beers available and one would have thought a token Austrian beer for Arnold Schwarzenegger would have all to appropriate and warranted.  Still, the German selections don’t stink, meaning everyone can enjoy everything from .5 liters to Maß to “Das Boot.”

The food menu does its best to provide typical German specialties including a solid smattering of regional flare…exactly what you would expect for a business catering to both German and American palates. And sitting at the bar with beer in hand we were tempted to dive straight in an order a three-course meal.   However years of sub-par experiences at American German restaurants and some less than glowing reviews of Hans and Franz stirred us towards a more cautious approach.   We settled on testing the waters with a pretzel.  Traditional and hard to screw up.

Our instincts proved to be correct, as the normal appearance of the perfectly salted pretzel’s belied the truth that the pretzel had been microwaved prior to serving.  Now I’ll admit that I’m a German food snob…years of living in the country will do that to you. However there is no reason to ever microwave a German pretzel and “gummy soft” should never be used to describe the texture of a pretzel.  Also, to quote Gordon Ramsay, “Have you lost your f***ing marbles?” A microwave in the kitchen??? And if they’re microwaving a pretzel, what else are they nuking?

Needless to say the microwave made our check the most appealing option to order next.  We did just that, bottomed up on the beers, and we made for the door wanting nothing to do with paying for more potential plates of disappointment.  Our decision was later vindicated by multiple locals who confirmed that Hans and Franz is a destination for its Gutmutlichkeit and not food.

Overall Impression: Hans and Franz might be a haven for German nationals working at BMW, but tread lightly on your expectations in regards to the food as it might come up short on delivering an authentic experience. So go for the beer and consider bring your own food like people do at Biergartens in Germany.

At the End of the Day

Ultimately our beer day in Greenville ended back at the Exchange for a free tasting of Scotch Beers (can you blame us?) followed by dinner at the Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria…a great establishment for beer on tap and a more than adequate one for pizza/bar food.

Overall enjoyment was had, disappoint averted and our coffers were full of beers making the nearly 500 mile drive worth wild.  Now if only we knew our camping trip there after would be comprised of sub-freezing temperatures and the occasional 60 mph wind gusts.  At least we had plenty of beer to keep us warm.

And who said road trips aren’t fun.

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5 Responses to “Glutton Travels: Going the Distance for Beer”

  1. Jeff Greenberg says:

    Where’s Part 2? The exchange looks incredible.

  2. Eva says:

    Why is it that these German Restaurants are usually crap in North America? We had one in Bloor West Village, basement location with the necessary wood beams and barrels, but everything else was dismal. What hurts even more is that BWV is made up primarily of Eastern Europeans! It’s now an Indian Restaurant which perplexes me to the point where I’m not even the slight bit curious to try it!
    499.9 miles to travel is a long way, particularly in the winter, good for you for making this little adventure. I won’t even talk about the camping part (hats off several times to Liz).
    You might like my post today Jed, it’s pretzel bread! We had an authentic German over on Saturday for dinner and I’m not kidding when I tell you he couldn’t stop eating it. I admit it is rather addictive.
    We popped down to Buffalo over the holidays and had lunch at Gordon Biersch. I enjoyed the Märzen, love the dark, rich caramel flavours. PS Buffalo doesn’t have a lot of choice for eating establishments!

    • Jed Gray says:

      I know exactly what you mean Eva. I’ve only found one truly decent German restaurant in the US, but they changed their chef to an American guy and not surprisingly the food stinks.

      What we find over here is was I call it the Americanized German food. The authentic dishes are either tweaked or undesirably constructed so that it never tastes like it should. And I believe they can get away with it because most people don’t know what German food actually tastes like.

      Used to be a fan of Gordon Biersch (as they started in the Bay Area) but their rapid expansion has dimmed my lust for their beer. Their Maerzen though is still very steady and probably their most successful beer. Glad you enjoyed it!

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