September 13th, 2012 | by JOHN LOCANTHI Food & Drink | Posted In: The President of Beers

President of Beers: #30

River Falls Red Ale: Thomas Creek Brewery, Greenville, South Carolina

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We're drinking the flagship craft beer from every state in the Union, counting down from 50-1, to find which is home to the President of Beers.

#30 River Falls Red Ale: Thomas Creek Brewery, Greenville, South Carolina

State: The first shots in the Civil War—or War of Northern Aggression as it’s known by the losers who started it—were fired in this state when Confederate soldiers aggressively bombarded the northerners in Fort Sumter. The state with the most trailer homes per capita has played an important, backward, role in national politics from Rep. Preston Brooks caning an abolitionist on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1856 to Strom Thurmond’s pledge to keep the “nigra race” out of the white man’s swimming pools in 1948.

Brewery: Thomas Creek Brewery began when experienced homebrewer Tom Davis started up a pub in downtown Greenville in 1998. It has since overcome both a local predilection for hard liquor—this is a place where people strive to legally make moonshine—to become the premier brewery in South Carolina, bottling 10,000 barrels a year.

Beer: River Falls Red Ale is an Irish-style red ale based on a recipe Tom Davis concocted before opening the brewery. It’s taken home its fair share of medals at Carolina brewing festivals over the years.

Difficulty of obtaining in Oregon: Moderate. Thomas Creek doesn’t distribute west of Tennessee but you can have it shipped from places like the Charleston Beer Exchange within the state.

Rating: 62.1

PHOTO: Cameron Browne

This Irish-style red ale pours with a very thick, white head. The rich aroma of rust and pennies greets you while you wait for the head to dissipate. River Falls Red Ale coats your mouth with its heavy, malty, and sweet taste that gently tapers off. Despite the script “SINK THE STATUS QUO” written on the side, Thomas Creek produces an ordinary amber ale. Not too light, not too hoppy and not too dark, it’s an amber ale.

This beer hasn’t had much to compete with much over the years.

South Carolina is known as an ass-backwards state, and craft brewing has had a rough road there. The state’s absurd mini-bottle law—people had to buy airplane bottles instead of straight shots, resulting in the stiffest drinks in the country—changed in 2004 after the South Carolina Baptist Convention decided that mini-bottles were more evil than large bottles of liquor. But the SCBC hasn’t come to the aid of beer.

Instead, it’s been up to another SCBA, the South Carolina Brewers Association, to make a difference. The group successfully lobbied to have the state’s cap on ABV increased from 6.2 percent in 2005. They helped pass a bill two years ago to allow brewery tours and beer tastings at pubs. That’s right: brewery tours have only been legal for two years in South Carolina.

As the brewing scene in North Carolina gains more recognition, it seems inevitable that its little brother to the south will continue to take strides forward, too. They tend to do that.

North Carolina increased the legal ABV limit for beer from 6 percent to 15 percent in 2005. South Carolina raised their limit to 20 percent the same year. North Carolina is the heart and soul of NASCAR, so South Carolina built the first NASCAR Speedpark—an amusement park that tries to capture all the fun and excitement of watching people drive 500 laps in an oval loop. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill football program was caught and charged with a series of major violations, so the South Carolina Gamecocks took it upon themselves to violate NCAA rules, too.

South Carolina’s brewing scene is getting better though. We’ll just have to wait until it catches up with the rest of the country...


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