On January 7, the University of Alabama football team will take on Clemson University for the NCAA Championship. In the college football playoff era, it’s the third time the teams have met, with each side winning once. Victory will mean a huge day for either Tuscaloosa (population: 100,000) or Clemson and the rest of Upstate South Carolina (Clemson’s population hovers around 17,000).
For locals who prefer watching the game with a cold beer in hand, both Tuscaloosa and the Upstate offer several solid options. Football may be king in these parts of the South, but local craft beer isn’t far behind.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama Breweries
The craft beer scene in Alabama has seen a recent surge, thanks to brewery-friendly changes in state and local law. Ten years ago, you couldn’t legally buy a beer in Alabama with an alcohol-by-volume content above 6 percent. That law changed in 2009, and three years later Tuscaloosa updated local ordinances to allow breweries and brewpubs in the city limits.
The first brewery to take advantage of these changes in Tuscaloosa was Druid City Brewing Company. Taking its name from the city’s moniker as “The Druid City,” Druid City Brewing Company has a core lineup of 6 beers and a taproom open 7 days a week. The outdoor patio is a great place to sample the hearty Riverside Saison, a 9.2 percent ABV Belgian-inspired brew with New Zealand Pacific Jade hops.
Black Warrior Brewing Co. also has a locally-inspired name, taken from the Black Warrior River. With a brewery and taproom in downtown Tuscaloosa, just across the street from City Hall, it’s a convenient stop for locals or visitors. Refreshment is key at Black Warrior, with draft offerings including Apricot Wheat, brewed with Willamette hops and apricots. The summer seasonal Sipsey Strawberry Blonde continues that trend by amping up the brewery’s Bama Blonde with ripe strawberries.
The newest brewery in Tuscaloosa is Band of Brothers Brewing Co. Band of Brothers was started by a pair of brothers (hence the name) and has received high marks for its Voodoo Mild, an English Dark Mild Ale. The brewery frequently hosts food trucks and live music to accompany its selection of house-brewed draft beers.
It doesn’t matter which team you’re rooting for in the NCAA National Football Championship. As long as you enjoy good beer, Tuscaloosa is in the game.
Upstate South Carolina Breweries
While there are no breweries in the city of Clemson itself, you don’t have to travel far to find good craft beer. For a long while, craft beer did not have much of a presence in the northwestern half of South Carolina. Despite having two of the state’s major cities — Greenville and Spartanburg — only a relatively small amount of breweries existed. That has changed in recent years as the population (and popularity) of the area has soared.
The closest brewery to Clemson, Carolina Bauernhaus, is located about 20 miles away in Anderson, South Carolina. A farmhouse brewery, Carolina Bauernhaus prides itself on not having a flagship beer, instead opting to produce beers, ciders, and meads that utilize wild yeasts and local ingredients. Depending on the season, you’ll be able to find everything from barrel-aged ales with peaches to goses with local jalapeños and more.
Heading up the road to Greenville, Birds Fly South Ale Project has become a standout brewery in the city. Located in Hampton Station (a former mill turned brewery-art-gallery-taco-shop-axe-throwing-place), BFS is a farmhouse brewery in an urban setting that offers up a range of products from Rumblefish, their tropically-inspired farmhouse ale made with Calypso and Citra hops to their imperial stout Wolves in the Piano, brewed with maple syrup, fermented with two different yeasts, and aged in bourbon barrels.
The oldest brewery in Greenville (and the second-oldest in the state), Thomas Creek Brewery is a must for anyone looking to see how and where Upstate South Carolina’s beer scene got started. Producing beer since 1998, Thomas Creek has made many-a Upstater satiated with beers like their flagship, River Falls Red Ale, or their Trifecta IPA, a collaboration with local beer shop and bar, The Community Tap.