Mrs Velkyal and I spent the weekend in Greenville, South Carolina. It was Mrs V's best friend's 30th birthday and so naturally we jumped in the car and drove 6 hours to hang out with her and her husband for a few days. It had been planned for Mrs V and friend to have a girl's night out on Saturday, and so I arranged to meet up with a chap called Dan who follows Fuggled and shares many of the same passions as myself, unrepentant Germanophilia and a love of lager to start with. It would also be an opportunity to see some a sample of Greenville's pub life, and so a pub crawl of sorts was planned.
We started off at a place called The Velo Fellow, which advertises itself as a "Publick House" and claims on their website that they aim to "pay homage to the ongoing British publick house tradition". Given my experience of "British" pubs on this side of the Atlantic I was a little wary - the usual approach is to put fish n'chips on the menu, give yourself a pseudo-British pub name, often involving dogs and horses and hey presto, you have a bog standard American bar posing as British. We walked in and it was almost love at first sight. A ramshackle collection of wooden tables and chairs, a leather sofa with unmatching high backed armchairs and a bare wooden floor, we took a table right in the middle. The five beers they had on tap spanned a range of styles (side cynical note, it isn't impressive to have dozens of taps all flowing with variations of pale ale), including the Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner. A sample was tried and a pint soon followed, in an American sized pint nonic glass. I was enjoying myself, and several more pints followed. If we hadn't had a plan, I would have happily not moved all night.
We had a plan however, and so we wandered off to pub number 2, Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria. When we arrived in Greenville on Thursday we had gone to Barley's for dinner, and their 18" pizzas are delicious. Very much a beer bar with a good selection of brews, we found a perch at the bar and got a couple of Sierra Nevada Summerfest in, and took in the busy vibe. The two trips to Barley's has by and large convinced me that American lagers are better on draft than in the can or the bottle. While I like bottled Summerfest, on draft it really steps up a notch. My one gripe though was that it was one of only a handful of lagers on the menu. A couple of pints downed, and conversation ranging from political theory, football and why proper German bratwurst is wonderful, we moved next door.
Owned by the same people as Barley's, I believe, is The Trappe Door, a basement bar that focuses on Belgian beer, was the name a give away? Again taking a couple of seats at the bar, I decided to change the tack on the beer a little bit. Now, I know I am a heretic when I say this, but I have never been a fan of Belgian beer, or at least the sweet, funky, fruity weirdness that passes for Belgian beer. What I do like though is sour beers. Ever since Evan Rail introduced me to gueuze back in Prague, I have loved the tart sharp tang of sour beer. On the menu was Petrus Oud Bruin, and so I introduced Dan to the delights of sour beer. I should point out that when I go to the pub I rarely bother with tasting notes any more, a pub is for socialising, not using your smart phone to ponce about on anti-social media. In some ways Trappe Door reminded me of the basement at Pivovarský klub, I liked it muchly.
Moving on, we headed up to the Blue Ridge Brewing Company, a brewpub that I have written about before, and which I think does a decent job. We paid the fleetest of flying visits, downing a pint of Curli Blonde before heading to last pub on the list, Nose Dive - a clean, modern bar with decent beer and a young clientele. After a short while at Nose Dive, word came that we should meet up with Mrs V and friends at a wine bar down the street called On The Roxx, where a collective decision was taken to head back to the rough comforts of The Velo Fellow for more laughter, pilsner and good times.
We had an excellent night out, drank inordinate amounts of beer, and discovered at least one very serious contender for the Fuggled Best Pub in America 2011. If there were more pubs like The Velo Fellow in the States, it would be a very good thing. We will be back for more!