It is hard to believe that this weekend's run of shows wraps up this year's Winter Tour, yet here we are... back in the Carolinas for three, then a mad dash back to Indiana for an afternoon St. Paddy's gig on Sunday, and that's that. Two days of sleep, one of travel, and come next week we're kicking off the Spring Tour, appropriately enough, on the first day of Spring in Williamsburg, Virginia. Where does the time go? In the rear view mirror, evidently.
The final run of Winter Tour started last night at New Groove Artisan Brewery in Boiling Springs, SC. Boiling Springs is part of the greater Spartansburg area, pretty close to the North Carolina border, in north western South Carolina. This was my second gig in the state, having played previously at Columbia Craft in, duh, Columbia... and I'll be back to play more late in the Spring Tour (By the way, those Spring dates WILL finally be announced next week!). From what I've seen it's a beautiful state, similar to North Carolina, just a bit warmer. I will say I had the worst Chinese food ever last night, but I'm pretty sure Chinese food isn't one of the things the state brags about, so no big shocker.
New Groove Artisan Brewery - Boiling Springs, SC
All beers are available on tap at the taproom. Growlers and crowlers available to-go.
New Groove is a fairly new brewery, started just under two years ago by some nice young folks who previously played in a drum line together (which explains why various sized drums served as tip jars, t-shirt displays, and so on). The building is an interesting organic sort of shape, the entire front of which is glass. Inside is very friendly, a combo of picnic tables and smaller tables, and a good sized bar on one end. Barrels are stacked along a side and back wall, and the stage area is where they intersect. The walls are filled with colorful, somewhat abstract paintings of music icons, mostly rock, but also folks like Willie Nelson, Bootsy Collins, and so on. There's a patio out front, and an assortment of board games, cornhole sets, and that sort of thing to keep one occupied while working on your beer. There was also food, but <insert standard language here...> I don't eat prior to gigs, so I can't speak to the food.
New Groove had about 12 of their brews on tap, and from what I was told they don't have any real flagships, per se, as they like to keep them rotating with new stuff. I did take their suggestions on what to start with, and while they might not yet consider them flagships, one was a gold medal winner and another was perhaps their most popular.
My first beer of the night was called Rainbow Lake (7.2%), a New England style IPA with a rich golden color, hazy, and a light head. The aroma was rather fruity, and the flavor was a nice balance of fruit and pine, but not too piney, nor too bitter. Citra, El Dorado, & Azacca a ton of wheat and oats went into this one, and they play together very nicely. Smooth and refreshing, I sipped the first half and pounded the second!
During my first set I sipped the FP (forte piano) (5.5%) pale ale. Again in the New England style (I think all of their IPAs might be), this one was a much lighter hue, a light yellow with a fluffy white head, and again hazed. The FP also had a fruity aroma, perhaps more tropical, I was thinking perhaps pineapple. Not as sweet as I expected from the aroma, the El Dorado and Citra hops are up front, and then it finishes rather light and bready on the back end... dare I say an almost dry finish, ala some of the brut brews that are growing in popularity. A pretty crispy carbonation, as well, so it was quite the thirst quencher on all fronts. FP won the gold medal at this year's South Carolina Beer Awards... so that speaks to how well executed it is. On a hot humid South Carolina afternoon this would be an ideal six pack (or growler) to have on hand.
For my set break and second set I nursed the Cole Porter (7%) American porter. Deep, dark, and rich, this one demanded a more measured sipping than the IPAs that preceded it. The color was near black with a tan head, the aroma was roasty, and the chocolate rich... a delicious beer to savor on each sip. Despite the dramatic departure from the previous IPAs, the transition was not shocking... more just an enjoyable move to a different direction.
At the end of the night I sampled one of the beers that caught my eye earlier in the evening, and I wasn't sure what to think of... the Donut Stop Believing (9.6%) Imperial Pastry Milk Stout... which was actually made with local donuts. With it being the last beer of the night, at 9.6%, I didn't want to commit to a pint, so I just did a small sample. Cinnamon was very upfront, with apple and coffee washing over it. As I said, I only did a small sample, so the cinnamon stuck with me most, which was different. Whether I would enjoy a pint probably would be dictated by whether the cinnamon continued to be so forward, of it the coffee became more dominant as I made it through the pint. I don't know the answer, but based on the sample it was an interesting beer.
My final drink of the night was the brand new Bodhran (5.7%) Irish Red Ale. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I was sipping this one as I was packing up for the night, and evidently forget to take notes of my thoughts (which is how I recall this stuff.... you didn't think I could actually remember each beer and keep all this stuff straight from night to night, did you?). I do recall enjoying it... and while I think I recall aspects of it, I could also mix up memories of other beers, so I'm not going to guess. Suffice it to say it was an Irish red ale, and it was good ;-)
The beauty of a brewery like New Groove is that you can just keep coming back here, and there will always be at least one beer on the board that is new, and others you hadn't tried, so every visit is an adventure. Unfortunately the nature of this tour makes it impossible for me to get to more than a few beers at each stop (and I can't write a meaningful review of a beer based on just one or two sips, ala a flight), so the best I can do is hope to make it back for another go at a completely different selections of beers. The folks here were kind, the crowd friendly and chatty after my show, and the beers I had were all great, so hopefully I'll make it back again some time to go another round!
Next stop, Twenty-Six Acres Brewing Company in Concord, North Carolina...
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