The first day of the 2021 Spring Tour actually happened on the first day of Spring: March 20th at Back Paddle Brewing in Lincolnton, Georgia. Lincolnton is a very small town in eastern Georgia that I traveled to after a visit near Athens the night before, and is in the general area of Augusta, near the South Carolina border. This is a beautiful part of rural Georgia, with lots of lakes and rivers and good grounds for hiking. When I say rural, by the way, I'm talking couldn't get a wireless signal and kept losing GPS in the area.
Back Paddle Brewing is a small nano-brewery and farm-to-table kitchen located on a corner lot in the Georgia countryside. Having opened just in time for Covid, they are finding their footing, and judging by the crowd the locals and weekend vacationers are happy to have their first brewery in the area. The taproom is a rectangular space with a bar and plenty of tables, with interesting woodwork throughout (I especially liked the barstools... so photo below), a kitchen behind the bar, and the actual brewing area at the far side of the space. The stage area was next to the brewing gear.
Back Paddle Brewing - Lincolnton, GA
Beers are available primarily at the taproom and to-go.
This was a special night on several counts. First, the official arrival of Spring is always a special day for me, a hater of winter. Second, my Ohio University Bobcats spanked UVA in the NCAA hoops tourney. On this night Back Paddle was also hosting their St. Patrick's Day celebration (St. Paddy's having landed on a Wednesday this year, and this being the following weekend). This was actually the third St. Paddy's Day event I played this week, and I have to say it was my favorite, as the kitchen had a fantastic authentic Irish menu for the event. The menu was so fantastic (and popular) that they had sold out of Shepherd's Pie and Bangers & Mash by the time I got there, but I did get to feast on the corned beef and potatoes, which was spectacular.
The crowd was at full (reduced) capacity throughout the night, and unfortunately due to the COVID restrictions I did see several parties of people be turned away throughout the night. On the one hand you have stick to the rules for the greater good, but on the other hand it's frustrating to have to struggle through such a trying time and then have to turn away business when you need it most. Regardless, it was a testament to the popularity of this new brewery with the local community, and it's always good to see all of the available seats filled!
Back Paddle attracts a well rounded crowd, from young families with little ones to older families with grown kids, to couples just out for a night on the town. Enthusiasm was high for the music, which always makes my night better, and we had a fun night with lots of good conversation and banter mixed in with the music.
Sticking with the Irish theme, I started off with the No Luck At All (4.4%) Irish Stout. A nice dark, nearly black pour with a creamy tan head, No Luck At All was faithful to the stout tradition, and delivered exactly what you'd expect and hope for in an Irish stout. A bit creamy, coffee overtones and hints at chocolate, this was a nicely done stout that I could spend an evening with.
Most breweries these days you're lucky to even encounter a stout, much less more than one option, but Back Paddle doubles down with its Couldn't See the Ground (8.8%) Imperial/Double Stout. Irish, at least, in the sense that it is a stout, but this brew covered some ground that Guinness could only dream about. Clocking in at 8.8% ABV, that's packing twice the punch of Guinness... and the toasty malts and hints at dark chocolate delivered a more robust sip as well. Nice and creamy, a little boozy but not too much so, this was a fine pint and totally appropriate for the St. Paddy's festivities. Rich in aroma as well as on the palate, this one was like grad school for stouts. Very enjoyable.
Sticking within the realm of the Celtic Nations, I also enjoyed the Battle of Dunvegan (5.2%) Scotch Ale. Scotch ales are a variety that are pretty hit-and-miss to me... they can easily be overdone and be a bit too much. Sometimes they are too malty, other times a bit sappy, others can be kinda sweet and syrupy, so it seems rare to get one that is just right. I enjoyed Back Paddle's offering. Bold and full bodied, the malts were definitely dominant, but not obnoxiously so, and while I say full-bodied it was also nice a crisp with a fairly clean finish, therefore not having some of the sappy remnants I often dislike in the finish.
Beyond the Celtic inspired brews that I chose to focus on today, these guys do have a full, well-rounded menu that consists of IPAs, gose, lagers, etc. and has a steady rotation of options and new brews, so I don't want to leave the impression that they are all about one particular strain... they cover all bases. They may be well off the beaten path, but if you find yourself in the Augusta or Athens regions Back Paddle is well worth the scenic drive to seek them out. Tell them I sent you!
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