The Great Beer Region Experiment Part 5: South Carolina

The Back Story:

The South Carolina’s Brewer’s Association is my kind of people. Representing a quickly rising beer region, their website exudes a folksiness and almost wide-eyed awe at the growth potential of craft brewers in the state. To give you an idea of how new they are to the area, here’s an excerpt from their “About Us” section:

The SCBA originally began as Pop the Cap SC in 2005. Our mission at that point was to raise the allowable alcohol content in beer from 5% abw. That goal was achieved in 2007 with the help of the SC Beer Wholesalers, Total Wine and the overwhelming support of craft beer advocates. We believe that South Carolina will greatly benefit from enhanced beer laws in the form of employment, increased tax revenue and pleasing a large number of citizens who have a increasingly growing interest in craft beer.

What speaks volumes about their dedication is, unlike some other brewer’s association sites which seem to exist solely to hype all their members whether merited or not, this relatively small collection of brewers immediately took the fight to the legislature; their most recent project, H. 4572, just passed a few months ago: “Monday at 3pm, it will be official. Retail tastings/tours/sales at breweries and tastings at retail stores. YeeHaw.”

Yes… we can’t forget the YeeHaw.

One of the leading breweries in South Carolina, Thomas Creek Brewery states very plainly their dedication to the principles of craft beer:

All of the beer styles at Thomas Creek are artfully crafted in small batches, ranging from 3.5 Barrels to 60 Barrels at a time. We use only the choicest harvest of barley and grains from across the country, the freshest hops money can buy, and propagate signature yeast strains common only to our beers.

ABS Pumpkin Lager

Lager bottom fermenting, demo from the Appalachian Brewing Society

Of course, whether or not those principles are actually adhered to can be detected in the glass. Today’s beer will be the Doppelbock Lager, a decidedly different sort of lager. One thing you might be interested to know is that up until the middle of the 19th century, pretty much any lager you could find would be dark. The current pale style that dominates the market didn’t come about until German brewers began experimenting with brewing pale ales in the lager style.

What is the “lager style,” exactly? Lager, from the German word for storage, involves a much slower, much colder brewing process that incorporates slow, bottom-fermenting yeast. Contrast this with ales, which are generally top-fermented with yeast that ferments more quickly and at higher temperatures. Indeed, the terms “lager” and “ale” have absolutely no designation whatsoever on the body, depth, color, or flavor of the beer itself.

Let’s go to the board:

The Results:

Thomas Creek Deep Water Doppelbock LagerThe appearance of the beer is almost completely opaque, slightly cloudy, with a reddish brown translucency. The carbonation is very fine, though the head retention is fairly weak, completely dissipating in under a minute.

The nose of the beer is very dark, with a strong Hershey’s syrup scent mixed with a bit of black coffee, sweet malt, and fairly prominent hops.

The mouthfeel is full-bodied, a bit harsh, with a creamy texture that gives way to a very pleasant tanginess. The carbonation remains active without frothing up your mouth.

The flavor of the beer mimics the nose. There’s a distinct chocolate and espresso component, buoyed by a very pleasant malt and hops backbone. A slight nuttiness accompanies the mid-palate, and the finish has just a hint of a metallic undertone.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is a classic test of your beer preferences. If you don’t like dark beers, stay away, as this will be bodied similar to a black ale. If you do like dark beers, the chocolate and coffee flavors will most likely please.

The Conclusion:

This was a pleasant surprise for my first beer from South Carolina. I am, of course, a fan of my dark beers, and this one didn’t disappoint. For the price, this is a phenomenal deal. 7/10

In Case You Missed It:

Beer: Deep Water Doppelbock Lager

Producer: Thomas Creek Brewery

Region: Greenville, South Carolina

Vintage: n/a

Alcohol: 6.25%

pH: unknown

Price: $1.80 per 12 oz bottle

Purchased at: A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, NC

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