By Jake Grove
Photography by Craig Mahaffey ’98
Illustrations by Chris Koelle

Six South Carolina craft breweries creating a distinctly Clemson flavor

The craft beer world is moving, changing and growing with every brewery that opens its doors. Since 2014, the number of independent craft breweries in the United States has nearly doubled to more than 7,400.  And each year, multiple craft breweries are popping up in communities large and small. 

From the shores of New Jersey to the mountains of Colorado and even the far-off reaches of Nicaragua, craft breweries are rich with Clemson alumni. They graduated in fields as diverse as bioengineering, travel and tourism, architecture, and computer science, but it was the craft beer industry that called them to use what they learned in college and apply it to a niche market. 

The key to craft beer and its people, however, is the connections. Like the Clemson Family, the brewing world is close knit, inclusive and tends to go out of its way to help each other.

Time constraints don’t allow us to include every brewery with Clemson ties. Here we focus on three from the South Carolina Upstate and three from the Lowcountry.

Amid the roar of Interstate 85, nestled in the Piedmont woods between exits 32 and 34, you will find a small sanctuary known as Golden Grove Farm and Brew. Owned by Andrew and Sarah Brown, Golden Grove grew from Andrew’s homebrewing during his student days at Clemson. 

Between classes and helping book gigs for the likes of The Marcus King Band, Andrew spent time brewing wine, cider and eventually beer with his buddies in a small apartment just off campus. The setup wasn’t much, but it was enough to plant the seed that would grow into one of the most rural breweries in the Upstate. 

“I was working in the music industry [managing a band], and we were traveling a lot. That’s where I saw the craft beer boom,” Andrew says. “Anytime I went anywhere, I was hitting a brewery along the way — I just jumped right in as soon as I could.”

During his final semester, Andrew interned as an assistant brewer at Quest Brewing Co. in Greenville. After that, he wasted no time getting his own business started. His grandfather owned 100 acres of woodland in Piedmont that was barely being used. The home on the property had recently burned down, and the outbuilding there had been used, unbeknownst to the owners, as a poker house before the renter was busted for his illegal activities. 

But Andrew and Sarah didn’t see the space as a beat-up old poker house. Instead they envisioned somewhere a small 30-gallon brewing system might be set up. They saw a disc golf course, a fire pit, a stage for local musicians to gather, taco nights on Tuesday and wings cooked on Wednesday. 

All they had to do was clean it up a little.

“This place was rough, but once we got the junk cleared out and started to see what we had, it really came together,” Andrew says. 

By 2015, the brewery was licensed. He and Sarah brought on Graham Temples Ph.D. ’16 as a brewer and Jackson Sparks ’08, head of social media and graphics. 

Later that year, they were ready to start brewing a few batches of beer based on Andrew and Graham’s recipes. By spring 2016, Andrew and Sarah were opening on Fridays and Saturdays; today they are a seven-day-a-week operation, putting out 30 gallons with each batch and open to the public Monday – Saturday. 

When we last spoke, Andrew was clearing away tons of lumber for an expansion project. It will offer more space to ramp up production and offer amenities to RV campers and even Airbnb possibilities. They are growing the disc golf course and outdoor stages and have plans for play areas for kids and dogs. 

And all of it, Andrew says, had its genesis with the culture of Clemson and the opportunities they were afforded there. 

“Clemson is in you,” he says. “The core four of us at Golden Grove are all Clemson alums, so we were family even before we were family, if that makes sense.”

BEER LIST

Varies, but they brew classic styles like pilsners, pale ales, IPAs and porters. Their flagship beer is Gov’t Cheese American IPA

When it comes to degrees that might help in the craft beer world, you couldn’t do much better than travel and tourism and communication. And even though craft beer wasn’t exactly on his radar when he graduated in 2008, Will McCameron soon found a passion for the industry, leading him and his wife, Meredith, to open Brewery 85 in 2014. 

Brewery 85 sits in an industrial park on top of a hill that overlooks Interstate 85 in Greenville. It’s the kind of location that is typical of the craft beer world — a large warehouse with easy access to a major thoroughfare of traffic from all over the state. It’s the kind of location that lends itself to growth and sustainability, Will says, with plenty of space for events and even more for new needs and dreams as they arise. 

“After I graduated, I went working for some local breweries and got a passion for it,” Will says. “I wasn’t ready to uproot [from my hometown], so I started with the family company [fire protection sprinkers] and worked toward what I really wanted to do.”

Will and Meredith were engaged before they graduated from Clemson, so they have been in this dream together since the beginning. The couple started making wine and homebrews together shortly after they met. It was their outlet as well as a way to perfect a few recipes and see if there was something to the idea of opening a brewery one day. 

Will eventually quit the family business and studied brewing in Chicago and Germany. Meredith continued putting pieces together back home, readying for the day it would all come together. 

Bit by bit, Brewery 85 was becoming less and less a dream and more a reality.

In 2014, Brewery 85 opened its doors for the first time. Today, they are one of the largest craft breweries in the Upstate, producing beers like GVL IPA, 864 Weizen, Quittin’ Time Helles Bock and Yeoman’s American Brown Ale. The styles reflect Will’s German brewing education, including the Helles styles they have become known for. 

Brewery 85 hosts multiple community events every year including a farmers market, charity fundraising, food truck rodeos and those associated with Greenville’s Craft Beer Week. But it’s the culture Will found and built within himself at Clemson that continues to resonate today: 

“I was a citizen of Clemson my entire college career, and that always made me want to do right by people,” he says. “Every time I am about to make a decision that would impact people, I think about Clemson and about how I would want that decision to come back around to me.”

BEER LIST

Flagships like GVL IPA and 864 Weizen can be found all over South Carolina, while specialty beer releases occur throughout the year and are taproom only

Allison Butterbaugh remembers her beer days at Clemson, and it’s safe to say that craft beer wasn’t exactly at the forefront of her mind. Instead of a robust, complex double IPA from Nick’s Tavern & Deli, Allison was more of a $2 pitcher-night person at Tiger Town Tavern. 

Then, she met her future husband, Alex, and things went a little differently than she might have expected. 

“Our first date was at Delaney’s Irish Pub [in Spartanburg], and I ordered a Coors Light,” Allison says. “Alex asked me to try a few things, and it changed my outlook, for sure.”

It’s been a few years, but that new outlook has resulted in a new brewery in Seneca. At Keowee Brewing, Alex showcases his brewing know-how, while Allison offers the kind of expertise that comes from years as a food scientist working in the dairy industry, including a current stint with Clemson at ’55 Exchange.

Allison was on the dairy judging team at Clemson, and after graduating, she moved to Wisconsin where she honed her palate as a professional dairy judge in the state for 10 years. Her job was to pick up sensory defects in cheese and other products while showcasing some of the nation’s and world’s best cheeses. 

But 10 years away from her immediate family and her Clemson Family took a toll; in summer 2017, the couple moved back to be closer to both. 

Allison started work with Clemson’s ’55 Exchange as a manager of food science, nutrition and packaging science. In the meantime, she and Alex began working on the business plan of what would become Keowee Brewing. 

“The intention was always to get back to South Carolina and closer to family,” Allison says. “The brewery was always in the plans, so we bought the building just a few months after moving back.”

Now, the building has been upfitted, the brewing equipment is running, and the doors opened in June. Alex and Allison offer a wide variety of styles, but focus on IPAs at Keowee Brewing, including the popular hazy IPA style. And with each batch, Allison sees her dairy and beer worlds colliding in ways she never expected. 

“Beer and cheese are fascinating worlds, and I have learned so much about quality and sensory analysis at Clemson that goes hand in hand with what I can do with beer,” Allison says. “Alex is the brewer, and I can help with the intricate flavors of hops and malts and how those should taste.”

Expect to taste those colliding worlds at Keowee Brewing: Allison says she plans to put together beer and cheese pairings that offer an educational aspect as well as a fun and flavorful one.

As for the brewery itself, Allison and Alex have built it as a community space where the whole family is welcome.

BEER LIST

Focusing on IPAs, especially New England-style, hazy IPAs, but will incorporate dark beers and, eventually, some barrel-aged beer

Jamie Martin was no stranger to Clemson when he decided to apply and enroll there. His father and his grandfather had attended, along with aunts, uncles, cousins and plenty of friends. He is a third-generation Clemson alumnus and hopes that one (or both) of his children will be as well. 

Until then, he will raise them in the world of craft beer, which is a first for his family tree. But the way he got into craft beer was slow, winding and had more than a few Clemson connections along the way. 

Jamie grew up in the South Carolina Upstate when companies like Bosch, BMW and Slazenger were all growing in the area. He saw that as a great opportunity to prepare for a life in human resources and planned his major accordingly. 

A chance meeting with a Clemson alumnus who offered him a job with Upjohn, which later became Pfizer, would start him on a journey that began in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and quickly send him back south to Charleston.

He worked with that company for nearly 15 years right out of college and during that time developed an affinity for craft beer — so much so that when the industry he dedicated his life to started laying off most of his friends and the stress became too much, he convinced his wife to take their retirement and savings and invest in something a little different. 

Like any business, Jamie started from the top down. He didn’t have all the technical brewing knowledge necessary to kick things off, so he went out to recruit brewers that fit the growing Charleston craft beer scene and that held a similar philosophy to beer that he did. He didn’t want to name his beers anything strange or crazy, he didn’t want to overwhelm his customers with experimental recipes, and he wanted a place where everyone could be comfortable for a few hours and enjoy each other’s company.

When Cooper River Brewing Co. opened in 2015, it was one of only a handful of breweries in the area. Today, there are dozens of breweries all over Charleston and its surrounding communities, including eight within a mile of where Cooper River Brewing sits. The taproom is climate controlled with a laid-back feel, producing beers that Jamie describes as “unique ales traditionally brewed.” 

You can see the brewing in action while listening to music over speakers and playing giant Jenga or darts. Jamie’s key to success? “Just don’t be a jerk, and everything will be fine.”

BEER LIST

Flagship beers include their IPA, Orange Infused Blonde Ale and Golden Ale, but they dabble in stouts, wheat beers and even an ESB (English Special Bitter)

Things are a little bit different when you visit Ghost Monkey Brewing in Mount Pleasant. It’s not the atmosphere, necessarily. After all, plenty of breweries have come out of a warehouse space and sit off the beaten path with an open-air taproom and chalkboards that highlight the beers on draft that day. No, it’s something else. It’s the way Jim, his partners and his staff have built Ghost Monkey over the last three years. 

It’s something that anyone who knows anything about Clemson would probably get. 

“Clemson always felt like a place where everyone is welcome, and that’s what I think Ghost Monkey is,” Jim says about the brewery, where kids’ toys and games share the same space as music trivia nights and specialty beer releases. 

For his part, Jim’s path to craft beer went smack through Clemson’s computer science department. He and his friends, fellow computer science majors, would visit a homebrew store in Pendleton for extract supplies to brew basic beer and would pick up mixed six packs at the nearby Plez U Wall of Beer to see how they were supposed to taste. 

Admittedly, he said, his first batches were not good. He tried to make them in a hot apartment during sweltering Southern days and threw out every batch but one. But he never lost the passion for it. By the time he moved to Charleston for a civilian job with the Navy in 2003, he was brewing regularly with a local brew club and collecting recipes that would one day fill the taps at his own brewery. 

It wasn’t until 2015 that Jim dove into large-batch brewing. He relied on friends in the business to help him understand the differences between homebrewing and business brewing, and he took advice where he could get it. 

“The craft beer industry doesn’t do a lot of competition,” he says. “We try to lift people up. I think the same about Clemson.”

Ghost Monkey is one of the only breweries in the state that doesn’t have bartenders rely on tips. Jim pays a living wage, and all tips collected go to a local charity. Not bad for showing that Clemson spirit. 

BEER LIST

Wide range of beers that are locally distributed, but mostly come from the taproom including IPAs, sours, porters, stouts and brown ales

A native of Aiken, South Carolina, David McLain knew early on that he wanted to work in a field like math or science. By the time he graduated high school, it was engineering that piqued his interest. It’s why he made his way to Clemson in the late 1990s, and it’s what gave him a successful career after graduation in sales for engineering companies.

It’s also what took him to Charleston in the early 2000s, where he worked as a sales rep, jumped in with a software startup and was eventually introduced to a hobby that would become his life’s work: brewing beer. 

From 2011 to 2014, David worked his day job at the software firm while developing recipes in his garage using equipment he fabricated himself. He was mentored by locals who worked in the craft beer industry, and in 2014, he took the leap into building the brand and brewery for Fatty’s Beer Works. 

“It’s an interesting conversation to tell your family you are going to drop your six-figure job and open a brewery,” David says. “But it was something I felt like I needed to do, and it’s only grown.”

Today, Fatty’s, embracing the nickname David earned from his Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers, is thriving in the ever-growing Charleston beer market. Most of the equipment used has his engineering fingerprints on it. The taproom is an open-air space that elicits memories of his years at Clemson with video games like Golden Tee Golf and Ms. Pac-Man joined up with brain teasers and old couches for customers to relax on. 

As for the beers? Well, you can learn a lot about them from the menu where the time-traveling character, Fatty, will weave a tale about how that beer came to be and why it’s an important part of the brewery’s lineup. Like the year 1905 in Berne, Switzerland, when Fatty looked on as Einstein unveiled his quantum theory of light, the idea that light exists as tiny packets, or particles that Einstein called photons. That was the inspiration for Photon Blonde Ale, a staple of Fatty’s taproom. 

Or 1861 in Charleston, where Fatty sat drinking an India pale ale when Edmund Ruffin fired the first shots on Fort Sumter, inspiring the name First Shot IPA for today’s beer lovers. 

Look for David’s own influence on history this fall in his orange Fatty’s Beer Works blazer. It’s become a tradition at the taproom and his own good luck charm that the Clemson Tigers might earn another shot at the football National Championship. 

BEER LIST

Flagship beer, First Shot India Pale Ale, is the recipe that David developed in his garage. They also offer blonde ales, ESBs, hazy IPAs, sours, stouts and dark beer selections that rotate throughout the year

OTHER ALUMNI-RELATED BREWERIES

Find breweries with alumni-related ties on the map below. Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments box below.

Jake Grove is a senior writer in University Relations at Clemson University.

5 replies
  1. Bob Castles says:

    Great article…
    Don’t forget LO-Fi Brewing in Charleston!
    Owner – Jason Caughman (’00)

    …and if any of you happen to need some labels, I might know a guy (and gal).
    Brightfish Label in Largo, FL
    Owned by myself (’01) and Jamie Castles (’01)

    Reply

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