The building now home to Birds Fly South was built in 1930 and began as a cotton warehouse. Lindsay said that it had been used as a warehouse for other goods and random things until Birds Fly South made it their home.
Shawn set out to create a brewery unlike any other in Greenville. Built on wild brewing and open fermentation, they began this new career by brewing in a corner of the Thomas Creek Brewery, serving their beer at local beer festivals, restaurants, and tap rooms.
It took 18 months to open Birds Fly South Ale Project in Hampton Station. It’s not easily seen from a main road and it is literally on the other side of the tracks, but the location and space perfectly match the spirit and style of beer that Birds Fly South Ale Project is creating.
And for Lindsay and Shawn, who retired from the Coast Guard on October 1, 2016 to run the Project full time, the birds have found their nest. "When we told people that we were moving to Greenville, everyone who had been here before told us 'You're going to love it!" said Lindsay. "They were right."
These days, there are so many different beer styles and breweries. However, every beer contains hops and grain, along with water and yeast. The combination of these, along with other ingredients added at different stages of the brewing process as well as how it is brewed and potentially aged, gives every beer its own distinct characteristics.
Hops are used in brewing and usually give a bitter, citrus taste to the beer. Hops are a flower grown on a vine, but are often made into pellets for ease of use.
There are numerous types of hops, each adding their own distinct flavor and taste to the beer that they are used to brew. These galaxy hops give an aroma that is like a combination of citrus and passion fruit.
The brewing community in Greenville is one of collaboration and sharing. Birds Fly South gets yeast or other ingredients from Quest and Thomas Creek when they need it. They have collaboration beers with other breweries like Thomas Creek, RJ Rockers, and the soon to open in Taylors Mill, 13 Stripes.
Many breweries use conical shaped tanks for the brewing process, which allows for the yeast to be collected at the bottom and used again. At Birds Fly South, the yeast is collected by hand from the top of the tank and then reused. The strains of yeast, bacteria, and other things are collected in the wild and not grown in the lab, which gives "wild brewing" its meaning.
Shawn pours beer for testing into a graduated cylinder. The beer is regularly tested and tasted for various aspects and characteristics. Then, the results are written on the outside of the tank along with the date in dry erase marker.
Using a hydrometer, Shawn measures the specific gravity of the beer fresh from the tank. This allows for the brewer to see how the beer is progressing during the fermentation process and to know when it is ready for the next step.
These foudres were made in Italy and used to hold red wine. Now, they hold beer for aging. They have also been christened with musician names, like all the large vessels in the brewery, such as Bob Dylan, the largest one seen above. "If one starts leaking, they have to hand make the replacement piece in Italy. It's a long and expensive process," said Shawn.
Some of the barrels stored at Birds Fly South are from another Greenville brewery, Quest. "They didn't have the space to store the barrels and also put in a new canning line. We have the space, so we let them store the barrels here in exchange for use of their canning line in the future," said Shawn.
Brewing takes place here, but it's not a brewery by name. "We call it an 'Ale Project' and not a brewery because each beer really is a project. We don't know what [the beer's] going to be like until it tells us. It's always evolving."
On the way his beer is brewed, Shawn says that Birds Fly South uses "a lot of the old brewing techniques. That's why our tagline is 'Progressively Old School.' We like to use all of these old, tried and true techniques to create modern beer."
The decor of the brewery and Tasting Room is modern farmhouse chic. New pieces help to accentuate the old rusticness of the building, only adding to its charm.
Since opening the brewery, the Tasting Room has been very popular. "Every day we're open, it's been steady," states Lindsay. "We have our regulars and they bring people to try it. People bring friends and family in from out of town so they can try our beer. It's really fun."
Lindsay and Shawn say they've had to work out the kinks of the brewery and Tasting Room as they've gone along. They didn't know if there would be a big crowd at their grand opening. It was a packed house. Due to lack of signage, people were parked down every street and walking some distance to get to the event. "We've had to learn and adjust quickly," chuckled Lindsay.
The Tasting Room is open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for pints, flights, and growler fills.
Flights are a great way for people to sample different beers and find what they like without having to commit to drinking a whole pint.
Ames sets up a flight and gets ready to serve it to a thirsty patron.
This flight consists of Biggie Mango, RumbleFish, Carrot Ginger Saison, and the Sour Persimmon Wit.
Glenn and Laura say "Cheers!"
Paper Airplanes, an American Wild Ale, and Brand New Eyes, a Saison/Farmhouse Ale, are two of the popular bottled offerings that can be found at the brewery and around Greenville.
As for the future, Hampton Station is growing rapidly. Asheville-based White Duck Taco is scheduled to open next door to Birds Fly South in February, which will bring more people and new clientele to the location. To go along with this growth, Shawn is hoping to expand. "I'd like to knock down a wall in the back and have a section that's a clean brewery to go along with our wild and farmhouse style beers," said Shawn. While the clean brewery would be more in line with what most breweries do, when done the Birds Fly South way, it will be anything but what most breweries do.
Tasting Room Hours: Thursday 4-9pm
Friday & Saturday 2-9pm
1320 Hampton Ave Ext
Greenville, SC 29601
Writer: Russell Sanford