Brewery Local: Swamp Rabbit
Travelers Rest, South Carolina
Tucked in between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Greenville, Travelers Rest earned its name because travelers would stop there before embarking on the difficult journey into the mountains; oftentimes spending the winter waiting for the mountain snow to clear. A throwback to a time before traffic jams and chain stores, it is filled with family-oriented businesses that cater to the needs of the community.
Founded by husband and wife team of Ben and Teresa Ellis Pierson, Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom is the perfect place for today’s traveler or local to stop in for a rest. We spoke with Ben to learn more about this unique brewery and town.
Tell us about yourself and Swamp Rabbit.
After 27 years and 17 startups for other operators in the pub and brewery industry, we opened our own pub at the end of March 2014. With 10 employees, we are a brewpub which in South Carolina means that we may not distribute or sell for resale in the state, but can sell up to 2000 barrels per year in our pub. We don’t have a restaurant, but food trucks pull up Wednesday through Sunday. In the past, our building has been a post office, a special needs workshop and a coffee roasting business.
What are the brewery specs?
- 10bbl JVNW gas brewhouse
- Four 10bbl fermenters
- One 10bbl conditioning tank
- Five 10bbl serving tanks
- 1,000bbl per year production
What’s the reception been like by the locals?
We have been well received by the locals and surrounding communities. In addition to the local population, we draw from Greenville, Asheville, Marietta and Furman University.
Tell us about the city you live in.
Travelers Rest is a bedroom community and a highway pass through from the Upstate of South Carolina to western North Carolina. The Greenville Hospital System has constructed a 20 mile long paved bike and walking path from Greenville to Marietta. The path is built over the old Swamp Rabbit rail line and passes by our pub directly across the street. We are an outdoors community with many cycling clubs thanks to local resident George Hincappie.
Did you or your team have a homebrewing experience? If so, what’s the biggest difference in going from homebrewing to production brewing?
I started homebrewing in 1984. I began my professional training at Geary’s in Portland, Maine; then Goose Island in Chicago and 4 breweries in Munich and Hamburg, Germany. I have trained with David Geary, Alan Pugsley, Karl Strauss, Dan Carey, Victor Ecimovich, Horst Habberman and other German brewmasters. The biggest difference between homebrewing and production is in the level of controls of the brewery, experience and protocols. One will never be better than the protocols one employs.
What is your brewing philosophy?
My brewing philosophy is simple. One is only as good as the NEXT beer served. We are not as good as the last beer served!
What style of beers do you brew?
We produce German, Belgian, English and American style ales and lagers. We currently have a witbier, a raspberry wheat beer, Oktoberfest lager, American pale ale, a double English style IPA and a nitro chocolate brown porter on tap.
Do you have a funny story you’d be willing to share?
While brewing for the Downtown Brewing Company, I talked my spent grain farmer into taking our bock beer yeast to augment the spent grain. I warned him to mix it thoroughly with the hot grain before serving it to his giant hogs. Instead, he slopped the hogs with the yeast and alcohol without mixing. His hogs got s@#&faced and after going to the wallow pit they could not get out. It took a tractor to pull them out and he nearly drowned all his hogs. He never took yeast again!
Any exciting upcoming plans?
We are looking to expand with a second location into Greenville; same name and concept.
How has your experience been working with BSG?
BSG has been first rate with us with on time deliveries, accurate order fills, accurate recordkeeping and invoicing. It has been our pleasure to work with you over the years!