GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – What started with a home-brewing kit in Alaska has turned into one of Greenville’s most prolific breweries. In an old cotton warehouse on Hampton Avenue, you’ll find Birds Fly South Ale Project.   

The brewery’s name comes from the relocations Shawn Johnson and his wife and brewery co-founder Lindsay made during Shawn’s Coast Guard career. 

“First duty station after marriage was Kodiak, Alaska. [We] quickly found out we’re not strong winter people, so Birds Fly South kind of began from there,” Johnson explained. “We wanted to be close to downtown, be close to the Swamp Rabbit Trail because we’re big bikers ourselves so that’s part of the draw in being in Greenville anyway. So this area just kind of fit.”

One year, they brewed 83 types of beer!  They’ve knocked that down to 48, with 14 to 20 available at any one time. 

Their number one seller is Blueprint, an American IPA with guava. It was a gold medal winner at the U.S. Open for fruit IPA. 

The brewery also uses farmhouse brewing, which is a style derived from old European farms. Their award-winning Saison farmhouse beer, Rustic Sunday, is one such beer. 

“We try to brew everything by hand in our farmhouse beers,” he said.  

That’s not the only thing that makes Birds Fly South unique. 

“One of our core principles is relentless exploration. So as brewers, we don’t like to settle. We always try to figure out new beers and push ourselves to become better at everything,” Johnson said.   

“We do open fermentation, so we allow ambient fermentation inside of our products, so the actual flora and environment kind of influences each of our beers and Saisons that we do,” he explained.  

With the open space in the brewery and the large tables for people to gather, it’s about bringing people together. It’s about community at Birds Fly South. 

Community works two ways. Bringing people together for conversation is one. Helping neighbors is another. Birds Fly South is involved in multiple projects to that end. 

Each year since they’ve been open, they’ve been a part in OktoberForest. OktoberForest is a collaboration with Greenville Water and the Nature Conservancy, promoting clean forests and clean water.

Other projects they’ve been involved with include: 

  • Proceeds from their Fat Ma Pilsner, named after a legendary area bootlegger, go to area homeless shelters.  
  • Annual contributions to JDRF to research and fight Type 1 diabetes. 
  • Working with Parimer Scientific in Easley to provide the alcohol base for hand sanitizer during the pandemic. 

Shawn said it’s all a part of the job. 

”If you’re going to have a brewery, you need to be supportive and help promote community. Our mantra, our motto inside this company is ‘be a community, grow a community.’ It’s what we say every day, its on little placards around the brewery, it’s everything we do,” he said.  

Enjoy responsibly.