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He knows beer
Posted Monday, November 1, 2004 - 10:27 pm

By Clayton Kale
STAFF WRITER
ckale@upstatelink.com


 


  More info  
[ where to get it ]

RJ Rockers brews are served in many places around the Upstate, but here are a few of the heavy hitters:

- Terry's Tap Room
- Sonny's Brickoven Pizza
- Miyako Sushi Group
- Guitar Bar
- Delaney's
- Club 299
- Billy D's
- Greenville/Spartanburg Airport
- Barley's
- Trio
- Wild Wing Café

RJ Rockers recently started bottling their beers, which can be purchased at specialty beer distributors such as Oasis on Southport Road in Spartanburg.
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    It started as a hobby.

    It turned into a restaurant.

    Now, it's just about where he wants it.

    Mark Johnsen has been brewing beer for about a decade. He learned how when he was a soldier stationed in Germany.

    When his wife told him he couldn't make any more beer at the house, it wasn't a problem. He started a restaurant in Spartanburg's Morgan Square, and RJ Rockers was born.

    "I'm a brewer, not a restaurateur," Johnsen admits, but he thought that operating a brewpub would be the best way for him to get the RJ Rockers name out. The downtown bar did well, serving beer brewed literally in- house, but Johnsen said he had different ideas for his beers. He wanted to be a microbrewery.

    But because South Carolina laws regarding alcohol are strict, he couldn't be both a microbrewery and a brewpub.

    "It was one or the other." So, when Delaney's approached him about buying the bar, it worked out.

    Now, RJ Rockers Brewing Company is a full-time beer-making operation.

    Nestled in a warehouse district off Business 85, the brewery has plenty of room for all the vats, fermenters, kettles, filters and grains needed to make large amounts of beer.

    Four of the brews are made year-round: Patriot Pale Ale, Bald Eagle Brown, Spartanburg Stout and Liberty Light. And he also makes a seasonal brew. Johnsen just started making the winter brew, The First Snow Ale.

    But perhaps one of the most important parts of the process is found on the wall of the cooler. About six taps line the wall. It's for "sampling and quality control," Johnsen jokes, where a "distinguished panel" meets about once a week.

    The beers are shipped to either a distributor in Easley or Asheville, and the beers go from there to restaurants around the state.

    Not bad for a brewery that has one full-time employee. Of course, the "distinguished panel" of Johnsen's friends lends a hand at golf tournaments and other Rockers-sponsored events.


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