There are two breweries in Greenville starting with Blue Ridge Brewing (blueridgebrewing.com; 217 North Main St.), whose pale ale Ogletree admires. He knows the 16-year-old brewpub is popular for serving wild game (you can literally order a flight of meats from antelope to wild boar), but, being a vegetarian, he sticks with their decent veggie burgers. And a few miles outside the downtown area, Thomas Creek Brewery (thomascreekbeer.com; 2054 Piedmont Highway) is the father-son operation of Bill and Tom Davis since 1998, brewing up some rafting-themed beers as Class IV IPA and, well, Up the Creek Extreme IPA (gushing with 12.5 percent ABV and with a raging torrent of 111 IBUs).
Back in Athens in the trendy Five Points neighborhood, Aroma’s (aromaswinebar.com; 1235 S. Milledge Ave.) is a wine bar that caters to beer lovers as well with an extensive bottle list and 10 taps. As it happens, the owners also run the Five Points Bottle Shop (1655 S. Lumpkin St.) a growler filling station where you’re sure to find stuff from Georgia breweries including Red Brick Brewing. In fact, it even doubles as a homebrew supply shop, not that you’ll have time to use your mash paddle before paddling down the river.
As for lodging, consider the Hotel Indigo (athensdowntownhotel.com; 500 College Ave.) near the university. It is LEED Gold-Certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and offers what they call a “sensibly chic eco-boutique,” which means that since you’ll be preserving nature including the wild river you’re here to ride, but also that you’ll be pampered before or after roughing it along said river.
If it’s the day after your rafting trip or you oversampled local beers the night before, recharge your battery at Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods (1016 E Broad St.) less than a mile walk away from the hotel. Named after proprietor Dexter Weaver, it’s open for all three meals but what could be finer than country ham and grits to start your day? Weaver D’s motto is “Automatic for the People,” which is where that local band got the title for their classic 1992 album. Even REM surely knows that a hearty Southern breakfast will help you “Find the River” and keep you energized to paddle all day lest you find yourself “Nightswimming.” In fact, make sure you and your crew stay in the boat as your hurtle past boulders like Deliverance Rock (see sidebar) or else “Everybody Hurts.”