What’s a visit to Columbia without a stop at River Rat? I headed to town two weekends ago specifically for
the release of the Lost Port Vanilla PorterMother’s Day weekend festivities, and was happy to spend an afternoon with the beers and brewers I adore.
After a successful launch just two months ago, River Rat Brewery has wasted no time expanding across South Carolina. Their beers have been on tap at Growler Station, Community Tap and Greenville Hop House, and I’ve had a few growlers of the Broad River Red Ale at home. Coincidentally, River Rat entered the Charleston market this past weekend while I was visiting; it was exciting to hear commercials about their beer while I was driving through the Holy City.
The latest release, the Lost Port Vanilla Porter, boasts smooth drinking with a little smokiness, a little bitterness and a lot of rich vanilla that deliciously lingers. The dark brown color and milky head give way to an unexpectedly light-feeling beer. Oh, what I’d do to have taken home a whole keg of this one!
The beer offerings aren’t the only things to change around the brewery. A gravel parking lot has transformed into a grassy escape, with picnic tables, a vast deck and room for a band. I ate lunch with brewmaster Drew–I’d had the luck of running into 2 Fat 2 Fly food truck and getting some mac-and-cheese-stuffed wings–who filled me in on the latest happenings and gave me a tour of the facilities. The biggest difference is that brewer Mark left and has been replaced with Tyler Pawelkop, a seasoned beer rep. Oddly enough, Tyler recalled our meeting back at the Community Tap Beer Festival, when he was working for Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery.
Another big difference inside: barrels. A lot of them. I was giddy to see the collection of Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels barrels in the brew space, patiently waiting to be filled with a River Rat creation. Barrel-aged stouts are one of my favorite beers, yet River Rat doesn’t currently offer a stout. Maybe they have a new beer brewing they haven’t mentioned? Or perhaps a staple such as the Hazelnut Brown or the Moncks Corner Abbey Ale will find a new home? The barrels were filled this past Tuesday, so hopefully we’ll find out soon!
While the beer is spectacular, half the fun of going to River Rat is the people: Mike wasted no time playfully scoffing at my Brewery 85 shirt, Logan and Tyler entertained at the bar, and Drew indulged my questions for more than an hour.
If any Greenvillians want to hop down to Columbia for a day at River Rat and Conquest (and Swamp Cabbage, perhaps by summer’s end), let me know!