Greenville Craft Beer Festival 2014

On a cool, sunny Saturday morning, Fluor Field came to life with tents, taps and a throng of enthusiastic beer lovers. The Greenville Craft Beer Festival‘s second annual run proved a huge success, with a large crowd tackling more than 30 breweries and attending beer classes.

I had a fantastic time pouring and chatting at the Brewery 85 tent; craft beer drinkers are always the nicest! I saw a ton of familiar faces as well as a met a few new craft connoisseurs Thank you to the readers who stopped and said hi!

My favorite part, though, was spending the afternoon with the freshest face on the scene: my brother, who was celebrating his 25th birthday that day (thank for the Catawba Brewing Company glass, Billy!). I was proud to introduce him to the joys of beer fest drinking, and he offered intriguing new perspectives on beers. My favorite of the afternoon was when he took a whiff of an IPA and deduced it “smells like the downstairs while mom is cooking spaghetti.” I was floored by such a unique description.

When it was all said and done, I had the pleasure of heading to Mac’s Speedshop with a Brewery 85 regular and new friends for even more memorable beer drinking.

My sampling total was underwhelming this timejust 29 beers!but I still found a few new favorites:

  1. Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal and Celebration
  2. Lagunitas DayTime
  3. Natty Greene’s Red Nose Winter
  4. Unknown‘s Pregame Session – The festival was this NC brewery’s first visit to Greenville. Hopefully we’ll see more of their beers soon.

I was also more focused on experiencing the festival with my brother than taking photos, so for GCBF images, visit the Facebook page or check out Marv Parker’s photos at HeadforBeer.com.

Did you attend the beer festival? What were your favorite beers?

 

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Brewery 85’s Barrel-aged Yeoman’s

Brewery 85 finally made the post I’ve been waiting months for:

Brewery 85 Bourbon BarrelsMy favorite Greenville beer in barrels of my favorite liquor?! This post deserves 5,000 exclamation points, but I’ll refrain.

Best of all, the wait is practically over: Dust off your growlers and stop by the brewery this Thursday, November 20th, from noon to 7 p.m. for a pour. Yeo-lovers can purchase up to 96 oz per day to take home. Dark Corner Diner will also be around for their final service at the brewery, so don’t miss this kick-ass beer and food!

Also, be on the lookout for more barrel-aged specialties from this new “Backwood Series” of beers.

Some Election Statistics

Did you make it to the polls today? This year IMG_1619.JPGSouth Carolina joined the rest of the US in allowing liquor sales on Election Day, making it easier for you to prepare a stiff drink after waiting in line.

If you felt the need to throw back a beer or several, you aren’t alone: I found these interesting stats about beer and campaign money while sipping a Pumking. Do you think we spend too much on political campaigns? Beer?

I’m for more investing in what the people want… and the people I know want quality craft beer!

 

An Eventful October

Free this weekend? Or not free until next? No worries: There’s something to entertain your beer-loving spirit all month long.

NOMA Square, Oct 1-3
The second annual Oktoberfest brings beer, live music and German food to NOMA Square in front of the Hyatt. Keep in mind, this is a cash-only event.

Greer State Bank Greer Station Oktoberfest, Oct 4
A combination of local love and German celebration, Greer’s event features both artist exhibits in the midst German food, beer and music. Sip a beer from Warsteiner or Thomas Creek and join the festivities in downtown Greer.

Quest, Oct 11, noon-8 p.m.
Pair a new German beer with the Mechanical Owl food truck’s German food at Quest. Three bands will also be playing throughout the day, so you can easily pop in at your convenience.

Brewery 85, Oct 18, noon-5 p.m.
If you missed Leon’s Lederhosen Oktoberfest beer during it’s preview period, then you’ll get your first taste at this grand party. Expect a full range of beers, German eats, music and brewers in lederhosen.

Swamp Rabbit’s “Boo”ery Monster Mash, Oct 31
Who says Halloween is a kid’s holiday? Don a costume, sip a beer, and savor Good to Go food truck while you dance the night away to a DJ.

Thomas Creek’s Brewery Bash, Nov 1, 1-8 p.m.
Start preparing your costume now for Thomas Creek’s Halloween celebration. For $20, you’ll enjoy three pints, all-you-can-eat BBQ and beer brats, and music.

Saturday Beer Events x2

You have no excuse to be bored this weekend, thanks to a double dose of beer events:

Septembrew
What’s better than spending a Saturday drinking at your favorite Upstate brewery? Drinking at ALL of them! Swamp Rabbit Brewery in TR is hosting the first annual SC Upstate Septembrew festival to bring together Brewery 85, Thomas Creek, Quest, Blue Ridge and RJ Rockers, along with live music and food truck goodness. Grab your ticket now!

Swamp Rabbit Brewery Septembrew

Euphoria
This popular annual event may often be summarized as a food & wine experience, but they also have a beer garden. Get a ticket for Saturday’s big Tasting Showcase to pair local and regional beers with fabulous foods. Saturday night also brings Traffic Jam, a food truck rodeo with plenty of beer and booze for all. I’ll be at this sold-out event in Brewery 85 shirt, so come say hi!

euphoria

Craving some craft but not ready to commit to an event? Then stop into a tasting room for a few pints and a tour. I’ll be pouring beer at Brewery 85 from noon-4, so come try the new Leon’s Lederhosen marzen (in short supply!) and Doubtfire ESB.

Charleston Beer Week 2014

I’m not a big fan of the beach. I don’t crave the feeling of warm sand between my toes. But a cold beer in hand? I’ll take one of those in any locale.

I ventured down last Wednesday to partake in the tail end of Charleston Beer Week, seven days of booze documentaries, tap takeovers and coastal brew love. The last-minute efforts of the CHS Beer Week planners (THANK YOU, MIKE!) netted me a ticket to Cinnebarre for the CRAFT and Cultured Craft Beer documentaries.

Cinnebarre, CRAFT, Cultured Craft Beer

Image from CHS Beer Week Event

I settled in with Sweetwater’s Take Two Pils and high expectations for CRAFT, but this “behind-the-scenes look at [craft beer’s] trailblazers” left me hanging: it felt like a meagerly elevated “craft beer for dummies” string of shorts providing overviews of beer history, brewing and trends. Only a handful of brewers (fewer than a dozen?) were interviewed, all of which were from the US except for two Canadians and only one of which was a woman. This “beertastic voyage” lacked an overall focus, and just as each segment began to provide depth, the screen faded and a new topic began.

Tony Tassarotti’s Cultured Craft Beer, on the other hand, successfully captured the talent and culture of Charleston beer in less than 30 minutes. The documentary had an overarching focus that brought together numerous interviews of brewmasters and bottle shop owners, a bit of beer history, brew law and an eye on the future. I welled up with South Carolina beer pride and “shout from the rooftops” enthusiasm I get for something I really believe in.

~Thursday~
After a restful night at the quiet Notso Hostel, I entertained myself with a drive around Mount Pleasant, lunch at Butcher & Bee, and a tour and tasting at High Wire Distilling. Distiller Nick Dowling was inviting and entertaining as he led a tasting and tour (only $5) for a Connecticut couple and me. It was exciting to compare distilling and brewing; did you know that the now one-year-old distillery has barrels from Full Steam Brewery? I’m delighted to have a new bottle of Woodford Reserve barrel-aged rum on my liquor shelf, and I’ll be picking up a bottle of the citrus-forward gin next time or the new bourbon that launches next month.

With all of the CHS Beer Week events occurring at night, I was thankful Palmetto Brewery opened at 3 p.m. Beyond the large outdoor space and expansive murals, the brewery’s one-month-old tasting room boasted a gorgeous interior with cedar walls, a refurbished-wood bar (made from cattle cars!) and a glass “window” peaking into the neighboring coffee roaster. Yes, the smell of fresh beer and coffee was as intoxicating as you’re imagining, and the nitro Espresso Porter was my favorite of the beers I tried.

Barb Falkenstein kept my glass full (try the AM Wood!) and my questions satisfied during my tour and tasting, and introduced me to Chris Winn, resident Brewery 85 fan and Beer Evangelist (best job title ever!). He treated me to the tale of Hootie’s Homegrown Ale went from an idea in Tampa to a collaboration between Cigar City and Palmetto. Chris also gave me the best suggestion of the trip when he pointed out that two of the night’s CHS Beer Week events were within walking distance of each other. Plans changed for the better.

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I swapped the cool, calm tasting room for the loud, cramped enthusiastic crowd of barrel-aged beer lovers at Closed For Business. Craft beer fans shouldn’t miss this restaurant and bar, which always boast an impressive but not overwhelming tap list.

IMG_1352A generous stranger bought me a Founders KBS (amazingcan’t believe I waited this long to try it), and it was then that I spotted a familiar face from home: the illustrious Todd Hamrick of Anderson Valley Brewing Company, along with Stone’s Jason Selby and Coronado’s Johnny O. Each represented fantastic brews: Pinchy Jeek in Wild Turkey barrels, Reason Be Damned Belgian Abbey Ale in red wine barrels (the best red wine barrel-aged beer I’ve had) and Stupid Stout (creamy, bourbony, yum), respectively. Conversation ensued as beers swapped hands, and I look forward to seeing those lovely chaps at this fall’s big Greenville beer events.

With Kudu and casks on my mind, I suspended my barrel-aged love momentarily and headed for dinner and more beer. Music and laughter wafted around the corner from Vanderhorst, where I found a Christmas-light-strung garden filled with eager beer drinkers. This event featured Kudu’s excellent craft beer line-up in addition to four local casks, and I started with Coast’s previously unreleased September Saison cask. I sat at table to take notes and watch as a variety of brewers gathered by the entrance.

Halfway through my glass, the stars aligned as Coast’s Jaime Tenny walked up and introduced herself. I was ecstatic and this official meeting played out exactly like I’d dreamed:

I dorked out. I stuttered. I try to be laid back and professional at all hours, but I literally forgot all words besides “cool,” “awesome” and “derp.” I can only hope she read between the lines and saw “your beers and business savvy and legislative work and brew culture-building make you the coolest person ever” in my starstruck gaze.

We did eventually get around to a wee update on Coast: the tasting room work will resume by the year’s end, and a DHEC-approved kitchen is in the brewery’s new future (thank you, Stone Bill). In her wise words, Coast has been waiting seven years for these opportunities, and they can be patient for change.

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As the crowd dwindled, I visited the casks for a senses-awakening sip of Palmetto’s 5-hole Smoked Stout conditioned with cinnamon and five ghost peppers (OUCH) and a soothing Pluff Mud Porter with blueberries and coffee from Holy City. I also had the pleasure of chatting with two familiar faces: Palmetto’s God-ordained owner, Austen, and Collin (the guy who runs the show, though they don’t know it). They talked about the daily happenings at the brewery, including the schemes of janitor Chris Winn and John Planty, the GM and Director of Janitorial Services, and shared some Charleston beer insights. Though Austen will probably be mute next time you see him because he drank a whole pint of the ghost pepper beer, both hilarious chaps are worth popping into Palmetto for a visit.*

~Friday~
The leisurely theme continued with a morning exploring the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, where I stopped for my favorite food of the trip: lunch at The Obstinate Daughter (which has local craft beer on tap!) and gelato from Beardcat’s Sweet Shop.

IMG_1386A love of arts and culture as much as beer, I spent a wandered the unique collection of the Charleston Museum. Did you know it’s the United States’ oldest museum? I was fascinated by the collection’s history: the important natural history and Egyptian artifacts gathered in the late 18th century are housed a few rooms from a gargantuan Civil War time and extensive Low Country collections. The museum even has a small portion devoted to Prohibition and features a piece of Palmetto Brewery’s history.

The drive to Columbia loomed over me. After stopping briefly at Total Wine for a River Rat Brewery tasting, it was time to follow up on a promise to Joey Siconolfi to visit Frothy Beard Brewing Company in North Charleston. Joey was one of the many Brewery 85 fans who spied my shirt at Kudu and sang praises of Will McCameron’s brews.

The small, hot brewing space was filled with the hum of rain and the clink of taster glasses when I stepped inside. The friendly Charlotte couple before me invited me to their table, where we talked about beer and the delicious selection of beers from the nanobrewery’s 1.5-barrel system. I’m amazed that this tiny system churned out the well-balanced Hoppy Baby, the chocolately and malty goodness of the Maltese Falcon Brown, the uber-refreshing and not too sweet Watermelon Wheat and the marvelous Bearded Brut (made with champagne yeast).

Though I would have liked more daytime events to balance my itinerary, Charleston Beer Week still proved an excellent opportunity to visit the cost and explore the historic city’s impressive beer culture.

*I distinctly remember a promise of free beer for life if I published this humorous paragraph. You two remember too, right?  =)  You’re always welcome in Greenville if you get sacked!

Swamp Cabbage Grand Opening

And then there were three…

On a hot, sunny Sunday in August, Columbia unleashed its third brewery. Practically neighboring Conquest and River Rat, Swamp Cabbage Brewery boasts a convenient Williams-Brice Stadium localeand good beer to boot.

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After anticipating the brewery’s opening for nearly a year, I was delighted to finally take on a wristband and step into the warm sanctuary of the taproom area. Though the day’s ecstatic crowd made the space feel cramped, I’m sure it’s a pleasure on a calmer weeknight. Standing in line gave me plenty of time to observe the extensive theming: a partial shack facade encases the taps and register, all nestled into a hand-painted mural of lowcountry swamps. Talk about embracing the swamp feel!

I started with a flightESB, Amber, Blonde and Porterand a seat at the picnic table by the window seat (yes, they have a window seat). The ESB wasn’t the least bit shy about its dry bitterness, while the Amber proved a malty, slightly bitter companion. Though the hazy, light Blonde was the perfect refreshing beer for the season, the rich Porter won the “favorite” title from me. No surprise there.  Swamp Cabbage FlightBy the time I finished my flight, my table filled with five new faces, two of which happened to be the founders of the new Columbia Brew Bus. (FYI, this should be cool, with tours starting and stopping at Vista restos and including dining deals so you can easily plan an afternoon out for drinks and great food. Check it out!) I sipped a charitable neighbor’s Chocolate Brown, which had a great taste but weak mouthfeel. My little group hummed with “mmmm”s and praises of the true-to-style flavors, and we laughed as the chap beside me proclaimed each new beer in his flight “the best.”

With satisfied taste buds I headed out to explore the remaining space.  The exterior boasts a large patio space, which was dotted with tents and food carts. Not even the terrible music of the hour could spoil the excitement of the crowd. Naturally, I stopped for a bite at the Wurst Wagon before ordering an ESB pint and ducking out of the sun into the brewhouse. More eager drinkers crowded each nook and cranny surrounding the 20 BBL system, and unfortunately, no tours were being offered to give an insight into the brewery.

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Though my visit wasn’t as immersive and informative as I would have liked, I look forward to returning after football season to learn more about the newest brewers on the block. If you’re interested in seeing Swamp Cabbage, be sure to check out this Living Social deal for a tour, flight and glasses.

Of course, I couldn’t come all this way without popping into the other two brewers literally around the corner. I joined the River Rats and Brewsky Brothers for drinks at Conquest, where we had the pleasure of chatting with brewer Joseph Ackerman, before popping over to the Rat Cave for a few more pints. Both breweries have done a spectacular job maintaining quality flagship beers whilst releasing equally delicious new brews. Plus, both are now bottling, making their beers even more accessible to beer rovers.

 Don’t miss this trio next time you’re in ColaTown!

Drinking Asheville: Day 1.2

{See how my night got started with Drinking Asheville: Day 1.1}

Once again, I climbed up Coxe towards Hi-Wire Brewing, set just a block off the main road, its entrance harboring a little crowd despite the crane looming above their heads as someone worked on the brewery’s sign. Though the darkness hampered my ability to take photos, I could still revel in the interior’s whimsical theming. The bar, walls and tables were covered in a mix of blue, red and natural wood, highlighted by the bright signage and coasters.

A kind, bearded bartender took my questions and poured me the Bed of Nails Brown (not as malty as I usually like) and the Hi-Wire IPA, which I loved once the initial punch of grapefruit and hops settled down.

I also tried the red wine barrel-aged Belgian, the first of new Elephant Ringmasters series that bartender described as “fancy beers.” Aged in first-use, French-oak Zinfindel barrels, this beer took on a rosy tint and a tart flavor. The aim of the series is to bring one-off beers made with high-quality products, so look for more additions in the near future.

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[Apologies for the lack of photos going forward, as the scene was too dark to capture anything.]

By now it was at least 10 p.m. and I was strongly considered returning to my hotel. With a final heave, I tackled the rest of Coxe to stop at Thirsty Monk. Though I’d originally planned to stay longer at this epic beer locale, the upstairs was ferociously hot and somewhat busy. With a quick sip of Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s Black Gold Porter, I headed across the street to my final destination: Jack of the Wood.

The heavy doors opened to loud banjo plucking as a bluegrass band wooed a dancing crowd. The pub was uncomfortably dark, making it hard to see what was on tap, so I sought the bartender for advice. I accidentally got a full pour (rather than a small pour) of the casked ESBmy favorite Green Man beer served unpasteurized and unfiltered. I imagine this rich, uncarbonated beer would do well in a bourbon barrel (can’t we just put everything in bourbon barrels??).

Ultimately, I was glad for the large drink because it made me stick around to both enjoy the music and the hilarious antics of a drunken, birthday-celebrating trio… the first of whom almost toppled me over as he came swerving towards the bar. Complaints about poetry and “old” age (from these 27-35 year olds), free Fireball shots, pleas for Denny’s, carrying* the inebriated** away from traffic: these are the stories adventures are made of!

*Carrier = sober me
*Inebriated = my swerving, pancake-obsessed friend for the evening

Drinking Asheville: Day 1.1

(An explanation of where I’ve been this summer)

Laura Huff of Carolina Epicurean contacted me weeks ago about participating in the Asheville Beer Bounce beta. Huff needed a group of dedicated drinkers to test a new online program that uses QR codes to check into breweries; nine locations had agreed to participate and offer special sample-sized pours, with a percentage of sales going to charity. Naturally, I was in.

On a Thursday eve, I set off to the southeast’s Beer City idol with instructions in hand and a new app 20140727-225457-82497874.jpgon my phone. With walkability in mind, I found a parking spot on Coxe, the perfect place for tackling the southwest segment.

Sauntering into the first stop, Burial Brewing Company, felt like walking into someone’s house party. Conversation spilled from the worn, house-like facade. Burial, a nano-brewery in the process of expanding to a 20-barrel system, had a small but tasty selection. The night started with Tong & Fork Belgian Amber, a mix of two of my favorite styles, as well as a Sickle Session IPA and the Cemetery Gates Belgian IPAa Pisgah collaboration that had an unexpected meaty umami.

The creator of the program I was testing happened to walk in the tasting room at the moment I was struggling with my first check-in. What luck! His group also mentioned there was a food truck around the corner at Green Man Brewing. You know how I feel about food trucks.

Eager to try as many stops as possible, I headed around the corner to Green Man. Despite a long-standing love of their ESB, I’d never actually been in the brewery. The tasting room offered a sizeable bar, various tables for gathering and games, a dart board, and two TVS: one playing The Originals and another with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Interesting variety.

Sweet Molly behind the bar poured me a Leaf Blower, and I headed through the long, covered outdoor space to order from Taste & See. Talk about a perfect combination: pork belly sliders and sweet potato fries and beer! Here, I had the pleasure of meeting both Mrs. Huff and John Pepper, a bounce participant and co-founder of Boone Independent Restaurants. We chatted about our towns and restaurants and favorite brews while I finished off my Patersbier and Porter.

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With night falling, I said my goodbyes at Green Man and set on the road to my next stop: Hi-Wire Brewing. But the bright lights of Twin Leaf beckoned me to detour and try this brewery I’ve been following since before it opened.

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Brightly lit and filled with natural wood furnishings, Twin Leaf offered a quiet pauseuntil the crash of the life-size Jenga game signaled a winner.

I took a seat alone at the large bar with a smooth, rich Mexican Chocolate Stout (one of my favorite beers from the whole night), and by the time I left, I’d made two more friends. Sam, owner of The Ale and the Witch in St. Petersburg, FL, began chatting with me after he saw me writing at the bar. He introduced me to his wife and talked about his bar while I told him more about the beer bounce, Asheville and Greenville’s beer scene.

But the night was middle-aged, and I still had plenty of other brews to discover.

{Follow the rest of the night’s drinking antics at Drinking Asheville: Day 1.2}