Beer. Does it even matter what’s said after seeing that deliciously frothy word? Maybe not. But if the word beer got you this far, you might as well read on to learn about the ninth World Beer Festival coming Saturday, Feb. 18. This year the event finds a new home at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds, housing more than 200 beers from 75 breweries.
Twenty-five of those breweries are in South Carolina. Others hail from Lebanon, New Zealand, Japan and Russia, to name a few countries exhibiting in the festival’s International Beer Oasis, featuring 20 breweries from 15 different countries. In between are some of the nation’s finest breweries bringing their best. (And let’s not forget the Cider Garden returning for the second year.)
All three of Columbia’s breweries – Conquest, River Rat and Swamp Cabbage – have suds to showcase. With some new and some new to you, we checked with all three to find out what they’ll have on tap this year.
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Dawn of the Dead Belgian red: A collaboration beer with Old Mill Brew Pub. It’s barrel-aged in Crouch Whiskey Distillery barrels with black mission figs and cranberries.
Old Naps Scotch ale: Made with a traditional Scotch ale yeast strain from Edinburgh and a very light touch of smoked malt.
Sexy Thang: A limited-release seasonal beer offering a load of chocolate and raspberry and a slight hint of vanilla. Right for Valentine’s Day or just to say “I love beer.”
Imperial Bipolar High Roller: A blend of the brewery’s Brutus imperial and Medusa stouts with a nice spicy kick from an infusion of habañero peppers.
Bohemian pilsner: Winner of a World Beer Cup medal this past year, the brew is a traditionally done bohemian or Czech-style pilsner. “The mash fill is very simple, mainly just pilsner grains and other malts,” said Nate Warner, a sales representative. “The big star is the Saaz hops we use. Those hops have a very bright characteristic that add a little bit of bitterness but (are) not too bitter at all.”
The 803 IPA: A West Coast-style IPA with lots of citrus and tropical fruit undertones. “We’ve only had it on the market for seven months, and it’s already up there with our best-selling beers,” said Warner.
Pineapple pale ale: Using River Rat’s Metal Man pale ale as a base, brewers added pineapple puree to give it that tropical fruit tang.
Barrel Aged Imperial milk stout: Sat in Jack Daniels’ bourbon barrels for over eight months. Very limited-edition. “It’s what we call a ‘one-off,’ ” said Warner.
Cask beer: A basic beer with ingredients added while inside a cask (or barrel). At Go Columbia’s deadline, it was still being tested.
VIP beer: Wine barrel-aged barley wine.
Sabal Palm blonde ale: This is a light ale in all senses. Easy drinking, low alcohol and light in color.
Weiss Bier: A wheat beer that’s also low in alcohol, which again makes for easy drinking. “It has bananas and clove flavors from the yeast we use,” said Doug Boyd, co-owner and brewmaster.
Rubrum Red IPA: Just released on Sunday, Feb. 12, the brewery used multiple American hops to give it bitterness and aroma.
By the numbers: World Beer Festival
From Jude DesNoyer, events manager
5,400: People who attended last year, the largest crowd to date. “We are anticipating similar attendance numbers, but with the bigger venue and nice weather, we could easily surpass those numbers,” DesNoyer said.
400,000: Ounces of beer planned for the event. “We estimate 72 ounces per person and have purchased enough product for 5,600 people,” he said.
20-30: Average number of beers each person tries at the festival – if they’re really trying. “We put out a survey at the end of each festival, and that is one of the questions,” DesNoyer said. “I always laugh when someone says they sampled more than 50 – I don’t think I could do that. It’s not shameful at all to sample fewer rather than more. Part of the festival is educating yourself on what you like, don’t like, etc. There is a limit that one hits when they no longer know or care what they are sampling and the education factor is lost.”
If you go
World Beer Festival
WHAT: Saturday, Feb. 18
WHERE: S.C. State Fairgrounds, 1200 Rosewood Drive
WHEN: First session, noon-4 p.m.; second session, 6-10 p.m.
TICKETS: General admission, $40 in advance, $50 day of festival; VIP admission, $85
More beer? Just say when!
Craft Beer Week, through Saturday, Feb. 19: Even though this event is already in full swing, it’s not to late to jump in on the action. You can still look forward to the Conquest Bike Ride, meeting a craft brewer and a “Nesting Day.” www.colacraftbeerweek.com
Soda City Suds Week, Saturday, March 18-Sunday, March 26: The week kicks off with a music festival at Random Tap with 30 craft beers on tap, two stages with live music (country, blues and soft rock), a food truck, an open-air market, a DIY home-brewing demonstration and face painting. Travel to Historic Camden to learn early beer history and tavern life in North America, all while you sample an 18th century-style brew (and modern ones, too) from Conquest Brewing. Cream of the Crop Beer Fest at City Roots Farm will offer a variety of craft beers from the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee breweries, as well as food from local restaurants. www.sodacitysudsweek.com