South Carolina, we’re finally turning the corner on winter. With slightly longer days and crisp nights comes the advent of beer festival season, and we just might be more excited about the latter.
Beer festivals — and breweries in general— are relatively new in Columbia. Although the World of Beer Festival has been going on for about a decade, Columbia-centric brew festivals (not counting Oktoberfests) are only four years old.
There doesn’t seem to be a slowdown in the public’s thirst for celebrating brew, either.
The Cream of the Crop Beer Festival in March is a prime example of the area’s growing enthusiasm. Vanessa Driscoll Bialobreski, of F2T Productions, Management and Catering, had canceled the event after trying to re-work the formula when issues arose with table fees. Brewery representatives contacted her directly wanting to participate, and at the same time, potential festival attendees started calling requesting tickets.
“I found there is a demand for the beer festival,” she says. “People do care.”
Now, Cream of the Crop is back and will feature over 100 beers from 45 breweries throughout the Southeast.
Here are the upcoming spring beer festivals:
Soda City Beer Wars: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 10 at 300 Senate Street. The ultimate IPA challenge to kick off Columbia Craft Beer Week. Vote for the best brew during a blind tasting of 20 different IPAs from around the country. The top five will be revealed at 4 p.m.. Participating breweries include Columbia’s Swamp Cabbage Brewing and Columbia Craft Brewing, plus seventeen others. Food will be provided by Dupree Catering, and you’ll also get to enjoy live music while you sip and vote. Admission is free, but beer will be available by token purchase only. Tokens cost $1 per 3-ounce pour and $5 per pint.
The 10th Annual World of Beer Festival Columbia: Feb. 17, two sessions: noon-4 p.m. or 6-10 p.m. Tickets are on sale now for this event, held at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. Early bird prices: general admission, $40/person or VIP tickets $55/person (includes early entry time, private entrance, reserved seating area, private restrooms and exclusive beer choices). Prices rise on Feb. 9.
Smoke and Beer Festival: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 18 at City Roots. The “smoke” involves a friendly competition for the best dish-and-beer pairing between local chefs that festival goers get to decide. Some of the participating restaurants are City Limits BBQ, Main Street Public House, BarNone, British Bulldog Pub, The Kingsman Brew & Cue, Divinos, Bourbon and LowCo BBQ. The beer will come from breweries throughout North and South Carolina and includes brews from Swamp Cabbage, Palmetto, Columbia Craft, Brewery 85, Goose Island, Catawba, Southern Barrel and Wicked Weed, just to name a few. Tickets $15/person at www.f2tproductions.com
Beirkeller Columbia releases: Follow Bierkeller Columbia on Facebook for exact dates and times, but expect Scott Burgess to release a Fastenbier (Lenten beer) in February and look for the Fruhlingsfest (Spring festival) in March.
The Lo Co Craft Beer Jam: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. March 10 at City Roots Farm, 1005 Airport Blvd. Sponsored by the Greater Rosewood Merchants Association, this is day filled with live music (ten bands on two stages), a wide array of craft beer and a giant Lowcountry boil. Family friendly event. Tickets $7/person, available at eventbrite.
Soda City Suds Week: March 17-24. Founded by the Midlands Craft Beer Supporters non-profit organization, Soda City Suds is in its fourth year. The eight-day celebration is marked by independent businesses and breweries hosting some sort of celebration — whether it be a tap takeover, bottle swap, special dinner or release of a new or seasonal brew. Establishments can sign up their events and consumers and afficianados can check out details at www.sodacitysudsweek.com.
Cream of the Crop Beer Festival: From noon-5 p.m. March 24 at City Roots Farm, 1005 Airport Blvd. It was on, then off, now back on — by vendor and consumer demand. Over 100 beers from 45 breweries in NC, SC, Georgia and Tennessee, live music and great food from Bourbon, The Oak Table and The Wurst Wagen. Bring your growler because, if there’s any beer left after the festival, attendees can fill their growlers for a fee. Tickets, $50/person, are sold in advance only at giftrocker.com, no walk-ups.