They call it the “coolest suds sippin’ safari in Columbia.” OK, so maybe it’s the only suds sippin’ safari in Columbia.
Regardless, as the popularity of Brew at the Zoo has proven since it premiered in 2006, people in Columbia like mixing beer with bears ... and giraffes, gorillas, lions and other animals.
“Brew at the Zoo is my favorite event in Columbia and something I look forward to every year,” said Taylor Shearer, who attends with friends each year. “It doesn’t get better than a night with your friends, trying unique beers all while strolling the zoo.”
This year’s 13th annual Brew at the Zoo is Aug. 2 from 7-9:30 p.m. Attendees will be able to sample more than 100 varieties of craft beer spread throughout the zoo, and do so all for a good cause.
“Each year, Brew at the Zoo gives Riverbanks a great opportunity to connect with new guests and engage with individuals who might not be too familiar with the zoo and our role in animal care and welfare and wildlife conservation,” said Susan O’Cain, director of communications for Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. “In addition, proceeds from the event support Riverbanks’ ongoing wildlife conservation and education efforts.”
How it works
Guests buy a ticket to get in. Once you enter the zoo, you’ll be given a sampling glass and a map of the beer stations. Go to the stations where you want a sample, and they’ll pour the beer in your glass.
“Brew at the Zoo is such a fun and unique event,” Carlee Taber said. “I get to try so many delicious drinks while exploring all of the exciting exhibits.”
“Brew at the zoo is the best way to enjoy all your favorite beers,” Kaitlin Mahoney said. “You’ll have to move quickly if you want to try them all, and I definitely recommend going to the sea lion show.”
While sampling beer is the focus of the event, there are other things you can do while you’re sipping, or in-between sips:
▪ Take a stroll around the zoo. Many of the animals will be out enjoying the evening. Of course, given the event, they may find you more interesting than you find them.
▪ Listen to live music. Musical guests include Whiskey Tango Revue in the Main Plaza and Admiral Radio in Carousel Plaza.
▪ Watch an animal presentation. Timed animal enrichment activities will take place in several habitats including Riverbanks Conservation Outpost (RCO tunnel), elephant, grizzly bear, river otter, and lion.“Make sure to take advantage of all the special animal exhibits during the event,” Shearer said. “All the extra details truly make this a do not miss event.”
▪ Get up close with a giraffe. The Giraffe Overlook will be open, but patrons won’t be allowed to feed the animals.
Make the most of the event
That, along with sampling from more than 100 different beers, is a lot to squeeze in in 2.5 hours. Here are some tips for how to get the most out of your time at Brew at the Zoo:
▪ Have a plan. Sure, you’ll get a map when you enter the zoo but scoping it out and mapping your route takes away from sipping and strolling time. Go to www.riverbanks.org to print out a map before you go, then select which beers you want to sample and the order you want to get them. It’s also a good idea to have a pre-determined rendezvous spot to meet friends.
▪ Don’t dally. But don’t be in too much of a hurry. You can drink a lot of beer in 2.5 hours.
▪ Know your limit. Know how many samples you’re going to taste before you start.
▪ Schedule a designated driver. It could be a friend to pick you up or a plan for a ride-share or taxi. Riverbanks has partnered with Checker Yellow Cab and will pay the first $15 of cab fares to hotels and residences within Richland and Lexington counties. Cabs will be standing by from 7-10 p.m.
▪ Be prepared to buy a t-shirt, because in the past they have been a must-get. It’s difficult to combine beer and zoo animals and not have a great t-shirt. Rumor has it there’s a cool “Let’s Get Slothed” design this year.
Other things to know
▪ Brew at the Zoo is usually a sell-out, so go ahead and get your ticket
▪ No one younger than 21 will be admitted
▪ No outside food or drink is allowed.
▪ Concession stands will be open.
A Prehistoric Beer Selection
Columbia Craft Brewing Company let Haddie the hadrosaur pick this year’s featured brew for Brew at the Zoo. And she made sure to select the perfect prehistoric pick: a lager.
Haddie is part of the Dinosaurs Around the World exhibit at Riverbanks Zoo, on display through Oct. 31.
To watch Haddie make her beer selection, go to http://bit.ly/PrehistoricPick.
Lezlie Patterson, special to GoColumbia
If you go
Brew at the Zoo
When: Aug. 2
Time: 7-9:30 p.m.
Where: Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
Tickets: $40 Riverbanks members, $50 general public. VIP tickets sold out. Tickets should be purchased in advance.
Go to www.riverbanks.org/events/brew-at-the-zoo