Drink up, y’all!
Bayou Bootlegger. The Problem Solver. Skin and Bone. Citrocity. Mermaid’s Milk. You want more?
Those and some 200 other craft beers flowed freely on tap at Columbia’s eighth annual World Beer Festival on Saturday.
There was beer, beer everywhere – and craft cider, too, for the first time – at the festival, which drew dozens of breweries and 4,000 thirsty beer drinkers to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
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“When we started these events, nobody knew what these beers were. And many people are still learning more about beer,” said Chris Rice, publisher and CEO of All About Beer magazine, which hosts the festival. “But I think the consumer has woken up that, wow, there’s this whole world of different styles and flavors and, holy cow, brewers are incredibly creative, far more than maybe other drinks. It’s a celebration of small brewers, the passion, the stuff they’re doing with beer.”
There’s an art and a science behind each beer that makes each one unique, said Dan Gridley, the owner of Farm Boy Farms, which grows barley and hops to distribute to breweries near its Pittsboro, N.C., farm.
“There’s so many different characteristics that everyone can find some beer that they like,” Gridley said.
The brewing process that makes each beer special is something that Paul Carff, of Charleston, could appreciate as he sampled the beers from a wide variety of breweries, from the Carolinas and across the nation. Carff has been home-brewing his own beers since 1991, he said.
“This is just a great way to come out and try a whole bunch of different beers without having to buy a whole bunch of different beers,” Carff said. “If you’re curious about a kind of style, it gives you an opportunity to try a whole bunch of them and learn about them.”
Bob Evans, of Columbia, said he likes experiencing the differences in each beer and “getting into the mechanics” of what gives beers their flavors.
With a string of palate-cleansing pretzels hanging around his neck, Evans said the best strategy to navigating the big festival is to “be yourself and to really just kind of engage with the breweries.”
“Start with breweries that you know, explore their different offerings, and then start branching out, making the rounds,” he said. “You don’t know, until you try, what you like.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.