Twice now, I’ve helped grow a beer community. First time was working for Charlie Papazian at the Association of Brewers where a posse pushed the Colorado beer culture into the stratosphere. The second was here in Durham, NC, where a wasteland has become a mecca in an eye blink. Both times, festivals were the leading edge, gathering beer lovers in one place and sharing that sense of being of the same tribe—the Beer is Good Tribe.

Me with a gang from the Charolotte Beer Club

Now we’re at it again in Columbia, SC. If you missed round two of the World Beer Festival-Columbia, you missed something special. This is an eager beer town. There are maybe a dozen “influencers,” passionate beer lovers driving the evangelical mission. What’s pretty cool is the local industry seems as excited as the zealots. There’s a beer retailer who can’t help enough. The homebrewers are eager and passionate. The wholesalers are all on board, too. With Flying Saucer and Mellow Mushroom smack in the middle of nearly 100 retail license holders, it is a serious beer market. The pieces are in place.

The crowd in front of Unibroue

And we add the forum. This year, attendance was up 25% and the crowds couldn’t be nicer—after all, it is South Carolina. Lot’s of pleases and thank-yous. The volunteers who sign-up, show-up. The convention center people propose solutions to problems that haven’t happened, yet.
And when last call happened, everyone just walked out!

A sample of the thousands of guests and hundreds of volunteers

Here’s a few beer notes from the floor.
Coast Brewery was out of their well-respected Kölsch, but their IPA was well-crafted, with a very herbal finish.
Foothills tapped a cask of Total Eclipse Stout for the VIP Lounge. Very soft, as a good cask ale should be, the stout finished with some very well-rounded chocolate notes, slighty toffee even.
Malheur from the Brewery De Landtsheer, Belgium was one of the treasures of the night. Coffee brown, it had a crisp, toasty nose. A study in malt that began with a lot of roasted nuts and finishing with lots of yeasty spiciness.
Wells’ Banana Bread Beer could be one of the more unusual beers, because it does have a distinctive banana bread flavor and it works. Take the breadiness of a classic ale and add in those deep notes of banana, rich and heavy, and there’s something unusual and special here.
I did have to follow that with Atwater Block’s Vanilla Porter, which always reminds me of crème brûlée.
Of course, a good dose of hops will balance all this sweetness. Victory Brewing consistently delivers sharp beers. Their HopDevil had a long fruity, tangy, dry finish lingering for quite some time.
I next settled in with a Stone Levitation. This one suffered from being too cold, so I dove into a plate of pulled pork. When I returned, the hop bite scoured the back of my mouth with just a hint of sweet malt to offset the rich hopping levels. This is a very, very bright beer with an amazingly long finish.
A quick stop at Chimay where I discovered the Blue was already history (these Columbians are pretty savvy) so I asked for a serving of the Red. There is a lot spice in the Chimay portfolio. This one had a spectacular pepper finish. A serious dinner beer.

Telling the Chimay story.

Thomas Creek Double IPA, very toasty, roasted malt, with a musty, hoppy finish. Rich and sharp at 12.5 percent ABV and 143 IBU.

I can only imagine what year #3 is going to bring for this exciting Columbia, SC market.  Next year’s fest is going to be pretty interesting.  Put it on you calendar and be sure to stay an extra day or two.  Great place to hang out.