Sidebar: Legislation Paves Way for Thriving Beer Scene

An unusual marker was recently erected on the sidewalk at 1631 Main St. in downtown Columbia—an oak barrel on the top of a tall pole. This barrel is inscribed with the legend “J C Seegers Lager Beer Brewer.” This marks the location of the 19th century brewpub of a German immigrant. In fact, there were several breweries in Columbia in the late 19th century started by German immigrants, but none survived state restrictions that predated Prohibition. Prohibition and its long aftermath were dark days for beer culture in South Carolina and Columbia. Beer in this state was strangled by a patchwork of restrictive laws that prevented the state from being a part of the modern beer renaissance that swept across America.

This changed in 2007 when the so-called High Gravity Bill became law in South Carolina. The legislation raised the legal restriction on the alcohol content of beer to 17% from 6%. Since then, outstanding beers from the finest brewers in the world are now legal in this state, and this has opened South Carolina to beer of all types. Other recent legislation has allowed brewers in South Carolina to sell their beers to visitors and offer samples. A later change in the law allowed brewers to sell their products to visitors by the pint. These new laws have given brewers a new source of much-needed revenue and, perhaps more importantly, a way to personally connect with customers in their tasting rooms. These new revenue sources have provided the impetus for would-be brewers to take the plunge into the beer world.

A year after the restriction on the alcohol content of beer was lifted, the World Beer Festival came to Columbia and has become an annual event. This festival has introduced thousands of enthusiasts and would-be enthusiasts to the incredible world of beer and beer culture. This festival has played and will continue to play a significant role in the development of beer culture in the Columbia area. Enjoy the festival and then experience Columbia’s exciting beer scene.

2015 should be another terrific year for beer. Cheers!