I attended today’s media preview event to see what All About Beer Magazine has in store for those attending tomorrow’s big event.
Before I dig in I’ve got some good news and bad news. If you want to get in free tomorrow you can. They are still looking for volunteers to help the breweries serve their tasting samples. After your shift is over you get 2 brews and after the final session all volunteers are treated to a special party at one of the local big tap establishments. The bad news: you can’t drink anything while you are volunteering. If interested check out their website about where to signup/showup to volunteer tomorrow. If you have tickets to the later session wouldn’t it be great to make good friends with some of the breweries during the first session as a volunteer? Plus you got a place to go afterwards. (I checked out their site and it doesn’t say anything about volunteers that I could find but if you show up and follow the signs to the volunteer check in you will probably find someone very willing to put you to work.)
Now back to the beer. Yes, there will be beer tomorrow. Eighty breweries will be serving 200-250 different brews according to Adam Harold, Director of Beer Programs for All About Beer magazine.
To be specific, there will be 200-250 fermented alcoholic beverages. That’s because the hard cider category has taken off this year, so much so that they have setup a cider garden to feature the some 27 different hard ciders. The other new (newer) category of beverages is the hard sodas. The don’t have enough to put them in their own garden just yet but they have a number of breweries serving up hard root beer, hard ginger ale and the like. (I guess there is a specific term for people making hard sodas but I don’t know what it is. For now I’ll keep calling them brewers).
There will be two sessions. Noon-4pm and 6-10PM. They expect around 6,000 people between the two.
If there is a buzz word this year it’s “garden.” They have two other gardens. For the first time ever in their eight-year history in Columbia they are having a South Carolina Beer Garden that will be open to all attendees. “There are 20 South Carolina breweries pouring 50-60 different brews. We wanted to celebrate the local beer culture,” said Harold.
The South Carolina Beer Garden will be in the downstairs hall along with the Belgian Beer Garden. Harold said they wanted to celebrate some of the oldest beer makers in the world with their own garden but these brews come at an extra price. For a $15 armband you can sample these 21 brews (it’s included with the VIP pass). These passes are still available.
Upstairs they will have the cider garden and the Cheese and Beer Pairings. There are only 55 slots for the cheese and beer pairings per session and sorry, it’s too late to buy the special pass for those.
Harold said he was very impressed with Whole Foods who will be doing the cheese and beer pairings. “I was blown away with their knowledge of cheeses and brews.”
One new feature at this festival is list of recommended brews that have been reviewed by All About Beer. “There will be little badges on the brewery signs that indicate they have brews that have been reviewed and recommended by our magazine.” Everyone coming in the door will be given a printout of the brews as well. He said they decided to use the collective wisdom from their many reviews to let people know about brews they recommend being served at their festivals. Columbia will be the first festival for them to do this.
During Harold’s presentation he opened and shared seven beers and ciders to a small group of media members Friday afternoon at the event’s location, the Columbia Metropolitan Civic Center. “We are thrilled to be back here in Columbia which is one of the fastest growing craft brew markets.” This is the 21st year that the 36-year-old magazine has been doing beer festivals.
One familiar face in the crowd was Daniel Bradford, who sold the magazine two years ago and is serving as what he called a “Grand Poobah.” “Actually I’m now just a consultant. I’ll lending my knowledge where possible.”
(I interrupt myself to let you know if you hurry you can still get tickets online for $40. But there’s processing fees etc. Drop by the many Green’s locations in Columbia and get the tickets for $40 without the processing fees. Once there you can buy tickets at the door but they are $50.). Amazingly enough there are still some VIP tickets at $85 still available. Usually these sell out quickly.)
The first brew Harold presented was Thomas Creek’s River Falls Red Ale. I nice darker brew with caramel and toffee on the nose with nice malt backbone and a little hops to bring on a dry finish. Not super heavy but not a wimp either. Thomas Creek is a well known brewer out of Greenville that has pioneered a lot of brewing in South Carolina.
BottleReport met up with Thomas Creek when attending the Columbia Festival 6 years ago (We still miss Katie). They were kind enough to help us with our beer cam…. a GoPro mounted in the bottom of a pitcher… and they used their famous hopa-nator to pour us beer down on the camera. At that time they were brewing about 35 beers but many were for other labels. They provided the brewing capacity for up-and-comers trying to build their brands. One was BottleTree which I see isn’t listed in these year’s participants. I hope that BottleTree is still producing.
Next was the River Rat Hazelnut Brown Ale. As the name indicates it’s brewed with hazelnuts. This is one of the newer Columbia brews. Very nutty, roasted chocolate. Got some sweet notes to it. Nice little brew.
Next was a hard cider. Bold Rock Hard Cider. It’s an IPA but in this case it stands for India Pressed Apple. This is a dry hopped hard cider, something that I’ve never heard before. It has cascade hops which lends a grapefruit and citrus aromas and tastes as well. If you attend you have to try this cider…. even if you don’t like hard ciders. Looks deceiving light, almost clear. But it’s got lots of taste. (Bold Rock is out of Nellysford, Virginia, which is next to Wintergreen Ski Resort. If those guys didn’t leave early for the festival they are probably stuck in snow up to their keynoters)
In announcing the Belgian Beer Garden they presented the Westmalle Trappist Ale. This Trippel was served out of a bomber. Nice flavors, hint of bananas. This wasn’t the in your face trippel. Many of the Belgian Beers are unfiltered he added. Filtering out the yeasts would pretty much filter out the traditional flavors.
Next up was the Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. A 100% bottle fermented ale. 7.6% ABV. This saison style is an unfiltered golden farmhouse ale featuring Sorachi Ace hops, a hop that was developing in Japan that adds a bright spiciness to the nose. (I personally don’t gravitate to farm house ales but in this case I like this one).
Last but not least was a Chimay Grande Reserve Peres Trappistes. This corked brew is unlike any of the Chimay line I’ve tried before. I guess I’ve been living a sheltered life. An All About Beer crew member told me they picked it up at a local Green’s. Many well-made Belgium brews can be kept for many years. This is a great example. This brew comes out dark but the brown sugar flavors and the dark fruits have mellowed out. This brew is one of the All About Beer recommended brews Harold mentioned. I am curious to know which year they will be pouring tomorrow. If it is newer than 2012 it will be interesting to compare them.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’ll be Tweeting through the BottleReport account tomorrow so keep track. Hope to see you there. My goal is to spend a lot of time in the South Carolina Beer Garden with a few detours to see what Service Brewing is doing with their oyster stout.
Columbia World Beer Festival Preview
Author Dan Doughtie