Imagine the guy that announces WWE wrestling matches saying this: "Are you ready for the Woooorld Beeeer Festivaaaal (recap)? "
According to the State paper, there were around 3,000 attendees at the early afternoon session of the WBF and I believe it. Despite cramming that many people into the two levels of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center with the goal of tasting as many two ounce samples of beer as possible, the crowd was a real delight. I wasn't stepped on, shoved, spilled on, or yelled at the entire time, which is more than I can say for a typical Saturday night out in the Vista. Upon entry, my friends and I received a miniature plastic souvenir beer cup, a perfect sampling size. We started on the main level and worked our way through the crowd to start at the Abita Brewery booth. Already a fan of their Purple Haze, I tried Turbodog, which was a bit thicker of a beer than I would normally try, but in a two ounce realm, I enjoyed it. A whole pint, on the other hand, might be a bit much.
Next up was the Sam Adams booth, where they had Alpine Springs brand new beer available for sampling, and an old favorite of mine, Cherry Wheat. I started with Alpine Springs and told a representative on hand my opinions on the beer, which was that "it tastes like fresh mountain air." It was a clean crisp beer that I would definitely enjoy an entire pint glass worth when it comes to bars in the area.
I pictured myself as a brewer, then went back for a hit of Cherry Wheat. After three beers in my glass, I realized that I needed to clean the suds out but didn't want to wade through the crowd to a beer rinsing station just yet. Pro tip:snag a handful of napkins to keep on your person to clean out your glass between samples, especially when the prior beer was very thick or flavorful.We made our way around the room, some beers were delicious, and some were not so much. Chocolate stout? Yuck. Absolutely not, not ever. My hits were on the lighter side- wheat beers, IPAs, a few brown ales. But since we were there, the beer was there, and they were just small samples, I did dive into a few beers I was pretty sure I wouldn't like, and confirmed my dislike of thick tasting and feeling stouts and lagers. Beers with coffee or espresso notes didn't sit too well with me either despite loving both of those things in their own elements.
After oh, 20 samples upstairs my friend and I decided to go downstairs and get some food, because we were both starting to feel that fun buzz that comes from slugging down too much too quickly. As serious drinkers who weren't out to get lit at 3 p.m. on a Saturday, we headed to Bone In Artisan BBQ's booth for a sandwich for her, and to the Pearlzbooth for blue cheese chips for me. That was the best ten minutes of sitting down I think I've ever experienced. With a renewed sense of energy and a slightly faded buzz, we grabbed our glasses back up in our eager hands and took to winding around the booths downstairs. Notable pours were Woodchuck's new brew, which tastes like honey, vanilla and pear. Another brewery (I can't remember the name- this is where they start to get um, fuzzy...) had a Honey Crisp beer that was really good. If you remember who it was, please tell me!
We tried beers from a personal semi-local favorite, RJ Rockers out of Spartanburg, and Thomas Creek Brewery in Greenville, though I wasn't a huge fan of what I tried from them. Westbrook Brewing, out of Charleston, is one that is on my list to go visit in person. Scratch that- they're all on my list of places to visit in person.
I spoke to Mark Burris from Bet-Mar Liquid Hobby Shop about whether it would be better to try making mead with a beer or wine making kit. Guess what? I can't remember which one he said would be better, but he did give me a business card with the dates of upcoming beer and wine making workshops coming up that I plan to attend. It was around this time that the bathroom seemed like a Really Great Idea. There was one thing that stopped me from going though:
I absolutely HAD to stop and take a photo of the fact that there was a LINE for the MEN'S ROOM but not the ladies'. Yes sir, it was funny. Funny indeed.
Now at this point I am fairly certain that we'd tried over 30 different 2 ounce samples of beer, which is 60 ounces total, which is nearly four beers, which equals a pretty good time for my medium-frame woman body, especially with only French toast from the morning and a bowl of cheesy chips on my belly. Wanting to make sure we got our money's worth, we did a quick sweep of the upstairs again to make sure we didn't want to sample aaaanymore beers, and ran into these fun guys on the way back in, dressed in their finest Leiderhosen! Drunk April will talk to anybody, and she will lie to them with the greatest of ease, as in, "Guys in Leiderhosen! My friend wants to have her picture taken with you!" (She did not express that sentiment at all. Haha.).
After that we walked our happy selves over to Jason's Deli to sober up over sandwiches, baked potatoes and soft serve ice cream. I love the Beer Fest, and I definitely will return next year, though maybe when a pen and notebook to record the brews I would like to try again as served up by the local bartenders. I heard that the line for the evening session, which ran from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. had a line that was out the door all the way to Gervais Street by the start time, so I would recommend hitting up the early session next year to avoid that and to have plenty of time to sober up afterwards.