Charleston Beer Week: A Week-Long Beer Extravaganza
Charleston Beer Week is a week-long beer extravaganza that’s held during the second week of September each year. Bars, restaurants and local breweries in the Greater Charleston Metropolitan Area host events like tap takeovers, haunted pub crawls, food and beer pairing seminars, and even pig pick-ins and haunted pub crawls. There are several events scattered about town each night, making it easy to for everyone to find something to try. I’ve been to one or two of the individual events before. But this year, I decided to try and take better advantage of what Charleston and Beer Week have to offer.
Still being fairly new to the area, I’m always on the lookout for good pubs with a nice beer selection and good food. I chose Closed for Business for the first night. They were doing a tap takeover with Foothills Brewery from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The winners were their Hoppyum IPA and Peoples Porter. Both were very good. I'm not the biggest IPA fan in the world, if only because so many of them are just bitter or piney, and have nothing else going on. The Hoppyum was balanced enough, with some malt on the finish to keep me happy. I'll be buying that one. The Peoples Porter is exactly what I like in a porter. Admittedly, porters and stouts are my favorite style, and this one was everything I look for in one – smoky, malty and just slightly dry at the end.
There was also another one called Torch Pilsner. It was a nice, clean, crisp version – very quaffable but a bit uneventful.
A second IPA, called Jade, was a real hop bomb – not one I personally would look for. But for the hop heads that like ‘em tongue splittingly bitter, this one’s the ticket.
Day two found me at a joint called Swig & Swine. They hosted a tap takeover, brought to you by Seminar Brewing in Florence SC. I started with an amber ale they call The Howler – a heavy malty brew more red than amber, as well as very flavorful and drinkable. At around 5% alcohol by volume, this would be a good session beer.
I had their IPA Citrocity – yet another winner, and although a bit less malty on the finish than I'd like, still quite good. You hop heads would enjoy it. I finished with a porter – the Craver, they called it. It was brewed with some peanut butter. I had my reservations about it. But the brewers were there, and they assured me that the peanut butter would not be overwhelming. So I gave it a shot, and enjoyed it. They were right after all – just enough of those peanut buttery notes so one knew they were there. To be honest, they kind of work alongside the smoky, chocolate notes in the porter. I probably wouldn't want a belly full of the Craver, but one or two would be enjoyable.
All of Seminar's beers are still draft only. They’re a very small fledgling brewery, and just started distributing outside of Florence at the end of August this year. If I'm out and see The Howler on tap, I'll happily order it. .
I took the next two nights off, but had an afternoon penciled in for Thursday that had me at my favorite local brewery, Holy City. They hosted a charity event benefiting a local organization, called The Turtle Survival Alliance, that works towards saving endangered turtles and tortoises. All of the proceeds from an ale brewed for Beer Week, called Gimme Shell-ter, went to the Turtles fund. I bought one and a T shirt. That said, I hope I get more enjoyment from the shirt than I did from the beer. I've had very few beers with additional flavorings that I’ve liked, and this was another one for the dislike list. Brewed with blackberries, it was, however, one I disliked less than most of the others I’ve tried.
So after I got the benefit beer down, I went straight to the flagship Pluff Mud Porter – a GABF gold medal winner. It was simply fantastic. But then, I do love porters, and I'm all too familiar with this one. I buy it all the time. Slightly smoky, a bit dry and not too heavy, it’s billed as an all-weather ale. However, I'm not sure I agree with that completely. Any which way, it was delicious.
I went for a four-by-4-ounce flight after the porter. Holy City Pilsner – a very straight forward version, easy to drink and full of flavor. This was exactly what you'd expect from the Pilsen style. Giddy Up was next. They call it an IPA, but I'd refer to it as a red or an amber extra. It's really just a hoppy version of either. Though a bit heavy handed on the cascades for me, it was – overall – nice. Low Country Dark Ale is Holy City's version of a black IPA. I didn’t get that out of it at all. It was just a very good dark ale with a bit of extra hoppy-ness, and not nearly as bitter as some others I've had. More balanced than hoppy, and very good to boot, this was one of the better beers I had that night.
Yeast Wrangler – Jeebus, what a terrible name. But damn, was it good. Double or Imperial IPA, whatever you want to call it, it was just plain delicious. If you've ever had the Maharajah from Avery, that's a good comparison. Big, bold, hoppy, malty and citrusy, and just fantastic – I hope this one hits the bottling line soon.
Lastly, and probably against my better judgment, I ordered one more – Dr. Dunkelstein. It lived up to its roots as a dunkel. A dark, yeasty and malty lager, it was very drinkable, and would make a great cool weather session beer.
Friday wrapped it up for me at an event called Rock the Reinheitsgebot. Frothy Beard, one of the smaller and newer local breweries, was the host. On tap were a few traditional German styles that follow the Bavarian Purity Law. I was hoping to talk my German neighbor into going with me, as he had just become a naturalized citizen less than a year ago, and loves to talk up Bavarian style lagers. I would have enjoyed hearing his take on things that night.
There were more events the next day. But prior obligations kept me away, and admittedly that was probably a good thing.
I managed to keep the flow somewhat moderate until Friday night. But sadly, the wheels somewhat fell off and I got plain drunk by the time we headed home. The names of the beers I tried that night escape me somewhat, but I do know what styles I had. As I mentioned before, Friday night's event focused on the Reinheitsgebot. Ironically, the brewery hosting things is well known locally for its creative use of adjunct flavorings. One of their more popular ales is a Jalapeno Cilantro pale ale. For Beer Week, they had four choices brewed following the theme of the night – which was perfect, since I was able to get a flight that included them all. Not sure if that was by design, but it worked out either way.
The flight included a heffe called Wallhallaweisse. I'm not that big a fan of heffes in general, but I did enjoy this one. It was unfiltered, cloudy, fruity, citrusy and flavorful. I don't drink many of these sorts, so my frame of reference is somewhat limited. They also did a Berliner Weisse. I've never met a sour I liked, and sadly, this one was no exception. A pale yellow, and very, very cloudy, it was kind of lemony and sour. I can't give much more of a description than that because I just plain did not like it. I know there are people who enjoy sours, and that sours are becoming quite trendy. So if you're ever there, do give it a try. Onto the Boardslide Rye – at least I think that's the name. It’s what the brewers have listed on their website, at any rate. I do remember the rye, and it was very good. This was another unfiltered beer – spicy, fruity, with some deep malt character, deep red in color and quite cloudy. I really enjoyed this one, and went back for a second later. Lastly, an Altbier – dark, smoky, lightly hopped, and a great example of the style. It was almost stout-like, but lighter in color and body, and more subtle. I went back for more of this one as well.
I'm not sure if they'll ever have any of these in their regular brewing rotation. They're a very small operation, so space is limited. They even sacrificed serving their more popular stuff to make room for the Beer Week offerings. Without a doubt, I'll make some return trips to Frothy Beard.
So thus ends the week of consumption. If any of you ever find yourself in the Charleston area in mid-September (or anytime for that matter), be sure to look me up, and we'll go have a few pints at one of the dozen or so local breweries. I've been trying to visit them all, and it wouldn't hurt to have an excuse to hit one or two more.
Todd Crandall (sevenmag), an occasional Cigar Weekly contributor, is a lover of whisky/whiskey, quality ales and lagers, cigars, and nearly all things outdoors. He’s also an avid cyclist. Todd, being a new empty-nester, lives with his wife Michele just outside of Charleston.