Yesterday was a big day for beer drinkers here in good ol' Metro Columbia. The World Beer Festival took place at the Convention Center. When Neil and I met, we were both pretty regular and accomplished beer drinkers. Over the years, we've pretty much evolved into winos, but both of us still know and appreciate a good beer when we taste it. This year's festival was our 3rd. If you've never been, you should put this on your calendar for next January.
It's a really well done festival. There are beer vendors on both floors of the Convention Center, live bands, food booths from area restaurants and lots of swag. Just ask Neil....he's one swag snaggin' son-of-a... All in all there were about 300 beers to try. It's conducted a lot like a wine tasting. Everyone receives a little plastic beer glass. They pour you a 2 oz taste. If you like it, come back and have another. But, if you don't like it (like that one that tasted like a tall drink of grapefruit peel) you can dump it in the bucket and rinse your glass at the rinsing station. Thank goodness; that grapefruit crap was just vile. I'm not usually one for fruity beers or hard ciders. I did try one beer that surprised me. It was a light ale with apple in it. You could smell the apple and taste it, but it still tasted like a beer.
Some other interesting tastes were the coconut-pineapple mead, and a Thai ale that had hints of fresh ginger and lemongrass with a spicy aftertaste. I like dark beers, so I always enjoy trying the chocolate porters and espresso stouts. Neil prefers IPAs and at this festival you could probably spend the entire session drinking IPAs alone. Lots of them! Neil is recommending the Thomas Creek "Class 5 IPA". This brewery is from Greenville SC.
Piggly Wiggly had a stroke of genius this year. They sponsored the "Flavor Station." They paired several beers with particular cheeses, sausages and crackers. They had some very interesting combinations. The Blue Marlin was there again this year serving up their Shrimp and Grits. Most everyone in Columbia has had this dish I bet. What they were serving yesterday was characteristically delicious: the shrimp were cooked perfectly and the grits were nice and creamy. Since it's really important to keep food in your stomach while sampling 300 beers, we also had some of Liberty's blue cheese chips. I'd love to know how they make that sauce. It's so smooth and the flavor is super. We came across a vendor called "Lusty Monk" out of Asheville. They had 3 mustards to taste with pretzels. They were so awesome that we bought a jar of each. They are: Original Sin fresh ground mustard, Burn in Hell chipotle mustard and Altar Boy honey mustard. Any of these would elevate a bratwurst to a whole new level!
Once again, the World Beer Festival didn't disappoint us. We plan on going again next year, so if anyone wants to join us, just say the word. Cheers to you all!