Sunday Funday on the Columbia Brew Bus (with a brand new brewery!)

So, as anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, Sunday is pretty regularly a blogging day for me. Needless to say, that didn't happen, as I participated in the Columbia Brew Bus's monthly Sunday Funday brewery tour. As an additional bonus, this was CBB's first tour to include the newly-opened Twisted Spur Brewery and Restaurant. More on them later. The tour started at 2pm with pick-up in downtown Columbia, providing transportation to Columbia's 3 commercial breweries--Conquest, River Rat, and Swamp Cabbage, before finishing up at Twisted Spur. At each location, we were provided with 4-4oz samples of each brewery's beer, along with the option to purchase additional pints and also beer to go (growlers or bottles) at cost. Per the guys running the tour, it seemed like this tour is targeted for about 4 hours total, but we blew well past that, not leaving Twisted Spur until 8pm. This was not a problem for me, but just be prepared for some extra time, especially if they continue to include a 4th touring location.

As I've had and written about the first three breweries in this blog previously, I will write about the breweries themselves while only mentioning highlights of the beers I had. This was my first time ever at Conquest and Swamp Cabbage, and my first time spending any meaningful time at River Rat. It was nice, in part, to finally learn where Conquest and Swamp Cabbage are located.

Our first stop was Conquest. They are located in an industrial building (all of these commercial breweries are located in industrial areas near the university's Williams-Brice Stadium) with a very nice bar area along with additional seating and space adjacent to their production area, as well as some outdoor space with picnic tables. The most notable of their four beers were the Coffee IPA, which I reviewed previously, and their Drinking Class Ale. This beer is in the style of an ESB (Extra Special Bitter), but uses some different ingredients for a very different taste. I can't describe it much, really (nice job from a beer blogger, right?), except to say it was very enjoyable but tasted unlike any ESB I've had before.

River Rat Brewery has a decent bar and sitting room, along with a decent amount of grassy outdoor space. They seem to be the most social of the commercial breweries--public areas away from the production space, frequent events like yesterday's charity cornhole tournament (though the other breweries are doing their share of events), and plenty of overall social space. The beer highlight was their collaboration with developing Greenville, SC brewery Birds Fly South, called Touch of Grey. This was listed as an Oatmeal IPA with citrusy notes, but the first thing I was getting was piney and dank hop notes. Now, make no mistake, the citrus was sneaky, always hanging around, but never quite the main feature of the flavor profile. It had very little bitterness, which was nice for a warm Columbia day.

The third brewery was Swamp Cabbage, which has a couple of small sitting areas featuring small bar, along with a very nice deck and open outdoor space beside the production area. A couple of the beers I had had before, of course, but their Peach Pale Ale was a new one for me. The peach flavor was present but generally pretty mild and the beer had a bit of a bitter finish. The SC Stout was also quite good, but the Peach Pale was a better match to the warm day.

Finally, we ended up at Twisted Spur for the final beer flights and some food. I just had an appetizer--chips with blue cheese, cheese sauce, bacon, and balsamic vinegar--and it was very good. In fact, our group of 20 ordered a considerable amount of the menu, and enjoyed most or all of it. Getting to the beers, first was their Southern Belle Blonde, which had a hint of white grape along with some mild crackery notes and a bit of a floral finish. Next was the Dead Head Red, a nicely balanced beer that is a little more hop-forward than most reds. It had mild malt and fruit notes with a decent bite. Third was their Hefeweisen, a very solid execution of the style, with notes of bananas, cloves and other spices along with maybe a hint of bread. Finally, we had the IPA, which hint several nice hop notes with very little bite. Overall, all of these beers were solid executions of their styles, and I look forward to seeing what else they can do as they get more comfortable with their venture (the space has only been open for a week).

With this, the Brew Bus returned us to our original location. Given the potential amount of beer that one can drink on these Brew Bus tours, I strongly urge consideration of a cab or Uber to and from the meet-up point. This was my first Columbia Brew Bus tour, and I would certainly be interested in doing one again in the future. Thanks, guys!