Beers in Review: Catch-up

One Asheville-based brewery that always ends up flying below my personal beer radar is Hi-Wire Brewing. Typically, they don't end up being my first choice, which was my own personal mistake until the Craft and Draft birthday event, when I led off my afternoon of drinking with Hi-Wire's Citra-Hopped Gose. The ABV falls in line with most goses and sours at 4.2%, and it pours a fairly clear golden yellow color. As would be expected by the hop varietal used in dry-hopping, along with the style, citrus fruits lead the way in the flavor profile. Lemon and lime are the primary fruits, along with perhaps a hint of grapefruit. I was also getting a decent amount of what I thought was grassy or grainy notes. This gose is separated from most others in that there is almost zero sweetness and a very slight amount of saltiness. I found it to be a decent enough gose, but I would have liked to have seen SOME flavor aspect be bolder and move to the front, whether that means an increase in citrus flavors, or more saltiness, among other options. Still, an overall mild option isn't a terrible starter for an extended drinking session.

Next up is the Lime-a-Peno Blonde Ale from local brewer Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. I got this despite my general distaste for pepper beers--there have been very few that I have legitimately liked. Still, I'm willing to give them continual chances, especially pepper beers from different breweries. Brewed with jalapenos AND lime (in case the name wasn't obvious), this 5% ABV Blonde brought a fairly clear pale yellow hue. I found plenty of green jalapeno in the aroma, and it followed into the flavor with plenty of pepper and other vegetal notes. Despite the peppers used, there was very little spiciness to the beer, which to me was surprising but not unwelcome (I find many pepper beers will overdo the spicy angle). A mild amount of citrus sweetness rounds out the flavor profile. I said I'm typically not a fan of pepper beers. I probably wouldn't call myself a fan of this one, either, but it's probably the closest I've been to legitimately enjoying such a style. So, a net win in my book for Swamp Cabbage.

Video Review: A Local Hop Bomb?

In today's video review, I check out a Red IPA from the local Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. Check out my thoughts:


Also, stay tuned to THIS SATURDAY AFTERNOON for live updates from the Craft and Draft 3rd Birthday Party! The fun starts at noon, Eastern time! I'll have a full video recap after the event! (Also, come find me if you actually are in Columbia!)

Beers in Review: Been awhile

It's been awhile since I've done one of these. Admittedly, the start of football season has skewed my bar-visiting habits quite a bit, so I'm going to the beer bars less frequently right now. Regardless, I have a bunch of beers to write about now, so let's get to it!

Starting off our group of beers is one of the few Octoberfests I'll actually be writing about; rest assured, you will be able to check out plenty of Octoberfest beer reviews on the YouTube channel in the coming weeks!

Samuel Adams' Octoberfest had a nice copper color and brought a pretty strong malt backbone to play with other assorted relatively sweet notes. Most obvious were some mild fall spice notes--mostly cinnamon and I think nutmeg (they all kind of blend together for me)--and some very nice darker fruit notes. I picked up plum and hints of raisin and cherry as well. A slight caramel note also came out of the malt backbone. Overall, despite the potential for a sugar bomb, I found this beer to be fairly balanced. The sweetness was moderate and thankfully not overpowering.

Next up is a collaboration between New Belgium Brewing Company and Avery Brewing Company. Officially under the "Fat Tire and Friends" banner, Fat Wild is an American Wild Ale, and it shows, as the drinking experience leads off with a funky tropical fruit introduction. While other flavors came and went throughout the drinking experience, the funkiness was a constant companion that intensified as I reached the end of my glass of the ale. Other notes included a mild, caramel-sweet maltiness, as well some mild berry notes. I also noted the relatively unique mouthfeel of the Fat Wild as I drank it. I found it to be highly carbonated, and almost frothy, almost as if it were a cream ale or under nitrogen. It was an unexpected, though not unwelcome, feeling.

Our final beer of the day is a local White IPA from Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. It pours a pale yellow color, similar to a light white wine, and the beer plays very much like a wheat beer to open, and an IPA to close. Some cloves and other spices, along with perhaps some mild graininess, before giving way to a mild piney hit and a decent amount of bitterness that carries through the back end of the drinking experience and lingers well after drinking. I felt this was a decent attempt at a somewhat difficult style.

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!

Recovery and Reflection: World Beer Fest Highlights, Part 1

Well, here we are again. I am recovered from Saturday's boozy experience and Sunday's football insanity to return to the blogosphere.

Columbia's version of the World Beer Festival was held on Saturday. I could never remember everything I had, and I have notes on many beers, but I just want to give some highlights from my drinking experiences.

First, I think NoDa Brewing's Jam Session IPA might be my favorite IPA right now, and is up there on my favorite beer list (or at least, favorite regularly-available beer list). It's loaded with grapefruit flavor and aroma that blends well with the hop bitterness. It has big bold flavors, but didn't really seem to be much of a palate wrecker to me.

Swamp Cabbage Brewing had their Anniversary Ale on hand. It had a nice malt sweetness with mild hop and fruit flavors. Very nice.

Prior to and at the festival, I tried out Catawba Brewing Company from Morganton, NC after just recently starting to see them around Columbia. I had the Farmer Ted's Cream Ale (which seems to be the base beer to appeal to the pale lager drinkers of the world) at a local bar and the White Zombie White Ale at the festival. They both had fairly similar characteristics--a lot of grain and generally mild flavors. This was expected in the Cream Ale, but I'd have liked a little more out of the White Zombie. Still, I'll give them another try if/when I see them around here.

One of the first beers I had was D9 Brewing Company's Black Ice Imperial Black Ale. Aged in various sorts of barrels, including Canadian whiskey barrels, this ale had lots of booze and boozy sweetness (it checks in at 10% ABV), along with some coffee notes and maybe a hint of chocolate, though that may have just blended in with the booze.

This seems like a good stopping point for today. Tomorrow, I'll comment on a few other beers I had, along with some interesting ciders, if you'll indulge me on some Pourly Reviewed Ciders. Cheers.

Columbia Craft Beer Week, Day 3: Swamp Cabbage Bald Cypress Porter LIVE

Day 3, and a sampling of a third of Columbia's breweries. Today we feature the Bald Cypress Porter from Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. The porter poured pitch black with a very small amount of tan head. The very first impression on the sip was a cola-like flavor. That lingers for a bit, then resolves into something a little more dark fruity, then into a more typical cocoa flavor. There is also some kind of smoky bite at the very end, almost like a mesquite, or something like that. It's not off-putting at all, but a bit of a unique flavor.

Beers in Review, weekend of 8/28: 4 and 1/3 beers

I've been a long-time fan of Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, NY). The availability ebbs and flows here in South Carolina. I find the Lager to be solid, and have heard very good things about Sorachi Ace, but the home run hitter for me was the Pennant Ale. I discovered one summer about 4 or 5 years ago, and literally couldn't stop buying it.

It had been a while since my last Brooklyn beer, but I found the Brooklyn Brown Ale at Pinch a few weekends ago, and remembered why I was a fan. I'm starting to move out of the brown/red ale phase a bit, but I found the Brooklyn Brown to be quite enjoyable. It contained a good amount of maltiness, which I enjoy (especially the roasted variety). Also a mild hoppyness which, for me, combined with a caramel sweetness. A nice balance and pretty smooth.

I call Boulder's Hazed and Infused (which is now simply known as "Hazed", no doubt a result of some cease-and-desist letter from Hollywood) a gateway beer for one wanted to start their journey towards the hoppyness of IPAs. This session pale ale has some evident hop notes, but puts a lot of the focus on a fresh, clean beer that combines with a peach or apricot sweetness. With those evident hop notes, but not much of the normally-accompanying bitterness, this "Hoppy Session Ale" was one of the first hoppy beers I tried and legitimately enjoyed. Hazed served to be a first step to my enjoyment of stronger and more bitter pale ales and IPAs.

The goal of this blog is not to diss the pale lager crowd, despite certain producers' disses of the craft beer industry (Pumpkin Peach Ales, anyone?). Regardless, the Miller Lite rep was in a local bar and bought everybody an aluminum bottle. I drank about a third of it. It was about what you'd expect.

Terrapin's Liquid Bliss is a damn tasty beer. Liquid Bliss is their chocolate peanut butter porter, with a good combination of both. I found the peanut butter to be prevalent in the aroma and the aftertaste, while the chocolate side seemed to dominate the in-mouth taste. Very tasty, but can be a bit overpowering if drank quickly--enjoy as a sipping beer, and you will be well-rewarded.

Swamp Cabbage is one of the newest breweries in Columbia's quickly-emerging local craft beer scene. Just over a year old, their ESB is one of the more commonly-found beers in Columbia's bars and restaurants. It's pretty clean, with a small amount of bitterness. Overall, a pretty solid ESB.