The Daily Gamecock

Renowned, rare brews showcased at Columbia's World Beer Festival

Local, foreign brews satisfy tasters at annual event

There is a moment at the World Beer Festival — maybe it's when you're aboard the escalator from the upstairs tasting hall to the downstairs one — that you attempt to recall the many brews you've sampled.

That Rusty Gold apple ale homegrown in South Carolina sure was good. So were those several German pilsners and the Palmetto espresso brewed in Charleston. But what were their names? And will you ever drink them again?

Some who attended the festival brought small notepads and etched the identities for tomorrow, when their memories would likely return in a less hazy state. One man dictated his favorite brews into his iPhone, which recorded them into a permanent digital archive.

These were beers with long names and deeper origins. And these were people with thirsty palates, living with tipsy abandon.

So it was on Saturday evening, as hordes of revelers congregated inside the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, sampling brews foreign and local, renowned and rare. Throngs paid $40 — or $50 on the day of the event — to carouse through the convention center.

Some of Columbia's most renowned entrees were on sale as well, and the crowd seemed especially fond of Blue Marlin's shrimp and grits. Others settled for nachos and cheddar cheese sauce. The food didn't come with admission, but when you've already paid $40 to drink beer, what's another $5 for nachos?

There was a way to not pay for snacks, but we'll get to that later. We must first discuss the beer.

The chalice of choice was a small tasting glass that could be cleansed at several stations designed just for that purpose. And you needed to wash the glass; mixing a dark stout with a Blue Moon tastes as bad as it sounds.

Hundreds of servers manned the many distributor tables, some with heavier hands than others. The sample size for each beer was set at two ounces; occasionally, you'd get three or four ounces.

The distributors occasionally depressed those hunkered around by informing them a certain selection was no longer available. Some of the best beers were gone by 8 p.m., yet the crowd hardly seemed to mind. They jovially jumped along to a nearby table, sipping another selection and smiling.

Downstairs, you could try the Kona coffee beer or a peach brew. There were the typical beers you'd find in the grocery store — the Magic Hats of the world, so to speak. But there were strange, delicious beers, some with names that were brutally mispronounced.

Imagine the Southern twang on Hefeweizen. Yeah, it's not pretty.

There were colorful costumes; one particularly lovely woman was adorned with Satan's horns. She gave a colorful explanation of her wardrobe, much of which cannot be printed here. And there were hundreds of pretzel necklaces, built from — you guessed it — pretzels. The tipsy testers would reach down, snag a pretzel draped around their neck and munch. No need for nachos.

As the festival closed and the Convention Center swung shut its mighty doors at 10 p.m., crowds stumbled just down the street to World of Beer, Tin Roof and The Wild Hare. There, they'd spend even more, but it didn't seem to matter.

The night was young and the people were still thirsty.