by Eric Doksa
By now, everyone knows Brewvival 2013 was a version of the Tough Mudder with booze. It was cold, wet, and muddy, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time. A little dirt and rain (OK, a lot of dirt and rain) didn’t stop enthusiasts from standing together to enjoy some of the finest craft beers on the scene. COAST Brewing Company and Charleston Beer Exchange promised that this would be the biggest and best Brewvival yet, and they didn’t disappoint.
By limiting ticket sales to 1,800 (2,500 in 2012), the lines were much shorter. Five- to ten-minute waits for some of the most rare tappings were the longest of the day, but most lines moved along at a more rapid pace. There weren’t hour-long waits for food, and there certainly wasn’t a shortage of beer.
With more than 130 unique beers available, we came prepared with a “must drink” list with wiggle room for some unannounced guest breweries. The Bell’s Bourbon Barrel-aged Batch 9,000 and Green Flash Silva Stout were two of the bigger beers to make our list, and they didn’t disappoint. Allagash came through with the three funky wild ales the FV13, Mattina Rossa, and Midnight Brett and Avery’s Odio Equum was a crowd favorite.
Some of the guest beers were the most surprising. The Cigar City Dos Anos Kumquat Berliner Weisse was easy drinking at 4 percent ABV, but offered a parade of tropical flavors and the tartness one would expect from a fresh kumquat. Funky Buddha was a big hit last year, and they succeeded again with unique creations such as the Basil Lime Pale Ale and Don’t Tell Reece Peanut Butter Chocolate Imperial Stout. New to us was 7venth Sun Brewery out of Dunedin, Florida. They brought their Graffiti Orange Creamsicle Wheat and the piña colada-like Making Love at Midnight Berliner Weisse.
The locals brought their A-game, too. Palmetto aged ginger slap in rum barrels, and COAST debuted the Saison De Dufus in a cask. Holy City had plenty of the decadent Notorious P.I.G. : Mo’ Chocolate, Mo’ Problems to go around, and Westbrook busted out some barrel-aged funk with their CBX collaboration, Grumpy Old Time.
The two keynote speakers of the event were Sam Calagione, Founder/Owner of Dogfish Head Brewery, and Ken Grossman, Founder/Owner of Sierra Nevada Brewery. They addressed a small crowd of 50, speaking about how far craft beer has come. After a brief 45-minute Q&A, they braved the mud and enjoyed some suds with everyone else. On Sunday morning, the brewers joined a group of 100 dedicated individuals at GrowFood Carolina to enjoy an amazing beer breakfast with COAST Brewing Company, Charleston Beer Exchange, and Chef Robert Stehling from Hominy Grill.
The breakfast was truly outstanding. Shrimp and grits were paired with Dogfish Head Birra Estrusca, while green pork and scrambled egg enchiladas played nicely with COAST Red Legs Scotch Ale. Beer-battered French toast was dressed in stout syrup with praline bacon, and sweet potato hash was topped with a made-to-order poached egg. The open format of the breakfast allowed for guests to mingle with fellow beer advocates and have more personal conversations with Sam and Ken. It was a one-of-a-kind experience that many will never forget.
When we asked Calagione what he’s heard about the Charleston craft beer scene, he said,”Brewvival is the festival to see on the East Coast. Everyone is talking about it.” He’s right. Brewvival is much more than the average beer festival. It gives reason for the best brewers and the most dedicated of the craft beer community to gather in one place and celebrate the one thing they all love: craft beer. Craft beer isn’t merely just a beverage, it’s art, and Brewival is one of the best art galleries around. We’re certainly looking forward to Brewvival 2014.