Cheers to Brewvival. The third annual craft beer festival drew more than 2,000 beer fans and foodies and more than a few designated drivers for a casual, cheerful gathering on Feb. 25. The event featured some of the finest craft-brewed beers in the U.S. with an emphasis on rare beers and seasonals from micros based in the Southeast.
The line to get in was a long (especially right at noon opening time), and the $50 advance ticket price seemed high to some, but the fun inside was totally worth the wait and expense. Things ran smoothly from the gate to the music stage and concession areas. Attendees were in good spirits. Volunteers stayed busy and polite. Everything worked so well.
Organized by COAST Brewing Co. and the Charleston Beer Exchange, Brewvival celebrated the finest, strongest, and most hard-to-find ales and lagers on the scene. Most of beer enthusiasts on hand were veterans of the previous two fests, and they knew their way around the two main beer tents. I went in with my own list of beer to hunt down, but it was more enjoyable to simply go with the flow from booth to booth, chatting with brewery reps and staffers along the way.
The crowd of people hoping to try sips of Bell's oak-aged strong stout Black Note formed the first of several huge lines of the day, but the wait was pretty short and casual for most booths. High gravity beers, dark ales, smoked ales and lagers, and sours seemed to dominate the menu, but a few standouts included traditionally lighter styles, like Avery's golden and perfectly balanced Czech-style Joe's Premium Pils.
Some of the rarest beers went fast. I missed Allagash's pumpkin ale Ghoulschip (of the seasonals on my must-try list), but I enjoyed a zesty sample of the brewery's tart Mattina Rossa, made with raspberries and wild yeast. Evil Twin Biscotti Break Spanish Ham Edition, an all brewed in collaboration Mt. Pleasant's Westbrook Brewing, went fast, too. Dogfish Head served a 90 Minute IPA through one of their customized "randall" filters filled with bacon and habeñero peppers (it had a long, hot, spicy finish for sure). Atlanta micro Sweetwater's hoppy 15 Years of Heady Beers was one of the tastiest extra-strong IPAs of the day. Denver's Great Divide's oak-aged Yeti ales were a big hit among those searching for high-gravity dark ales, especially the vanilla-accented Espresso Oak-Aged Yeti.
All four Charleston microbreweries made their marks with a variety of unique ales. Westbrook's chipotle/cocoa infused Mexican Cake won plenty of the fans while their tart, straw-colored Hot Garbage Scambic Berliner Rice (a strange Berliner Weissbier collaboration with Stillwater) made sippers wince and grin. Palmetto offered its hoppy new Aftershock, a coffee-infused Espresso Porter on nitro (Guinness-style), and two surprisingly spicy ginger-flavored pale ales (one made with extra cardamom). Holy City Brewing's eclectic lineup included a strong Imperial Pilsner called Tripping Brick, a mildly smoky bacon porter called Notorious PIG, and a tangy Belgian Strong Ale called Laser Pants. Of course, dedicated fans of COAST's beer made return trips for their light and malty Kölsch, their hoppy cask pale Simcoe HopArt IPA and West Coat Pale, and their heavy hitters, Blackbeerd stout and Bulls Bay Oyster Stout.