Smoky Oak Taproom on James Island was a haven for homebrewers on Saturday, when the bar hosted the Smoky Oak Homebrewers Competition. Of the original six brewing teams that entered, five showed up with bottles, and in one case, a keg, of the beer they'd been working on for weeks.
One might expect a bit of tension in the air, as the brewers delivered their amber-colored handiwork into the waiting cups of judges and eager tasters; after all, they'd poured quite a bit of science, art, and time into their beer. But on the contrary, it was one of the most easygoing competitions we've ever witnessed. The porch at Smoky Oak, newly covered for the winter, was warm and cozy thanks to the electric heaters, and the free homebrew tastings were going down easily. The teams were excited to share their work, which seemed to be met with real appreciation by nearly everyone.
Each brew was complex and interesting, with flavors that ranged from honey to hops to mint and chocolate. Since I'm not much of a beer drinker myself, I just sipped along and left the real deliberation to the experts in our group, whose faves came from Team God Water (great name, right?), followed closely by the unnamed White Team, who created a grasshopper beer using Andes mints.
Apparently they know how to pick 'em, because Team God Water won the People's Choice and the White Team won First Place overall. If this competition was any indicator, Charleston's got a rich, creative homebrew scene in its future. —Elizabeth Pandolfi