"Any city with a decent beer scene has a festival. Any city needs a solid beer week." That was Chrys Rynearson's operating thought when he and Timmons Pettigrew took over Charleston Beer Week four years ago. With the city's brewery scene expanding faster than you could say gose, they knew beer fans would love a proper brewski holiday. Their model was simple: no more than six events a day, with a maximum of two events at a single venue, low participation fees for breweries and venues (they cost $60 this year), and free swag. Needless to say, the concept worked.
Today Charleston Beer Week is an eight day, 48 event beer bonanza big enough to show off this city's brewery scene — one that's grown from eight to 22 breweries in the past three years. What started as tap takeovers and tastings now includes a disc golf tournament, a grown-up field day, a boozy bike ride, not to mention a whole pig roast with a slate of venues as varied as Mt. Pleasant's tiny House of Brews to the luxe McCrady's Tavern.
"We wanted to think about the little guys," says Rynearson. "People told us we should charge a lot more for sponsorship, but we're not out to make money. We want to offset costs."
That policy has meant that on the whole CBW events have maintained an approachable price point. As in years past, many of the events are a la carte where you can taste and pay as you go. But don't expect to see Rynearson drinking any of the good stuff during CBW. The truth is, between orchestrating and executing all of the events, he rarely gets a sip.
"I drink water and those Monster drinks," he says. His other gig as a photographer is also to blame for his lack of a good pour. Rynearson and a team of other photographers shoot each of CBW's events and get the photos up the next morning. So as soon as a tasting is over, the Beer Week organizer is racing home to upload images. "It's a crazy week," says the Knowledge Management (KM) Lead for Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, but it's all worth it.
Rynearson and a team of volunteers (40 showed up at CBW's first meeting this year), begin planning for each year's Charleston Beer Week in June. "I don't know how many hours I've invested, but it's my side job for sure," he says. Executing such a big event also doesn't just mean making sure a brewery is signed up to participate. It's managing the website, updating social media, and tracking analytics and that's perhaps where the most interesting piece of CBW data has been uncovered.
"I compare our Facebook page to beer weeks in Asheville, Charlotte, and Raleigh, and I found out that the majority of our followers are female. It's a noticeable bump of 55 percent females on social media," he says. Charleston women love craft beer? We're not surprised at all.