The Gardener Guides crew was in search of more than just drinks on a recent Friday night; we wanted an experience, we wanted to learn something…along with drinks.
We opted for a scheduled tour with The Columbia Brew Bus!
The tour began at the designated pick-up point, Liberty Taproom. During the wait, Liberty’s hostess told us she had previously seen things like the Brew Bus in other cities, and was glad Columbia was finally getting one. We were soon met by Brew Bus Co-owner, Cam Powell, who would be our guide for the evening. Cam and his good friends Chris and Mike, all former USC students, created this venture to educate Columbia residents and tourists on our local craft beer scene since, well, we have one now! Brewing craft beer is a national trend, but only in the past few years has Columbia caught up with the likes of other cities. Cam and company saw the scene was growing and more full-production breweries opening, and they hopped on it. Being craft beer lovers themselves, they saw a chance to give other fans a new way to enjoy it, by seeing firsthand how their favorite brews are made, behind the scenes. Even modest beer lovers can always use a new entertainment option for the weekend, for coworkers, parties, and occasions, with a safe, reliable and very comfortable method of transportation.
We would be visiting three breweries over the course of three and a half hours: Swamp Cabbage Brewing, River Rat Brewery and Conquest Brewing. All are located in large, nondescript warehouse-type facilities near Williams-Brice Stadium. Our first destination was Swamp Cabbage Brewing. Swamp Cabbage is the nickname given for the heart of the young Sabal Palmetto, South Carolina’s state tree. The tree is drought-tolerant, unlike the Brew Bus passengers. Each of us was given four tickets for four brews. The night’s selection was extensive – enough so that everyone was able to find one to their liking. Favorites were the Sabal Palm Blonde, White IPA, Harvest Amber, and Chipotle Amber. We were led on a brew tour by Doug Boyd, one of the two owners. Doug was very thorough, and spoke extensively about fermentation and yeast as we gathered among the vats.
Next stop was River Rat Brewery, named for the three rivers that run through Columbia and the men who used to work on them. River Rat has a wonderful indoor bar, but we moved out to the covered deck and beer garden, which has a big, well-lit yard on which corn hole was being played as dogs frolicked. Most of us had not eaten dinner before the tour, so we ordered some Pimento Cheese from the Tap Room Menu, which was delicious and went well with the beers that Cam continually brought out for us to try. Local beer, corn hole and pimento cheese – doesn’t get much more Columbia than that! The brewery tour was conducted and was again very informative. The brew masters themselves seemed to be having a great time, fielding our questions and recounting stories about River Rat’s early days.
Conquest Brewing Company was our last stop. The brewing process was again explained, and we were again delighted with the brew tasting session, this time poured into some adorable little snifters! Conquest has a fun game room in back, with large versions of Jenga and Connect Four. It was a great place to end the night, hanging out with friends and reminiscing about our three hour tour, laughing about how little we knew about the brewing process going into this night.
The last snifter was emptied and we returned to the bus. Cam dutifully passed out water bottles and chips to us all, as we made plans to have a late dinner at Liberty (Brew Bus tickets get you 20% off all food items before or after the tour!). We were all now craft beer enthusiasts!
Address: The Brew Bus picked us up from Liberty Taproom (828 Gervais St.)
Phone Number: 757-871-8150
Check out their Facebook Page here!