Forgive us our beer belly. It’s difficult to resist a cold one, with offerings from local breweries like Palmetto, Westbrook, Holy City, and COAST on tap at every reputable bar in Charleston. But when Brewvival rolls into town, we can’t abstain from the extra hops and barley. In its fourth year, the festival is a collaboration between COAST Brewing Company and the Charleston Beer Exchange bringing the best and brightest in brewing to Charleston. More than 1,600 people lined up this year for a chance to try craft beers that you probably won’t find anywhere else.
The beer celebrations started early with a February Open House at Palmetto Brewing Company on Wednesday. The party on Huger Street not only fêted the upcoming festival, but also raised money for Charleston Pet Helpers — we always approve of gatherings with cute canines up for adoption. For a $10 contribution, guests got a Palmetto pint glass, sticker, and samples of several brews. The Charleston Coffee Roasters crew was also in the building for anyone who needed perking up. The chill in the air kept many of the guests in the warehouse, but a band and the lure of the kegs of pale ale and amber eventually drew party-goers into the courtyard. Diggity Doughnuts and Roti Rolls brought their food truck to the yard for attendees looking to pair their brew with some tasty bites. It was a laid-back evening and a chance for everyone to share their strategies for the big fest on Saturday.
On Brewvival Eve (Friday), Holy City Brewing hosted a fish fry for ultimate carbo-loading the night before the festival. Despite the inclement weather that evening, the warehouse on Dorchester Road was full of revelers. The smell of fried goodness wafted from the Roadside Seafood truck, which served guests out in the rain. Many tried samples of Holy City beer and caught up with friends while the Bluestone Ramblers played a few tunes. We met one couple who got engaged at the brewery — love and beer, it’s a natural fit. We called it an early night, as the next afternoon promised a long day of imbibing and merriment.
We woke up on Saturday with the rain pounding against our bedroom window. The only thing that could make us leave the house was the promise of flowing craft beers that awaited us at Brewvival. Downtown was flooded by 10 a.m., so we were sure the fields at COAST’s headquarters weren’t going to be much drier. We slipped on our galoshes, grabbed an umbrella, and headed to the Navy Yard. An hour before the gates opened, the crowd was already swelling despite the downpour. A few groups gathered under tents in the parking lot to have breakfast with friends, while others stood in line. Groups huddled under umbrellas and a few hard-core (or perhaps unprepared) individuals stood in the rain sans gear — you couldn’t stop these people from getting their fill.
Once the gates opened, we were off. The early birds had the advantage of seeking out their favorite breweries before any lines formed. Our first sip was the Bourbon Barrel Aged Batch 9000 Ale from Bell’s Brewery, and at 14.8 percent ABV, it warmed any chill we may have sustained from standing in the rain for an hour. We bounced around from booth to booth, sampling new favorites from Cigar City Brewing and Funky Buddha Brewery. The fields at Brewvival eventually turned into a mud pit from all the rain, and we had to solicit help from friends to get our boots unstuck a few times, but we couldn’t help but laugh. The scene was a sea of rain jackets and umbrellas, but most people seemed upbeat despite the downpour. After a few hours, the alcohol seemed to kick in as a few attendees took to the mud to start a wrestling match. The crowd watched for a bit, but quickly went back to drinking beer. We all left a little water-logged and covered in sludge but with happy bellies.