Published on February 26th, 2014 | by Kevin Barron2
My Experiences With Craft Beer
Welcome to my column for Pee Dee Foodie content that I’m going to bring you in my column includes beer reviews; rundowns of Pee Dee bars, restaurants, and stores; reports on events such as festivals and brewery openings; and general thoughts on the state of the craft beer world. Most of the time I’m going to focus more on the beer side of things. For my first piece, I would like to tell you a bit about myself, and my experiences with craft beer.
I started drinking craft beer when I moved from Canada to Eugene, Oregon for graduate school. My “red pill moment” occurred at the end of my first day of grad school when I tried Deschutes Mirror Pond pale ale for the first time. This is a classic American pale ale (not yet available in South Carolina, but beers such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale are similar in character), and it was my first encounter with craft beer. It’s been love ever since. I suppose it’s a bit counterintuitive that I would move from Oregon (one of the most developed craft beer markets) to South Carolina (one of the youngest) before really getting into craft beer (in my case, branching out beyond my standbys from Deschutes, Rogue, and other “big” craft breweries). I guess that’s the benefit of more free time and a real salary in place of a grad student’s schedule and budget! My first experience with craft beer in the Southeast was discovering Terrapin Moo-Hoo chocolate milk stout, a great winter seasonal that supplanted my previous favorite of that style (Rogue Chocolate Stout).
Moving to Florence and meeting a close-knit group of fellow craft beer fans kicked my taste for great beer into overdrive. I’ll be spending plenty of time in future columns talking about Seminar Brewing, which is soon to open its doors and become Florence’s first distribution brewery, and I’ll get the following disclaimer (which you’ll see often) out of the way right now: the guys behind that brewery are my dearest beer friends and ones who I’ve had more great beer experiences with than I can count. In addition to welcoming me into the group with open arms, they taught me the joys of homebrewing beer, particularly my friend John who is my closest and most frequent brewing partner. The men behind Seminar Brewing are a first-class group of passionate, knowledgeable beer brewers and drinkers who I’m sure are going to bring great craft beer to the Pee Dee.
A summer trip to Oregon in 2012 (where I made up for some lost time) revved my engine even further, and the last 18 months have been a whirlwind of amazing beer drinking for me. In that time period I’ve tried thousands of new beers (that’s no exaggeration either: on the popular craft beer social media site/app Untappd, I’ve logged in over 2500 distinct beers since I started using it in August 2012), from homebrews and local brewpub offerings to a few of the rarest beers in existence, and everything in between. Throughout it all, two thoughts dominate. The first is that, while chasing and ticking rare beers can be fun, some of the most enjoyable are the ones are “daily drinkers” I can grab off the shelf at my local store. And the second, more important one is that the best aspect of diving into the world of craft beer isn’t the beer itself (although that’s obviously great!), it’s the people met and the friendships made along the way. The craft beer community contains some of the most amicable, generous people you will ever encounter. I’ve been fortunate to find wonderful beer friends in Florence, in the South Carolina craft beer community, and throughout the country.
Of those friends, I want to mention two: my friend Nick in Columbia, who runs the blog DrinkBlogRepeat.com, and my friend Brook in Greenville, who runs the blog BeerOfSC.com. Nick’s blog is the go-to source for South Carolina craft beer news, including releases, brewery openings, and events. Follow him on social media and you’ll never miss a thing. Brook’s blog focuses mainly on legal issues related to craft beer, and with good reason: Brook is a lawyer who was instrumental in the drafting and passing of the “Pint bill” which tripled the amount of beer South Carolina breweries can sell for on-site consumption. So if you are visiting one of our fine breweries and you see Brook, buy him a pint; he’s the biggest reason you can.
So that’s my story, and the background I’m bringing to the table (or the bar rail) when I review and discuss beers with you. In case you’re worried that I’m just going to write about rare beers that we might never get a chance to try, that’s not going to happen. In fact, I’m going to start by reviewing what I think might be the best widely distributed beer in America today. And I’m drinking one on draft at Apple Annie’s in Florence, right now, as I write this. Stay tuned.
Editor’s Note: This Spring we will launch a brand new podcast called “Craft Beet Carolina.” Through it, we’ll discover and discuss the Craft Beer Industries in North Carolina and South Carolina. SIGN UP HERE to be notified of its launch date.