A banner year for beer in Myrtle Beach

‘Tis the time of year that you start seeing the recaps of the past year, but instead of discussing the finer points of twerking or rehashing the government shutdown, I bring you – The Year in Beer.

The last few years have seen an explosion of growth for craft beer. Even though the final count won’t be out for a few months, the total number of breweries in the U.S. is approximately 2,500 – the most since the late 19th Century – with more opening every week. South Carolina has 14 production breweries, four of which opened in 2013. The latest, Freehouse Brewing, opened in North Charleston on Dec. 7. Brewery 85 of Greenville has started brewing and will open its doors after the New Year.

While Myrtle Beach didn’t welcome any new local breweries in 2013, we did see several breweries start distributing to the area: Aviator Brewing from Fuquay Varina, N.C., Red Hare Brewing Company of Marietta, Ga., Lonerider Brewing of Raleigh, N.C., Sweetwater from Atlanta and Holy City Brewing of North Charleston. Larger craft brewers such as Goose Island and Founders expanded their distribution to South Carolina by including us in some of their more limited releases.

Myrtle Beach’s New South Brewing had a big year. New South’s first high gravity offering, Lily the Great Imperial Stout, made its debut at the Mellow Mushroom on Feb. 18. It quickly made the rounds at the growler stations and bars around town. Luckily, 50 gallons was tucked into a bourbon barrel and tapped at the brewery’s 15th anniversary party, which was held in November.

The fourth annual Brewvival was held in North Charleston on the last Saturday of February. It started raining the day prior and didn’t stop until about half way through the festival. The soaking rain turned the festival grounds into a huge mud pit – ringed with some of the best breweries in the country serving their finest beers. Tickets for the fifth annual Brewvival went on sale on Black Friday and are destined to sell out again – rain or shine.

Irish red ales and dry stouts flowed to the sounds of bagpipes, as March welcomed St. Paddy’s Day celebrations from the Market Common to North Myrtle Beach. After hitting up the Market Common fest, I brewed a batch of porter and threw a pan of brownies into my mash tun – this beer turned out to be Officer Reese’s, the beer that would wind up on tap at Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery after winning the homebrew competition “Wanna Get Tapped?”

On Easter weekend, the annual Myrtle Beach Beer Festival moved to its new home at the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach. Tickets to a Friday night session and two Saturday sessions were sold that included unlimited tastings, a departure from the pay-as-you-go ticket system. Some folks missed the outdoor location of Valor Park as well as the tickets, but the new venue provided shelter from the rain, a great setting for live music and great beer, as well as actual restrooms – a rarity at any beer festival I’ve ever attended.

The Pint Bill was passed in June, which made it possible for South Carolina breweries to pour up to 48 ounces of beer for on-premises consumption. Breweries across the state rejoiced, opened up their tasting rooms and welcomed visitors.

In July, I got the opportunity to start writing this column after long-time Beerman, Colin Burch, stepped down. On July 13, Thomas Creek of Greenville celebrated its 15th anniversary, and across town, Quest Brewing welcomed visitors to its grand opening. Meanwhile, in Mt. Pleasant, Westbrook held the much-hyped release of the highly sought after barrel-aged variants of its anniversary imperial stout, Mexican Cake.

In September, my Officer Reese’s recipe was brewed on Liberty’s 15-barrel system. Another rain-soaked beer festival, Brewgrass, was held in Ashville, N.C. And the next weekend, the sold-out Brew at the Zoo was held at the Lowcountry Zoo at Brookgreen Gardens.

In November, The Crafty Rooster moved its fall beer festival, Craftyfest, to its new location at the lower riverfront warehouse. The next weekend, more than a hundred home brewing enthusiasts attended the third annual Brewing at the Beach at New South Brewing.

It was a great year for beer here at the beach and 2014 looks even more promising. Pavilion Beverage in North Myrtle Beach just opened its growler station, bringing take-home freshness to us north-enders. Hurricane Maggie’s is having a New Year’s Eve celebration complete with live music and craft beer specials. Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery has promised another great homebrew competition. A new, larger batch of New South’s Lily the Great will be released in February. And the 2014 Myrtle Beach Beer Festival is already selling tickets.

The Myrtle Beach Beer Festival will be held March 29 at House of Blues. There will only be two sessions – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., to 9 p.m. The fest will take place in the restaurant and on The Deck. Tickets are already on sale for $25 until Jan. 1. After Jan. 1, ticket prices will go to $35 until the day of the event. Tickets at the door will be $45. Volunteers are still needed for the first session. If you’d like to volunteer for the festival, you’ll get a free ticket to the second session. E-mail Mike Shank at shankmike@yahoo.com to volunteer. For more details, head over to www.myrtlebeachbeerfest.com.

Contact John Garner at MBCraftBeer@gmail.com and follow him at www.facebook.com/TheNewBeerman.

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