Brewvival is big and burly. If it was a beer, it would be a high-gravity hybrid of the hoppiest Northwest ales, the maltiest Southeast seasonals, and the weirdest Northeastern cask-aged sours. We'd call it an Imperial Double Trappist-Style Extra Stout-Bock (aged in oak, of course). But it's not a beer, it's a rare and heady festival that isn't about getting deep-pocketed beer companies to pony up sponsorship dollars. It's about rewarding beer lovers and promoting the craft by tapping seasonal and one-off ales that are hard to come by.
The event, organized by COAST Brewing Company and Charleston Beer Exchange, debuted big in 2010 and has grown each year, with beer advocates from all across the country taking notice. In year three, it's easily one of the most anticipated beer festivals on the East Coast.
This year's keynote speaker will be Rob Tod, founder of Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. He'll address the crowd and discuss his brewery's Belgian-style ales. Other brewmasters will make presentations too.
The lineup of beers is truly dazzling, with rare ales and lagers, seasonals, barrel-aged specialties, and high-gravities. Upon entry, you'll receive a glass for sampling, which you can rinse out between tastings with water provided at the beer tables. They'll also have live music and food for sale from Diggity Doughnuts, D'Allesandro's Pizza, Roti Rolls, Ted's Butcherblock, and Coleman Public House.
The Brewvival's shuttles to downtown, James Island, and Mt. Pleasant are already full, so if you don't have a designated driver, arrange a sober and safe ride home now. Lowcountry Valet & Shuttle Co. is offering a private pickup for groups. If you can get together 14 people, they'll charge you $350 round trip ($25 per person). Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With so many beers and so little time, it's good to have a drinking plan for Brewvival. Here's what will be marked on our map:
Bell's Black Note (11.5 percent a.b.v.)
Not only is Bell's already brewing up two great stouts — Expedition and Double Cream — but they're taking it a step further by blending the two together and aging them in retired oak bourbon barrels for months. Black Note is an American Double/Imperial Stout. Expect this bold dark brew to showcase roasted malts, cocoa, and coffee while adding hints of oak and bourbon. This beer is hard to come by, so it would be wise to get a taste before it's too late. —Eric Doksa
Allagash Ghoulschip (6.9 percent a.b.v.)
An American rendition of a lambic, Ghoulschip is a so-called "American wild ale" brewed by the Portland, Maine-based Allagash for Halloween. The hazy, orange-amber ale was brewed with pumpkin, toasted pumpkin seeds, and molasses. Like authentic Belgian lambics, the ale underwent spontaneous fermentation and an aging period in oak barrels. That doesn't sound too scary to me. They only released 1,200 corked bottles and a few casks of the stuff. —T. Ballard Lesemann
Allagash Mattina Rossa (6.9 percent a.b.v.)
Another American wild ale, this limited beer was made with more than a half-ton of raspberries, aged in 11 red wine barrels — some with wild yeast and some without — and then blended to create the ultimate fruit-forward, funky flavor. This one will be tart, sweet, and bitter all at the same time. With Allagash's Rob Tod on hand as the keynote speaker, try this beer and then beg him to make a lot more of it. —ED
Dogfish Head Tweason'ale (6 percent a.b.v.)
Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione might be a big rock star and TV celebrity in the craft brewing world, but his recent fame hasn't distracted his passion for creating beers that defy categorization. As founder and president of the award-winning Delaware microbrewery, Calagione has led Dogfish through experiments with fruits, spices, herbs, and exotic ingredients. The Tweason'ale — a gluten-free brew made with fresh strawberries, sorghum, and honey — is one of the many recent specialties from the brewery. I wonder how "beery" this barley-free ale will taste. —TBL
Evil Twin Biscotti Break Spanish Ham Edition (8.4 percent a.b.v.)
Evil Twin's Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is based in Denmark, but he makes his remarkable beers at various breweries around the world in a practice known as "gypsy brewing." He recently brewed a batch of the rich and delicious Biscotti Break in Mt. Pleasant at Westbrook Brewing. Jarnit-Bjergsø and Edward Westbrook added a cured Iberico ham shoulder, which is arguably one of the best hams in the world, to the batch before aging for two months. We are excited about this beer, one that could easily be treated as a breakfast replacement. —ED
Fullsteam 2011 Sour Summer Basil (5.4 percent a.b.v.)
North Carolina microbrewery Fullsteam Brewing is one of the new kids in the Southeastern craft brewing scene. So far, the Durham-based company has made a splash with its version of California Common Beer (or "steam beer") and a zesty variety of ales and lagers brewed or infused with unusual ingredients like persimmons, sweet potatoes, scuppernongs, and grits. Their pale Sour Summer Basil is a Belgian-style farmhouse ale brewed with Saison yeast and fresh whole-leaf basil from Elysian Farm in Cedar Grove, N.C. It might be a wonderfully refreshing contrast to some of the burlier ales at the festival this year. —TBL
Stone Double Calypso Ruination (7.7 percent a.b.v.)
An American Double/Imperial IPA from the Escondido, Calif.-based micro, the addition of Calypso hops late in the fermentation cycle increases the aroma profile by adding hints of apple and pear to an already floral bouquet, creating a unique drinking experience. It will be bold, piney, and hoppy. —ED
Holy City Brewing Laser Pants (8.3 percent a.b.v.)
Charleston's youngest microbrewery will have three new beers on hand at Brewvival — a strong, holly Imperial Pilsner called Tripping Brick, a smoky Bacon Porter, and a pale Belgian Strong Ale called Laser Pants, which head brewer Chris Brown says is named for an obscure Avett Brothers' track. The small brewery has built its rep on malty, dark, English-style ales and a grassy, hoppy pilsner, so this delicately balanced high-grav specialty will surely surprise fans. —TBL
Sweetwater 15 Years of Heady Beers (10 percent a.b.v.)
In celebration of 15 years of brewing, Atlanta's Sweetwater has taken their original ESB recipe and kicked it up a notch. The 15 Years of Heady Beers ale is an Extra Special Bitter/Strong Ale. It was officially released at the brewery's anniversary party in Atlanta last week where we got a chance to try it out. It's sweet and malty with some citrus hops in the middle and a lingering booziness at the end. A bold beer, but a nice treat. —ED
Avery Trogdor the Burninator (7.6 percent a.b.v.)
Boulder, Colo.'s Avery Brewing Company is well known for its high-gravity renditions and eccentric reworkings of classic styles of ale and lager. This hefty, mildly smoked Doppelbock was developed in small batches and based on the traditional Bavarian strong lager. Malty, toasty, sweet, and slightly smoky, Trogdor might be a nice session closer in the late afternoon. —TBL