Columbia Brew Bus to Cruise Area Breweries

Plus: Who Made Your American Whiskey?

By Tug Baker
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
River Rat Brewery | file photo

Columbia Brew Bus to Cruise Area Breweries

With Swamp Cabbage set to become Columbia’s third brewery with a taproom (Aug. 17 is the official opening date), it wasn’t going to be long before some smart, enterprising folks started a bus to shuttle beer lovers from brewery to brewery so they can enjoy all the craft brew goodness that our town has to offer without drinking and driving.

Started by Cam Powell, Mike De Kozlowski and Chris Campbell, the Columbia Brew Bus has a Facebook page, a cool logo and, as of last week, a church bus. (I’m looking forward to seeing how they redesign it.) They plan to start offering tours in late August, and with their mission statement “to help make Columbia a major beer tourism destination by offering a previously unavailable, exciting and safe transportation method that showcases some of the Southeast’s newest and best breweries,” I think they will fit into the Columbia beer scene just fine. There’s no official website yet, but you can follow their Facebook page and Twitter account (@columbiabrewbus) for updates.

Who Made Your American Whiskey?

Last week, the Daily Beast reported a story (that would go on to be picked up by NPR and other major news outlets) that, while maybe not big news to industry insiders, certainly came as a surprise to the general drinking public. It turns out that your favorite “artisanal,” “craft,” or “small batch” whiskeys may not be the Portlandia-esque, locavore-worthy special snowflakes you thought they were. Many of these whiskeys actual get their product from a factory in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, called MGP Ingredients. The MGP mass-produced rye whiskey can be found, in some form or other, in some of your guaranteed-favorite rye whiskeys — Bulleit, Angel’s Envy, George Dickel, High West and Prichard’s, to name a scant few.

On one hand, it’s not so shocking that a new start-up distiller wouldn’t have the capital to actually make and age a five- or 10-year whiskey before selling any of it, and thus would resort to getting some capital going with someone else’s whiskey. But to market that as “hand-bottled in Littletown, USA” with a hefty price mark-up is pretty disingenuous, especially for more well established distillers. It’s definitely something to keep in mind next time you’re picking out a bottle. Check the label and see if it’s distilled in Indiana.

A driving force behind Whiskeygate is food blogger Sku (attorney Steve Ury by day), who has cataloged over four-dozen brands that use MGP whiskey; I recommend checking out Ury’s blog at His list of distilleries and what they produce themselves and what they outsource is a fascinatingly thorough rabbit hole.

Drink with Your Favorite Characters

So everyone by now knows about the Game of Thrones beers by Ommegang, but you really don’t see a lot of beer being consumed on the show. Mostly when characters in the show get “in their cups” it’s because they’ve had too much wine. While there’s no official Game of Thrones wine, Australian ad agency Common Ventures is planning on releasing an unofficial Wines of Westeros series. Each of the main noble houses from the show and books will get its own release, including a dark pinot noir for the Lannisters and a passionate red cabernet for House Martell. The wines won’t be released until the season five premiere next year, but you can pre-order at The site’s under construction right now, but the notice “Hangovers are coming” gives me hope that these will at least be a fun tribute to the show.

In other tie-in drinking news, Shmaltz Brewery (makers of He’Brew, The Chosen Beer) is paying tribute to Jack “King” Kirby later this month at an event at the New York brewery celebrating the legendary comic creator’s birthday, Aug. 28. Kirby created the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Captain America and hundreds more (including Groot and Ronan the Accuser from that Guardians movie you saw and loved last week), and his family is still in legal battles with Marvel about all those now-oh-so-profitable characters. Proceeds from the sales will go to Heroes Initiative, which supports comic creators (who often don’t have health insurance) in need. The party will feature King Kirby Ale brewed by Shmaltz and sold exclusively at the party. There is King Kirby Messiah Ale (dark) and Genesis Ale (light), and, in true comic book tradition, a variant sketch label bottle. So if anyone wants to go to New York and bring a case back, there’s a certain drink columnist who would like to be your new friend.

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