I found out about the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Microbrews Cruise a little late in the summer last year, so I didn’t want to wait until the last minute to mention the tour series this year. Put on by the U.S. National Whitewater Center, the Microbrews Cruises happen every Wednesday and alternating Fridays from April through October and are the perfect combination for people who like their craft beer with a little Mother Nature on the side for good measure. Yes, it’s technically an event located in Charlotte, but it would really make for a perfect little afternoon to evening road trip. Each cruise starts out at 6:15 p.m. with a check-in at the USNWC Kayak Center, where you’re set up with your own kayak (tandem kayaks are available, if you want to make a date out of it) and then taken on a guided flatwater paddle along the Catawba River. When the sun starts to go down, everyone heads inland and enjoys a fireside dinner on Hawk Island along with a tasting from that tour’s craft brewery of choice. Representatives from the breweries will be on hand also to lead you through the tastings. The highlighted brewery changes with every tour, and upcoming highlights include everything from the well known and readily available (Sierra Nevada, Left Hand and Dogfish Head) to the lesser known and generally unavailable in South Carolina (Heavy Seas, Mother Earth, Boulevard, Olde Hickory). One that I would be particularly keen to check out is coming up this Friday, May 16, when the featured brewery is Charlotte’s own Birdsong Brewing Company, whose brews I have enjoyed quite a bit whenever I’ve been able to get my hands on them. Tickets to the Microbrews Cruise are $55 per person and can be purchased at usnwc.org/microbrews-cruise-2014-schedule. You can also check out the full schedule there. If you’ve wanted to step up your river-drinking game, this is the way to go.
As for tastings a little closer to home, this week kicked off the Total Beer Experience at Total Wine & More. The discount beverage store will be running beer specials as well as hosting beer tastings every day from now until May 18. Times and breweries change with the day, of course, but a couple that will definitely be featured are Terrapin, Founders Brewing, Anderson Valley and Oskar Blues. Check out the Columbia store page at totalwine.com for the whole schedule.
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