Brewmaster Mark Walters pours a taste of River Rat's Broad River Red Ale. Photos by Jonathan Sharpe
When Brewmaster Mark Walters poked his head out into River Rat’s tasting room to meet me last Friday, he told me that if I had shown up ten minutes later, he would have been knee deep in starting to fill the brewery’s first-ever keg, and therefore too busy to show me around and let me taste some of his beers. Yes, as excited as local beer lovers are to wrap their tongues around a brew from Columbia’s second post-Prohibition microbrewery, it’s nothing compared to how excited the River Rats themselves are. But sweet relief finally comes this week as River Rat rolls out its beers in a series of events across Columbia.
Walters and Head Brewer Drew Walker were good enough to take me around for a look at River Rat’s truly impressive facilities. Looking back at the pictures River Rat owner Mike Tourville sent me in the fall, it’s hard to believe it’s the same building at all. The front taproom has a nice bar installed and lots of seating around repurposed architect tables. There’s a cabinet filled with River Rat swag including very nice glassware, a bottle opener with the rat skull logo cut into it (that I will be buying as soon as possible), T-shirts, and even a Frisbee. There’s a sunny deck and plenty of parking. Entering the brewery itself, it becomes even more apparent that these guys mean business — and lots of it, hopefully. As Mark showed me around the facility’s mash tun, boiler and fermenters, he pointed out the empty areas that will soon be filled with more fermenters and bottling equipment. This place was definitely built with expansion in mind.
But first, the beers have to be good, right? Well, if my preview taste is any indication, River Rat was right to think of expanding, because I certainly can’t wait to drink more. The Broad River Red Ale was a highly sessionable red with some great English malt flavors and very smooth 5.3 percent ABV. I’m definitely looking forward to that bottling equipment coming in, because this will be the go-to post-lawn-mowing beer of the summer. Then there’s the Hazelnut Brown Ale, which includes “a ridiculous amount of hazelnut” according to Walters, yet pulls off the difficult trick of delivering a pleasant nutty flavor without tasting bitter or burnt. The Winter Warmer Ale is the very first batch River Rat ever made on its equipment. During first runs with new equipment, mistakes often happen and the beer ends up discarded, but according to Walker, “We started brewing it, and nothing went wrong.” This happy accident is an aromatic spiced ale perfect for these last few cold Carolina nights.
Perhaps my favorite of beers was the River Rat Double IPA. It really is quite different from what I’ve grown to expect from the style. Instead of blasting your taste buds with hops, the hops mix well with the English malts for a floral experience that finishes with a subtle peppery kick. This beer will join the lineup previously mentioned at events starting Feb. 27. Finally, I got a taste of the Moncks Corner Abbey Ale, which won’t really be ready until early March, but even at this early tasting, I could tell that this is going to be one amazing beer, a Belgian-style Dubbel with complex notes of banana and fig. As Walters put it as we were talking, “Brewing is an art form verified by science.” If that’s the case, River Rat is proving its own theorem, and Columbia (as well as all of South Carolina) has a great new addition to this brewery boom.
Bluegrass, Bidding, and BBQ
Join The Palladium Society Thursday, October 23rd from 7-10 p.m. for its 11th annual silent auction, featuring music by The Mustache Brothers and catering by Bourbon and The Oak Table. Tickets are $30 at the door and include admission, drinks, and food. Get yours online now!
Four Miles, Twelve Doughnuts
Winston’s Wish aims to increase knowledge and understanding of children with autism, and you can help by participating in the 4.donut Race on October 25th. Start at Edventure Children’s Museum, run 2 miles to Krispy Kreme, eat 12 doughnuts, and run back! Registration is required and can be done here before October 23rd at 5 p.m.
The Other Place at Trustus Theatre
Juliana Smithton is a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. A mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present and the elusive truth of Juliana’s mental health boils to the surface in The Other Place, running at Trustus Theatre October 17th through November 1st. There will be a talk-back following the matinee on October 19th. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the box office at 803-254-9732.
King Lear in Finlay Park
October 16th-18th and 22nd-25th, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company presents William Shakespeare’s King Lear. All performances held at the Finlay Park Ampitheatre at 7:30 PM. For tickets and more information, click here or call 803-665-2000.
3LAU on Sunday, October 26th and the Unofficial Skrillex Mothership Tour After-Party on the 27th. More information and tickets for both can be found here. VIP tables available.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Cupcake now hiring a closing manager. Must be outgoing, customer service focused, able to work evenings and weekends. Apply in person. 1213 Lincoln Street, Columbia SC 29201. freshcupcakes.com
Local business is searching for new associates who are looking for a fun environment to earn great wages. Great position for college students/recent graduates. Must be well-mannered with excellent customer service skills/work ethic/ability to lift heavy items/must have valid Driver’s License. Call 803-376-4884 or email resume: firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com