I had the pleasure of spending 2 days in Columbia, South Carolina on business this week. Columbia is usually nice and warm, Famously Hot is their slogan, but when I was there it was cold, for the Columbian’s that is (and for a North Carolinian too). It was +2 C that made everyone complain and moan about the weather. In Columbia they have done a lot to re-vitalize the city. They have renovated many old buildings and kept the old style. The new buildings that are being built fit in really well with the old style. Vista is an area in downtown. It is a great area with plenty of good restaurants and beer bars. All of them are within walking distance and that is a rare treat in many cities in the US. What makes it even better is that the hotel I stayed at and the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, where I do most of my work, all are in the Vista. Across the street from my hotel is Flying Saucer, Columbia’s best beer bar. It’s not only the overwhelming selection of beer they have that makes it great. The beer is also handled well and served in the right glasses. I had a really good Magic Hat Howl which is a black winter lager that tastes a littler like a Swatzbeir. I also had the opportunity to have Smaltz Brewing Company Hebrew 13 Jewbilation Bar Mitzvah Ale brewed to “Celebrating 13 years of delicious beer and delicious shtick.” The beer has 13 malts and 13 hops and, of course, is 13% ABV. That make it a very complex beer with a barley wine touch to it.
I had dinner at Gravies and Vine in the Vista. Gravies and Vine has followed the trend of serving tapas. The restaurant has a neighborhood atmosphere and the food is good. They don’t have that many beers but the selection they have is good with a few good craft brewers like Foothills and Alagash. Their wine selection is on the other hand, very extensive and of good quality. I restaurant that I didn’t have the opportunity to go to this time is Blue Marlin. Their beer selection is not that great but do they serve some fantastic shrimp and grits!
Columbia also has another interesting area called Five Points with many interesting restaurants and bars. This is more an area for students but still a good place to find good beers and food.
Right before I started to head north on the 4-hour drive to Durham I stopped by at Green’s Discount Beverages. Green’s
is South Carolina’s largest beer retailer with a great selection of beers. They had a Leffe Bruin growler sale. Leffe Bruin on keg is kind of hard to get in the South East. Buying a growler also entered you in to a raffle with the opportunity to win tickets to the World Beer Festival. Green’s have 4 stores in Columbia. The downtown store that I was at has a great specialty beer room with the right temperature for aging beer. I don’t think that is the purpose of the room. I think it’s just to have some specialty beers separately to make it easy to get a good overview. Many of the beers were from Belgium but some were domestic. Right by the beer room they have another room but for wine.
It’s always a pleasure to got to Columbia, SC. It’s a town where you can feel the optimism despite high unemployment and a city government that is in freefall. There are some great beer bars and Green’s that have the best beer selection you can get in South Carolina.