The second annual Brewing at the Beach – held again at New South Brewing Co. in Myrtle Beach on Nov. 10 – was only 45 minutes old when I realized it would be a success.
Honestly, I only spent 45 minutes there. It was Saturday. I have three children. My life is not my own. I was there at noon and left at quarter ‘til 1 p.m.
I was accompanied by Sadie, age 7, who was excited to find a platter of cookies on a buffet table and to receive the offer of Sprite from New South’s Brock Kurtzman.
Of course, the event had nothing to do with my minivan-and-juice-box home life, but it has everything to do with home-brewing.
Brewing at the Beach is essentially a home-brew enthusiasts’ event. The bar inside New South was filled with small samples of home-brewed beer in plastic cups. Among the tanks in New South’s brewing area, home-brewers began working on their recipes for demonstrations.
John “Jilly” Gardner – the man behind Myrtle Beach Area Society of Homebrewers and a key player in Brewing at the Beach – wore an Asheville Brewing T-shirt that mimicked the periodic-table style of the titles for the AMC television series “Breaking Bad.”
By about 12:30 p.m., the barroom was getting crowded, and more people were milling around the warehouse. A beautiful afternoon shined outside, football was on the television set, and still people were coming to a brewery.
When the weekend was over, I realized why the New South guys host the home-brew event.
The masterminds behind our local microbrewery and the enthusiastic home-brewer are essentially the same type of guys: They don’t just love beer. They love everything about beer. If they could invite yeast, barley, hops, and water over for a cookout and a football game, they would do it. If beer was a woman, these guys would wear makeup and pantyhose. That was a terrible analogy. But the New South guys and the home-brew guys believe in beer, and they want to be present at the creation of every decent batch.
So my Saturday was on a tight schedule. After chatting with a few folks, I grabbed a plastic cup with a two-inch sample of Otay Pale Ale, took Sadie by the hand, and walked to the car. I wish I could have had more.
A COLA FOR BLOOMBERG
Thirty minutes later, I was sitting in a Cinemark theater at Coastal Grand Mall with my 12-year-old daughter Maggie, a bucket of popcorn, and a massive cup of Coca-Cola. Maggie has been studying Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” and we were at the movie theater to watch a live broadcast of The Metropolitan Opera production of the play in New York City.
The massive cup of Coca-Cola sat in the armrest between us. I noticed that the event was sponsored in part by Bloomberg, the business news service founded by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently moved to outlaw large portions of sugary sodas in his city. As I watched “The Tempest,” somehow, that big cup of Coke tasted especially good.
While at Brewing at the Beach this past Saturday, I met locals Jim Hertzer and Janet Hertzer. The Hertzers love traveling, and they enjoy checking out the microbrews wherever they go. Like many craft-beer fans, they like telling stories about breweries, taprooms, and beers.
Keeping with that spirit, I offer the beer notes from my recent trip to Chicago.
I had never been to the Second City until this past Halloween. I was there for a five-day conference, and I made sure to try some of the local and regional beers.
I think it was a colleague of mine who said Chicago was like a cleaner, less-pretentious Manhattan. I agree. New Yorkers have no excuse. Chicago arguably has colder weather – yet warmer hearts. And they pick up after themselves.
Anyway, here are some recommended beers from the Chicago craft-beer scene:
Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery: Like Gordon Biersch, Rock Bottom is a brewpub and restaurant chain. However, the location I visited on my trip is located at One West Grand Avenue in Chicago. I ordered the sampler flight, and I could order any of Rock Bottom’s beers twice.
Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale: One of my colleagues, a Chicagoan, suggested we buy a pitcher while we ate at one of the Gino’s East of Chicago pizzerias (I’m still not sure what street we were on; I think it was North Wells Street). Goose Island deserves its reputation as a fine craft brewer. I found 312, named after the Chicago area code, easy to drink – and easy to pair with deep-dish pizza.
Goose Island Sofie: I tried this one at Watershed, the comfortable, friendly basement bar of the ridiculously pretentious Pops For Champagne on North State Street. Sofie seems to be part of a series of Goose Island’s upscale brews. It’s a Belgian-style ale with a wine-bottle label.
The Berghoff: This restaurant and bar on West Adams Street is old and famous. Part of “The Dark Knight” was filmed inside. Plus, they have their own brand of beer, brewed by Minhas Craft Brewery in Wisconsin. The Berghoff amber ale was worth seconds.