Upstate brewery Thomas Creek soon will start pushing its new Castaway Chocolate Orange IPA.
“We’re going to do a big roll-out next month, across the Southeast,” said Josh McGee, a sales and marketing guy from Thomas Creek Brewery of Greenville.
And lucky us – we got an early taste of Castaway, at least those of us who went to the fifth annual Myrtle Beach Beer Fest last weekend (March 29-30).
The fest was held at House of Blues at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, a venue that contrasted with the location of the previous four fests, Valor Park in The Market Common in Myrtle Beach.
I met McGee in the VIP area of the beer fest, upstairs in the House of Blues concert hall, where those who paid for the $70 ticket could try pricey specialty beers and graze a buffet.
Thomas Creek’s beer station was located on the main floor of the concert hall, accessible with the regular admission price of $35.
The brewery was offering samples of Class Five IPA, Dockside Pilsner and Castaway.
Castaway was by far the best of the three. The chocolate, the orange and the India Pale Ale flavors had a perfect balance; none of them stood out. I struggled to taste the chocolate and the orange, but I wasn’t too concerned about finding those flavors. Whatever it tasted like, it tasted great.
McGee says Castaway will be a year-round offering from Thomas Creek.
The new venue
I attended Session 2, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday.
The new venue, House of Blues, had the advantage of spreading out the crowd and providing shelter from a brief rain shower.
Inside the concert hall, on the bottom floor, the fest took advantage of the three bar areas and the concert floor, each with stations for various breweries. The VIP area was on the upper floor. Local band Psych Ward jammed on the main concert hall stage throughout most of Session 2.
More beer stations were outside, on the deck along the south end of the restaurant – a brief stroll from the entrance to the concert hall.
Overall, House of Blues was an ideal place for a beer fest.
Bathe with beer
Also at the beer fest, New South Brewing Co. of Myrtle Beach had its station just a couple of feet down the bar from Thomas Creek.
The New South guys had something unique at the beer fest: soap, made locally from their own beer.
Local soap-maker Bolla Botanicals cooks up 5-ounce soap bars out of New South’s White Ale and IPA.
New South sells the bars during its 3-5:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday brewery tours. The bars are $7 each, or two with a handmade soap holder for $14, said owner Dave Epstein.
When I called New South on Monday for more information about the soap, Laura Browning of Bolla Botanicals was at the brewery. She described the recipes for the soaps.
“We use Dave’s beer and we use essential oils,” Browning said.
The White Ale soap bar uses coriander essential oil and orange essential oils, and the IPA bar includes ground hops, Browning said.
For more information on New South’s brewery tours, visit www.newsouthbrewing.com.
Another bright spot at the beer fest was LowRYEder IPA from SweetWater Brewing Co. in Atlanta.
SweetWater has become more popular in the Myrtle Beach area, especially with its easy-drinking 420 Extra Pale Ale.
Meanwhile, LowRYEder IPA has gained some critical acclaim among beer connoisseurs. Twenty-five percent of the malt is rye, according to company info. It has earned a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Fest.
Keep your eyes open for LowRYEder, and give it a shot.
Contact Colin Burch at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his blog at http://maltyhops.blogspot.com.