Myrtle Beach area sculpture garden/zoo brews up a sold-out craft beer fest

For Weekly Surge For Weekly SurgeOctober 2, 2013 

John "Jilly" Garner won the chance to brew his beer recipe at Libery Restaurant and Brewery at Broadway at the Beach. Courtesy photo.

“Do you like reptiles? Well, check out this baby alligator.”

Definitely words I would never expect to hear at a beer festival. That is, until Saturday (Sept. 28) at the second annual Brew at the Zoo held at Brookgreen Gardens and its Lowcountry Zoo. Alligators, snakes, otters, bald eagles and owls were just a few of the stars at the fundraising craft beer fest held on this beautiful autumn evening. What started out as hot early-fall day ended as a mild night – perfect not only for visiting the animals, but also for also sampling great seasonal beers and enjoying some live music.

The sellout crowd of 375 was treated to seasonal beers from New South, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island, Sweetwater, RJ Rockers, Thomas Creek-brewed Pig Swig and many more. In addition to the beer, event-goers were able to dine on gourmet treats from Louis’s at Sanford’s. I tried the praline bacon, a particularly decadent treat of crispy smoked bacon that had been coated with sugary pecans and the duck and sausage gumbo, which was amazing. The event felt like an intimate affair, with tables adorned with centerpieces and candles.

Leaving the silent auctions, live music by local acoustic rock outfit Bullfrog and beer tables behind, my wife and I took a stroll through the zoo on a lit path that revealed not only the animal habitats, but also a roaring fire in a stone fireplace that beckoned us to sit with our beers and relax.

As inviting as the fire was, we wanted to get back to the crowd, the food and the beer. I was able to speak with Roddy Graham and Jacob Rice from New South Brewing, who told me about the new equipment recently installed at the Myrtle Beach brewery. A new boiler was delivered that will make the brewery more efficient and cut down on the amount of time it takes them to get their beer to a boil in the kettle.

In addition to the Pig Swig, I also enjoyed some of the other beers brought by the Piggly Wiggly, such as Founders Rubaeus, a raspberry ale, and Citrus Ninja Exchange, a tasty imperial IPA brewed with grapefruit zest by Westbrook Brewing in Mt. Pleasant. New South poured its Oktoberfest lager and White Ale, with the Oktoberfest running out close to the end of the evening. Luckily, I had been at Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery earlier in the day, and had picked up a growler of Liberty’s Oktoberfest, a hoppier and dryer version of the style, that I didn’t hesitate to share – proving to be both quenching and delicious.

“We are very pleased at the sold-out response to Brew at the Zoo and would like to thank the Friends of Brookgreen and our volunteers for helping make it such a success. This year, everything came together perfectly, it was a beautiful evening with exceptional beer tastings and lots of good food and happy faces,” said Brookgreen’s Vice-President Marketing, Helen Benso.

Last year’s inaugural event was hampered by wet weather that forced it to be moved from a Saturday night to a Sunday evening.

It was the perfect end to an exciting and eventful week for me and my very patient and pregnant wife. The previous Friday (Sept. 20), we drove up to Brevard, N.C. to visit Oskar Blues new brewery and then on to Asheville, N.C. for the bluegrass and craft beer fest, Brewgrass. Besides the fact that it poured rain all day at the festival, it was an amazing weekend with friends – we visited Asheville breweries Wicked Weed, Asheville Brewing, Wedge Brewing and Hi-Wire Brewing. Myrtle Beach(ians?) are extremely lucky to be a mere 5-hour drive from the craft beer Mecca of the Southeast. I highly recommend a trip to the mountains to anyone – take in the sights, the people, the music and the amazing breweries of Asheville. It’s a different world up there and a world I am more than happy to visit as many times a year as my wallet and vacation time will allow.

Besides attending the Brew at the Zoo event, Saturday was also the day that I was able to brew my homebrew competition-winning beer at Liberty Steakhouse & Brewery. We started the day at 8 a.m., adding 170-degree water to two-row malted barley, chocolate malt, black malt and dark crystal malt. Not to be overlooked was the huge pan of brownies that was placed gently on top of the grain bed. After rinsing the grain (and brownies) and sending the sweet, black wort over to the boil kettle, I rolled up my sleeves and tended to the glamorous task of shoveling all 850 pounds of grain and saturated brownies out of the mash tun into the awaiting bins. After getting the mash tun sparkling clean, we added hops to the boiling wort and finished it off with a mesh bag full of cacao nibs. Mike Silvernale, Head Brewer at Liberty, showed me how the wort gets from the boil kettle to the fermenter upstairs where it will mix with the waiting yeast and make beer.

After fermentation completes, powdered peanut butter will be added to the beer and will sit for a few weeks until it’s ready to drink. Officer Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter will make its big debut in Liberty’s bar area on Oct. 24. Please come join us and let me pour you a pint.

Also, Oktoberfest is here. Don’t forget to head to the Market Common for the sixth annual Oktoberfest on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Valor Park. Meanwhile, Crafty Rooster in Conway will have an Oktoberfest tap takeover tonight (Thursday), featuring a slew of various Oktoberfest and pumpkin brews.

Contact John Garner at MBCraftBeer@gmail.com and follow him at www.facebook.com/TheNewBeerman.

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