I knew this day would come.
Music and beer are intertwined in a harmony so perfect, it rivals some of history’s greatest pairs: Turner and Hooch, Thelma and Louise, Tom and Jerry – even Chan and Tucker. It makes perfect sense for Scene SC to finally get in on the beer writing game and I’m honored to be a part of it. With hops as my muse, I pledge to do my part in keeping our state up-to-date on all things brew.
Which brings us to the beginning: Columbia’s Beerhead Bible. This is the best the city has to offer to true beer aficionados at this moment in time. No Applebee’s happy hours here – we’re going to focus on local bars, pubs, restaurants, draught emporiums and the like that are serving some of the best craft brews produced in the Carolinas and the rest of the country. Let’s get to it.
The Cock ‘n’ Bull // 326 S. Edisto Ave. [Pub]
This place has my heart. Their owner is an outgoing Liverpool fan, my club of choice for English football (soccer – yeah it’s pretentious, so what), who always has the game on, they serve a killer English brunch on Sundays and, oh yeah, they have an awesome tap wall. Being a Euro-style pub, the draughts are largely imports, though high quality American brews crack the wall on rotation. Definitely the place to go if you’re looking for a small, friendly, homely pub in Downtown Columbia.
- Selection: 20-30 beers on tap; ~10 bottles
- Price range: $4-8 each
- Tap highlights: Czechvar, Westbrook brews
Delaney’s // 741 Saluda Ave. [Pub]
Delaney’s’ low lighting and dark colored interior definitely give it the feel of a pub, but there’s something about the massive amount of space inside that takes it out of that category in my mind – it feels like it’s foremost a restaurant. No matter, they have a sizable tap wall that stacks up well against any other Columbia watering hole. Similar to the Cock ‘n’ Bull, they feature a large volume of imports with a rotation of American beers, totaling 27 in all.
- Selection: 27 beers on tap
- Price range: $3-7 each
- Tap highlights: Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, Franziskaner
The Saucer is Columbia’s original beer wonderland, boasting around 100 beers on their staggeringly beautiful tap wall and another 150-200 in bottles. The chalkboards located above the bar keep patrons in the know by listing the newest kegs and bottles that arrive week-to-week. Craft brews from across the Southeast make up a solid chunk of their menu, about 30 in rotation, and they even have a pint night dedicated to only beers crafted in the Carolinas: $3 pints with about 15-20 to choose from on Sunday nights. If you want to be absolutely overwhelmed by beer, this is the place to be.
- Selection: ~100 beers on tap; ~150 in bottles
- Price range: $3-25
- Tap highlights: Thomas Creek brews, Highland Brewing Co. brews
Quality over quantity – most beerheads can agree on this principle when it comes to both the beer itself and the number of beers a restaurant offers. Though HG only has five choices on tap, four of them are brewed in-house: their three mainstays (the Wheat, Pale, and ESB), and their one seasonal (currently the divinely roasted Black Patent Ale). Though it won’t take you long to exhaust their selection, the Hunter Gatherer lineup is one I find myself going back for on a regular basis. That, and a burger with their ESB beer-infused pimiento cheese…I think I climaxed.
- Selection: 5 beers on tap
- Price range: $4-6
- Tap highlights: ESB, Black Patent Ale
Owned and operated by the same people that run Delaney’s, Speakeasy condenses the tap menu available at its larger counterpart down to a greatest hits list, supplementing those 5-7 regular beers with rare craft kegs and multiple fridges stocked with craft bottles. Formerly a cigar smoking lounge, Speakeasy is a great place to kick back and enjoy a pint on fine leather couches, especially for those looking to avoid the crowdedness of Delaney’s. It’s also one of the few places where you can find top shelf liquor along with an extensive beer selection.
- Selection: ~10 beers on tap; ~50 bottles
- Price range: $3-15
- Tap highlights: Allegash White, Rogue Dead Guy
Inhabiting the Cock ‘n’ Bull’s former home beneath the 5th Avenue Deli, Taproom is a relative newcomer on the Columbia beer scene. Open to the public for less than a year, their tap wall boasts a wide array of American craft brews evenly mixed in with imports, totaling 30 beers in all. No S.C. influence to the wall yet, Duck Rabbit and Railhouse being from N.C., but craft pioneers like Oskar Blues, Terrapin and Abita give their selection plenty of diversity among craft domestics. Add in another 40-50 bottles, and I’m looking forward to making this a regular stop in my Columbia beer tours.
- Selection: 30 beers on tap; 40-50 bottles
- Price range: $4-10
- Tap highlights: Weihenstephaner Hefe Weiss, Duck Rabbit Hoppy Bunny
World of Beer capitalizes on the business model that has made Flying Saucer such a hit in the Vista: offer better beers and a bigger selection than anyone else. Their twist on the subject: a higher emphasis on bottled beers and no food service. That’s right: World of Beer is bringing the B-Y-O-Food revolution to Downtown Columbia, with great success thus far. Though the menu can often be pricy, they do a great job of rotating beers of the day, available for $3. And no, this isn’t a $3 Bud Diesel – think Sam Adams, at the absolute lowest. Their deals will bring you in, and their unmatched bottle selection will keep you there.
- Selection: ~60 beers on tap; ~200-250 bottles
- Price range: $3-30
- Tap highlights: Widmer Hefewizen, Gulden Draak
Be on the lookout for additions every couple weeks and make sure to check out the Beer Bibles for Greenville and Charleston, coming soon. Be responsible and happy drinking.