Chicks Dig Beer Too
The first annual Lowcountry Beer Fest attracts more than just the boys
By Patrick Graham
For more than four years now, I have sought a solution to a puzzle that has vexed me, a puzzle that involves a relationship that my wife is having (or not having). Don’t worry, things are fine between myself and Mrs. Graham, as we are fast approaching the first anniversary of our exchanging of the vows.
It’s about beer. I’m trying to find her one.
I have been trying to get her to explore with me the amazing possibilities of what has become a vibrant libational domain: the craft brewing industry. Unlike wine, its seemingly more refined cousin, craft beer isn’t necessarily geared toward the fairer sex, but it’s events like the Lowcountry Beer Festival that can help everyone (not just the ladies) jump in with both feet.
Although the first annual fest’s launch date was April 1st, Chef Brannon Florie of Mt. Pleasant’s 17 North Roadside Kitchen wasn’t foolin’ around. He and bartender Will Cook set about bringing in microbreweries to bring in their suds and educate a few newbies while satisfying the refined tastes of hard-core fans. Two cool things happened at the same time: all of the breweries were within a one hundred mile radius of Charleston, and the crowd had a decidedly feminine voice.
Just reading the names of the micros led you to believe that this was a bunch that was local, diverse, and quirky. Palmetto, Westbrook , and Holy City provided the local, Heirloom (of Bluffton) and New South (of Myrtle Beach) provided the diversity, and the outfit known as the Frothy Beard Brewing Company provided the quirk. Along with the help of the members of home-brew club Lowcountry Libations, all of the participants set out to celebrate and educate.
South Carolina’s abolition of the 6% cap that restricted the amount of alcohol that beers could impart upon the imbibing public has spawned huge interest in the new product lines, including a big spike in the female demographic. It’s a fact that was not lost on recent transplants Lauren Gulley of Tennessee and Natalie Oschrin of Virginia. Gone are the days when a “beer fest” necessarily connotes recalling a certain movie of the same name, or, better yet, a bunch of dudes engaged in keg stands in true frat boy style.
“For a first run, I’m impressed,” said Oschrin, a veteran of a few craft beer events, most recently the Brewvival thrown by Coast Brewing last February. Asked whether a female having expertise in this specialty field impresses the guys who make the beer, Gulley replied, “if you’re (beer) drinkers like us and you know the right questions to ask, they realize you’re pretty serious about it.”
To be sure, there were a few selections that were on the lighter side, and by far the most unique was an elegant ale made with nothing less than rose petals and chamomile. Unfazed, the ladies headed for the darker ales and stouts with zeal and curiosity. They even gave us a huge tip about a Palmetto concoction made with their espresso porter and their ginger beer, oddly known as the “Dark n’ Slappy”. Like Beam n’ Ginger, it can be sweet and dangerous.
In a summation, Oschrin realized that all the brewers were after was a simple plan: spread the word. “They’re really excited about selling their beers, so you walk up and say, ‘Hey, give me what you’ve got,’ and you feel really welcome and they’re excited about feeding it to you.”
The inaugural Lowcountry Beer Fest experienced its share of growing pains due to long lines and beer shortages, issues that will certainly be addressed during the inevitable next round. The site probably would have been best served by having maybe a third of the over one thousand patrons I estimated were in attendance, but I enjoyed my stay. One thing is for certain: the enthusiasm and the education that the Charleston area will respectively give and receive about this movement will continue, and, at least in our household, a “growler” will no longer be a title held exclusively by our Australian shepherd mix.
“Girls’ Day Out: Lauren Gulley and Natalie Oschrin at the inaugural Fest.”