May 2016

Barrels & Bluegrass

Author: Kent Thune

Do you love exceptional beer? How about live bluegrass music? If, for some reason, you’re not a big fan of either one, surely you enjoy a good festival with delicious Lowcountry food!

River Dog Brewing Company, located in nearby Okatie, South Carolina, is hosting Barrels & Bluegrass, a Lowcountry craft beer celebration, which they are hoping to be the largest beer festival south of Charleston and one of the biggest in the state. Taking place May 28, 2016, at Honey Horn Plantation on Hilton Head Island, attendees can enjoy unlimited samples of brews from over 50 of the finest craft breweries from all over the United States.

The event will also feature the talents of outstanding bluegrass bands including The Bluestone Ramblers, The Bushels, and Hank, Pattie & the Current. Lowcountry farm-to-table food will be served available for purchase and will feature local renowned chefs, including Chef Brandon Carter from FARM Bluffton and Chef Orchid Paulmeier from One Hot Mama’s and The Lodge.

But the main focus of the Barrels & Bluegrass Festival is definitely beer—specifically rare and exceptional beer. In addition to River Dog Brewing Company, other brewers with brews on tap at the event will include some large craft beer companies like New Belgium, which has breweries in Colorado and in Asheville, North Carolina, and is the maker of the popular Fat Tire Amber Ale. Also featured at the event are other popular American craft brewers like Lagunitas and Stone Brewing Co., both out of California. You’ll also see local brewers like Hilton Head Brewing Company and Palmetto Brewing Company, which is located in Charleston, South Carolina and is the oldest brewery in South Carolina.

These outstanding craft brewers will also share the spotlight with the winner, of a local home brewing competition called “The Lowcountry Showdown,” which took place in April. Michael Kaup, of Hilton Head Island, will serve his winning Imperial Stout Dark Laddie, at the Festival, and will have his beer brewed on River Dog Brewing Company’s pilot system.

So if you’re not exactly a beer connoisseur but you’re interested in learning more about this exploding beverage industry, a craft brewer is defined as one who has an annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less. And craft brew is an apt term for this special beer, especially if you listen to John Federal, Head Brewer of River Dog Brewing Company. “Brewing craft beer is about conveying a passion about the product. It’s an art,” he said.

With approximately 80 varieties of hops, a primary ingredient in beer, a craft brewer can get creative with flavors, aromas and intensities. “Craft beer can have layers of flavor, which offers a different experience of beer drinking compared to that of conventional beers,” Federal explained.

Although beer consumption traces its roots all the way back to the beginning of civilization, there is no doubt that today’s craft beer industry has inspired a new level of interest in beer that goes far beyond the two dimensions of “tastes great” or “less filling” of the recent past. So craft beer is not your father’s beer!

Big beer behemoths such as Anheuser-Busch InBev still hold a large portion of the world market share for the beer industry, but craft beer brewers have made significant advances in just the past few years. According to The Brewers Association, the trade association representing small and independent American craft brewers, the craft brewing industry reached double digit (11 percent) volume share of the beer marketplace for the first time in 2014.

Additionally, the number of operating breweries in the U.S. in 2014 grew 19 percent, totaling 3,464 breweries, with 3,418 considered craft broken down as follows: 1,871 microbreweries, 1,412 brewpubs and 135 regional craft breweries. Throughout the year, there were 615 new brewery openings and only 46 closings.

But you don’t need to be a beer expert to recognize the growth of craft brews in recent years. Just take a look at the beer section of your local grocery store; you’ll see names you may not have seen until recently like New Belgium, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, and countless others that seem to be overtaking the Budweisers, Coors, and Miller Lites. And we even have some local craft breweries to enjoy like River Dog Brewing Company and Palmetto Brewing Company.

So if you want to see what all the excitement is about with local and national craft brewing, or if you want to enjoy some good bluegrass music and great Lowcountry food, you’ll definitely want to come to the Barrels & Bluegrass Festival on May 28 at Honey Horn Plantation, from noon to 5 p.m. Your ticket to Barrels & Bluegrass includes unlimited beer tastings, live bkuegeass music all day and it even includes the food!

To be among the first to sample the finest brews and get into the event an hour before the crowds show up, VIP tickets are available. If you want to come just for the bluegrass, the food and the fun, but not the beer, you can purchase a Designated Driver ticket for a discounted price.

For event details and tickets, visit online.

Kent Thune is a free-lance writer and a craft beer fan who happens to be an investment advisor and the owner of a Hilton Head Island money management firm, Atlantic Capital Investments. He is currently working on a book to be published later in 2016. You can follow his musings on mind, money and mastery of life a or on Twitter @ThinkersQuill.

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