Bites + Brews: A Guide To Columbia SC's Beer Trail
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 1:00 PM by Holly Heaton
In Columbia SC, we’re kind of pros when it comes to all things bubbly + brewed. With seven big breweries (and even more on the way!) + numerous brew-pubs and taprooms scattered throughout the city, Columbia is a low-key beer town. We’ve compiled a list of the top places to sip on hops + clink your pint glasses in the air—from microbreweries to restaurants with killer brew options. Grab your squad and plan a weekend (yes, you’ll need an entire weekend) dedicated to experiencing the unforgettable bites + brews on the city’s beer trail. Ready, set, go!
P.S. We recommend choosing a few stops from each category to fully experience all that Columbia’s beer scene has to offer. Or, if you’re feeling brave, try to hit all of them in the same weekend. Pics or it didn’t happen.
Known for its medieval-themed feasts and Game of Thrones viewing parties, Conquest has been filling bellies with wheats and IPAs since 2012. With an extensive draft list—including evergreen brews, seasonal + seasonal imperials and limited releases—and a can't-be-beat location by Williams Brice Stadium on Stadium Road, Conquest has earned its spot as a Columbia staple and favorite.
Also just a hop, skip and a jump from Williams Brice Stadium, River Rat Brewery is the go-to Saturday hangout for Columbia locals. In addition to an expected brew menu (try the 803 IPA or one of the seasonal pours!), RR has become somewhat famous around town for its prosecco pops: a glass of prosecco poured over an artisan popsicle. #InstagramWorthy pics, guaranteed. Don’t even get us started on the crowds of wagging tails you’re guaranteed to spot. All. The. Puppy. Love. Oh, and did we mention the rooftop?
Swamp Cabbage had us sold with its quaint outdoor seating, Tiki bar vibes and slew of fun events like trivia nights, Sunday brunches and even beer pairing parties. Keep an eye out for the stunning mural of Congaree National Park on the inside of the brewery. Fun fact: it was painted by a USC student.
Located in an historic airplane hangar, this brewery has expansive views of Owens Field Airport where you can see planes taking off while you sip on their English-style brews and nibble on their pizzas made with handmade dough. This is the second location for Hunter-Gatherer (the first being more of a restaurant vibe, detailed below).
You'll want to grab a flight at this trendy spot in The Vista. Their beers range from staples like the Columbia Craft Lager, to rotating sours with funky names and artistic signage. Pop a squat at the bar for some board games, or relax on the patio while you take in the smells of the day's food truck.
Located in the historic CottonTown neighborhood, this beer garden hosts some local favorites like the TropiCarolina. The indoor tap room isn't open quite yet, but who wants to be inside on a sunny, good-weathered day in the South, right?
Steel Hands is Columbia's largest brewery equipped with an outdoor stage, patio and expansive taproom. The Coffee Lager has quickly become a crowd favorite, infused with local roaster, Loveland Coffee. You'll be hard-pressed to find a day when this brewery isn't full of visitors and locals alike.
In the heart of Columbia’s Vista district, Twisted Spur has made quite the name for itself. In addition to, of course, fabulous beer, the brewpub is known for delicious, next-level eats like tuna pineapple nachos and cioppino made with lobster and fennel tomato broth. This hotspot focuses on quality above all with its bites + brews, boasting an impressive water filtration system and superior meat and seafood.
A Columbia institution since 1995, Hunter-Gatherer stole the hearts of locals + visitors alike with distinctive craft beer offerings, outside views of the South Carolina State House and an elevated food menu that features anything but traditional bar food (think Florentine ravioli and heirloom tomato basil pie.) To celebrate 20 years in business, a second Hunter-Gatherer location will open in November, featuring a taproom, 527 gallon brewhouse, a bottling and kegging line, and an observation deck overlooking the nearby airport.
A gem of the Lexington region, this aptly-named brewpub is housed in the historic Lexington Old Mill. A food menu with items that are both creative and comforting (we recommend anything from the chef’s specials menu) and seasonal brews made in-house will make this a must-visit when you’re in town. The brewpub also hosts monthly themed beer dinners. Can you say wild game + craft beer pairings? Yes, please.
The largest brewpub in Lexington, Krafty Draft boasts an expansive selection of taps + several craft beers brewed in-house. Not a fan of beer? Peruse KD's fine wine selection, from pinots to prosecco and everything in between. Fill up a growler, try several beers with a beer flight or slowly savor a Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Float. Oh, and try Billy's Pale Ale Pimento Cheese because, well, this is the South.
A place where you can shop for beer AND drink it? A dream come true, indeed. Craft and Draft, Columbia's premier craft beer store, has a full house every night as patrons come to grab a six pack. However, they stick around for the open and laid-back ambiance of the bar and, trust us, stopping for one beer always turns into three. With picnic tables and hanging lights out back, window seating for Devine Street views and a group of Columbia's best bartenders, everyone loves Craft and Draft. Oh, and did we mention it's pup-friendly?
This popular taproom (new to Columbia's Vista district with another location in Lexington!), prides itself for being a craft beer kick-back with family-friendly coffee shop vibes. Growlers, Mix-A-Six packs and, of course, pints + flights of the good stuff makes this a brew-filled hotspot of the Columbia region. Oh, and guess what? They'll even fill up a keg for you on special occasions. Pro tip: order the pretzels with beer cheese and thank us later.
The premier taproom of the Northeast Columbia region, Random Tap boasts a consistently rotating lineup of 15 taps in addition to a countless selection of bottled brews. The taproom recently underwent significant renovations, doubling the location's size. With excellent craft beer + a strong wine selection, Random Tap is the perfect spot for our beer connoisseurs with a more refined palate. Cheers!
Restaurants with Killer Beer Menus
Known for its noteworthy grub, Keg Cowboy has grown from a home-brew supply shop to a Main Street must-see in Lexington. The laid-back restaurant is frequently packed with regulars who keep comin' back for more of the consistently changing draft menu and unforgettable eats like the duck confit panini or the roasted pork belly plate. We recommend packing in the veggies (at least as a side dish for your sausage loaf Sammy!), as most featured on the menu are grown + harvested locally.
A hidden gem of the Rosewood district, the Kraken Gastropub has quite the fan club, full of locals who can't get enough of the exceptional craft beer menu (we recommend getting a flight) + unexpected eats like duck confit spring rolls, lamb tacos and lobster grilled cheese. Start with the award-winning wings + top it all off with Sriracha peanut butter doughnuts. Don't ask questions - just trust us.
Tacos + taps is the name of the game at this hip spot in the heart of Five Points. Noteworthy for its patio dining (bring your dogs + try out the puppy menu!), phenomenal fusion cuisine (think spicy tuna roll burrito 😱) and Sunday Funday brunch, Publico has quickly grown into one of the most popular spots in Columbia. Although the beer offerings are next-level, we can't NOT mention the margarita flights. Yes, you read that right. Margarita. Flights. Oh, Publico. Could we possibly love you more?
A hotspot for watching soccer games, it's no surprise that the British Bulldog Pub in Harbison has 20+ beers on draft - to quench the thirst of all the cheering sports fans. Famous for its grub menu of traditional English eats, visitors + locals alike flock to BBP for the traditional English Breakfast, the Tower of London Burger and the Cheddar Pasty. Cheerio!
Fun Beer Extras
Want to take a tour of Columbia's breweries, sample craft brews and do some sight seeing of local landmarks? Check out the extremely popular Columbia Brew Bus - a bus tour that will take you + your favorite drinking buddies to Conquest, River Rat and Swamp Cabbage all in the same day. All the fun, guaranteed. P.s. if you're more of a vino + vodka type gal or guy, check out the wine and spirits tours!
Party on wheels, anyone? SC Pedal Parlor, a giant 16-person bicycle, will take you and your besties on the Columbia pub crawl of your dreams. No further convincing necessary.
How 'bout a day trip to Germany? Bierkeller Columbia hosts pop-up, Bavarian-style beer gardens with fresh, top-of-the-line beer (in giant glasses..... #winning) + unforgettable German cuisine like sausages and Kellerplatten (charcuterie and cheese plates) courtesy of local-favorite food truck the Wurst Wagen. Need we say more?