Brew bus tours, craft festivals, beer tastings and contests, food and beer pairings, yoga classes, board game Olympics, and even a trail ride and tasting in the Harbison State Forest are just some of the events taking place during Soda City Suds Week in 2017.
The event kicked off today with the Suds and Spuds Market and Festival at the Soda City Market, which featured beer and potato-themed food specials at participating vendors. Suds and Spuds added a picnic table area to the market today to accommodate the crowd of beer drinkers and foodies who came out for the event.
In its third year, Suds Week boasts participation from over twenty local businesses, including several locally owned
bars, breweries, and restaurants. An eight day event, Suds Week aims to send a jolt to the Midlands economy by creating enjoyable evenings in local businesses for both residents and tourists.
Suds Week is organized by Midlands Craft Beer Supporters, a local nonprofit. The organization’s president, April Blake, said that Sud Week helps further define the Midlands’ social, cultural, and economic identity, and is a “sign of maturity” for the city.
“We’re coming into our own, in a way,” Blake reflected. “For several years before we started Beer Week here, Greenville and Charleston had theirs.”
Blake notes that many major cities across the country host craft beer themed weeks similar to Columbia’s Suds Week, including Portland, Oregon’s beer week, which hosts over 300 events in eleven days. “A craft beer week is an economic boost to an area,” said Blake. “Several smaller cities, like Cayce, are hoping to find craft beer bars and breweries who will put their roots down there to encourage people to stay and hang out in the area. Craft beer is big for tourism.”
For the third Suds Week, event organizers flexed the event’s reach past Columbia city limits, including a four-course beer dinner at the Old Mill Brewpub in Lexington and a beer tasting in historic Camden. In addition to expanding Suds Week to neighboring Midlands cities, Midlands Craft Beer Supporters also sought to improve the experience of each event for attendees. Blake noted that although this year’s Suds Week has less events than last year’s beer week did, this year’s happenings are of a “higher quality.”
“This year, we have more events that are really good, one-off type of events that you just don’t see the rest of the year in Columbia,” said Blake.
Blake is proud of the variety this year’s Suds Week schedule has to offer to meet the “different tastes and interests of the community.”
“It encompasses different cultures and niches around the whole city,” she said. “We’ve got a biking event for athletic-minded people on Friday, and several kind of just ‘sit down and hang out at the bar’ type events. There’s festivals…and beer dinners to appeal to foodies.”
Many of the events have creatively informative themes, such as a beer panel at the Capital City Club on Tuesday, a “Guess the Beer” contest at Krafty Draft on Thursday, and brewery tour at the Hunter-Gatherer on Saturday. “That’s what this week is about—education, impacting actual knowledge about craft beer,” said Blake. “Craft beer can be intimidating to get into, like wine, learning all the terms and jargons. This week is a way to introduce people to craft beer in a fun setting.”
Several other events this week are what Blake calls “fun and approachable,” such as a beer and barbeque event at the Kraken Gastropub on Tuesday and a cornhole tournament at the Casual Pint on Sunday. “During a beer week, you get to do so many different things,” said Blake. “It’s a fun way to come together with friends.”
Blake said that for the past two years, many event-goers have told her they normally would not have visited the participating businesses had they not been interested in the events. In addition to finding new local restaurants, bars, and stores they enjoy, beer week attendees have also told Blake the week has introduced them to new friends.
Suds Week promotes a sense of togetherness for the Midlands economy and residents. “I always hear they’ve met people they wouldn’t have before, and gone somewhere they liked that they wouldn’t have gone before,” she said.
This year, Blake said she looks forward the most to Sour Carolina Night, which will be held Thursday at The Whig. “I love sour beers, and I’ve been told they’re getting some really interesting and obscure ones. The chef always comes up with really awesome food specials, too, so I’m interested to see what they pair,” she said.
Tickets are also still available for the local beer week’s third annual Cream of the Crop Beer Festival, which begins at noon Saturday at City Roots Farm. Featuring live music and food by Bourbon Columbia, the Oak Table, and the Wurst Wagon, the festival allows event goers to support local restaurants, farming, and craft breweries.
As Suds Week enters its third year, Midlands Craft Beer Supporters hope that the public continues to be involved, not only as participants, but as advisers. “We hope that people come out and enjoy themselves, but also give us feedback on any events they’d like to see in the future,” said Blake. “We definitely want to be the kind of beer week that listens to the people who support it the most.”
This year’s Suds Week runs March 18 through March 26. For more information, including a full itinerary of the beer week events, visit www.sodacitysudsweek.com.