Now, when you think of Columbia, SC, what do you think of? Well, if you’re me, you may think of the University of South Carolina and all the Cocks therein. Buuuut, not much else. At any rate, I find myself here for work, and so I’ve had some opportunity to explore the town a bit. While it isn’t the most cosmopolitan of towns, I find that it does have its charms – good weather, history, soul food, etc. However, when it comes to the bar scene, I’m a wee bit disenchanted. There are a couple of places of limited pleasure for a craft beer fan, such as the Flying Saucer and the Liberty Taproom. But, when it comes to local flair that also qualifies as craft brew goodness, the best spot I’ve found is the Hunter Gatherer.
This little pub sits on Main street on a relatively desolate square that is right amidst the campus and across the street from a small local theater. From the outside, it appears to be a relatively old building, and they take advantage of this great Southern weather to stick a couple of tables on the sidewalk. Once inside, this is a dark split level building that is full of wood grain and soft lighting, giving it a feel that is both open and very cozy. It is mostly simple wooden tables and chairs, with an L-shaped bar that sits in front of some small brewing equipment and some shelves of liquor.
This place seems to cater to a student/alternative crowd, and, depending on the day you stop in, can be totally packed or entirely desolate. When it comes to beers, these guys constantly pack a wheat beer, a pale ale, and an ESB. In addition, they keep one tap open for a seasonal brew – at the time I stopped in, it was a Porter. I haven’t had the time to do a legit review of each of these beers, but I have managed to try them all during two brief dinners here. While they aren’t the greatest beers you’ll find, I would say they are above par for most any brewpub in this region. The wheat beer is Bavarian in style, with some banana and clove hints and a rather heavy mouthfeel. The pale ale is rather standard, but tasty. The ESB is flavorful and bigger than most of the genre. And, the porter is chocolatey and full with an especially soft and pillowy head.
In addition to the decent beers, this place makes some good grub. While they have a tempting sandwich and pizza selection on the menu, I’ve elected to try the specials both times I’ve been there. One night that bought me an exceptional local duck breast with sides. Another night it found me enjoying a slightly above average filet mignon. While the latter wasn’t far above par, the former was fantastic, and both have been quite tasty compared to other local fare I’ve found.
So, all in all, a great spot, and one I recommend to any craft brew fan who also enjoys good food and good atmosphere. I can’t really tell if the bar staff is pretentious or just the standard shoe-gazing shy crowd of so many college towns. Regardless, the service has always been great, and the prices are even quite reasonable. Definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area.