Weeks of anticipation led to a large crowd at the grand opening of Columbia’s latest small business, River Rat Brewery.
The brewery’s name is inspired by the Broad River that winds through the Midlands. The brewery is the creation of owner and brewer Mike Tourville and brew master Mark Walters. Head brewer Drew Walker said excitement has been building ever since Tourville announced last summer River Rat Brewery would be coming to Columbia.
“This town loves craft beer, and we’re happy to provide it,” he said.
River Rat began releasing its brews at local eateries and taverns around town at the end of February, and buzz started to generate. On Monday, the grand opening celebration began at 4 p.m. but a line of people had formed 30 minutes prior.
“It’s been very pleasant to see the positive feedback,” Walters said.
River Rat Brewery was born from a mutual love of beer and the varied backgrounds of Tourville, Walker and Walters, also known as the Rat Pack. Tourville, a long-time Midlands resident, has more than six years of home-brewing experience and decided to turn his passion into more than just a hobby. He recruited Walters, a New York native who has 18 years of brewing history in Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Louisiana.
The opportunity to start a business from scratch and fashion its identity drew Walters to the idea of joining the venture.
“I believe we can build a first-class brewery here in South Carolina,” he said.
Walters knew Walker could bring another experienced eye and style to River Rat Brewery after about three years spent brewing with him at Abita Brewing Co. in Louisiana. Tourville and Walters asked him to join the team, and Walker agreed to leave his most recent job at Kassik’s Brewery in Alaska to head south.
“Drew was a no-brainer when it came time to hire,” Walters said.
Walker thinks people will be able to tell that a River Rat brew is unique from others.
“We are all about the quality of the beer,” he said.
“I’m confident people will find something they can latch on to and enjoy,” Walters said.
River Rat Brewery will produce about 50 barrels a week. Walters said the staff is brainstorming now to gather ideas for their first specialty brews.
Available now are Winter Warmer Ale-Winter Premiere — the first product of River Rat’s system — Hazelnut Brown Ale, Double IPA, Moncks Corner Abbey Ale and Broad River Red Ale. Walker said the familiar monikers of some of the brews are an intentional way to pay homage to the Midlands and South Carolina.
“We are keeping everything local,” he said.
Those who can’t make it to check out the River Rat Brewery in person can still learn about meal pairings from the Rat Pack. Future plans include beer dinners during which local restaurants will partner with River Rat Brewery. Chefs will prepare dishes that pair accordingly with available brews from River Rat.
Visit the River Rat Brewery homepage to learn more about where to find brews locally and when to visit the brewery located on Shop Road.