It’s usually easy to find a cold American-style lager or a hearty dark ale at the concession stands inside the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, but the venue has never boasted a knock-out roster of locally made craft beers with such vigor as it will this weekend when the team at the PAC presents the inaugural Brew HaHa from 5-10 p.m. Saturday.
Presented by Bottles Beverage Superstore, the outdoor/indoor festival will feature some of the finest ales and lagers from all nine Charleston-area microbreweries, a few sneak previews from two newcomers and several live performances from local stand-up comedians and musical acts.
Mellow Mushroom will host a homebrewing section on the event grounds dubbed the Shroom Homebrewer Garden. Other presenting partners include Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer, the Holy City Sinner blog, Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ, Heroes Sportswear, Beer Engineer Supply, and The Brew Cellar and Craft Conundrum beer shops.
The Brew HaHa grounds will stretch from the parking lot areas just outside the main entrance of the North Charleston Performing Arts Center into the lobby and main theater. Awendaw Green will host a live music stage outside, and various food trucks and vendors will be situated around the grounds and in the lobby.
Admission, which is $40 in advance and $45 Saturday, will include a souvenir sampling glass, eight drink tickets (each for an 8-ounce pour from a local brewery), unlimited samples from the Shroom Homebrewer Garden, and access to the comedy shows inside the PAC.
Brew HaHa organizer Melanie Quick hopes the festival will establish itself as a serious annual event alongside several other notable Lowcountry craft beer events such as Brewvival at COAST Brewing, the Ballpark Festival of Beers at Riley Park, and the Charleston Beer Garden at Brittlebank Park.
“Our hope is for Brew HaHa to develop over time as these other festivals have,” Quick says. “We hope to add more Charleston breweries to the lineup and even more event-specific brews as we grow, perhaps adding other South Carolina breweries and a few more comedians for a weekend-long festival.”
A native of Florence and a longtime resident of Charleston, Quick is the marketing manager at the North Charleston Coliseum, Performing Arts Center and Convention Center. Alongside director of marketing Alan Coker, she has overseen numerous concerts, theatrical performances, and special events over the years, but this is first craft beer-themed festival she and the coliseum team have ever presented.
“My love for craft beer came gradually over the last few years and in large part due to my husband, Andy,” Quick says. “He fell in love with craft beer when he moved to Charleston and influenced my taste buds.”
“Like many women, I always went for lighter when it came to beer, but after tasting craft beer, I never went back,” Quick adds. “Now, (Andy) has fallen for homebrewing, which not only took over my kitchen, but my passion to add a home brewer garden component to Brew HaHa.”
Quick brainstormed an idea for a “bands and brew event” over the last couple of years, conferring with coliseum General Manager Dave Holscher along the way.
“We entertained the idea because we both share a passion for craft beer,” she says. “But we wanted to find something unique, something that Charleston didn’t have. Dave came across the idea of craft beer and comedy, and Brew HaHa was born.”
Designed specifically as a Charleston-centric beer event, Brew HaHa aims to promote and celebrate the talent and creativity of local brewers, many of whom tinker with classic styles of lager and ale and experiment with seasonal fruits, exotic spices, specialty malts and hops, and barrel aging.
Whereas other annual beer fests present styles from breweries across the U.S. and abroad, Brew HaHa is determined to highlight the impressive variety within the local brewery scene. For the inaugural event, the lineup of participating craft breweries includes Palmetto, Holy City, COAST, Westbrook, Freehouse, Revelry, Frothy Beard, Tradesman and Fat Pig.
Rounding out the roster will be teams from two forthcoming breweries: The Oak Road Brewery, a small-batch micro opening in Summerville later this spring, and The Good and Evil Brewing Co., a brewpub in West Ashley also opening in a few months.
“After chatting with Charleston breweries, there was a resounding theme: that there was not a festival, besides a few events during Charleston Beer Week, that only featured local breweries,” Quick says. “Charleston is fixated on things that are ‘local,’ and understandably so as we have so much to offer, so we decided to fill this void with Brew HaHa.”
Live entertainment and savory snacks naturally go hand-in-hand at beer festivals around the country, but live stand-up comedy isn’t usually part of the fun. With veteran funnymen Dusty Slay and Jason Groce on the bill this weekend, comedy will play a big role in the festival fun on Saturday evening.
Slay, an Alabama native currently based in Nashville, has been a major part of Charleston’s comedy scene since the early 2000s. The dry-witted, bespectacled Slay won the top spot in the 2011 Charleston Comedy Festival Stand-Up Competition at Theatre 99. In recent years, when he wasn’t touring across the Southeast and up and down the East Coast, Slay organized and hosted a handful of comedy showcases, open-mic series, and competitions at various Charleston venues.
Comedian and improv performer Jason Groce is as well known around town for his surly stand-up routines as he is for his sharp skills on stage at Theatre 99, where he entertains with improv and sketch comedy teams. Groce regularly performs at local venues, and he hosts the monthly “TROM” (Tin Roof Open Mic) series at the Tin Roof in West Ashley.
“We’d heard about Dusty Slay and Jason Groce, and they were exactly what we were looking for,” says Quick. “Craft beer and comedy just seemed like a natural marriage.”
Entertainment will remain key to the Brew HaHa in years to come, but the festival’s main focus will continue to be spotlighting Charleston’s modern craft beer experience and the boom in microbreweries and brewpubs, especially in recent years after state laws relaxed restrictions on “high gravity” beer and other rules on serving samples on site.
“All of Charleston’s breweries have something unique to offer, not only to Charleston craft beer drinkers, but craft beer drinkers all over the world,” Quick says. “Each of their tasting rooms have diverse atmospheres for whatever your mood and a brew to match it.”