I looked down at the menu and thought to myself, “It’s about damn time.”
I’ve been a regular at The Pizza Joint, a local outcropping of a small chain that also has locations in Aiken and in the Georgia towns of Evans and Augusta, for five years. The Columbia Joint sits right on the dividing line between Columbia and Forest Acres coming down Forest Drive from downtown.
There’s a small concrete patio outside the tan stucco building. Inside, humble tables and booths sit within comforting red walls. Beer, wine and cocktails are poured behind a decently sized black bar, where regulars sit, chatting and casually watching whatever sports are on the not-overwhelming amount of TVs. (They’re a little less casual when the Gamecocks are playing.) Specialty slices and draft pints are $2.75 every Tuesday. There’s a jovial trivia night every Sunday.
It is, in other words, a pretty normal neighborhood pizza place and bar, largely delivering exactly what you’d expect from such a place. The pies are solid — with a sweet-but-not-too-sweet red sauce matched with a doughy crust that’s similarly sweet-but-not-too-sweet — but the ingredients shine brighter when prepared as delicious calzones. The fried pickles are great, chipped and coated in a luxurious batter, but the appetizers are otherwise just pleasant accompaniments for your beer of choice.
For the past five years, I lived an easy eight-minute walk from The Pizza Joint, and I drove by it on my way to and from the Free Times office. But it wasn’t the food that drew me there at least a couple times each week. It was the beer.
Throughout my time eating and drinking there — from my first night seeking a TV to watch the final BCS National Championship Game just after moving to Columbia to popping by for a couple of cheap slices and pints the night before my wife and I moved to West Columbia last week — The Pizza Joint’s 30-strong tap selection has steadily improved, growing surprisingly adventurous and increasingly offering some hard-to-find selections.
Five years later, I can say, with absolute certainty, that The Pizza Joint has one of the best tap lists in the Midlands.
It was one of the first places I tried the bold Charleston breweries Snafu and Edmund’s Oast when their offerings arrived in Columbia. Back in December, the restaurant hosted a Highland Brewing Company tap takeover that featured both the regular and imperial versions of the company’s beloved winter ale Cold Mountain. Since the calendar flipped to 2019, I’ve sipped the sought-after IPAs Bell’s Hopslam and NoDa Hop Cakes, a CBD-and-lemongrass-infused IPA from Charleston’s Revelry Brewing Co., and D9’s Delta V (a limited-release 14 percent ABV sour ale from the North Carolina brewery’s ambitious Defying Gravity series), among many other diverse and tasty offerings.
On my last stop in to The Pizza Joint, on the night that I grabbed the last load from our old house, I was happy to see the bar fully embracing this aspect of its business. In place of the old rotating tap lists that just featured beer names and ABVs was one with fancier fonts and detailed descriptions of the beers, including style, IBUs and calories.
I read over the list, and ordered the Carrington Event, the newly unleashed sixth offering in D9’s Defying Gravity series, this one made with cinnamon and cayenne. The beer was super-sour, orangey and spicy, and was exceptionally balanced and clean-finishing for such an over-the-top experience.
Not a bad beer to find at your local pizza place.