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Popup beer gardens offer options for depleted fall festival slate

Melinda Waldrop //September 16, 2020//

Popup beer gardens offer options for depleted fall festival slate

Melinda Waldrop //September 16, 2020//

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With most area fall festivals, including the popular Oktoberfest at Incarnation Lutheran Church and Columbia’s annual Greek festival, canceled amid the ongoing pandemic, there is a bit of good news for those itching to enjoy an autumnal libation in (slightly) cooler temperatures.

Bierkeller Columbia will begin a series of neighborhood-specific popup beer gardens on Sept. 26 at Sola Station, a riverfront residential and retail complex on Taylor Street near Riverfront Park. The event, set to take place from noon to 6 p.m., is one of six such events on the fall calendar in lieu of the beer retailer’s well-attended seasonal gatherings at Riverfront Park.

The idea, said Bierkeller founder and owner Scott Burgess, is to have small gatherings of a few hundred people instead of a large one of thousands while meeting what he said has been an ongoing demand for his product, only available currently through weekly online ordering.

“This is an idea we’ve been exploring for a while, so it really is kind of a silver lining to every bad thing that’s going on,” Burgess said. “We’re able to give it a go and hopefully bring the park to the people and have everyone stay safe and feel comfortable.”

Burgess said Bierkeller hopes to return to Riverfront Park for a series of spring and fall happy hours next spring, but the smaller popup model may become a long-term addition.

“We do want to keep these coming,” he said. “It may be by spring that people still aren’t comfortable with 1,000 people congregating in spots.”

Other scheduled Bierkeller popups will take place Oct. 10 in the Granby Mills area; Oct. 17 in the Lake Carolina area in Northeast Columbia; Oct. 24 at Craft and Draft’s Irmo location; Nov. 7 at the Robert Mills House in downtown Columbia; and Nov. 21 at Random Tap in the Northeast. Additional details will follow on Bierkeller’s social media accounts.

More events may be added, Burgess said, while others may be rescheduled if COVID-19 case numbers begin to spike. Crowd restrictions and safety measures will be enforced, he said.

“We don’t want it to get out of control to any degree,” he said. “I think people miss it. People understand that it can’t take place in the way it has been taking place.

“In the name of safety, sanity and security, we really are trying to make sure we do these things and everyone’s comfortable.”