Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse has been a staple of Columbia’s beer community since opening in 1995, acting as a sort of forefather for the Capital City’s now-blossoming craft beer scene. While other local beer establishments have come and gone, Hunter-Gatherer has weathered the storm and remained an incredibly popular spot in Columbia. But while the Main Street brewpub has been a favorite haunt of many for a long time, it’s largely remained the same place for nearly two decades.
That will change in 2015 as a new and separate Hunter-Gatherer Brewery will open in the city. But unlike its locally focused brewpub brethren, this new facility aims to make Hunter-Gatherer a statewide name.
Earlier this year, I was asked by a few people if there was any truth to rumors that Hunter-Gatherer owner Kevin Varner was looking to open a new brewery in Columbia. I approached H-G thinking mum was the word, but was surprised to learn that Varner in fact was seriously pursuing a new brewery with hopes of opening it by the end of 2014. In June, H-G ran an ad in Columbia’s Free Times publicly announcing they would be expanding this year. But questions still lingered. Would this be an expansion to the Main Street brewpub? Would a “new” Hunter-Gatherer be built? Would H-G capitalize on the recently passed “Stone Law” and build a bigger brewery and restaurant?
Earlier this week, via a message on H-G’s venerable chalkboard, it was announced the “New H-G Brewery & Taproom” would be opening in 2015. Exactly where this new facility will be located is still being considered. “I am looking at several buildings that are downtown in Columbia,” Varner told me in an email. “I should be able to open six months after signing a lease, so the opening date will be in the first half of 2015.”
Wherever the new facility – which will simply be called Hunter-Gatherer Brewery – opens, it will house a 17 BBL brewhouse (mash tun, lauter tun and whirlpool) built in Germany and recently purchased from a now-defunct Japanese brewery. (The photo from the June Free Times ad is of Varner in Japan with the new equipment.) For fermentation, 17 BBL fermenters built in Japan will be used.
The current H-G will remain unchanged, but unlike the Main Street location, the new H-G Brewery will be just that: a brewery. Varner said he plans to host local food trucks but the new facility will not have a kitchen. The focus will be on the beer, and Varner said he’s still working out exactly what he plans to brew. “I will brew a couple of traditional English-style ales and a couple of beers with a bunch of American hops, but I haven’t decided which styles,” he said, adding that he’s trying out a few experimental recipes at H-G now, including s new session IPA that was recently released.
Varner hasn’t picked a distributor yet but said he plans to sell H-G beer in kegs and bottles statewide soon after the brewery’s opening.
(Image: The Beer Mapping Project)