Category Archives: Events

Good Beer and Fare(well)

This post begins (what will hopefully be) a series of posts I’ve been meaning to write for quite some time, but (obviously) have not actually gotten around to yet. To briefly catch you up, I have recently moved from Athens to Winston-Salem and into the real world (college finally ran its course and I had to find a real job). Athens still holds a very special place in my heart and while I won’t be there nearly as much, I look forward to watching its beer culture continue to grow and blossom from afar. I look forward to exploring the local beer culture of Winston-Salem and the rest of North Carolina, as well as the entire Southeast region (and I plan to share as much of that as possible with all of you). But first, let’s travel back to May 5th for a bittersweet, but incredibly delicious event.

As someone who loves great food and great beer, and really loves the two smartly paired, I’m immediately interested in attending almost any beer dinner. When I heard that Richard Miley, chef at Chops & Hops, was hosting a beer dinner to bid farewell to two friends and fellow beer lovers who were leaving Athens, though, I didn’t have to think about whether or not I’d be attending. The night ended up being one I won’t soon forget and was full of some wonderful pairings of food and brew, but more importantly some awesome fellowship among beer lovers and friends.

For those of you who haven’t been to Chops & Hops, I highly recommend it. Chef Miley’s cuisine shows his training and technical ability as well as his Southwestern influence, but leaves no question of his unpretentious character. You’ll see no difference in the playful, but flavorful food from this dinner.

The evening began with a reception accompanied with a cask of Lazy Magnolia Reb Ale, a pale ale, on cantaloupe. Lazy Magnolia, a craft brewery from Mississippi that seeks to highlight classic Southern ingredients, recently launched in Georgia and has featured a limited lineup locally (only their Southern Pecan has been available in bottles with a few others intermittently on draft). The cask was a great beginning, with a light and moderately-hopped base and subtle cantaloupe flavor. I would reach for this beer a lot this summer if it were regularly available.

Once we were seated, the meal began with a course of beef carpaccio served with a homebrewed pecan pie brown ale. The roasted, nutty, and sweet flavors of the beer played perfectly with the beef, which seemed to melt in my mouth. The beer was unmistakably Southern and the carpaccio Richard’s Southwestern tinge, yet they worked together. I was so consumed by everything going on that I forgot to take a photo, so your visual experience will begin with the second course.

Next, we were treated to an oyster course which included buffalo fried and raw varieties of the molluscs with a habanero cocktail sauce, accompanied by a guava saison. As someone who has grown tired of the overplayed chipotle and other assorted pepper craze (I’m looking at you Bobby Flay), the habanero cocktail sauce was really great and provided a nice twist on the traditional horseradish kick. The spice and texture of the oysters worked really well with the saison, which brought plenty of tropical fruit flavors and just a hint of funk.

Shortly after finishing the second course, a slew of paper boats emerged from the kitchen with the third course: chili cheese fries made with Terrapin Moo-Hoo braised boar and habanero cured bacon. Chili cheese fries are about as “typical bar food” as you can get, but this deluxe version was full of rich, deep flavor in the boar meat, a bit of heat from the bacon and diced peppers, and an awesome combination of crisp and soft potato from the fries. Paired with this course was Founders Double Trouble, which enriched the boar with its hearty malt backbone and accentuated the heat with its ample hop profile.

Glancing at the menu ahead of time, I was a bit worried about this next course. I didn’t worry about how the yard bird & waffle topped with bourbon maple syrup and powdered sugar would taste, but it seemed like something that may be too heavy after three courses and…well, we’ll just say many beers. I shouldn’t have worried, though–the waffle was light and crisp, and the savoriness of the waffle and bird melded beautifully with the sweetness of the syrup and sugar. Paired with this course was Dogfish Head’s Burton Baton. The oak-aged hybrid of an Old Ale and Double IPA somehow snuggled right in between the savory and sweet of this dish and the wood lent a bit of earthiness to the protein.

Continuing the now ridiculous parade of gluttony was jerk swine, beans, and pineapple jasmine rice paired with Avery Maharaja. The jerk swine actually came from a whole hog, whose head was shared with the guests of honor (I may have stolen a bite as well). As the third Imperial IPA in a row, you might think that the beers were getting a bit boring. The nuances in each beer, though, were so well matched with each course that I don’t think anyone even thought twice about having three Double IPAs consecutively. In this course, the rich pork worked perfectly with the malt sweetness, while the spiciness and pineapple sweetness of the beans and rice enveloped the flavors of the hops. Another play on sweet and spicy, but somehow completely different.

As a sweet end to the bittersweet night, we were served Pastel Barracho made with Founders Breakfast Stout and Terrapin Moo-Hoo paired with a glass of the former. Meaning “drunken cake”, this Tres Leches-like cake was light on the dairy and heavy on the booze. The creamy and caramel flavors of the cake were exactly what you’d want with the dark Breakfast Stout and chocolatey Moo-Hoo, lending them levity and underlining their heft at the same time.

After dinner, I was treated to Cigar City Brewing Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, a local beer from Charlie’s, one of the guests of honor, future home. The bottomless pit of a stout was a great ending to the evening, with all the deep, robust flavors of an ideal Russian Imperial.

Lastly (yeah, I thought it was over too) before we left, I tried some of another special cask: Terrapin Monk’s Revenge aged in a Calvados barrel. The Belgian yeast and brandy notes made an awesome pair, and were still quite enjoyable…even after the entire dinner.

The entire meal was a great exhibition of Chef Miley’s mastery of the ingredients and understanding of how the each course would play with each beer. The sense of community felt that night as many of those who produce, sell, serve, and lovingly consume beer in Athens came together to send off a few of their own. As I prepared to leave town myself, it cemented the great things I had come to feel about the Athens beer community.

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Filed under Avery Brewing Company, Chops & Hops, Cigar City Brewing, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Events, Founders Brewing Co., Terrapin Beer Co.

Field Trip: Hunahpu’s Day

In Georgia, the beers from Cigar City Brewing are much talked about, but rarely seen. Although the brewery plans to begin distribution in the state very soon, the only ways to get your hands on a bottle of their brew currently are to either trade with someone who lives within their distribution network or go directly to the source yourself-which is precisely what I did. For the second year in a row, Cigar City held Hunahpu’s Day for the release of their imperial stout. Available only at the brewery, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout attracts quite a number of avid beer drinkers, who come to sample it and other Cigar City beers and eventually take home up to four bottles of the coveted stout brewed with Peruvian cacao nibs, Ancho and Pasilla chiles, Madagascar vanilla beans, and cinnamon.

This year’s Hunahpu’s Day was held on March 12, at the brewery in Tampa. I traveled down for the weekend with a group of others from the Athens craft beer community to see the brewery and get my own bottles to bring home. While the festivities didn’t begin until 11am, the line outside the brewery formed early…very early (the first person arrived around 5:30 Saturday morning). Once the gates opened, however, a full day of beer, food, and music began. In addition to Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, there were limited and barrel-aged offerings from Cigar City as well as beers from a few other local breweries. Some local homebrew clubs even had tents set up to offer free samples of their members’ brews. A variety of local caterers and restaurants fed the hungry crowd with an assortment of eclectic cuisine. Over the course of the day, I was able to try more beers than I’ll even attempt to comment on, but here are a few of the highlights:

Peach IPA – Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA already offers subtle hints of peach and apricot flavors from the several varieties of hops added to it but this ups the fruit flavor with the addition of actual peaches to the beer, adding aroma and flavor of fresh peaches while still maintaining enough of a hop bite to be a satisfying India Pale Ale.

Red Wine Barrel-Aged Sea Bass – One of the barrel-aged versions of a Cigar City release that were on tap, this takes the tart dark farmhouse-style ale made with wild yeast from St. Somewhere Brewing and adds another level of rich complexity.

Red Wine Barrel-Aged Vuja De – Another wild ale using yeast from St. Somewhere with black currants, hibiscus, elderberry flowers and lemon leaves added, the dark fruit flavor from aging in red wine barrels helps create subtle hints of mulled wine to contrast the bright fruits and sour of the base beer.

Funky Buddha Maple Bacon Porter – From a brewpub in Boca Raton, this is perhaps the most complete breakfast beer I’ve ever had. Smoked and roasted malt to lend bacon and coffee flavors with sweetness from maple syrup to balance it all out.

Peg’s Cantina Bloody Berliner Weisse – This is an amazingly creative brew from Cigar City’s Production Manager, Doug Dozark, who is the brewmaster at Peg’s Cantina & Brewpub in Gulfport. The tang of a Berliner Weisse went surprisingly well with the addition of tomatoes. Hints of peppercorn helped complete the ode to a bloody mary that was so refreshing and drinkable, I wish I could begin each day with a pint.

Check out all of my photos from Hunahpu’s Day here.


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Filed under Cigar City Brewing, Events, Field Trips

Field Trip: Brew Your Cask Off 2011

On March 5, Sweetwater Brewery in Atlanta held the second edition of its own unique and collaborative beer festival: Brew Your Cask Off. The set-up may appear standard at first (tents, tables, casks, volunteers, tasting glasses, etc.) but it’s what’s in the casks that makes it different. Weeks before the festival, Sweetwater invited around 80 representatives from bars, beer stores, homebrew clubs, and press to concoct their own cask creations using a base of Sweetwater’s brew. Everything from coffee to cardamom went into the casks to produce a plethora of flavor combinations, some great…some interesting. Not all the guests “brewers” have experience in making their own beer, but that’s exactly the point. The festival aims to inspire creativity and experimentation, and that’s precisely what it does.

Last year’s festival featured about 75 guest brewers if I remember correctly. While the casks only grew in number by a modest amount from last year, the crowd gathering to taste them seemed to have grown exponentially. The increased numbers made it a little more difficult, but I diligently tasted all the beer I could get. A judging panel tasted the casks before the festival began and declared the following winners (despite the fifth grade-esque names, I assure you all brewers were 21+):

1st Place – Lika-Titi-Coco Porter (Final Gravity Home Brewers)

2nd Place – The Sch’it (The Porter Beer Bar)

3rd Place – Two Pump Chump (Fontaines)

Attendees were also given a chance to vote on their favorite cask and Cypress Street Pint & Plate won its second consecutive People’s Choice Award with Samhain.

Here are some other notable beers I tried that I would like to award my own imaginary, non-existent trophies:

Brett Tease (Trappeze Pub) A golden ale with a healthy dose of Brettanomyces for sourness and oak chips to lend a slight dryness

I’Yam Cummin (Taco Mac) Sweet potatoes and spice combined to create nostalgic flavors in a well-balanced ale

Peach Flapjack Brown (Hop City Craft Beer and Wine) Fruit in beer isn’t uncommon, but the flavors in this beer matched the name exactly-slightly caramelized peaches with bready notes

Rico Suavé Chocolate Porter (Rocky Mountain Pizza) Mexican hot chocolate beer! Dark chocolate and heat from peppers accompanied the roasty flavors of the porter

Public InChoxication (The Beer Connoisseur Magazine) Another twist on a traditional chocolate beer, this stout was made to taste like chocolate cake

Starlight (Georgia Organics) In stark contrast to many of the dessert beers present, this ale contained honey, ginger, lemon, and sage and begged for a pairing of roasted chicken

Dry-Nutted Brown Ale (Five Points Bottle Shop) This brown ale had all the flavors of a homemade pecan pie, but with a restrained sweetness to remain an easily drinkable beer

If you haven’t had the chance to attend this unique event, look for an announcement from the brewery in early 2012 about when tickets will go on sale for the third annual Brew Your Cask Off. The diverse selection of one-time cask ales promises to be even bigger and better next year.

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Filed under Events, Field Trips, SweetWater Brewing Company

Field Trip: Holy Mother of Gatherings

The community surrounding and supporting the craft beer movement is amazing. A group of true advocates for better beer, community members are always happy to share their knowledge and appreciation for beer, as well as the beer itself. The sharing spirit was in full force on March 5 at Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia for a meeting of local BeerAdvocate.com members called the Holy Mother of Gatherings. The idea is simple: come to hang out with some fellow craft beer lovers and share some bottles from your own collection. I heard stories of the event’s humble beginnings, but HMoG (as it’s called by the BA hipsters) has become a throwdown of massive proportions. Packing out Brick Store Pub’s Belgian beer bar (located “upstairs and to the left”), the event is complete with a raffle for beer-related door prizes, a silent auction, and lots and lots of bottles of the world’s best beer.

Some of the benefits of pooling everyone’s beer stashes are obvious: we were all able to try beers we may not have otherwise been able to track down. I was able to sample some beers from breweries that don’t currently distribute to Georgia, including New Glarus, Odell, Three Floyds, Russian River, Goose Island, and many more. There were also some beers that aren’t just tough to get in Georgia, but are sold only in limited quantities from their respective breweries, making them difficult to come by even in their home state. Despite being rare, limited, or just unbelievably delicious, the people who brought them freely shared a pour from the bottles with anyone interested, or even just standing within an arm’s reach for too long. Attendees also had the chance to go on a tour of the Brick Store’s cellar, which is housed in a bank vault beneath the pub.

Aside from seeing and tasting some of the best beer from around the world, the Holy Mother of Gatherings was a wonderful opportunity to discuss and exchange beer stories. The tales of cross-country trips that some of the bottles, and even some of the people, made to appear in Decatur that Saturday made each sip even more enjoyable. Although the attendees weren’t brewery reps (for the most part), the passion each guest shared for the beer they had brought as an offering to the group would have persuaded even the staunchest macro-brew loyalist to give craft beer a shot.

Part of the aftermath from HMoG 2011

Online communities like BeerAdvocate were conceived as hubs for beer lovers to share their knowledge and interest with each other. The Holy Mother of Gatherings is a physical manifestation of the same goals. Instead of just reading someone’s review of a beer, however, they’ll gladly pour you a bit and share some details about how it’s brewed or the people that made it. There is no date set yet for next year’s installment of HMoG, but you can expect that it will probably be even bigger and better than this year’s (a panoramic camera may be necessary for the above picture). Keep an eye on the threads at BeerAdvocate in early 2012 and plan to come out for a great day of sharing among the craft beer community!

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Stone/Terrapin Dinner at Chops & Hops

A crowd of local beer enthusiasts was on hand January 13, 2011, to celebrate the first anniversary of the Watkinsville steakhouse (and beer bar) Chops & Hops. For the event, Chef Richard Miley prepared five courses, each paired with a beer from Stone Brewing Company and Terrapin Beer Company. While both breweries may be known for their IPAs, it was the slightly sweeter imperial IPAs and richer stouts that complemented the Southwest-inspired flavors of Chef Miley’s cuisine.

The night began with a reception and cask-conditioned Stone Pale Ale dry-hopped with Simcoe hops. This was a great, easy-drinking beer that highlighted the piney notes of the Simcoe hops perfectly.

First Course: Romaine Wedge Salad, Wasabi Lime Dressing, Cherry Tomatoes, Avocado, Bleu Cheese and Chilled Crab paired with Stone Levitation and Terrapin So Fresh & So Green, Green

Light citrus notes from the Amarillo hops in Levitation (dry-hopped with Amarillo) and So Fresh & So Green, Green (“wet”-hopped with fresh Amarillo) paired well with the spicy bite of the wasabi lime dressing. The lighter body of both beers was well-suited for the salad course, standing up to the strength of the dressing and bleu cheese without interfering with the delicateness of the crab and avocado.

Second Course: Charred Corn and Onion Soup with a Mexican Chorizo and Goat Cheese Quesadilla paired with Stone Lukcy Basartd and Terrapin Hoptaneous Combustion

The beers paired with the second course took two different approaches in working with the flavors of the food. Burnt sugar flavors of the Lukcy Basartd played off of the caramelized onion in the soup and the creaminess of the goat cheese quesadilla. The smokiness of Hoptaneous Combustion (the smokiest of any keg or bottle I’ve had of it) went beautifully with the smoked flavors of the soup.

Third Course: Caribbean Scorched Conch and Calamari (from Chef Joe Cascio of Square One Fish Company in Athens, GA) paired with Stone 2006 Double Bastard and Terrapin Rye Squared

The increased malt sweetness of both double IPAs brought out a sweet coconut flavor from the rice and were a well-balanced match for the light, fresh flavors of the conch and calamari.

Fourth Course: Chili Verde Pork Chop, Black Bean Puree, Jalapeno and Cilantro Mashed Potatoes paired with Stone Ruination and Terrapin Hopzilla

Another pair of double IPAs,Ruination and Hopzilla did anything but terrorize the course. Both beers offer strong hop aromas and flavors with notes of citrus and tropical fruit. These sweeter hop monsters accentuated the subtle sweetness of the tomatillos in the chili verde while also providing a contrast to the actually chili peppers in it, which kept the heat fresh with each bite. The smooth and savory potatoes and bean puree also popped against the sweetness of the beers.

Big Daddy Vlady's Chocolate Pudding with Russian Imperial Stout Whipped Cream and Candied Bacon paired with Stone 2010 Russian Imperial Stout and Terrapin Big Daddy Vlady's Russian Imperial Stout

For the final course, the beers found their way into the dish, creating an effortless pairing situation. The entire course was well-balanced, never becoming too sweet, but remaining rich in flavor. The dark, roasted flavors of both stouts helped to bring out a true chocolate flavor in the pudding. The whipped cream contained just enough of the Stone RIS to give it a deep flavor while remaining silky. Finally, candied bacon was the perfect sprinkle, teetering delicately between sweet and savory.

The dinner was wrapped up with yet another cask: Terrapin’s Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout with coconut. The coconut provided just a hint of milky sweetness to go along with the roasted coffee and oatmeal smoothness–a unique end to an unforgettable meal, and a year of great food and beer at Chops & Hops.


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Filed under Events, Stone Brewing Co., Terrapin Beer Co.