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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Craft Brewers Guild promoting Georgia-grown beer

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Some 2,000 people gathered March 22 at Red Brick Brewing on Atlanta’s Westside for the inaugural Georgia Craft Beer Fest.

At a time when beer festivals have become commonplace, and craft beer is present everywhere from fine dining restaurants to gas stations and growler shops, it wasn’t obvious that there was anything out of the ordinary going on.

But the sunny early spring afternoon was historic because it marked the first Georgia-only beer event, bringing together 26 breweries and brew pubs, including widely distributed and well-known brands such as Sweetwater from Atlanta and Terrapin from Athens, and fledgling companies such as Reformation from Woodstock and Omaha from Omaha, Ga.

“It was the first time we had Georgia breweries stand together like that,” said John Pinkerton, the brewmaster and co-owner of the Moon River Brewpub in Savannah and president of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, which put on the festival. “There’s never been a festival where it was …

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Wine Kulers: Grgich Hills

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

2011 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Calif.

2011 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Calif.

  • $42
  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • Complex aromas of ripe peach, mango, hazelnut and raw almond. Lots of tropical fruit flavors and a touch of ripe pear with a chalky mineral quality.

Chardonnay ain’t what it used to be. Today, among other styles, we have the big, buttery California version that makes many wine lovers go “Ahhh!” Back in 1975, there was basically one model, one standard for excellence—the chardonnays from Burgundy, France. The following year, the status quo got a big kick in the backside.

To celebrate the United States Bicentennial, a tasting was set up in Paris that pitted six California chards against four acclaimed Burgundies. To everyone’s disbelief, especially the French judges, an American winery won. This historic event came to be known as the Judgment of Paris and it lit a fire under the fledgling California wine industry.

And who changed the face of chardonnay that day? Who made …

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A non-interview with Goose Island brewmaster Brett Porter

Brett Porter at Goose Island

Brett Porter at Goose Island

Brett Porter may have one of the most enviable and difficult jobs in the craft beer world.

Porter came to Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co. as head brewer in May 2010 and was promoted to brewmaster in 2011. But in what some in Chicago termed “the honk heard round the world,” Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired Goose Island that same year.

And that transaction set up a battle between beer geeks, who declared the small craft brewery dead to them because of its corporate ties, and others, who pledged allegiance to the maker of sour and wood-aged delights like Sophie and Bourbon County Stout, no matter the source.

Atlanta has only been Goose Island territory since late 2012. Recently, after metro area AB InBev distributors brought in all sorts GI goodies for “Migration Week,” including stuff like Bourbon County Rare aged in 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle barrels, I interviewed Porter.

Our phone conversation, which was recorded my me and monitored by a …

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Kulers Uncorked: The Somm

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

Maybe it’s the word that strikes an uneasiness in the minds of those sitting around the table. Sommelier. It’s a mouthful. Saw-muh-LYAY. I occasionally mangle it and I am one. Ooo-la-la, perhaps it’s the Frenchiness of the word. Heck, there’s even a movie about the lives of sommeliers and the producers saw fit to only use the first four letters—Somm.

Whatever the reason, wine lovers of all stripes tense up when I arrive at the table and utter the fateful words: “Will you be enjoying wine with your meal tonight?”

"“You can't force yourself on the guest. Sometimes they do need the help, but don't want it," says Jacob Gragg, sommelier at Sea Island, Ga., Resort, won the 2014 TopNewSomm in the Southeast competition.

"“You can't force yourself on the guest. Sometimes they do need the help, but don't want it," says Jacob Gragg, sommelier at Sea Island, Ga., Resort. Gragg recently won the 2014 TopNewSomm in the Southeast competition.

The situation has not reached crisis level. In fact, the majority of my wine patrons spell relief: s-o-m-m-e-l-i-e-r. They are either content for me to make their selections for the evening or they look forward to …

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Zen and the Art of the Variety Pack

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“We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone.” — Robert M. Pirsig, “Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance.”

Recently, I was invited to give a talk about beer at the Friday Forum of the Atlanta Soto Zen Center. As the program put it, “Samples of the brewer’s art will be provided.”

For those who don’t know much about Zen, it might seem rather odd that beer drinking would be welcomed in a quiet place dedicated to meditation.

But my good friend, who is a Soto Zen priest and an ASZC community member, assured me that the abbot, Zenkai Taiun Michael Elliston, and the other members were really looking forward to learning more about beer, and trying some, too.

Still, what kind of beer should I bring, I wondered. Thinking back to my early explorations of Zen, mainly …

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Kulers Uncorked: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

2012 Kim Crawford, SP Spitfire, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand

2012 Kim Crawford, SP Spitfire, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand

  • $25
  • Two Thumbs Up
  • Intense aromas of tart citrus, especially grapefruit, ripe peach and just-cut grass. Lots of tropical and citrus fruit flavors, but with a strong line of balancing acidity. It has a particularly long finish that suggests pineapple, candied ginger, lime zest and white pepper.

New Zealand sauvignon blancs have taken it on the chin in recent years, or so it would seem. Once the tart, fruity darling of the Anything But Chardonnay crowd, these days I find many folks turn up their noses at the mere mention of New Zealand’s iconic wine.

Of course, others swear by kiwi sauvignon blancs. Wine sales from New Zealand, especially sauvignon blancs, continue their 30-year spiral upward. New Zealand’s winemaking association reports a 22 percent increase from 2009 to 2013 amounting to $1.2 billion in export sales. Over the past 10 years, vineyard acreage has just about …

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An Atlanta twist on the White IPA style and story

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IPA is big stuff and getting bigger.

For many years it’s been the top category at the Great American Beer Festival. Last year, Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada even teamed with the German glassware maker Spiegelau to create a special IPA glass they claim enhances the experience of the hops that distinguish the style.

Of course, American craft brewers have made the most of bright, citrusy, aromatic American hops with experimental styles like Black and Belgian IPA that have become more and more popular.

Now another new style dubbed White IPA has emerged as a favorite. Essentially a hybrid of Belgian wit and American IPA, it mixes unmalted wheat and spices from the Belgian side and barley malt and hop character from the American side.

Oregon’s Deschutes and Missouri’s Boulevard are the brewers often credited with creating the prototype with a 2010 collaboration called Conflux No. 2. Since then, a host of White IPAs have hit the market, including separate versions from …

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Kulers Uncorked: Frank Family

2010 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Calif.

2010 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Calif.

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

  • $55
  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • Intense aromas of dark berry fruit, overripe plums, dry tobacco and dark chocolate. A big wine with intense, dark fruit flavors, it maintains a balance with bright acidity, solid tannins and spicy notes of leather, cigar box and dark chocolate.

Rich Frank sees a lot of parallels between making movies and making wine. “They both take about a year to make,” the former head of Disney Studios says with a chuckle. “And you must lay out a lot of money at the beginning.”

Frank knows quite a lot about getting successful films and wines to market. In addition to being one of the most powerful players in Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s, for the past two decades he has owned and operated Frank Family Vineyards, located in the bucolic, anything-but-Hollywood setting of Napa Valley.

Before he started making wine, Frank escaped the pressure and pretense of Los Angeles by …

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San Diego’s Ballast Point hits Atlanta

Ballast Point may be best known for its highly regarded Sculpin IPA, currently rated a perfect 100 at ratebeer.com and 98 at beeradvocate.com. But there’s much more to the story. The San Diego company, which opened its production brewery in 1996 and its craft distillery in 2008, now makes over 40 styles of beer and seven different spirits.

Toward the end of 2013, most of Ballast Point’s core beers and spirits became available in Georgia for the first time, with Sculpin, Big Eye IPA, Pale Ale, Calico Amber and Wahoo White making a splash at bars and package stores around Atlanta and Athens. Fugu Vodka, Three Sheets Rum and Old Grove Gin are showing up in some places now, too.

Yuseff Cherney, who has the distinction of being Ballast Point’s co-founder, chief operating officer, head brewer and head distiller, recalled the company’s humble beginnings in co-founder Jack White’s Home Brew Mart, a shop that’s still an important part of San Diego’s booming craft beer …

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Kulers Uncorked: Russian River Pinots

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2010 Inman Family Wines, Olivet Grange Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Russian River, Calif.

2010 Inman Family Wines, Olivet Grange Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Russian River, Calif.

  • $68
  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • Intense aromas of red berries, rose petals and candied ginger. Equally intense flavors of red berries and tart black cherries and persistent notes of cola and cinnamon on its long finish.

The first thing Kathleen Inman would like you to know about her wines is that they are not from Russia (a common comment she hears in her travels). Inman Family Wines produce wines from pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay grapes grown in the Russian River Valley, located squarely in the heart of California’s Sonoma County.

The second thing the effervescent, former corporate headhunter would like you to know is that her Russian River pinot noirs—which in many quarters is shorthand for rich, jammy, alcoholic wines—are not what you might expect.

“They don’t need to be,” Inman says regarding the rich, slightly sweet, full-bodied pinot noirs that the Russian River has become …

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