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Archive for December, 2009

Is That a Prosecco in Your Hand…

…Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

Assuming you don’t read these words when they are sitting at the bottom of you parakeet cage, you are likely gearing up right now for New Year’s revelry in some form or fashion. And whether it’s a quiet dinner with good friends or a chilly night out to watch the Peach Drop in downtown Atlanta at midnight, bubbly wine will almost certainly cross your lips today or tomorrow.

The big bubbly wine news this year is that for the first time in a very long time, wines from Champagne have seen—Mon Dieu!— a sales dip. Reacting to The Great Recession, wine drinkers have sought a replacement for the iconic sparkling wines of this northern French viticultural region. I could spend the next 700 or so words explaining why there is only one Champagne; the reasons why it is more expensive; and that while there are other sparkling wines, there are no true replacements for capital “C” Champagne. I’ll save that rant for another day, however, and talk about one of …

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Bob Townsend’s Beer Pick

Ayinger Bräu-Weisse
Ayinger Brewery, Aying, Germany
$8.99/ four-pack or $3.49/16.9-ounce bottles at metro beverage stores; also on draft at select beer bars.

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Profile: The holidays are when breweries bring out their big, dark seasonal beers. But by the time January rolls around, I’m ready for something lighter and more sparkling to toast the New Year. Ayinger Bräu-Weisse is a classic German-style wheat beer with the bright effervescence of brut champagne. The traditional Bavarian yeast strain gives it a voluminous head and a flavorful tart complexity with notes of lemon and spice and a soft  mouth feel. Recently, several metro beer bars and restaurants (including Leon’s, The Porter, Summits and Taco Mac) have featured Bräu-Weisse on draft. Poured into a tall weisse glass, its one of the most elegant, food-friendly beers imaginable.

Pair with: Ayinger recommends pairing Bräu-Weisse with weisswurst (veal sausage), pretzels and Dusseldorf mustard, vegetable pate, crab Louis, and …

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Kermit Lynch: Wine Importer/Singer-Songwriter

If the wine world had a resident Renaissance Man, it would certainly be Kermit Lynch. The renowned wine importer, château owner, author and now recording artist never ceases to amaze with his multi-faceted talents. With the help of some Nashville’s hottest musicians, Lynch put together a bluesy country compilation of original tunes and cover songs called Man’s Temptation (www.amazon.com; $14).

Man's Temptation

Man's Temptation

Be warned, this is not a novelty recording made to scratch a newfound musical itch of the venerable wine importer, who has been bringing in some of Europe’s best offerings for 35 years. Lynch arrived in Berkeley in the mid-60s and was beguiled by the likes of The Grateful Dead and Country Joe and the Fish. By 1968, Lynch was the singer-songwriter for one of the area’s top bands. Drug overdoses prompted the band’s demise and derailed what might have been a prosperous music career for Lynch.

Shortly afterward, Lynch escaped to Europe, where he discovered fine wine. This …

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Beer Town: Cheery, Beery Holiday Gifts

When it comes to gifts, beer lovers are pretty easy to please — just give them some really good beer. But the holidays are the time to get a little more creative.

Here are a few ideas for the beer geek on your list.

Beer books

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“Love at the Pub: An Insider’s Guide to Craftsmanship, Conversation, and Community at the Brick Store Pub,” by Mary Jane Mahan (iUniverse, $18.95) is an uplifting view of the beloved beer bar from a Decatur denizen who has been drinking and making friends there since the beginning.

“World’s Best Beers: One Thousand Craft Brews from Cask to Glass” by Ben McFarland (Sterling Innovation, $29.95) offers a fresh take on the contemporary beer scene from the viewpoint of a young British drinks writer, with lively profiles under categories such as “The world’s top ten designer beers.”

“The Beerbistro Cookbook” by Stephen Beaumont and Brian Morin (Key Porter Books, $40) is based on the menu from the renowned beer-centric Toronto restaurant, Beerbistro, with …

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Sweetwater’s “Brew Your Cask Off” Festival

SweetwaterAtlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Co. has just announced a novel new twist on the cask ale festival. Here are the details sent from Sweetwater Minister of Propaganda Steve Farace:

SweetWater Brewing Company is putting a personal touch on cask ale festivals by inviting some lucky ducks to come down to the brewery and create their own version of a cask ale. The “Brew Your Cask Off” Cask Ale Festival on March 20th, 2010 will feature 70+ cask entries all made on site at SweetWater Brewery by the fortunate folks who are invited or won the chance to brew their own recipe.

“We are creating a couple of base beers for them to start with and then letting their wild creative side take over from there!” said Mark Medlin, SweetWater’s Brewmaster. He will be overseeing all of the casks to make sure the final products are as tasty as the inspired recipes these amateur brewers had intended them to be. “Of course, we’ll have a few casks of our own for the festival as well.”

Those invited will be …

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Spirits of the season: a holiday cocktail sampler

’Tis the season to be jolly takes on a new meaning when it comes to Atlanta’s thriving cocktail scene. Bars and restaurants around town are offering all sorts of merry libations in the spirit of the holidays. New takes on classic drinks range from eggnog and mulled cider to martini-style concoctions made with spices and flavorings, such as cinnamon and peppermint.

At Leon’s Full Service in Decatur (131 East Ponce de Leon Avenue, 404-687-0500, leonsfullservice.com), bartender Miles Macquarrie has created a holiday cocktail list that works contemporary culinary twists into traditional winter favorites.

One called Whiskey Pie is single barrel bourbon, apple pie liqueur, Dupont Le Pommeau (a blend of Calvados and apple juice), and whiskey barrel bitters, garnished with a bitters-infused dried apple slice.

“People are definitely in a festive mood this time of year,” Macquarrie says. “We get a chance to use some darker spirits and richer ingredients. And it’s really cool to take …

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Ode To Holiday Wine Gifts

The annual holidays are almost nigh,

But what to get that wine-loving gal or guy?

This screed is for gift givers in a pinch.

Shopping for oenophiles is now a cinch.

 

Buying a bottle is much too easy.

But lots of wine junk is quite cheesy.

A book! A book! A book to get!

And here are three you ain’t read yet.


Mitchell C37650 Final:Layout 1The Psychology of Wine: Truth and Beauty by the Glass by Evan and Brian Mitchell ($44.95, Praeger, 2009, Santa Barbara, Calif., 203 pages)

          When I got to page 30 of “The Psychology of Wine,” written by the father-and-son team of Brian and Evan Mitchell, I decided to look up the word esoteric. Yep, no doubt about it. This book requires or exhibits knowledge that is restricted to a small group and is difficult to understand.

          That should come as no surprise since Brian, the father, is a psychologist in Australia and Evan, the son, is a former sommelier/English major whose college thesis was on psychoanalytical themes in American literature. These guys are …

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Bob Townsend’s Beer Pick

Terrapin Hopsecutioner India Pale Ale
Terrapin Beer Company, Athens, GA
$8.99/ six-pack at metro beverage stores; also on draft at select beer bars

Profile: Terrapin’s newest year-round offering, Hopescutioner India Pale Ale, is a bit of surprise in a couple of ways. First, given the Athens’ brewery’s success with hopped-up seasonal beers, such as Big Hoppy Monster, it’s odd that the company hasn’t made an IPA part of its full-time portfolio before now. Second, despite its rather gruesome name, Hopescutioner isn’t overly aggressive. In fact, it’s very well balanced, with a rich, caramel malt flavor. A combo of Warrior, Chinook, Centennial, Simcoe and Amarillo hops, plus dry-hopped Cascade, impart pleasant citrus and pine aromas and flavors without harsh bitterness. At 7.2% alcohol by volume, the most dangerous thing about Hopsecutioner may be how easy it is to drink.

Pair with: Like most IPAs, Hopsecutioner makes a good match for all sorts of hot and spicy foods or sharp …

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Old, True Friends

Gil Kulers’ Wine Pick

          This column is about old friends. Not the kind of friends that stab you in the back and lie to your parole officer. I’m talking about the type of friends that are there for you when you need them. Someone who will bail you out of jail on a rainy night even after you stabbed them in the back and lied to their parole officer.

          Now, I’ve previously written about the wines I’m mentioning today. I’ve tried them year in and year out, some for longer periods of time, some shorter. And none of them have ever disappointed me (you guys getting the “old friend” analogy now?). At least two of them are fairly popular. But when I first tried them, they were new and unknown, but wonder to behold, instantly likable.

          There are a lot of wines you become acquainted with that you like immediately. Then, they go all Hollywood on you and famously raise their prices. Or they cash in on their popularity by making a bajillion bottles that are a mere …

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Beer Town: The Naked Pint

Hallie Beaune

Hallie Beaune

“The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer” (Perigee Trade, $19.95) by Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune would make a great gift for the foodie or wine lover on your holiday list. Even know-it-all beer geeks will appreciate the breezy, often humorous approach these two female beer lovers take.

“Beer loves you,” is the way Perozzi and Beaune (pronounced “bone”) introduce the book. Soon after, they write, “We go where the funny go, and luckily, so does beer.” But beyond the giggles and goofy puns (”I Wanna Bock With You”), there’s a wealth of knowledge — from beer history and styles to food pairing and home brewing.

Perozzi and Beaune are Los Angeles women and veterans of the famed beer bar Father’s Office in Santa Monica. Perozzi founded the Web site www.beerforchicks.com and works as a beer consultant and sommelier.

Beaune writes about beer for the Web magazine The Rundown and frequently hosts beer dinners at L.A. fine dining restaurants.

I caught up …

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