The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s chief dining critic, John Kessler, recently wrote “An open letter to Atlanta chefs,” prompting an avalanche of lively discussions that spilled over to local and national blogs and websites.
Kessler’s provocative commentary asked chefs to consider 10 requests that could “make Atlanta a better place to chow down.”
Among the requests: “please work on your execution”; “show some wit”; “work toward the new fusion”; “make one thing really well”; “surprise us.”
I’m happy to report, there’s no need to write anything but a love letter to Georgia’s craft brewers.
They’re already doing all those things and more — making award-winning beers with plenty of wit, trying new stylistic fusions, producing signature best-sellers, and coming up with surprising one-off creations.
And compared with the competition in other dynamic beer regions, they’re doing it backwards, in high heels, while hog-tied by government regulations.
Brewers in nearby North Carolina enjoy all sorts of freedoms and advantages that Georgia brewers can only dream about.
North Carolina brewers can sell the beer they make in multiple ways, including “self-distribution” to restaurants, bars and stores. They can fill to-go jugs of draft beer, known as “growlers,” and they can operate brewery tasting rooms that are essentially beer bars.
Asheville, in particular, has spawned a booming craft beer scene that reigns as the top BeerCity USA 2010, according to an online poll conducted by Charlie Papazian, founder of the Great American Beer Festival, the American Homebrewers Association and the Association of Brewers.
What may be most surprising, though, is that Georgia’s winemakers have the same advantages as North Carolina’s brewers, plus a few others.
Frogtown Cellars near Dahlonega boasts on its website: “We offer many choices for our patrons. We provide wine tastings at our bar. There you can also get wine to enjoy at the winery and take in the beautiful views from our facility. You can also buy wine at the bar to enjoy at home. We serve panini sandwiches every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We also serve brunch on select Sundays.”
Frogtown has plans to open three new tasting rooms in Dawsonville, Hahira and Helen.
More power to it and other Georgia wineries. Georgia needs the tourism and revenue that a mini Napa could create.
But Georgia brewers are left to wonder why they’re not recipients of similar economic opportunities. And those inequities aren’t lost on Georgia beer lovers.
Georgians for World-Class Beer, the grass-roots organization behind the passage of the 2004 law that allowed higher-alcohol beer to be sold in the state, has been revived and is working on a list of issues. And you could say it’s set to offer an open letter to Georgia lawmakers and bureaucrats.
Georgians for World Class Beer Meet and Greet, 1 p.m. Feb. 5, Five Seasons Westside, 1000 Marietta St. N.W., Atlanta, 404-875-3232, www.5seasonsbrewing.com.