On Jan. 9, my friend Ryan Hidinger lost his battle with cancer. He was 36, a great chef and very cool guy who used his final year to inspire and bless others.
Through The Giving Kitchen non-profit and Staplehouse restaurant, Hidinger will live on in a legacy of help and hope for those in Atlanta’s restaurant community facing the kinds of hardships he faced. If you don’t know The Giving Kitchen story, you can find out more at thegivingkitchen.org.
I first met Ryan when he was chef de cuisine at Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna and we became casual friends over our mutual love of great beer. I got to know Ryan and his wife Jen better when I covered a Staplehouse dinner for an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story about so-called “underground” supper clubs.
After that, Ryan and Jen became regular guests at an annual beer geek bacchanal on my front porch. And in November they were there again, hanging out in the kitchen, sipping a bit of Gulden Draak and laughing with friends as sun streamed through the windows.
On the day of Ryan’s passing, that wonderful memory felt like a gift. And that afternoon, I decided I needed to drive to Sweetwater, where I knew another of the Hidinger’s gifts, Second Helping India Pale, was in the brewery’s bright tanks, waiting to be bottled.
The ritual of sampling beer siphoned, cold and bubbly, straight from the tank is always a treat. Drinking a pint of Second Helping that day was a comfort and a joy.
Ryan and Jen created the recipe for the juniper double IPA with Sweetwater head brewer Nick Nock to help raise awareness and money for The Giving Kitchen.
Nock told me that he loved the idea of a chef and a brewer collaborating, especially for such a good cause, and that their goal was to make a beer that would be enhanced with food.
“Ryan definitely wanted to do a double IPA,” Nock said. “That was one of his favorite styles. We decided to put a little tweak on it with the chef and brewer thing and juniper berries came up. It was something we’d never played with before, but it worked really well.”
Ultimately, Second Helping was brewed with a variety of specialty malts, including Victory and chocolate, and five varieties of hops, including Bravo, Centennial, Chinook, Simcoe and Amarillo. The juniper berries were added in the whirlpool and again when the beer was dry-hoppped.
The result is a delicious IPA with a distinct botanical presence. The juniper berries seem to enhance the hops with herbal, minty aromas and flavors and there’s a gin-like character in the dry finish. The Victory and chocolate malts add nutty and biscuity notes, and a pretty amber color. Beer geeks will note that Second Helping registers at 7.4% ABV and 69 IBUs.
“I think this is a great beer that will pair well with food,” Nock said. “I hope chefs and restaurants around Atlanta will get their hands on it and do something crazy with it.”
Sweetwater Second Helping is a limited-release out now in 22-oz. bottles and on draft. All profits from the beer’s sale will be donated by Sweetwater and United Distributors directly back to The Giving Kitchen.
You can buy it at many metro package stores and growlers shops. Last week, I posted a partial list of bars and restaurants where you can go try it with friends and offer a toast to Ryan: where-to-find-sweetwater-second-helping.