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Remembering Ryan Hidinger with Second Helping India Pale Ale

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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 …

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Kulers Uncorked: Alcohol In Wine

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

Caine Cuvée, NV 9, Napa Valley

Caine Cuvée, NV 9, Napa Valley

  • $34
  • Plentiful aromas of red berry fruit, black licorice and cola with a pleasant floral quality. Similar characteristics on the palate with notes of cedar, cigar box, cinnamon and clove.

About eight months ago, the rebel in me reacted to a fervent trend in the wine world to lambaste wines that live in the 15-16 percent alcohol range. My stance, then and now, is that you should drink what makes you happy. So I reviewed a great wine that was 15.5 alcohol…just to show ’em!

Since that column ran, I had the great pleasure to dine as a guest of Chris Howell, the longtime general manager and winemaker for Cain Vineyard and Winery. Howell is as much a philosopher as he is a winemaker. This passionate thinker makes a relatively obscure syrah-cabernet blend not of his hands as the center of dinner conversation to illustrate a fine point on winemaking, even though his guest really came to the winery—perched high above the Napa Valley—to …

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Where To Find Sweetwater Second Helping

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Sweetwater Second Helping is a limited-release available in 22-oz. bottles and on draft around metro Atlanta. All profits from the beer’s sale will be donated by United Distributors and Sweetwater Brewery directly back to The Giving Kitchen.

Here’s a partial list of bars and restaurants where you can go to try it with friends and offer a toast to Ryan Hidinger and The Giving Kitchen:

Abbatoir
Argosy
Aria
Atkins Park
Bacchanalia
Bad Dog Taqueria
Bantam Pub
Barcelona
Big Tex Cantina
Bocca Lupo
Bone Lick BBQ
Bookhouse Pub
Brewhouse Cafe
Brickstore Pub
Bucket Shop Cafe
Cakes & Ale
Canoe
Cardamom Hill
Common Quarter
Cypress Street Pint & Plate
Dantanna’s
DBA Barbecue
Double Zero
Eleanor’s
Empire State South
Fado
Floataway Cafe
Fox Bros.
Genki Noodles
H&F
Hand in Hand
Here To Serve Restaurants
Holy Taco
Hudson Grille
Iberian Pig
Jake’s Ice Cream
JCT Kitchen
Kimball House
King + Duke
Kouzina Christos
Leon’s Full Service
Local Three
McCray’s
Meehan’s
Mellow Mushroom
Melton’s
Midway …

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Beer Town: Craft Beer’s Roots in Homebrew

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Ken Grossman, who owned a home brew shop in Chico, Calif., was among the first generation of craft brewers who started out as home brewers.

As Grossman recounts in his book, “Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.” (Wiley, $24.95), he cobbled together recycled dairy equipment to launch Sierra Nevada in 1980, founding one of the first craft breweries in the U.S. And, of course, his boldly bitter Sierra Nevada Pale Ale helped define the American craft beer revolution.

More than 30 years later, the revolution has grown into a major business. Sierra is the second-biggest craft brewer in the U.S., based on sales volume, and the company is set to open a second brewery early this year in Mills River, N.C., near Asheville.

The pattern of homebrewers becoming professional brewers and opening breweries hasn’t changed much since Grossman’s early days.

In metro Atlanta, new breweries such as Monday Night, Three Taverns, Jekyll and Eventide are all products of the …

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Kulers Uncorked: Dessert Wines

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

Yalumba Museum Reserve, 21-Year Tawny Muscat, South Eastern Australia

Yalumba Museum Reserve, 21-Year Tawny Muscat, South Eastern Australia

  • $19
  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • Aromas of mincemeat pie with deep, rich flavors of brown sugar, molasses and caramel. It has touch of acidity that keeps it from becoming too heavy. It leaves a pleasant clove-like aftertaste.

For some time, fans of Kulers Uncorked (both of you) have asked if it is possible to get more of me. This is a request I took to heart and one I dedicated myself to the entire month of December.

Here’s my solution: I gained 10 pounds.

There is indeed more of me pounding on this keyboard right now. And while I’d like to blame my dedication to serving readers, my talented neighbors and friends played the greatest role in creating “more” of me with their limitless supply of irresistible candies, cookies and cakes. (Special shout out to Mary Kathryn Hagge, our family’s “Cookie Tante.”)

Seriously, though, I must lose what I’ve gained. Here’s my ingenious diet plan: Until I drop the …

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The Year in Beer 2013

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It was another great year for craft beer. In June, the Brewers Association reported that there were 2,483 craft breweries in the U.S., the greatest number since the 1870s, and an additional 1,605 were in the works.

But as 2013 came to a close, there were signs that sales were slowing a bit, and several financial stories warned that the craft beer building boom could be headed for a bust.

Here’s a look back on what had beer lovers buzzing in 2013 and a look forward to 2014:

Craft vs. Crafty — In late 2012, the Brewers Association wrote an editorial that attacked international giants Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller for being “crafty” with the marketing of beers such as Shock Top and Blue Moon. The “craft vs. crafty” fight raged on throughout 2013, with beer geeks wondering about favorites such as Goose Island, now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, and questioning whether the Brewers Association’s definition of craft brewing should include its biggest craft brewer, the Boston …

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Kulers Uncorked: New Year Bubbles

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

2004 Moët & Chandon, Grand Vintage, Champagne, France

2004 Moët & Chandon, Grand Vintage, Champagne, France

  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • $58

Refreshing aromas of white flowers and lemon zest with a distinct note of toasted bread, browned butter and a creamy banana note. It offers flavors similar to its aromas with lots of racy, tart fruit. As it warmed slightly, its toasted nut qualities rose up with subtle black cherry/apple/pear notes.

Bubbleheads. That’s the affectionate term for those of us who enjoy sparkling wine in general and, more than likely, harbor a special place for the titillating wines from the Champagne region of France.

I very much enjoy a glass of Champagne, but if I do have one beef with the wines from this chilly district just northeast of Paris, it’s the cost. A good bottle of Champagne will set you back $100—a great one, quite a bit more. But, oh, when a great one tipples across your palate, it’s as electrifying as your true love’s first kiss.

For the longest time, I was trapped between mediocre, $35 …

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Beer Town: Holiday Gifts for Beer Lovers

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As always, the Beer Town Holiday Gifts for Beer Lovers guide begins with beer:

If you’re looking for something big, expensive and impressive, look no further than Sam Adams Utopias 2013. Less than 15,000 bottles were made of the latest vintage of this extreme blended beer, which is a whopping 28% alcohol by volume, and sells for $199. Unfortunately, you’ll need to look for it somewhere other than Georgia, because it’s too strong according to current state law.

Closer to home and lower in price, you might put together your own mix-pack sampler. For example, a “Gold 12-pack” with a six-pack each of Sweetwater Lowryeder rye IPA and Terrapin Tree Hugger German-style altbier, both gold medal winners at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver.

Beer lovers love reading about beer, and some great beer books were published in 2013:

“Atlanta Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Hub of the South” by Ron Smith and Mary O. Boyle (American Palate, $19.99), chronicles our …

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Kulers Uncorked: Wine Books

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

Every year around this time, I share some of the books I found interesting in the past 12 months. Books are always a great gift for wine aficionados or those with grape curiosities.

No kidding, I’ve always wondered what wine was served during biblical times. Wine is mentioned many dozen times in the Old and New Testaments, but the varietal never gets a shout out. I’ve asked some pretty knowledgeable wine folk and the best they could come up with is a guess (muscat is the best speculative answer).

Turns out no real scientific sleuthing had been initiated, that is until Joel Butler and Randall Heskett set out to explore the ancient wine world in their book Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age (Palgrave Macmillan, $27). Published in late 2012, it was easily the most interesting wine book I read this year. Butler holds a Master of Wine certification and Heskett is a biblical scholar.

The two explore the ancient world’s complex …

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Beer Town: Drink in local beers of the season

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Winter weather blew in before Thanksgiving, with a wet, windy snap and temperatures dipping into the 20s. But the first chill in the air always means it’s time to celebrate with the special beers breweries offer this time of year to toast the holiday season and make the cold more tolerable.

We’re talking about some of most potent and distinctive styles of the brewer’s art, including winter warmers, Christmas ales, imperial stouts and barleywines. And that means classics like Anchor Christmas Ale, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Gouden Carolus Noël, Samuel Smith Winter Welcome and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.

Closer to home, Atlanta area breweries release plenty of winter seasonals, too. Here are a few to look for now and in the coming months:

Burnt Hickory Noggin Knocker — The 2013 version of this limited edition holiday imperial stout from the wild style Kennesaw nano brewery is due soon. Typically audacious at 13 percent alcohol, the 2012 version had flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, …

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