Yesterday, when Ryan Turner sent me a text message that read, “call me when you can,” I felt a jolt of panic. And a few minutes later, Turner confirmed my fear that our friend Ryan Hidinger had lost his battle with cancer.
If you read this blog, you already know that Hidinger was a great chef and very cool guy who used his final year to inspire and bless others. Through The Giving Kitchen and Staplehouse, 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.
After a good cry, I checked my e-mail and found the statement Turner said he was going to send out. It was a succinct and lovely eulogy.
One line in particular seemed meant for me, a guy who seldom needs an excuse to get gloomy: “Ryan asked all of us to celebrate his life, our own lives and those around us by moving forward.”
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 AJC 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.
That wonderful memory felt like a gift, and it gave me an idea.
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 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 pair well 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 set to debut in 22-oz. bottles and on draft around metro Atlanta on Tuesday. All profits from the beer’s sale will be donated by United Distributors and Sweetwater Brewery directly back to The Giving Kitchen.
You’ll be able to buy Second Helping at many package stores and growlers shops. And here’s the list of bars and restaurants where you can go to try it with friends and offer a toast to Ryan Hidinger:
Bad Dog Taqueria
Big Tex Cantina
Bone Lick BBQ
Bucket Shop Cafe
Cakes & Ale
Cypress Street Pint & Plate
Empire State South
Hand in Hand
Here To Serve Restaurants
Jake’s Ice Cream
King + Duke
Leon’s Full Service
Muss & Turner’s
North River Tavern
One Eared Stag
Pine Street Market
Red Pepper Taqueria
Republic Social House
Rocky Mountain Pizza
Seed Kitchen & Bar
Six Feet Under
Slice and Pint
Sugar Coated Radical
The Family Dog
The Marlay House
The Tavern at Phipps
Two Boroughs Larder
Wild Wing Cafe
—By Bob Townsend, AJC Food and Drink blog.