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On Tap with Bob Townsend

Everyone’s favorite beer guy is back this week with some great beer news. Read on to find out about Tom Colicchio’s visit to Craft for a special beer dinner, and … drum roll, please … bacon-flavored beer. You knew it was coming, right?


by Bob Townsend

Tom Colicchio will be in Atlanta/Credit: courtesy of Craft Restaurant

Tom Colicchio will be in Atlanta/Credit: courtesy of Craft Restaurant

Some exciting news for devotees of fine dining and cutting edge craft brewing: On Monday, Nov. 2, Craft Atlanta and chef Tom Colicchio will present a special beer dinner featuring Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver.

The five-course tasting menu, concieved and prepared by Colicchio, will be matched with beers brewed and selected by Oliver, including several limited edition offerings that could rightly be called “culinary.”

Of course, Colicchio has become widely known as a co-producer and judge on TV’s wildly popular Top Chef show. But foodies have followed him for years — from NYC’s Gramercy Tavern to his own empire of  places, including Craftbar, Craftsteak and Wichcraft — drawn by his fanatic dedication to fresh, thoughtfully sourced seasonal ingredients and the kind of no-nonsense approach to cooking that displays those ingredients in glorious ways.

Oliver is craft brewing’s most erudite proponent of bringing great beer and food together. And while he has excelled at making excellent examples of classic styles, more recently he’s gone off in some truly surprising directions.

One of Oliver’s newest experimental brews, The Manhattan Project, has been on draft at a few places around town, including Leon’s Full Service in Decatur, and will be featured with passed canapés at the reception before the Craft beer dinner.

Designed in collaboration with cocktail guru David Wondrich, it’s a strong rye-based beer that was aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels, infused and blended with herbs and spices redolent of sweet vermouth and bitters, and finished with a touch of tart cherry flavor. The result is a hefty, very aromatic, and full-flavored brew that captures the essence of the classic Manhattan cocktail.

“Dave gave me a list of the essential ingredients in vermouth and bitters,” Oliver reports. “And I worked out the basic recipe from there. The tougher part was dialing in the proportions. We’d spiked some beer with gentian root, some with cloves, etc., and then had to decide what the final blend was. Dave came to the brewery and the entire brewing team spent two hours with him dialing in the flavors and aromas. Dave brought three different Manhattans with him so that we’d have something to work off of.”

But Oliver has come up with an even more unusual beer to pair with Colicchio’s stout-braised pork cheek with sauerkraut and quark ravioli and cracklin’ gremolata. Dubbed Reinschweinsgebot, it’s a brown ale aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, and flavored with rendered bacon fat and smoked malt from Benton’s Country Smokehouse in Madisonville, Tenn.

Wow! A beer and food match made in piggy heaven.

Last week, I spoke with Colicchio and Oliver about the upcoming dinner during a fun, free-wheeling phone conversation. They recalled the first beer dinner they did together at Gramercy Tavern, and reflected on current beer and food connections. You can read all about it in Tuesday’s AJC Living section.

To reserve a spot at the Craft beer dinner with Tom Colicchio and Garrett Oliver, call 404-995-7580 or email Valeria Torres at $155 per person, including tax and service charges.

32 comments Add your comment

Bob T.

October 22nd, 2009
7:04 pm

Right now, my recommendation is to g get a glass of The Manhattan Project while you can. Beyond that, there are so many good beers out there right now it’s crazy trying to keep up with them. I’m looking forward to Terrapin’s Hopsecutioner — the Athens rewery’s first IPA, coming sometime in Nov.


October 22nd, 2009
7:01 pm

Jennifer, I hope the foodies reactions is not surprise that they are being served beer, unless their income is sufficiently disposable that they didn’t bother to check the menu before dropping $155 on a meal.

Seriously, though, I hope the beer dinner turns out perfectly and craft beer awareness in Atlanta rises to new heights as a result. At the very least, this one has gotten people talking about the craft brewing movement (and in a wonerful public forum such as this).

Colonel Aureliano Buendía

October 22nd, 2009
6:57 pm

Bob, any beer recommendations?


October 22nd, 2009
6:41 pm

I want bacon beer! Now to just figure out how to reasonably use the bacon fat in beer??

Jennifer O'Connell

October 22nd, 2009
6:23 pm

It is the “foodies” that will sell this dinner out but can you imagine their reactions when they are handed a beer instead of wine? Their palates will be forever changed for the experience. For the beer culture here in Atlanta, this may be one of the best promotional tools that has ever happened.

Garrett Oliver

October 22nd, 2009
4:53 pm

Hello Folks,

I’m really looking forward to these dinners – I’m sure we’re going to have a great evening. To answer a few questions…..yes, one of the beers (an experimental “special edition”) is flavored with bacon. Unusual? Perhaps, but if you’ve ever had the heavily smoked beers from Bamberg, you might not find the flavors all that surprising. We’ll also have another beer which isn’t commercially available, but certainly one of the best we’ve ever made. And another that’s very rare indeed. We’re pulling out the stops.

As for the price tag, well, at Brooklyn Brewery we are also happy to do beer dinners that run as little as $35 – $40, and Chef Colicchio’s Craft’wich does great sandwiches for $7.99.

But for this dinner we’re reaching into our own “private stash” and dinner is going to be cooked by one of the most prominent chefs in the country. It’s certainly not cheap by my standards either, but I’d say that this is an excellent opportunity to taste Tom Colicchio’s cooking and some (hopefully) well-matched beers at a comparatively low price. Believe me, I’m looking forward to these dinners as much as anyone! I hope you’ll come join us.



Bob T.

October 22nd, 2009
4:11 pm

Chris T.: Since when were just malt and hops interesting enough for Belgian brewers?

Haven’t tasted the the bacon beer yet (though I’ve been promised a sample), but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to drink that every day. On the other hand, I’d gladly drink a Manhattan Project right now, if I had one, and a lot of days, if I could get it.


October 22nd, 2009
2:52 pm

The Manhattan Project is really good. It is reminiscent of a Manhattan, as well as just plain good beer.


October 22nd, 2009
2:46 pm

That’s cool about the suggested pairings being at Craftbar too. I’ve been wanting to check that place out. Do you know if the pairings will be available just on Nov. 2 or at other times as well?

I just looked at their beer list from the link and it is pretty impressive in quality, though small. I see They’ve got La Goudale Blonde. I tried that for the first time recently and really liked it.

Chris Terenzi

October 22nd, 2009
2:39 pm

Rendered bacon fat and craftily concocted beer Manhattans? Seriously? Have we really veered that far into kooky ingredient land? Are malt and hops no longer interesting enough?