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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

Ed Hamrick

October 22nd, 2009
12:22 pm


It should be interesting to taste the “bacon flavored beer”.
Unless the addition of rendered bacon fat is very small compared to the size of the batch, you would expect the fat to kill the head retention.

The dinner sounds great. I may check it out!


October 22nd, 2009
12:45 pm



October 22nd, 2009
12:48 pm

Glad to see some beer dinners going on and I would love to go, but $155 a person is beyond exorbitant. I’d have to come home with a couple of cases of beer at that price.

David Granger

October 22nd, 2009
12:50 pm

How ’bout some beer-flavored bacon?


October 22nd, 2009
1:13 pm

I am certain this will be epic. However, for $155 I’ll just have to hear about it secondhand.


October 22nd, 2009
1:19 pm

The beer crowd can be a cheap crowd, especially homebrewers. Many will spend 40 hours and $10 in materials making what they could buy for $20. That said, I am glad to see our local beer culture reaching out to a larger section of the market. Not going to see too many homebrewers at the $155 dinner but it will sell out. Those customers are the future of our beer culture in this town. Glad to see us making the turn.

How does bacon flavored beer go with waffles? Or would a nice belgian be better?

Mark N

October 22nd, 2009
1:19 pm

Bob (or anyone),

Where is Manhattan Project pouring this week around town? Anywhere?


Knuckle Sandwich

October 22nd, 2009
1:24 pm

*gurgle drool gurgle*


October 22nd, 2009
1:28 pm

It’s going to sell out to “foodies,” which is fine. But this is not really a beer event; it’s a food event with a few novelty beers presented by a great brewer. Which, again, is fine. However, those attending are not the future of our beer anything in Atlanta. They primarily will be devotees of Colicchio and his Craft line.

Incidentally, Colicchio is not new to promoting beverages. He is currently in the midst of a massive marketing campaign for Diet Coke.

Bob T.

October 22nd, 2009
1:30 pm

Mark N.: Manhattan Project is pouring at Leon’s in Decatur, and I hear it will be at a couple of Taco Mac locations, soon, but I don’t have details, yet.

On the $155 comment: I agree it’s steep, but as of right now, I think the dinner is already close to sold out.

The good news is that several of the beers will be available with suggested pairings at Craftbar downstairs, which has great, comparatively inexpensive food, and a really thoughtful, concise beer list:

Thanks for the comments so far. Keep em coming.



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?


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.


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.

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.

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.



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.


October 22nd, 2009
6:41 pm

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

Colonel Aureliano Buendía

October 22nd, 2009
6:57 pm

Bob, any beer recommendations?


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).

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.

Les W.

October 22nd, 2009
8:51 pm

Bring on the “foodies”. The white collar and tie guys have GA state laws that allow them to sell at the winery and take a half drank bottle of wine home after dinner from the restaurant. Maybe we’ll get some of the same support and actually be able to take a growler home some day.

For now, I’ll take my Mahatten with a dozen wings please!

Ben H.

October 22nd, 2009
9:43 pm

I am really enjoying this coverage by you and the AJC Bob. My wife, an excellent cook in her own right, and myself, much the amateur brewer, have thoroughly enjoyed The Brewmaster’s Table. Unfortunately we are out of town for this, or else I’d consider going broke to attend. The Orval dinner on Monday was fantastic though. Stopped in for a nightcap of Manhattan Project at Leon’s after dinner and was thoroughly impressed. Hope to have Garrett make his way back to Atlanta soon.


October 23rd, 2009
10:05 am

“I’m looking forward to Terrapin’s Hopsecutioner — the Athens brewery’s first IPA, coming sometime in Nov.”

I agree 100%, I have begged them for years and was already objected with the IBA and Rye2 are sufficient enough comments.

As for the beer dinner, I agree with the comments from the brewmaster himself. This isn’t for everyone, Brooklyn has been a pioneer in the American craft beer pairing with food sector and Colicchio a pioneer in his own right.

Dinner for two with drinks in $200 easy at Craft, pairing it with some Brooklyn’s secret stash and Colicchio in the kitchen justifies the cost, in my opinion.

Merely guessing, but there won’t be any vacancies.


October 23rd, 2009
12:52 pm

I’m not sure that I understand the concept of bacon fat or any fat in beer. Wouldn’t it just create an oil slick on top of the beer?

Had the Brooklyn Manhattan last weekend at the Brick Store Pub. Great stuff, but I’m not sure how it compares with a Manhattan as I don’t think I’ve ever had one before.


October 23rd, 2009
2:06 pm

Sounds like a delightful evening. Gives me something to dream about, waiting for the day when I can drop $300 for a dinner with my wife. Sheesh. But, then again, the steep price keeps people like me away. Guess I’ll have to head over to Leon’s to check out that brew…


October 23rd, 2009
4:05 pm

Was very excited to read your blog entry about this amazing-sounding Beer Dinner. Called for reservations today and it was sold out…very disappointed! We are on the wait list, hopefully we’ll get a call.

Bob T.

October 24th, 2009
9:28 am

Thanks again for all positive comments and feedback, keeping the discussion going into the second day.

The dinner is sold out. As I mentioned before, though, you should call and check to see what Craftbar, located downstairs, is offering that night.



Rusty Diamond

October 27th, 2009
3:24 pm

I with Jennifer…events like this just elevate the exciting world of craft beer. And even better that this is happening in Atlanta! I’m a big fan of both Tom & Garrett and only wish I found out about this sooner. Last year during a Brooklyn dinner at Shaun’s, Garrett busted out the 2004/2005 Black Chocolate Stout paired with a chocolate ganache. NO wine on this planet would have worked better.

Kim Huffman

October 28th, 2009
9:25 am

I would put David Larkworthy (chef ) and Crawford Moran ( brewer ) of 5Seasons Brewing up against Colicchio and Oliver in a throwdown. a better use of the 155 bucks is seasonal dinner that Larkworthy and Moran do quite often using local farm to table ingredients. I have eaten at several “Craft” restaurant chains, in Vegas, NY and the one in Buckhead, good yes, but our local boys do it better, and while Garrett is on target with most of his beers, the earlier versions of the Schneiderweiss collaborations were off kilter. Crawford excels in brewing.

Reid in EAV

October 28th, 2009
9:31 am

Those of you looking for a bacon-y beer you can buy retail, check out the Schenkerla Rauchbier, a German smoked-ale, which is usually available at Green’s. (Don’t know about other spots, but I would imagine a Sherlock’s would have it.) While I don’t think there’s any bacon product involved in the brewing, the smoky flavor is certainly very bacon-like.


November 3rd, 2009
9:14 pm

I have 28 years of experience in the restaurant business from dishwasher to owner. I love trying new restaurants and i’m willing to give most places a second chance, but after eating at Craft at the MGM in Vegas(during a restaurant convention) I will never eat at a Colicchio restaurant again. They served 10 restaurant owners food my dog wouldn’t eat and whenI said something to the manager I got a “sorry about that” response. Save your money(alot of it) don’t go there.


November 18th, 2009
8:12 am

What’s wrong with a low ABV, simple, malt based brown ale for a change? Bacon Fat, Bourbon Aged? It’s all so tiresome; tinkering that seldom works well. Tradition is tradition for a reason, stop it with the silly massive ABV, barrel aged this and that. It’s no coincidence that a lot of crass beers, in bad taste (in both senses of the phrase) get produced in the US.