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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


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.


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.