On the Craft Beer Trail at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

In case you haven't noticed, the AJC Drink blog has migrated to the new Atlanta Restaurant Scene with John Kessler.

That means you'll find AJC wine columnist Gil Kulers of Kulers Uncorked here.

And you'll find my Beer Town column, which runs in the AJC Food section today, along with a cover story I wrote highlighting three chefs, and three recipes for dishes they'll be presenting at the 2014 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival .

For the past four years, I’ve been helping out with the beer programing for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.

Besides being a gathering for great Southern chefs, the event’s Tasting Tents are designed to lead guests through curated “trails” that showcase food and drink from around the South. And Southern craft brewers have found a place at the tables among the purveyors of barbecue, bourbon, cheese, fried chicken, seafood and sweets.

This year, I’m proud to say, I also helped usher in a craft beer specially designed and brewed for the 2014 festival at Three Taverns Brewery in Decatur in collaboration with Atlanta’s Wrecking Bar Brewpub.

Tripel Reserve is a Belgian-style tripel fermented with oak and red wine. Three Taverns brewers Joran Van Ginderacther and Brian Purcell created the beer with Wrecking Bar brewer Bob Sandage, riffing on the classic golden strong ale with a few more additions, including a bit of rye malt and Saaz hops.

Early tastings reveal a beer that should appeal to many of the wine lovers at the festival, with touches of vanilla from the oak, and a bubbly, creamy presence. Personally, I’m looking forward to trying it with some cheese and charcuterie.

Another exciting development this year is a panel I will be moderating on Saturday morning with Bill Manley, the resident “beer geek” from Sierra Nevada, and Noah Tuttle, Oskar Blues head brewer in Brevard, North Carolina.

We’re calling it the Great Beer Migration, and besides offering some beers to sip and savor, Manley and Tuttle will be discussing how two big craft breweries from west of the Mississippi landed in North Carolina.

On Sunday afternoon, when it’s legal to drink beer again, Tuttle of Oskar Blues and Purcell of Three Taverns will be joining Jason Pellet of the up-and-coming Orpheus Brewing in Atlanta and Edward Westbrook of Westbrook Brewing in South Carolina and myself to talk about the state of the art of craft beer in the South.

On the Craft Beer Trail at the festival, look for offerings from Maryland’s Heavy Seas, North Carolina’s Highland and Virginia’s Starr Hill, in addition to Orpheus, Oskar Blues and Three Taverns.

In the Tasting Tents, Sierra Nevada will be on the Snacks and Cheese Trail, Sweetwater on the Pork Trail, and Terrapin on the Southern Grown Trail.

As usual, it will fun to see what beers the brewers decide to showcase during the tastings.

In the past, we’ve enjoyed debut beers like Sweetwater’s Waterkeeper Hefeweizen, one-of-a-kind brews like Terrapin’s Belgian-inspired 10th Anniversary Ale, cult beers like Westbrook’s Mexican Cake Imperial Stout, and big surprises like Foothills’ Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels.

Of course, it’s always interesting to see how the festival-goers will react to the craft beers weaving among the food and wine tastings.

In 2012, there was a happy gathering where a row of Southern craft brewers were pouring beer directly across from a row of Southern chefs serving fried chicken. A lot of samples were traded back-and-forth between the chefs and brewers, too.