It’s taken a full week, but I’ve finally drifted back to reality after experiencing what can only be described as heaven on earth, the Holy Grail of all Southern goodness – the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival (BBB). The festival made its way to Atlanta for the first time ever and, with breath that still smells of bourbon, I must admit it lived up to the hype.
Purchasing VIP tickets through Groupon to experience the best the tents offered, we were granted access to BBB at 12 noon for what could last for up to six glorious hours (regular ticket holders could not arrive until 2 p.m.). Anxious to utilize my full six hours, I practically ran to will-call after my wife slowed our arrival to an embarrassing 12:30 p.m.
As we met our friends at the gates, we were greeted with bluegrass rhythms and aromas of whiskey and smoking meats. My anxiety slowed as I picked up my tasting glass and headed straight for the bourbon.
I tried to keep track of all the deliciousness that went down the hatch, but as the day wore on my memory, notes and dignity got a little fuzzy. Here goes nothing.
Old Rip “Pappy” Van Winkle: Family Reserve 23 yr(VIP tent only) – This was a dream come true for me. It was delicately complex with hints of spice and sweetness. Dry and smooth. Still dreaming about this one (I begged an extra pour from the lady tending bar. Thank you miss, you are my hero).
Breckenridge Distillery Small Batch Bourbon – I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I expected it to be harsh. It is a lighter whiskey with pleasant oaky flavors with a slight creaminess. Highly recommend trying this one.
1792 Ridgemont Reserve Small Batch – Rich, thick, creamy barrel flavors of vanilla. I love this bottle and somewhat expected it to be a gimmick, but the cool bottle contains damn good whiskey. Delicious and solid.
Bernheim (Wheat Whiskey) – Soft and easy with a light sweetness, and even lighter spice. This one was almost too easy to drink. Almost.
Eagle Rare Single Barrel – Delicate and sweet with hints of vanilla and corn. Very caramely and reminded me of a lighter and simpler version of George T Stagg. For around $30 a bottle this is a solid value.
Maker’s 46 – This struck me as very similar to the standard Maker’s Mark, but better and more complex in every way. All the flavors you love just better (this was tasted towards the end of the day).
Other Likes: Blanton’s Single Barrel, Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig 12yr & 18 yr, Willett Pot Still Reserve
Worst Tasting Bourbon:
FireFly Sweet Tea Bourbon – This wins the honor of being the only “bourbon” I spit out all day. It was the worst I tasted at the festival.
Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey – Maybe I didn’t like it because I tasted it next to Pappy, but I don’t get the hype. I wasn’t a fan.
Booker’s Bourbon, and Baker’s Bourbon – I’m just personally not a fan of Beam. This day decided it.
Innis & Gunn Highland Cask – Big, full-bodied beer with a smoky punch and hints of vanilla whiskey.
Innis & Gunn Rum Cask – You can really taste the rum influences. Very complex flavors. Amazing beer & I’ll be looking for this around town.
Monday Night Brewery Drafty Kilt Scotch: These guys are killing it.
Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Brown: This is one of my favorite beers right now.
Lazy Magnolia Deep South Pale Ale
(Monday Night Brewery and Lazy Magnolia were stationed right next to each other, so I spent a lot of time here. This was where the day started to take a turn. Delicious.)
Two unidentified home brews that were infused with Bourbon & Bacon (VIP Tent): Oh yeah you read that right. They were full-bodied and amazing.
Honorable Mentions: Shocktop Wheat IPA, Arcobrau Hefeweizen,
Local Icon, Sweetwater, had their full line on hand, but I didn’t spend too much time there since I’m lucky enough to head to the brewery whenever I want. Plus their tie-die trailer was packed pretty much all day.
I liked most of the beer I tasted, but I wasn’t a fan of the Kona Fire Rock or the Magic Hat #9 (too fruity).
On top of all of the amazing adult beverages, there was a copious amount of stellar food on hand. Williamson Brothers BBQ Sauce lineup was fantastic. My favorites were the Chipotle and Roasted Garlic sauces. I walked home with a bottle of the chipotle, but most of it ended up coating the inside my wife’s purse, so there isn’t much left. The best food of the day wasn’t even BBQ, it was from Nana G’s Food Truck. The folks at Nana G’s make incredible fried chicken served on top a waffle with bacon stuffed inside. It’s as good as you would imagine.
Talk about sensory overload! Overall, there were 40 bourbons and 60 beers. I didn’t make it though all of them, but I did get to try most of them (some two or three times). The adult beverages and food I just walked you through were just the tip of the iceberg. If BBB makes it back to Atlanta, it will be on the top of my event list for the year. It was well run and everyone had a great time. The only problem I have is trying which bottle of bourbon or what six-pack I want to pick up next.
It pains me not to have gone. I almost wish I hadn’t read this… I’ll have to make sure I catch it next time, writing about them all plenty between now and then.