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March is known for its wild weather, but it’s quickly becoming the official start of the spring festival season! How long before it is known more for its festivals? And what a better way to kick off the festival season then with the trifecta of fun: beer, bourbon, and BBQ. Last weekend, a large crowd gathered outside the hustle and bustle of Atlantic Station, waiting outside a pair of gates as lines wound up the stairs and into one of their first festivals of spring: The Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival. The national touring festival with 8 locations and now twice the size of 2013, this festival is destined to become one of Atlanta’s biggest. Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival (aka BBB) has little something for everyone: besides the beer, bourbon, and BBQ there were cigars, music, wine, fun contests, food and drink pairings, VIP, and 5-6,000 of your closest friends.
I was thinking that $35 was pretty cheap to get free bar-b-que but unless you were VIP, the grub wasn’t free. Don’t worry $35 is good for what you did get so I’m not complaining. It wasn’t that big of a deal because you could grab a sandwich for $6 from just about any vendor. I perused the offerings that included Williams Brothers, Hottie Hawgs BBQ, Big Shanty and others. I opted for a pulled pork sandwich (the “usual” for me) from Hottie Hawgs BBQ. The meat was tender and a pretty good size for the price. The BBQ sauce was a little bit sweet and a little bit sassy, so I enjoyed it. I have to say that the most interesting looking bar-b-que place had to be the Big Shanty. It looked like a little house on wheels. Very cool!
My overall favorite thing at Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival was the Tasting Theater. Each hour had its own theme and you could sit and learn something new or even better eat your way through the hour. From a range of speakers and activities that included food, drink and pairings, a few of the offers interested me immensely. We could only go to one, so we went to the Bourbon and BBQ pairing featuring Smoke Rings BBQ. While in the pairing, we tried a Savannah Bourbon Co Bourbon while the bar manager talked, then they served deviled eggs with Bacon and bourbon sweat tea. The deviled eggs were perfect and the bacon gave it that smoky, bar-b-que flavor, and then paired with the bourbon sweat tea, I felt like I should be sitting in a rocking chair on a porch somewhere in rural Georgia. Some of the other seminars/offers they also had at the tasting tent were a Southern Food seminar, the history of Bourbon Seminar, Good Eat and Meet, and the co-founder of Templeton Rye spoke.
And who doesn’t like a good, ole fashioned Beer Belly Contest? You heard right, Beer Belly Contest. Ok, to be fair, I have never seen one of these and I have to call: shenanigans. It was something that the crowd really seemed to enjoy and got into with whoops and hollers. Contestants were brought on stage and their beer bellies were measured in front of the crowd. The biggest guy had up to 4’11″ of belly fat and attributed it all to Bud Light. That’s my light beer of choice, so I commend you! Also, Rock 100.5 also had their own shenanigans going on at their tent with two contests I saw while waiting in line for a beer. The first one they got a young lad to drink down some BBQ sauce from the bottle for a t-shirt and some prizes. They also had (PG-13 content) a contest to put a condom on the end of a plunger. On that note, maybe it’s time to put down the bourbon.
Overall, even with the large crowd and busy Atlantic Station, the festival was full of fun (including beer and BBQ), while most people seemed to enjoy the slightly over-cast and mild Saturday afternoon with their friends. I had some friends in VIP and they RAVED about their festival experience that included free food (if you got their early) that was very good, a lot more beer choices, and a lot less crowded tent. I think if you do this when it comes around next March, maybe you should opt for VIP. It may cost a little, tiny bit more but you get all the festival fun outside and all the exclusivity inside. Win-win.