Just Tap’d hosting 3rd Annual Beer Festival this Saturday April 29

Macon, Ga –We all can benefit from a little R&R from time to time; a tranquil setting, something good to eat, and a refreshing aperitif to wash it all down, and I know just the place. It’s full of craft beers, fine wines, and awe-inspiring grub. Owners Jeff and Beth Kressin have “Tap’d” into a market that caters to the homebrew enthusiast. Just Tap’D is a gastropub that originally opened in Warner Robins, formerly known as “Lazy Dog Growler,” and has since expanded their operation to the Macon area.

There is a large selection of craft beers at Just Tap’d. Photo by Donja M. Harper.

The unique aspects of the business are that it offers 64 different versions of craft beer so.  If you are looking to purchase mass produced domestic or imported brew you won’t find it at Just Tap’d. They also have a full restaurant that serves the most delectable pub cuisine. Patrons also have the option of dining in or enjoying the services alfresco.

Janie Armstrong and Courtney Carr serving customers at Just Tap’d . Photo by Donja M. Harper.

Beyond being a restaurant and bar, they also sponsor community events such as the 3rd Annual Beer Festival. I had the pleasure of speaking to some very enthusiastic and helpful staff who gave me some rather insightful information about it.  The event is slated for April 29th from 1-5pm, 488 First St. Macon, Georgia at the Rosa Park Square. Janie Armstrong and Courtney Carr, both who are counter servers at Just Tap’D said that, they expect to see over 1,000 patrons attending this year’s beer festival and that 40 different breweries are planning to attend.

Just Tap’d’s lower dining area. Photo by Donja M. Harper.

The event will cater to over 100 different brews from a select group of brewers. Stephen Chwat, who is the senior kitchen staff said that he will be preparing pizza and there will be other food catered from various other snack trucks throughout the event.

2017 is the third year for the Just Tap’d Craft Beer Festival/ Photo by Donja M. Harper.

Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased at the regular price of $35.00 up until the event at any Just Tap’D locations. You will pay $40.00 at the gate and VIP tickets are $50.00. Attendees can get in free if they don’t drink. There will also offer a $5.00 discount on Lyft and Uber services.

If you are looking for grub, Stephen Chwat, Just Tap’d Senior Cook will set you up. Photo by Donja M. Harper.

For more information on Just Tap’D Annual Beer Festival featuring Live Music visit www.eventbrite.com

Ellen Gilchrist wins the 2017 Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature

Macon, Ga.Mercer University’s Macon campus hosted the Sidney Lanier Prize Presentation for Southern Literature to novelist, short story writer, and poet Ellen Gilchrist. The presentation was held in the President’s Dinning Hall and awarded by the Mercer’s Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies on Saturday April 22, 2017. Gilchrist spoke with fans who were able to take pictures with the author as well as have books signed. The Spencer B. King Jr. Center examines the complex history and culture of the U.S. South.

Ellen Gilchrist accepting the Sidney Lanier Prize
Ellen Gilchrist, the Sidney Lanier Prize recipient for Southern Literature. Photo by Donja M. Harper.

David Davis who has been the Chair of the Sidney Lanier Prize Committee said that the committee has been actively awarding this prestigious award for six-years all of which he has held the current title of Chairman. Davis said, “The prize committee is a group of Mercer faculty, members of the local Macon community and experts of Southern Literature from outside of Macon, and in the fall, we consider nominated writers and we deliberate on them and we chose a prize winner for the year. The prize winner is the person who has made career long contributions to Southern Literature.”

Sidney Lanier Prize
David Davis serves as Chairman of the Sidney Lanier Prize Committee that sponsors the award. Photo by Donja M. Harper.

The recipient Ellen Gilchrist was born near Vicksburg, Mississippi, and has authored more than 23 books, some she said are not mentioned in her long list of publications. Gilchrist said she grew up on a plantation where much of the work was performed by hired help. Gilchrist said, that she began writing at a young age, and her influences came from family members whom worked as journalist. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy at Vanderbilt University. When asked what advice she can give aspiring authors and writers she recommended Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Larry W. Phillips. Her latest novel Things like the Truth: Out of My Later Years and other works can be found online at www.algonquin.com.

Shopping local small businesses helps Middle Georgia

Everyone shops national chains or buys off Amazon.com from time to time. Sometimes it is the only option for certain items, or the only sensible choice for bulk items that are sold as commodities. However, there are a number of great reasons to shop small local merchants that should be considered that go beyond finding the minimum price in an online retailer or the familiar of a national chain.

Bearfoot Tavern Bar
The Bearfoot bar has a classic design that reminds one of an old American pub or continental brasserie. Photo by Doug Deal.

The biggest advantage is financial. Small local businesses are owned by your family, friends, and neighbors and their profit mostly stays in town. Local business profits are used to help the local economy–which creates jobs for your neighbors. Several recent studies in multiple cities of the economic impacts of buying from local businesses showed that 2-4 times as much economic impact is generated locally per dollar spent at small local businesses than their national chain competitors. This multiplier means that there is more money for investment, development and taxes.

Li’l Benny’s is tucked away behind Suntrust and Mikado Japanese Steakhouse, across from Ingleside Baptist Church. Photo by Doug Deal.

The reason for this is that national chains, even franchises, direct a large amounts of the profits back to the corporate owner and supplies are generally always purchased from a national distribution network. Online retailers do not even have the economic impact of hiring local employees. On the other hand, a local business not only hires local workers, all of the profits go to local owners who then spend locally and are taxed locally. Instead of profits generated in Macon generating taxes to pay for roads in New York or California, they remain in Middle Georgia.

Dinner Bell Sign
Dinner Bell is located near Sams and next to Serena Wholesale on Eisenhower. Photo by Doug Deal.

Another advantage of shopping local small business is that it increases variety. National chains work long and hard to make sure your experience in one store is the same as the next. This can be a good thing if uniformity is what you are looking for, but it also means that when the options available are simply a handful of national branded stores, anyone looking for something different is out of luck.

Small businesses are often built on a level of customer service that national chains cannot match. Usually this is because no one really has the level of commitment that a business owner possesses. That store represents a significant investment on the part of the small business owner. A worker at a national chain store can find a number of other jobs and isn’t on the hook for the debt and liabilities of a local proprietor. Owning a small business is hard work, and is impossible without a high level of dedication. Frequently, that dedication to the success of a small business carries over to a broader dedication to success of the surrounding community.

El Camino Front
El Camino means “the road” in Spanish and can be found on 2nd Street in downtown Macon. Photo by Doug Deal.

Local businesses also can provide a niche of service that national chains are reluctant to offer. When you have a large national store, profit is highly dependent upon normalizing your operation to be as efficient as possible. All too often, this means cutting corners in ways that shave pennies off the costs but when multiplied by the millions of items sold, represent a large margin. This means reducing the stock of less popular items and marketing to the “average,” which often times means no one is truly happy, just not offended.

A smaller operation can tailor their business to meeting a niche market. If it is collectibles, antiques, service providers or just a local grocery store, they can easily decide to stock whatever they want, from whatever suppliers they want. If the community suddenly has a demand for something new the store can purchase supplies immediately, while a national chain has to clear it with their headquarters and justify adding it to their list of offerings.

Tommy's Outside
Exterior view of Tommy’s. Photo by Doug Deal.

Taken together, this allows communities with a tradition of shopping locally to remain unique. There are some people that want to see every shopping area have a Best Buy, Staples, Bed Bath and Beyond, a Chipotle, Olive Garden, Kroger, McDonalds and a Lowes, but for others, this is best described as a real drag. When so many dollars flow into these stores and out to their corporate headquarters it kills the local character that makes a community unique. Every time someone decides to buy a low quality yet consistent 10-taco pack from Taco Bell, it is a choice against a neighbor with his own small Mexican restaurant…a neighbor who likely has kids in your child’s school or attends your church.

Grey Goose Players Grill
The Grey Goose Players Grill is in the Forsyth Landing Shopping Center. Photo by Doug Deal.

One doesn’t have to completely eschew national chains and online retailers to buy local. Some things are not reasonably provided for by the local economy. But some thought should be given to the impact a purchase will make. If you are tired of seeing so many closed shops littering the roads of Middle Georgia, the way to change it is in the palm of your hand, just as soon as you take out some bill or a credit card. Be okay with paying a little more for better food, more variety and a better economy that can even benefit you directly.


Bearfoot’s history lesson of hamburgers are so good they must be tasted to be believed

Middle Georgia has been experiencing a hamburger renaissance which has been a major benefit for anyone who likes America’s favorite sandwich. One of the hardest decisions I’ve had lately is whether to turn left into Bearfoot Tavern or right into Ocmulgee Brew Pub. How dare they force us to make such a tough choice. I’ll get to Ocmulgee in a future post, but this one will sing the long list of praises for Bearfoot’s version of the famous shredded beef patty.

Bearfoot Tavern Bar
The Bearfoot bar has a classic design that reminds one of an old American pub or continental brasserie. Photo by Doug Deal.

Walking into Bearfoot, the first thing you’ll notice is the classically decorated bar. This warm and inviting area reminds me of a mix of classic American with a classic continental brasserie and is a great place to catch a bite or drink and adds a bit of class to the atmosphere. Non-drinkers and families, don’t be intimidated, this is a full-blown restaurant with an amazing menu. You really don’t want to miss their weekend brunch and their breakfast pizza which should be the talk of the town, but since we are here for burgers, we’ll leave that for another article.

Bearfoot has plenty of options for seating, including a beer garden and this, the main dinning area. Photo by Doug Deal.

The Hamburgers, and I capitalize that because each has a proper name, based on former and current Mercer University Presidents, are as delicious as they are varied. On one end, they have a Greek-inspired lamb burger, the Underwood, which is named after Mercer’s esteemed current President, William D. Underwood. This burger features lamb, feta tzatziki, tomato, and red onions. Toward the more traditional end is the gigantic Dowell Burger, named after Spright Dowell, Mercer President during the depression and World War two era. This meal-and-a-half is two 8oz beef patties smothered with sauteed onions, pimento cheese, and bacon and then served on Texas toast. There is a sense of irony in the name as the period he served as President was known for shortages and deprivations. However, perhaps it is an homage to the prosperous times that followed.

Pinckney Pollack Burger
Pinckney Pollack Burger unclothed in a bun and ordered as a double. A low carb delight. Photo by Doug Deal.

For those interested in a new take on buffalo, try the Pinckney Pollack, named after Mercer’s President at the turn of the century. Tossed in buffalo sauce and paired with bleu cheese fried onions and ranch dressing, it disguises your burger in the costume of buffalo wings. The sandwich is pictured in this article without a bun or onions and double meat for a carb cutters delight. (An extra half pound patty is only $4 extra.)

Bearfoot Godsey Burger
The Godsey Burger is unbelievably good with a bitter sweet taste due to the slow cooked shallots and brandy peppercorn reduction. Photo by Doug Deal.

The Godsey is named after Raleigh Kirby Godsey, Mercer’s 7th President. This meaty delight is set off by the wonderful bittersweet taste of brandy peppercorn sauce melded with braised shallots. If some of the juice drips out, you’ll want to sop it up with your truffle fries which I found I could not stop eating. I am not sure who came up with the trend to put these flavorful mushrooms on fried potatoes, but that person deserves the Nebel prize in culinary arts and Bearfoots version is perfectly executed.

Bearfoot Godsey Closeup
The scrumptious pink of a Godsey Burger ordered more on the rare side. Feel free to order it cooked more well done. Photo by Doug Deal.

My patty was prepared just as I ordered it, pink in the middle from end to end. Bearfoot accommodates any preference as you can char that burger to your heart’s content, but I love the juiciness a medium rare to rare has to offer. And speaking of juices, the sandwich oozed the juice of not only the wonderful brandy sauce but the moist and delightful interior of the burger itself. I go with the truffle fries, but there are other options for sides which are included with the $10 burger combo. The list includes whipped potatoes, muffuletta pasta salad, mac n cheese, tater tots, veggies and for the traditionalist, house cut fries.

The quality of the food here raises the expectation of a higher price, but to their credit, it is still reasonable considering the ingredients and level of service. Having been several times, the knowledge and training of the staff are excellent and the customer service is top notch. If you like a great burger, give Bearfoot a try and don’t forget to sample their other fine menu items.

Bearfoot is located downtown at 468 Second Street near the corner with Poplar a couple doors down from perpetually renovating Ginger. It is open from 11 AM – 10 PM Monday through Thursday, Friday and Saturday it stays open until 11 PM and on Sunday closes at 9 PM. Brunch is served 11 AM – 3 PM. Call them at 478.305.7703.