The gleaming, stainless-steel brew cylinders at Blackstone Brewing Company's alcohol alchemist lab froth with the precursors of an array of quality craft beers, dispensed freely from the taps of its brewpub. Like legal-drinking-age Charlie Buckets, pairs of guests stare in wide-eyed wonder at the brand-new brewing and bottling apparatuses during an exclusive tour of the brewery's grounds. Tour-goers learn about the beer and how it is made and may choose to drive to Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery to sip six samples of the final product, such as the Nut Brown Ale, St. Charles Porter, and Chaser Pale. A Blackstone-emblazoned pint glass and four bottles of beer follow each guest home at the end of the visit.
Let's Make Wine helps vino aficionados brew and bottle their dream blend of wine during a four-week course, available in the evening or on Saturdays by appointment. The foray into brewing begins by selecting one of the many wine kits to serve as a base, adding in ingredients and softly whispered compliments to customize the fermenting concoction to a palate's demands. Grape gastronomes pop in once a week to check on their burgeoning brew, spending a combined total of two to three hours overseeing their tailored creation with the help of head winemaker Cheryl Lisi. Once fully fermented, wines slink inside corked cages, with customized labels spelling out the vintage or the appropriate type of cereal to pour it in. The 30 bottles of resulting wine, each 750 milliliters, make for pleasant gifts or decorative cellar-stuffing.
Jill and Spencer Pittman were captivated by the ingenuity of intelligent wine dispensers, eventually building a business around the idea at the corner of East Main Street and 2nd Avenue in downtown Franklin. The concept combines the relaxation of an informal wine tasting with the novelty of having a robot as a dinner guest as patrons serve themselves from the mechanized dispensers while a smart card tab keeps track of purchases. The helpful automatons even display information about selected vintages at the drink stations, allowing guests to learn about their favorite beverages and perfectly pair wines with soups, salads, or tapas plates of cheese, charcuterie, and seared seafood.
In an ironic twist, the wine bar hosts parties in the one-time home of a Prohibition-era bootlegger. The National Register of Historic Places house charms visitors with tucked-away wine rooms decked out with leather furniture and a bar adorned with paintings from local artists. As they unwind with glasses of rotating featured wines such as Cakebread Chardonnay and Opus One red blend and succulent morsels of chocolate desserts or cheese, patrons watch the street scenes and take in the open air from the lavish wraparound porch or sway to the strains of jazz amid the dark woods and overstuffed sofas of the wine rooms.
After honing his culinary chops at restaurants owned by Disney, Marriott, and the Wyndham Union Station hotel, chef Angelo launched a local bistro and steakhouse that makes dining feel like a vacation. Here, he stuffs whole racks of lamb with fresh basil, garlic, and feta cheese and sautés veal picatta in white wine and capers. To accommodate diners with dietary restrictions, they also prepare vegetarian and gluten-free items, such as a baked eggplant with zucchini, squash, organic spinach, and a tomato-based broth as light as cotton candy spun from summer sunbeams.
In addition to delivering grilled beef tenderloins and cowboy rib eyes, attentive servers uncork bottles of wine from around the world during dinner and special events such as tastings and private parties. Live music wafts through the restaurant Thursday–Saturday as the house pianist tickles the ivories from 6 p.m.–9 p.m.
At first, it was just one batch. Then it was two. Then three, then five, and before he knew it, Mark Kamp had collected an impressive selection of homebrewing gear. And he had a lot of beer. For Mark, the next natural step was Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company, which he started with his brother, Andrew. Along with Mike Kraft, the award-winning brewmaster behind the innovative beers at Turtle Anarchy, the three embarked on creating a rye IPA, a golden ale, and a stout, in addition to seasonally rotating brews. Today, the guys can be found around the brewery, giving tours, creating new batches, or subduing growlers.
Bakers mix batter, whip frostings, and top cooling racks with just-baked cupcakes handcrafted from Blue Velvet Cupcakes' signature recipes. More than 30 cupcake flavors fill a glass display case every day, such as maple bacon, sweet Georgia peach, and cherry-vanilla cobbler, crowned with frosting and drizzles of syrup or slices of fruit. Across the blue-walled storefront, stools scoot up to a black and chrome café table. This table takes up residence next to a floor-to-ceiling window, whose sunshine casts a cheery glow and helps incubate cupcakes into full-grown cakes.