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Atlanta Barbecue Restaurant Turner Field | BBQ Sports Bar

Barbecue, Beer & Moonshine, 8 days a week.

Bullpen Rib House, located right next to Turner Field we serve customers throughout the year with our slow-smoked BBQ meats, cold brews and good old-fashioned hooch.

Mon - Thurs 11am - 10pm, Fri - Sat 11am - 11pm, Sun 12pm - 9pm

A Brief History Of Moonshine

A Shining History

Many of you may have noticed a new section popping up in your local liquor stores entitled Moonshine, but rest assured that this is far from a novel spirit. The history of the peculiar beverage can be traced back centuries to the Scots-Irish whose culture is highlighted by dancing, fiddling, and certainly a little imbibing. During the 17th century, this people were banished from the lowlands of Scotland to Ulster, Ireland. At first things were alright, but soon due to drought and religious persecution, the Scots-Irish boarded ships and brought their culture and customs to the Appalachian Mountains in America. This, my friends, was the 18th century beginning of a great American spirit.

The first surge in popularity of this crystal clear whiskey (see previous blog post for more fun facts) was due to the 1920 National Prohibition Act. While many states were nestled into bar stools crying into an empty lowball glass, Appalachian states such as Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee were laughing on their front porch swings, swigging from jugs containing the purest of pure.  Before long, and as with any coveted item where big money is involved, the vultures came out of the woodwork to capitalize on the profitable liquid. This influx of profits into the region made everyone and their pappy moonshiners. Stills (the apparatus created to develop the highly distilled product) began popping up in multitude, dotting the mountainsides with little burning flames. If you’d like a little more information about the functionality of the Moonshine still, as well as a little background on the infamous “XXX” seen on whiskey jugs in the Appalachia, you can find some interesting history here: Moonshine Heritage.

Although lucrative, Moonshining was risky business. The best at their craft often times had to pay large sums to local law enforcement and politicians. Even as pockets were being padded, the average whiskey maker/moonraker had to work by night to avoid discovery and arrest. This lead to the coined phrase “Moonshine” as often times the only light to work under was that of the moon itself. This risk also produced one of the mainstream sports in the American South today… Nascar. After the final product was packaged, the only way to transport this pricey commodity to major cities such as Atlanta was by car. Departing the counties where local politicians were in the pockets of the lead liquor producers tended to present problems in delivery costing thousands in losses as the drivers (aka runners aka bootleggers) were pulled over and carted off to jail. This began the competitions for the fastest drivers and after the end of prohibition, lead to the Nascar races we see today. Oh what a glorious history to be told. Shine of the moon worth that of gold. After the end of prohibition, the glory days of moonshine were thought to be over and although families continued to secretly brew their potent poisons, it was more for local, smaller profits and carefree consumption.

The more recent interest in the product was sparked due to the reality television obsession of highlighting sub-cultures within the American population. As you may guess, the Appalachian people (along with the swamp cultures of Louisiana) were among the first to gain a following. The Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners was the initial television show to follow the lives of some of the people behind the corn-mash fermented liquor. Within this show, clips of the infamous 2002 documentary film “Marvin ‘Popcorn’ Sutton” were utilized to enhance the storyline. If you want even more history about the trade, I would definitely recommend checking out the old geezer (Poporn) in action. 

Reader’s Warning/PSA/Spoiler Alert: His exposure landed him jail where he committed suicide to avoid slow death from cancer. 

Apart from televised shenanigans, the biggest influence that pushed ‘Shine’ into the spotlight was the beginning of the recession in 2008. With hard times casting foreboding storm clouds over many states, the Appalachia loosened distilling laws and released a potent shot of white lightening to brighten the skies. For those that didn’t pick up on my clever metaphor, basically states were attempting to profit off any untapped resource hence why Mary Jane is dancing out West and Moonshine is now taxable. To read some fancy facts about the matter, check out this Time News’ article (active link). Although the proof found on the market is nearly half that of the real deal that comes from Mary Ann’s uncle up the ‘holler’, it’s legal and proven safe. No need to burn the liquor to test for brain damaging impurities. Now, all you need is a mason jar, a couple of ice cubes, and a full-proof recipe for infusing  (see previous blog post) and you’ll be sitting pretty on your front porch as well.

Our Apple Pie Moonshine

Our Apple Pie Moonshine


Melon Infused Vodka

Cantaloupe Infused Tito's Vodka

You might wonder, why bother to infuse vodka when you can get a plethora of "infused" vodkas straight from the shelf. Well, that Cherry Noir Grey Goose off the shelf has never seen a cherry, for one, and it tastes like nail polish for a nice kicker!

So what exactly is in that bottle of Cherry Noir Grey Goose? Try not to doze off but here's a bit of chemistry; you've got three compounds that make up the artificial cherry flavor; benzaldehyde (primary used as almond flavor), linalool (a floral, citrus flavor) and eugenol (essence of clove). The amounts used of those three compounds would determine whether you get a overly medicine taste (eugenol), a fruity taste (linalool) or a bitter taste (benzaldehyde).

OK, that's all well and good but why do these so called high class vodka's use artificial flavors? Well if they used actual cherries they would have to put an expiration date on it, much like all the unpasteurized craft beer that goes out of date in two months time. They also don't want to go through the time and effort involved in using real cherries and prefer the ease and consistency of using artificial flavors. 

Well, enough about cherries, let's get back to melon! Now that we know we're going to use real melons, we're going to need two ripe cantaloupes. When dicing them up, make sure that you're generous and cut deep so none of the bitter rind is left on the slices.

Now, you're left to choose the vodka. Don't go wasting money on Kettle One or any other vodka with a bloated price tag. Instead go for a reasonably cheap, yet decent, vodka like Tito's or Smirnoff... either will do just fine. I also add some sugar. Although there is a reasonable amount in the cantaloupe, it's not really enough to overpower the bitterness of the vodka. This extra dose of sugar will do wonders in letting those fresh, fruity flavors shine through. I add one and a half cups of plain white sugar and then dump in two, one liter bottles of Tito's.

Time to let it sit for three to four days, making sure you give it a good stir every day. What's happening in these magical days is hydrolysis and osmosis. If you can bear some more science, the reactive hydroxyl (-OH) group within the alcohol will interact with the cell wall and membrane which will cause an increase in porosity. With larger holes in addition to the steep concentration gradient, the water within the cantaloupe, along with all the tasty aromatic compounds found there, will diffuse into the surrounding alcohol. The longer you leave it, the greater the chance that the larger molecules will move along with the water. Although some of these compounds are flavorful, you need to be careful as the really large, soluble fiber molecules (pectin) can get into the alcohol and those suckers tend to taste very nasty and bitter. With that being said, don't just leave the cantaloupe in there and forget about it or your batch will be bitter!

Unfiltered melon vodka. 

After three to four days you should have a liquid with a translucent, yellow hue. You can then filter away the tidbits of melon with a cheese cloth, bottle it up, and leave it to age for a month or longer if you can muster the restraint. 

Filtered and bottled.

Now for the tasting; do this weekly, testing for improvement. Once you arrive at a week where the flavor has plateaued, you're ready to serve it up. Try it straight up over ice or in a cocktail. Here at the Bullpen Rib House, we mix it with a splash of pineapple juice and a squeeze of fresh lime for our infamous, Melon Madness cocktail. 

The Melon Madness: Melon infused Tito's with a splash of pineapple & a squeeze of lime.

Apple Pie Moonshine

So, How Do We Make Our Apple Pie Moonshine?


We don't usually give out our secret recipes, but today I'm feeling generous. With that being said, get ready and I'll let you guys & gals in on the basics of how to make our apple pie moonshine.

Moonshine.jpg

It all begins with some good ole' fashioned moonshine (also referred to by locals as white lightening, corn whiskey, hooch, creek water, etc). A sudden rise in popularity, attributed to reality shows such as Tickle and The Hatfield and McCoys, has brought moonshine to the attention of liquor connoisseurs across America. Previously, this little known drink was illegally brewed in the Appalachian mountains and foothills across the South with a proof so strong, locals would recommend burning it before imbibing to test for safety. "If it burns blue, it's safe for the whole crew."

Nowadays, the powers at be have dropped the proof to a legal range, marketed the heck out of the stuff, and made it available to the general public. Although traditional moonshine drinkers would scoff at the meager 47% alcohol content, it's safe to say this is the closest most of us will get to trying the infamous liquor created from fermenting corn mash.

One of the most distinctive features of moonshine is the smooth flavor which is quickly followed by an intense burn in the back of the throat. In order to combat this "fire water" property, a lot of individuals and businesses have begun infusing their moonshine, us included. The very first infusion was created to mimic Southern Apple Pie, and although we now have a plethora of others, the apple pie remains a customer favorite. Now, for what you've been waiting for: the recipe.       

The ingredients you will need to start the infusion process are sugar, apple cider, cinnamon and moonshine (we use Midnight Moon). If you're a Yankee or a West Coaster and moonshine isn't as easily accessible, then you can substitute vodka with a similar outcome. In addition to the above ingredients, one also has the option of using real apples. You might ask, "Why bother?" Well, as a simple explanation, the alcohol in the moonshine will extract flavors in the apples that aren't present in the apple cider. If you choose this route, the trick is to cut the apples into small pieces (higher surface area) and only leave it in the alcohol for a maximum of five days. Why five days? Well any more and the alcohol will start to dissolve the soluble fiber (the pectin)  thus leaving a nasty, bitter tasting, unsaleable liquid.

I usually use Granny Smith, but I couldn't find any this time.

I usually use Granny Smith, but I couldn't find any this time.

Massive mason jar is optional.

Massive mason jar is optional.

I use Saigon cinnamon, as it's the one with the most kick.

I use Saigon cinnamon, as it's the one with the most kick.

After three to five days, it's now time to strain off the shine from the apple chunks and add cinnamon. As with the apples, you don't want to leave the cinnamon in there for too long. I would recommend one or two days max. Make sure you use whole cinnamon (sticks or pieces) and not the powder, otherwise you will have a blast straining it for the rest of your life.

Once the cinnamon is removed, go ahead and dump in the apple cider and sugar. It's best to use cold press apple cider here. At this point, I do some optional steps like adding caramelized sugar and molasses, as well as another ingredient about which I must remain tight lipped. 

Some caramelized sugar, don't forget your candy thermometer for this step.

The amount of sugar to add is going to depend on your preference. If you choose not to use caramelized sugar, I would suggest around 1 1/2 cups of sugar to every 750 ml of 80-100 proof alcohol. It's best to start low with one cup first, giving a full day for the sugar to dissolve, then tasting to see if the amount is sufficient for your liking. 

After all the ingredients have been added, it's now time for the aging process. This takes at least a week, keeping in mind that the longer you leave it, the better it will taste. I haven't gone longer than three months, due to seeming evaporation, so I don't know if it gets any better after that time period. I have heard that leaving it for as long as 6 months makes a difference, but my patience (or lack thereof) won't allow this.

I should mention that after about a week, I go ahead and use a cheese cloth to strain off any apple particles, which you should hopefully have from using a good quality apple cider. You more or less will have a finished product to taste once it's strained. So go ahead and taste your product mid-way through aging if you like. 

And that folks, is how you infuse moonshine. Hopefully, this article has given new meaning to the Rocky Top lyrics:

Corn don't grow at all on Rocky Top, 
It's too rocky by far, 
That's why all the folks on Rocky Top, 
Get their corn from a jar...
 

(moonshine aka corn mash aka what you'll find in a big ole Mason Dixon jar!)

Make your own and compare it to ours or if you can't be bothered, just come in and try ours. (1)

Make your own and compare it to ours or if you can't be bothered, just come in and try ours. (1)

Basic Recipe

  • 750 ml of 80-100 proof alcohol
  • 500 ml of cold pressed apple cider
  • 2 oz of cinnamon
  • 1 & 1/2 cups of sugar

FAQ

Since we get the same questions from you guys & gals (especially about the Braves) I'm going to post them in no particular order.

Question 1: Are we going to move with the Braves to Cobb County?

No, is the short answer. The long one is that we have never had any affiliation with the Braves and the main reason why we opened up was to accommodate the guests of the Country Inn & Suites and Comfort Inn next to us.

Question 2: Are you going to close down once the Braves leave?

Again, no. We plan to keep serving the Summerhill, Grant Park, Peoplestown & Mechanicsville neighborhoods around us. We have worked hard over the last two years to improve our local presence and with us being the only restaurant close by for most people, we will continue to serve our neighborhood.

Question 3: How long has the "Bullpen" been here?

I don't know for sure but I think 1991. It wasn't the "Bullpen" back then though, it was called Jimmy Dee's Bar & Grill. Back then it was across the street from a Fulton County Stadium parking lot. The restaurant changed owners in 1997 to the Bullpen Bar & Grill and we changed our name to the current Bullpen Rib House in 2011.

Question 4: Do you sell beef ribs?

Afraid we currently don't and won't for the foreseeable future. The reason being is price. There are a couple of barbecue restaurants that sell them on occasion, like Fox Bros, but they do so at a loss. With our razor thin margins on our 4.99 lunch specials, we unfortunately can't do the same.

Question 5: What kind of rib restaurant is out to ribs?

We get this question often when we run out of ribs towards the end of the day. Since ribs take 3-4 hours to smoke and another 1 hour to prep we have to plan ahead for the day to see how much we need for the day. Sometimes we we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong. It's better to think of us as a bakery; you usually can expect a bakery to run out of bread towards the end of the day.

Question 6: Is it busy during a game?

You can expect a line to form 2 hours before a game except on Saturdays when it gets busy earlier. On Monday to Thursday games though we usually don't get really really busy; you can usually stand in line for 5 minutes and get your order in 15 minutes. During the game we get pretty dead and get busy again when the game lets out.

Question 7: Do we have a full bar?

Why yes we do. Well, actually its not a complete bar with the bells and whistles. For instances, we don't stock bitters to make an old fashioned or vermouth to make martinis. If a an Absolut & cranberry or a whiskey sour is what your after though, we can sure give you that.

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Opening Day

With us being right next to Turner Field we are the one and truly only baseball bar in Atlanta. In the restaurant/bar desert around Turner Field, like it or not we're you're only choice if you want to avoid the sky high prices of Turner Field (Mr Wren has to pay for Uggla's contract somehow). That can lead to a pretty big crowds on game-days so here is what do to help speed things up:

Front.jpg
  1. Order non-fried food, like barbecue and be warned even though we part fry our wings they still take an additional 15 mins to cook.
  2. Order a bucket of 5 beers and avoid waiting in line again.
  3. On the weekend be on the lookout for a beer tub, which nearly always has a short line.
  4. Pick up a menu when in line and decide what you want before you reach the counter.
  5. There are 2 to 3 registers open on game-days, so lineup in front of each register rather than create one long line, to allow people to get through the door.
  6. Order a local beer - Georgia will thank you!
Local-Beer.jpg

All our barbecue is slow smoked with hickory and our dry rubs (though technically we use oil in the rubs so they're not really dry). Our pulled pork and chopped chicken are the only barbecue items that come wet (with sauce already mixed in), otherwise the ribs, brisket and bone-in chicken all come served dry with sauce on the side. We also have wings (deep fried) and tenders. The tenders are all breaded and fried in-house, fresh everyday.

On the beer and liquor side; we have a full bar and large selection of bottled beer. We of course have a large selection of local beer (all brewed in Georgia) and in-house infused moonshines like apple pie (it's the legal moonshine, cos we really would like to keep our liquor licence).

I almost forgot the most important thing; have a blast while your here and be sure to shout like hell during the Braves games to let everyone know that Atlanta fans really aren't apathetic!

Smoking Some Meat

Our preferred wood for smoking, Hickory.

Our preferred wood for smoking, Hickory.

So what is all the fuss about smoking your food? Well there are three main types of smoking: cold smoking (68°F to 86°F), hot smoking (126°F to 176°F) and smoke baking. You probably eat something cold smoked every morning, or at least every morning you’re not on a diet. Barbecuing though, really refers to smoke baking, where you’re actually cooking the food (rendering the fat) as well as smoking it.

Smoking is always done with hardwoods and never with softwoods, as softwoods possesses toxic resins. Hardwoods contain three main materials: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. When these three materials are burnt at certain temperatures they produce those chemicals that people associate with the flavors of smoking.

Now for a bit of science........

Cellulose burns at 540°F to 610°F while hemicellulose burns at 390°F to 480°F and both produce a class of chemicals called furans, lactones, acetaldehydes, acetic acids and diacetyls. Lignin burns much higher at 750°F, producing guaiacols, vanillin, phenols, isoeugenols and syringols.

An easier to digest table of all the flavor compounds and the flavors they're associated with.

An easier to digest table of all the flavor compounds and the flavors they're associated with.

Burning wood higher than 750°F breaks down a lot of these flavor compounds into harsh or flavorless chemicals. This is of special concern when using a starter for the wood fire such as charcoal or propane as they can burn as high as 2000°F and 3600°F respectively.

To really, effectively dump these flavor compounds onto our meat requires a light blue smoke bellowing from your smoker. Dark, white smoke usually means either the fire is too hot or too starved of oxygen. The lack of oxygen will burn the wood via a primary combustion producing carbon monoxide and a whole lot of smoke with little to no flavor compounds. You probably seen people blow into the fire to increase oxygen flow and prevent that evil white smoke from being produced.

From this, you probably guessed that it’s not really the smoke that is producing that barbecue flavor but rather the gases, which is really why you need a light blue, almost clear smoke being produced from your fire.

Two Smokers: one with bad dark white smoke and the other with the good pale blue smoke. Note how much more smoke there is from the smoker pumping out the white smoke.

Two Smokers: one with bad dark white smoke and the other with the good pale blue smoke. Note how much more smoke there is from the smoker pumping out the white smoke.

Controlling the temperature of the fire and the color of the smoke are the two most important things to monitor when you barbecue. Yes, it’s more important than the rub, the type of wood, the type of smoker etc! There is a reason why this aspect tends to get glossed over; it takes a lot of time and effort, but when it’s done right it’s sure worth the extra effort. Now, with all this new knowledge go forth and make your own killer ribs.

Want some more info? Check out amazingribs.com

Baked Beans, The Hard Way

Smoked Bourbon Baked Beans  

So, how do we make our baked beans? Well it's a long process, but I'll let you in on it.

First we need beans; three beans actually. We like to go with black beans, kidney beans and haricot beans. You can use dry beans if you have the time but we just go with canned beans. Make sure you rinse them down if you use canned beans to get rid any firming salts.

Drained Black, Kidney & Haricot Beans.

Drained Black, Kidney & Haricot Beans.

Beans with the onions, missed the shot with the peppers :(

Beans with the onions, missed the shot with the peppers :(

Next, we add some vegetables. We go with onions, bell peppers and de-seeded jalapeno. Diced it up fine and mix it in, simple! 

OK, time to add something to bring in some real flavor, with our in-house made, sweet BBQ sauce and let's not forget the namesake bourbon and don't use the expensive stuff, the cheap crap will do just fine. Finally we add some dried garlic for added flavor and brown sugar & molasses. The brown sugar by the way isn't just to sweeten it up, it also stops the beans from turning into mush when cooked up for a long period (we're not trying to make re-fried beans people!). 

Mixing in the brown sugar, after our Bullpen BBQ sauce and bourbon were added.

Mixing in the brown sugar, after our Bullpen BBQ sauce and bourbon were added.

..........and fully mixed up. It's like you can pretend you didn't add any sugar ;)

..........and fully mixed up. It's like you can pretend you didn't add any sugar ;)

Next, we pan it up and plonk a couple of sage leaves in. 

Panned up and ready to go into the smoker

Panned up and ready to go into the smoker

Now, we fire up the smoker and dump in a couple of spare ribs and place the pans right underneath the ribs. Come back in four to five hours and you have some baked beans, made the hard way.

The bourbon baked beans all finished smoking.

The bourbon baked beans all finished smoking.

A Bit of History

We opened up in 1997 just in time for Turner Field to became the new (soon be old) home of the Braves. Contrary to popular belief we have never closed up in the off-season and just to emphasis that point  we tagged the slogan "open 8 days a week". 

When we opened, we opened as "Bullpen Bar & Grill". Though we always had a smoker we chose to emphasis the bar style foods likes wings and burgers. That changed in 2011 when we officially changed our name to "Bullpen Rib House". We changed our name to focus on barbecue and our desire to focus on food that we are actually passionate about. If you come down right now be sure to try out the barbecue, though you can't really go wrong with the wings or the tenders.

 The "Bullpen" in 2007 - that's the earliest picture I have

 The "Bullpen" in 2007 - that's the earliest picture I have

 Bullpen Rib House, (404) 577-5774, 735 Pollard Blvd SW, Atlanta, 30315.

BBQ, Beer & Moonshine

Atlanta Restaurant