Monday, January 31, 2011

NOLA Brewing King Cake and beer tasting and brewery tour!

Man, I had a good time at NOLA Brewery on Friday. Not only did I have the day off work so I could go to the tour (held every Friday at 2pm) but also Haydel's was sponsoring a beer pairing with their king cake! What an excellent idea.

Here I am drinking and eating king cake and chatting with some nice beer fans. (photo courtesy NOLA Brewing's Facebook page)

To quote NOLA Brewing's blog:

About 30 of our good friends and fans converged on our Tchoupitoulas Street brewery to take a quick tour of our facilities before digging into some great Haydel’s King cake (and a special preview appearance of our unreleased Red Ale).

We asked everyone which of our brews they thought tasted the best with the slices of traditional king cake. The responses were very interesting, and should come in handy as Mardi Gras parades start rolling in a couple of weeks.

The 7th Street Wheat won handily, but this was me:

Brewer’s Crack – We had another adventurous beer drinker at the pairing, and this one chose to fill up half a pint glass with Hopitoulas and the other half with Irish Channel Stout to create the fabled Brewer’s Crack. (There will be a special cask of Brewer’s Crack at the Avenue Pub this Friday night. Tell your friends.)


Also, I believe there is some video out there of me drunkenly discussing my pairing of Brewer's Crack with King Cake. I'll post a link if it surfaces.

A photo of the delicious unreleased Red Ale being poured (again, from the NOLA Brewing FB page):

Yum. Meee. The Flambeau was excellent. I did NOT think it paired well with the king cake, as the subtle balance of malt and hops was masked by the sugary icing. But once I cleared up my palate, I enjoyed the beer very much. Red ales tend toward malty characteristics, in my experience, but the Flambeau has a very pleasant bitterness and hop aroma. But it still retains a malty presence. Very nimble! Can't wait to be drinking this come March.

Actually, New Orleanians, mark your calendars, NOLA Brewing will be debuting Flambeau Red at the Avenue Pub on Friday, February 26.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cask ale and lambic, Friday night notes

So last night (after a day off from beer to enjoy some cocktails at Twelve Mile Limit and Bar Tonique and wine at Le Meritage on Thursday) we did our usual Friday night Beer Advocate action. We got to the Avenue Pub and made a beeline for the cask, where Polly had set up shop and was pouring pints of St. Elissa IPA into complementary St. Arnold's pint glasses (with pint cozies!)

The cask ale was pretty good- I'd heard it talked up bigtime earlier in the week, so my expectations may have been inflated. But it was a nice IPA and I love IPAs on cask. I keep waiting for St. Arnold's to blow me away- though I did have a nice St. Arnold's winter stout, which I enjoyed.

The big excitement was the unveiling of Cantillon Fou' Foune, an apricot lambic. I love the sour and funky beers. This was so, so, so good. Lip smackingly sour and fruity and drinkable and a gorgeous orange color. I'm so happy I had the opportunity to try it.

In between, we sampled a couple amazing beers that are not available for sale in New Orleans. First up, the Bayou Teche Biere Noel, brewed with cherry bounce. This beer wasn't even actually distributed, really- just some bottles to friends in the industry.

Cherry bounce is an old-school country style infusion of cherries and sugar in bourbon. I'm not sure how it was infused into the beer, but it added a nice - but smooth - booziness and dried fruitiness. For such a dark beer, I was surprised at how dry the finish was. It was so good. I hear a rumor that this will be available for the next holiday season which would make me very happy.

Also a regular brought an IPA to share- Bell's Brewery Hopslam. Never had it before and I was really pleased to have the opportunity to try. As could be guessed by the name, it was a very hoppy double IPA-I was pretty shocked to read after the fact that it was 10% ABV. The sweet, fruity, big hoppy flavor was a wonderful and very pleasant way to close out the evening. Really well brewed.

As I mentioned in my other blog, I love being here in New Orleans- so many beer lovers trying to share everything they get their hands on. The beer scene is small but seriously passionate. And democratic! As long as you love beer, you're accepted and people will share with you. And you with them. In Boston, I feel like there's a beer "celebrity" hierarchy and a certain snobbishness. Here, people just love to drink beer and share it and talk about it.

Beer roundup - Wednesday

This week has included a lot of beer as well as a lot of cocktails. Um, and wine. And work!

Wednesday, we attended a Brooklyn Brewery tasting at The Avenue. Mike Vitale, the first employee hired by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter as a sales person back in the earliest days of the company, came to talk about Brooklyn's beers. We were running a little late, so we missed some of his discussion about the history. But that was OK, since we'd both read Hindy and Potter's book: "Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery" which goes into all that. I recommend it for any beer lover- though slightly technical about the nuts and bolts about brewing and business.

We were able to get 4 (out of 8 available) samples. I had (in this order): Black Ops, their Russian Imperial Stout, which they are very cute about "disavowing knowledge" of. It was good. It's bottled flat and then re-fermented in the bottle with Champagne yeast, and then aged in bourbon barrels for four months. It was pretty intense in flavor and alcohol level (11.6% ABV). I'm not sure how aged the bottle was, but it was pretty mellow on the alcohol bite. Complex flavors- vanilla, bourbon, cocoa, roasted coffee.

Next I had a pour of the Brooklyn Local 2- their Belgian dark strong ale. After the Brooklyn Ops, this was actually lighter in comparison. But it had a fruity spiciness and was balanced. 9% ABV. Drinkable and enjoyable. I recommend it- it's a bottle that is relatively easy to find in stores, so pick one up and enjoy.

Third up was the Brooklyn Cuvee Noir, which, upon reflection, was almost a cross between the two previous samples, like an Imperial or oatmeal stout with Belgian yeast. I really enjoyed it. And at 8.7%, it wasn't quite as dangerous as the previous 2. Still pretty high, but not as high. I could happily climb into the bottom of this glass and drink it all day. Excellent balance of flavors, great carbonation and mouthfeel. Overall, a pleasure to drink (which is pretty much why I drink beer in the first place.)

My last Brooklyn beer (though not my last beer) of the evening was the Brooklyn Blast, a double IPA which I've enjoyed on The Balcony before. This batch was even better in my memory though- more of an earthy balance to the strong hop presence. Juicy, fruity, but grounded IPA. I chose this last because I thought its hop bomb characteristics would blow out my palate, but I was still able to enjoy my subsequent beer.

I was happy with my choices. After finishing up my Brooklyn tasting, I had another small (4 oz) pour of the Petrus Oude Bruin. I like the Flemish/Flanders styles, they tend to give me a bit of funk and sourness that I've come to love. This one was pretty good- I don't know if it was because of hop related palate issues, but it was pretty mild as far as funk goes. But pleasant nonetheless.

Ooh, da funk will be greater when I return with my description of last night's tasting which included a 10 oz of delicious crazy sour Apricot lambic, Cantillon Fou' foune. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Craft Beer Trends in Louisiana

A bit about how craft beer brewing and drinking is slowly growing thoughout the state- here's the article.

Louisiana has five local craft breweries where the beer is made onsite. They are: Abita Brewing Co. in Abita Springs, Parish Brewing Co. in Broussard, Heiner Brau Microbrewery in Covington, NOLA Brewing in New Orleans and Tin Roof Brewing Co. in Baton Rouge, the state’s newest. Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudeville has much of its beer brewed by Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. in Kiln, Miss., until its expanded brewery is fully operational, which is likely about a year away, said Karlos Knott, brewmaster for Bayou Teche Brewing.

In 2008 Louisiana ranked 50th in the nation in the number of craft breweries per capita, according to the Brewers Association.

I'm really interested in the Parish Brewing model, since that's probably the way that Tom and I may start out one of these days. And by "model" I mean "a dude brewing and selling beer." There's a bit of background on him in the article.

Have not been drinking too much beer in the new year (not sure why, that's just how it's been working out) but I did recently have the opportunity to sample Schafly's 2007 and 2008 Vintage barleywine ales, which were pretty stellar, particularly the 2008. Also tried a bit of a new cider on the market from Crispin Cider called Lansdowne- it's a cider made with Irish Stout yeast, which makes it a very interesting and complex beverage to drink and enjoy. I liked it; would like to have a glass of it to savor in the near future... apparently it is reasonably priced and available at Cork & Barrel and the Avenue Pub. Go get you some!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Beer's Eve

Happy New Year, beer lovahs. (Someone introduced their SO to me last night as their LOVAAAAAH, which is always good for a giggle.)

Anyway, I met up with some old college friends at Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar and had a Miller Lite and 2 glasses of sangria. Beer count: 1

Then we drifted down Tchoupotoulas to the Ugly Dog Saloon, where they had NOLA Blonde, NOLA Brown, and Abita Jockimo IPA. We sat out on the veranda and enjoyed the warm weather with a few pints (1 Blonde and 2 IPAa). Beer count (running): 4

Hoofed across the St. Charles Ave circle to the Exxon for a case of beer and brought it back to their hotel room and had a couple (Modelo) while they got dressed to go out. Beer count: 5

Tom picked us up and we went off the the Avenue Pub where the Beer Buddha and his wife and some other Beer Advocaters were congregated. I had a Brooklyn EIPA, a Brooklyn Blast, a sample of a Yeti Imperial Stout (from Great Divide Brewing), and about a third of a bourbon barrel aged Abita Turbo Dog. Beer count: 7.5

We left by 10- I was DONE. We went home and split one of our auction beers, Black Damnation. Ooh, that was tasty. Total beer count for the night: 8

It was a fun night, full of beer and laughter, celebrating the end of the year with new friends and old friends. Here's to 2011, that beer and laughter continue to flow easily and happily.