Monday, February 21, 2011

Best Beers for Mardi Gras Parades!

Hey, check out this article that the Beer Buddha wrote for the Gambit. It covers the Quarter, the CBD, Uptown, Mid-City, and Metarie.

Here are but a few words of wisdom.

In the end, what you like is all that matters, but I hope my list will introduce you to some new places or new beers to try. Right now the beer scene in New Orleans is burgeoning. Searching out new beers and drinking establishments can be quite the adventure, so have fun! Cheers and Happy Mardi Gras!

Also, his Top 10 tips for successful and good karmic beering HERE.

And finally, his suggestions for canned beer which is easy to transport and legally drink on the streets.

Check 'em all out.

Good work, Buddha! May I be fortunate enough to ride your coattails!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sierra Nevada presents Hoptimum

The Avenue Pub hosted a Sierra Nevada tasting to celebrate the release of the only 2 (small) kegs of it in Louisiana. No other bars have it, and it's not in bottles here either. Apparently Texas didn't get any at all!

You know what this means, right? THAT I AM SUPER EXTRA COOL!

Anyway, enough of that, although I am willing to discuss that fact at length at a later time.

The Hoptimum was the grand finale in a SN tasting that started with the 2011 Bigfoot Barleywine, the 30th Anniversary Grand Cru, the 30th Anniversary Fritz & Ken's Ale, Torpedo, and finally, the Hoptimum. While it was driving me somewhat crazy to wait so long, once I tried it, the finish made sense- as an Imperial IPA, that was palate-blowing. Delicious, but quite overwhelming.

OK, the beers: the 2011 Barleywine. Eh. It was fine, but too fresh. Usually "beer" plus "fresh" equals optimum drinking experience, but in my opinion, the opposite is true for barleywines. Unaged barleywines just are too sharp and hot for my tastes. The Bigfoot has a lot of complexity that I can just fight to pick out among the alcohol burn and intense hop bitterness, but ultimately, although I'll drink a 2 oz. taste, I had no desire to have any more than that. This was, however, much more heavily hopped than you find with most barleywines which made for a bit of palate confusion!

In comparison, Tom and I found a few 2008 Bigfoot bottles while shifting stuff around during Tom's recent homebrewing adventures and brought one along to taste and compare. We split it 4 ways with Polly and Kirk, the Sierra Nevada rep that was there talking about the beer. It was lovely. Age had mellowed the burn to a very pleasant warming barleywine that had delicious caramel flavors and a lovely maltiness that held just a hint of hop spiciness in the background. This was the kind of subtle and complexly layered barleywine that you can just picture sipping from a snifter beside a roaring fire and just feel the delicious warmth spread through your body...

So, yeah. Tasty. Mmmm.

Anyway, after that, we had a short pour of the Sierra Nevada Grand Cru, which I've had before and enjoyed greatly. I've had it at the Pub and we've had it at home. It's an American Strong Ale and it's one of my favorite "big" beers. I highly recommend picking up a bottle if you ever come across it. It's just so drinkable and balanced and flavorful- really beautiful use of hops. You can taste the booziness, but it works with the flavors instead of distracting from them. We only had a little bit last night, because Polly thought she'd have 6 or 7 bottles to pour, but they sold all but 2 the night before the tasting. I was happy to have my couple of sips though.

Next up was another 30th Anniversary beer- Fritz and Ken's Ale, an Imperial Stout. A big ole stout, but very well crafted. Woody flavors balanced with bittersweet roasty chocolate notes. I enjoyed it.

OK, I thought, finally, it's Hoptimum time! Alas, no. But my disappointment was cushioned by the fact that we were warming our hoppy palates with Torpedo, Sierra Nevada's stellar "Extra" IPA. Man, that's a tasty beer. Deliriously hop heavy with the aroma and taste of the stickiest kind bud of West Coast hops. I swear. Floral and citrusy but CLEAN tasting and dry and delicious.

And Sierra Nevada hopes to improve upon this with Hoptimum????

Well, to be fair, the 2 beers are pretty different. I finally got my mitts on some Hoptimum and admired its lovely copper-orange color and floral yet remarkably musty aroma. The taste was nice- balanced with a distinct malt presence that became more assertive as the beer warmed to room temperature. I liked it- in fact I had another glass of it after the tasting - and appreciated it on an intellectual level. I was grateful to have had the opportunity to taste it and form the opinion that... I wasn't really blown away by it. It was good, though. Maybe if I hadn't had that Torpedo first... heh.

Tastings like these are like an embarrassment of riches. I mean, seriously. These are some serious beers, and Sierra Nevada is a hell of a brewery.

I salute you, you magnificent bastard!

Monday, February 7, 2011

By the way...

If you didn't get to the NOLA Brewing Cascade Crack Cask event at the Avenue Pub last Friday, you missed an amazing beer. Here is how it's described by the brewery:

Join the brew crew this Friday for a cask-conditioned "Brewer's Crack." The NOLA version of a black and tan is made with NOLA Hopitoulas and NOLA Irish Channel Stout. Additionally, we have dry hopped the Brewer's Crack with fresh Cascade Hop Cones. Thus, we have Cascade Crack.

GODDAMN it was absolutely like crack. I was on my third mug of the stuff when the cask blew at 7pm. LOVED IT. It says a lot that I actually saved some of my beer for Tom who was on his way over (late) to drink. A LOT BECAUSE THAT BEER WAS AWESOME.

I know it's not the most sophisticated beer review, but honestly, my review is pretty much a Homer Simpson-esque, "[drooling noises]" Oddly enough, I cannot find video of the noises of pure Homer Simpson pleasure [shudder] that I want, so I will leave this video instead, which actually captures the rest of my Friday night, post-Cascade Crack Cask.

Feast of St. Amand

This is a cross post from my other blog, but I figured it was beer-centric enough to go in here as well.

February 6 is not only my dad's birthday (hi, Dad!) but it is also St. Amand's Day. Who is St. Amand, you might ask, and for good reason, because I never heard of him before J'Anita's and the Rendon Inn decided to throw a shindig celebrating him (and, er, the Superbowl.)

According to Wikipedia, St. Amand is the patron saint of "all who produce beer: brewers, innkeepers and bartenders (and presumably also hopgrowers)." Fitting also that Tom bottled his inaugural New Orleans homebrew on Sunday as well.

So anyway, the folks at J'Anita's (Craig and Kimmie) and the Rendon Inn (Marc), never ones to pass up a good old fashioned feast day with feasting, decided to create a special three course menu celebrating the beers of the only New Orleans brewery (so far), NOLA Brewing.

First course: NOLA Brown Ale battered deep fried green beans.

They were excellent! Not too heavy and seasoned perfectly. We burned our mouths eating the first few, but it was worth it.

Next up was roasted garlic/ house smoked cheddar/Hopitoulas soup served with NOLA Brown Ale-braised roast beef and root vegetables.

Note my Hopitoulas Ale in the background.

The soup was amazingly cheesy and flavorful- very rich and delicious. It reminded me of the cheese soup we'd enjoyed at Simon Pearce in Vermont during our honeymoon, and made me very happy indeed. The pot roast was tender and tasty, just total comfort food. It was a good contrast to the rich, sharp soup, as it was much more mildly flavored, just hearty braised good old fashioned pot roast.

And for dessert... Dark Chocolate Irish Channel Stout Cupcakes w/ an Irish Channel Stout/Chocolate/Cinnamon/Espresso drizzle.

droooool... let's see it paired with an Irish Channel Stout, shall we?

That was... damned good. Anyway, it was the best St. Amand Day I ever had! All this (plus our first NOLA Brewing beer) was $14. Dang, y'all, that's some serious value.

I hope you also enjoyed your St. Amand Day, taking the time to honor the brewers, innkeepers and bartenders (and presumably also hopgrowers) in your life! Because, let's face it, life would seriously suck without them.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tin Roof has landed in New Orleans!

Tonight, Tin Roof Brewing (of Baton Rouge) debuted in New Orleans at Squeal BBQ. So, we went for dinner and to try a couple of beers.

They have two flagships that they are focusing on- Tom, the brewmaster, said that he's tweaking and getting everything in place and exactly the way they want it to be. I think they have some solid potential, but they have some room to take it to the next level. In my conversation with the brewmaster, I got the feeling they knew that too. Which is exciting, because I am looking forward with what they come up with.

The two beers, the Perfect Tin Amber and the Voodoo Bengal Specialty Pale Ale, came to our table looking more or less alike. There were some slightly redder tones in the amber than the pale ale, but it was a very subtle distinction.

Perfect Tin: No noticeable aroma (although I am recovering from a cold), but the taste was clean, drinkable, and drier than I'd anticipated. This was a pleasant change from Abita, which has a sweetness in their amber that I can't abide. A slight mineral tinge- not offputting, but prominent enough to spark a discussion at our table about the relationship between brewing and the composition of the available water. I think they can make this beer more complex, with more subtleties. It's a great start, for sure, especially for those who don't love maltiness.

Voodoo Bengal SPA: I discovered when speaking to Brewmaster Tom that the reason the appearance of the pale ale so closely resembled the amber is the presence of Steen's syrup in it. I didn't get any rum/molasses undertones, but again, this beer finished super dry perhaps due to the addition of simple sugars from the Steen's syrup, which would have fermented completely. Again, not much by way of aroma (and again, I'm willing to chalk that up to temporarily faulty senses.) It was well bittered but I didn't get a lot of hop flavor to go along with it.

I'm happy that another enterprising brewery has put out its shingle in Louisiana. I think that the more brewers and beer we have locally can only improve the entire community and a little friendly competition will benefit every beer drinker in the state (as well as the many visitors who come here.)

I think Tin Roof is approaching their brewing strategy in a smart way. They are starting simple, finding their footing, slowly building their market share, and know that there are still many miles before they sleep. The 2 beers we tried tonight seem in some way to be like a perfect blank canvas- solidly brewed beer (if a little less complex or nuanced) that has the potential to become something really special.

I am looking forward to the next phase of Tin Roof's growth and development! I urge everyone to support this new brewery on the block and give their beer a try.