Monday, August 29, 2011

The Alchemist

One of the brewpubs that Tom and I loved the most up in Vermont - out of many excellent ones - is the Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury, VT. We went there for the first time during our elopement/honeymoon and made special trips to be there for special occasions, such as the chef's sister (a friend of ours) visiting, or their 5 year anniversary. For that event in 2008 we actually booked a B&B that was stumbling distance.

They were proud to brew all sorts of beers - they had a great wild fermentation selection - I remember their Bacchus, O Positive, and Petit Mutant very fondly. Other favorites included (this is by no means a complete list, because everything there, frankly, was fantastic) Menage a Trois, Sterk Wit, Nightstalker, Farmers Daughter, El Jefe, Revitalization Rye, Shut the Hell Up (oh how I loved to order that!)Panty Dropper, Beelzubub, Uncle Daddy, Heady Topper, Pappy's Parter... the list goes on and on.

They also brewed a gluten free beer series, the Celia series, in response to one of the co-owners becoming unable to process gluten. The Celia Saison won a Gold Medal for Gluten Free Beer category in the Brewer's Association World Beer Cup Competition in 2010. They expanded the Celia line as well, for other gluten free styles, such as a Pale Ale, an IPA (which placed Bronze in the Great American Beer Festival) and a Framboise, which placed Gold in the GABF. (Both in 2009)

During this past weekend's storm, the entire brewery (although not their canning facility, which was located separately on higher ground) was flooded- their brewing equipment and business office was in the basement and the floodwaters reached waist high on the first floor- the restaurant/pub space.

Due to their incredible craftmanship and artistry, and the space they created that paired their beers perfectly with great food and ambiance, the fact that they've been flooded out so severely is really a significant loss to the brewing community.

According to the Boston Globe, the rebuilding will be long and painful- the property was completely destroyed by the floodwaters of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene.

I hope like hell they can rebuild and reopen. They are a brewing treasure- one of the small operations that dot the country making great beer and a great place to drink it in, for the love of beer.

If there's anyone out there in a position to help, I urge you to contact them.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mid-City Adventures

Mid-City is pretty spread out, but navigating it is definitely doable with the help of the Canal Street streetcar line. Again, as with Magazine Street, make sure you have your walking shoes and a bottle of water and off we go! (Note: there's a whole other area of Mid-City for the exploring around Esplanade and the Fairgrounds. I don't know enough about it to discuss, plus Mid-City is so sprawling that I needed to focus on what I consider the best beer bets in the area.)

You can pick up the Canal streetcar downtown very easily, just look for one of the waiting shelters on the neutral ground. The ride is not as picturesque as the St. Charles one, but you’ll pass by where the new VA hospital is going to be built (when you pass the intersection with Galvez, have a moment of silence for the beloved and departed Deutche Haus), and Betsy’s Pancake House (which I’ve not been to, but I hear it is quite good) and the Eat Well Grocery that will sell you a perfectly acceptable bahn mi sandwich with a can of soda for $5. Eat Well is at the corner of Broad, and once you move through that intersection, be vigilant, your stop is coming up soon.

The stop you want is North Jefferson, which is the next traffic light after Broad (about 6 blocks up- look to the left during this stretch, you’ll see Chickie Wah Wah, a music club/bar/place to get noms from Taceaux Loceaux- fun times! Also smoke-free.) Once you get off, cross Canal to North Jefferson (don’t cross back over the tracks to the other side, that’s South Jefferson. HOWEVER, there is a new Irish pub there called The Holy Ground that’s on the corner of Canal and South Jefferson. Their Facebook page boasts a “wide variety of beers on draft” but I haven’t seen a list online or been there yet.)

But today we are heading up the north side to a spot called the Bayou Beer Garden. It’ll be to your right after you cross Bienville and it’s a great spot to sit outside and have a refreshing and delicious beer. They have a pretty decent beer list, and fun fact- this was the NOLA Brewing Easter Keg Hunt final destination this past spring. Definitely a nice spot to kick back at after a bit of streetcar travelling and walking.

OK! Once you have a beer or two (or more, I don’t judge, and you’re not driving!) keep heading up North Jefferson, which at some point will cease being the parkway and begin being Hagan Avenue. Just stay straight on, and at the corner of Hagan and Toulouse, you will find the pinnacle of po-boys, Parkway Bakery.

Either squeeze in at the bar and order or go up to the dining room area where you wait in line to put in your order, but get you some Parkway. Roast beef is divine and messy, Fried shrimp is another solid choice. Or put ‘em together for the surf & turf. My personal guilty pleasure is the fried potato po-boy with roast beef gravy. Order whatever you get “dressed” (which means lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, and pickles) and remember, a po-boy not on French bread IS NOT A PO-BOY. Also, the sweet potato fries are divine. (Note: closed on Tuesday)

You can sit inside or outside the restaurant, or stroll over to the bayou and sit there and eat. Once you are finished, it’s time to walk that po-boy off and maybe do a little shopping. Keep heading in the same direction you’ve been walking in, either up Hagan or up the street right next to the bayou, Moss Street. A couple of blocks up you’ll come to a much busier street, Orleans Avenue. Hang a left (without crossing Orleans) and you will soon come to the American Can Company, a converted factory that now houses apartments as well as some retail (and the Crescent City Farmer’s market on Thursday afternoons). One of the shops there is the Cork & Bottle, another of the finest beer shops in New Orleans! Jeremy “BeerBuddha” Labadie used to help out with the beer ordering, placement, and sales strategy, so it’s laid out really well. They also have an excellent wine selection, if you have an interest in that kind of thing. There’s an adjoining wine/cocktail bar called “Clever Wine Bar” that opens up at 5pm, it’s a pretty mellow vibe and they have a no corkage fee policy on wines bought next door, and you can get yourself a cheese plate to nibble on as well.

OK, time to think about a little dessert. Head out of Cork & Bottle and take a left onto Orleans until you get to North Carrollton; hang a left. Note: you can keep heading up Orleans - or turn right onto North Carrollton - and hit City Park, which has many interesting things including the New Orleans Museum of Art, and a dog park, and many trails and ponds and often a festival of some sort. But for now, I just want to get you some lemon ice.

Heading down North Carrollton (if it helps with your bearings, you’re actually walking back toward Canal Street) there’s not much to see unless you need home improvement supplies or groceries or the hibachi experience, in which case you’ll pass a Home Depot, Rouse’s, and Little Tokyo, in that order. Once you cross over Bienville, you’ll note that the area has turned into what is known as “Restaurant Row” starting with K-jeans (great for casual seafood applications) and a few storefronts down, you’ll see Angelo Brocato’s and once you enter, you will truly know excellence. (Note: closed Mondays)




You will see display cases full of delicious looking pastries- if you order a cannoli, they will fill it with ricotta on the spot. Their gelato always looks delicious. But for me, my love of Brocato’s is with their fruit ices. A lemon ice on a warm New Orleans afternoon or evening is a popular favorite, but I also love their seasonal flavors - peach, blueberry, and blood orange are particular favorites of mine. Have a seat and enjoy. Take a cannoli and some cookies to go.

The next stretch is a bit of a long walk, so put your feet up and have a beer at the Red Door to rest up. I can’t speak to the quality of their beer, but they should have something passable, like an Abita Jockamo or Restoration, or Bayou Tesche or NOLA. The also have a full bar, so you have some options. Take a load off, digest, and prepare for for your next Mid-City adventure.

Crescent Pie and Sausage has some of the best food in New Orleans. Once you are at the corner of North Carrollton and Canal where the Walgreens is, you basically want to cross so you’re diagonal from the Walgreens. Head down South Carrollton away from Canal until you get to a traffic light (3 blocks) - that’s Banks. Hang a right onto Banks, and walk for another three blocks until you get to Crescent Pie and Sausage Company. They’re open continuously from 11:00am-10:00pm (till 11:00pm on Friday and Saturday), closed on Sunday. Once you get there, you can sit inside or outside, and they have several local beers on draft and a great craft bottle/can list. They’ve done beer events as well, partnering with NOLA Brewing and Southern Star on different occasions. They have some fun cocktail specials available as well- check the board by the bar.



As to what to eat, I honestly don’t think you can go wrong here. As you can see, they love their pig. But there are good vegetarian options as well. The jambalaya is wonderful (the small is a pretty big serving, FYI) as are the meat/fish/veggie pies. They smoke all their sausages and meat in house, so the sausage plate, the redneck brisket, the merguez plate.... everything is so good. They have a spicy sausage po-boy that is pretty damn spicy. Their mac & cheese is great. Their desserts are all housemade and delicious. They do a Lindeman’s Framboise-creole cream cheese ice cream float that looks amazing. Tuck in and enjoy the food with the accompanying craft beer. Damn, I just made myself hungry.

Time to walk it off! You’re going to head back down Banks toward South Carrollton, and cross it. Continue down Banks for four blocks till you get to Finn McCool’s at the corner of S. Telemachus. Duck in for a pint- it’s a jovial neighborhood bar atmosphere and a good time. After Finn’s, take a right down South Telemachus and walk one block to Baudin and you will see a nondescript looking corner establishment with a green awning - you have found one of my favorite bars in the city, Twelve Mile Limit. Buzz at the door to get in, settle in at the bar, and enjoy creative craft cocktails at the best prices in town, in addition to a small but excellent selection of craft beer. The jukkebox is FANTASTIC, there’s a pool table, and they serve great BBQ AND doberge cupcakes! Basically, there’s no real reason to leave this place.




But when you do (sadface!) just walk up South Telemachus to Canal Street (4 blocks) and catch the streetcar back downtown- there’s a stop right there at Canal and South Telemachus- you’ll see the sign. If you’re still looking for food and drink, Mandina’s right there on Canal has Creole-Italian favorites and serves one hell of an Old-Fashioned cocktail. Otherwise, stumble back to your hotel room and collapse, rubbing your belly and elevating your sore feet. (Maybe that’s just me? You may be made of sterner stuff.)

Next up: Downtown!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Magazine Street- CBD to Garden District to Uptown

A fun trip is a wander down Magazine Street. Once you get past the I-10 underpass, you’ll pass by many bars, restaurants, and shops. On a nice day, (i.e., not raining or summertime) you could probably have a nice walk starting from downtown at Magazine and Canal. Now, I’m not gonna lie to you. There’s a lot of Magazine Street to cover, and if you walk it, it will take up a big chunk of your day. Happily there is also a bus that runs up and down Magazine Street: the #11 bus. Just hop on and off when needed.

If you begin your stroll downtown, you can stop at Capdeville which is right past the courthouse area; you’ll see the teeny street (called Capdeville Street, that’s your first clue) and if you duck up it, you can grab a NOLA Blonde or Hopitoulas, or a Pimms Cup or Champagne Julep if you’re in the mood for that kind of thing instead.

Carrying on, you’ll pass the World War II Museum and John Besh’s American Sector restaurant within it. I highly recommend checking out this museum if you are at all into history, American or military or otherwise. It’s excellent. If you are anything like me, you will need a drink after it though... so hit the American Sector for a draft beer specially created for the restaurant by Heiner Brau, or an old school cocktail or tiki drink. They also have a pretty small but decent microbrew can selection. If you hit it between 3-6pm, you can get drinks for half price AND a snack of 75 cent BBQ sliders.

Now is the time to cross under the ugly I-10 underpass and emerge in the Lower Garden District. A couple blocks up on the right you will see a nondescript looking green corner establishment called the Bridge Lounge. There my be people sitting at the outdoor tables, possibly with dogs! Go on in and grab a beer or one of their famous mojitos. Ah, refreshing.

The next stretch is very pretty but quiet. Take a look at the houses and architecture, stop for a juice at Surrey’s or a snoball at the Corner Muse or a coffee at Mojo Coffee House. Once you pass Felicity (which you’ll know because there’s a mural of a very large cat decorating the side of the Cat Practice on the corner of Magazine and Felicity) you’ll see that the commercial area is starting. Tons of shops and restaurants and cafes between Felicity and Jackson Streets. Drop in at the Garden District Pub for a quick pint of NOLA Blonde or Abita Jockamo IPA and carry on. If you’re feeling peckish, you can stop at Juan’s Flying Burrito for some cheap but tasty (and vegetarian/vegan friendly) Tex-Mex-NOLA food and margaritas!

OK, once you cross Jackson, on the right hand side of the street, you will find Stein’s Deli. You may want to save your appetite for here, because in addition to having one of the most eclectic and extensive beer selections in town, they have great deli-style sandwiches. Their daily special sandwiches are always excellent too. Oh, I hope you brought your backpack, because you can’t drink any of the beers you find here on site, and you still have plenty of wandering to do.

We go back to mostly houses for a few blocks (though you can stop at Magazine Street Po-boy on the corner of Magazine and First) until you hit the cross street of Washington. (if you take a right up Washington from here, you’re only a few blocks away from Commander’s Palace- I like going to lunch and rocking their 25-cent martinis.) Coquette has a beautiful bar and excellent (and fancier) food. They also have $5 Wine By The Glass Wednesdays and $5 Specialty Cocktail Thursdays. If you are into either or both of those things, I strongly urge you to check them out. They have a great wine list and their cocktails are top notch and very creative. They also have a nice but small bottled beer selection. Sit at the bar and marvel at the care they take in executing their cocktails as well as the bartender’s friendliness.

NOTE: Between Washington and Louisiana, you can duck down 7th Street and walk about 10 minutes or so to the end of the street where it stops at Tchopitoulas. Look to your right. There it is, NOLA Brewing, the only brewery in New Orleans. They have tours every Friday at 2pm and I strongly, STRONGLY suggest you attend if at all possible.

Continuing (up Magazine): SO MANY SHOPS. Antique shops, clothing stores, cafes, gelato shops. Everything is a lot of fun. Some of my personal favorites are: Fleurty Girl, Funky Monkey, La Divinia, Neophobia, Rue de la Course, Storyville T-Shirts, the Magazine Antique Mall, Sake Cafe, Rum House, Petcetera... and there are plenty of places to whet your whistle. You can hit the Rendezvous or the Balcony or Tracey’s or Parasol’s, but I’d stay strong till you hit the Bulldog. It has a great beer garden, and a large tap list. Over the way is Breaux Mart, if you want to pick up a NOLA draft pack or other local 6 packs. As you carry on toward Louisiana, you’ll also pass Slim Goodie’s, a very popular breakfast joint. On the other side of Louisiana, you’ll pass Mahoney’s which has some very innovative po-boys and usually Bayou Tesche Biere Pale on draft (try the onion rings, they are amazing). Also on that stretch is Martin’s Wine Cellar, which in addition to wine, they have many beers for sale as well as a bistro/deli area for snacking.

Heading further and further uptown towards Napoleon, you will pass by many places to window shop, actual shop, eat, and drink. Enjoy! Right before Napoleon on the left hand side of the street (after passing La Petite Grocery) is Casamento’s which is amazing for oysters. If you like oysters, and it’s open, stop here. Next to Casamento’s is Ms. Mae’s, where you can get cheap cheap drinks. If you take a left down Napoleon to Tchoupitoulas, you’ll find Tipitina’s which is one of the best places in the city to listen to live music. It is also smoke-free and has NOLA Brewing and Parish Brewing beers on draft.

If you keep heading up Magazine Street, though, you’ll come to Le Bon Temps Roule on the right hand side (after passing Dominique’s on Magazine, a yummy bistro) and they have NOLA beers and music and a pool table and general merriment.

You can keep heading up Magazine past Jefferson Street up to Nashville or beyond for more exploring, hitting Whole Foods to check out their beer selection, or Guy’s Po-boys or Blue Frog Chocolates or Pinkberry or Buddha Belly dive bar/laundromat/karaoke or Vom Fass (for olive oil, vinegars, and liquor) and bless you if you do. There’s always something on the next block (and in fact if you press on you’ll come to Audubon Park and Zoo). But there’s no shame in grabbing the bus (or a cab- you do have have United’s numbers programmed into your phone, right? 504-522-9771 or 504-524-9606) back for a nap to sleep off all the food, beer, drink, and walking!

Up next: Mid-City tour!

A little more information on getting to and enjoying the Avenue Pub...

If you are staying in the French Quarter, the CBD, or the Warehouse District (collectively known as downtown), the first pilgrimage you must make is to the Avenue Pub, located at 1732 St. Charles Avenue, at the intersection of Polymnia Street. You can get off at Stop #11, St. Charles at Euterpe, or if you miss that, keep a look out on the left hand side of the street, and you’ll see it on the corner, with a balcony on top that is right over the sidewalk. You can get off at the next stop (#12) and backtrack.

Go inside, grab a beer list. Place your order and prepare for awesomeness. Check to see if the Balcony bar is open- while The Avenue Pub is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the Balcony Bar upstairs is only open in the evenings (6 pm – midnight Monday through Thursday; 4 pm – 1 am Friday and Saturday; and 4 pm – midnight Sunday.) The Balcony has few beers on tap, but they tend to be a little more specifically beer geeky than the ones downstairs (though there are plenty of special/great beers down there as well). If you’re around on Friday evening, stop by- most of the time there will be local Beer Advocate folks there, along with people heading over straight from the NOLA Brewing tour (more on that later) and the only consistent cask beer event in town- Firkin Friday!

Since you’re on vacation, get there for Crafty Beer Hour - which is actually two hours - from 4pm to 6pm, when the Pub discounts all their American craft pints (no Belgians, no 10 oz pours) by $2.00. This is every day including weekends.

Honestly, you can kill many hours at the Pub. They have some great food, so you don’t even have to leave for that. And when you’re ready to head back downtown, just stumble to the streetcar stop clutching your $1.25 in exact change, and you’ll be taken there in historic style.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beer lovers in New Orleans

Unite! Or something.

I have some people coming from out of town in the next couple of weeks and I have been thinking about places that beer lovers would enjoy an amazing New Orleans experience. Here are some thoughts:

BARS:

GOLD MEDAL: Avenue Pub: Anyone who has read this blog before knows that I spend a lot of time at the Avenue. Plain and simple, they have a large and thoughtful (and amazing) beer selection. Local stuff, Belgian stuff, great American Craft stuff... if you want to get your beer geek on, this is the place to be.

SILVER MEDAL: places that have fun atmospheres and decent beer lists. Bulldog (Uptown and Mid-City), Bayou Beer Garden, Rendon Inn (Broadmore/Gert Town), Twelve Mile Limit- primarily an amazing cocktail bar but with a small but eclectic beer selection. d.b.a on Frenchmen. Crown & Anchor in Algiers (just hop the ferry!), Finn McCool's in Mid-City, and Cooter Brown's uptown. Also check out the Bridge Lounge on Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District.

BRONZE MEDAL: places that are primarily not about the beer, but have a couple surprises: Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone (they usually have the Abita Select, which is not too fascinating to locals, but can be a nice alternative for beer drinkers who want to ride the rotating bar), Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, Maple Leaf (Riverbend), Le Bon Temps Roule (Uptown), Tipitina's Uptown.

RESTAURANTS:

Though several of the above will have some yummy food to go with your beer, here are some places that are all about the food first, and has some great beers to go along with it.

GOLD MEDAL: Boucherie in the Riverbend, and Crescent Pie & Sausage Company in Mid-City.

SILVER MEDAL: Luke in the CBD- Heiner Brau does their house lagers. See also: The American Sector, another John Besh. Coquette has a decent bottled beer selection, for sure. Capdeville in the CBD/Warehouse District. Irish House in the Lower Garden District.

BEER STORES:

GOLD MEDAL: Stein's Deli is the one that's always brought up first, and for good reason. Dan Stein has an amazing collection, and it's always ALWAYS worth a wander. It won't take long, the area where the beer lives is small but DENSE. Cork & Bottle: I love this place for its extensive selection and space to move. It's a great place.

SILVER MEDAL: Whole Foods for the best grocery store selection and Breaux Mart for challenging Heiner Brau to can their Kolsch and promising to sell it in their stores.

BRONZE MEDAL: Rouses- pretty decent selection if you're looking for something nice to drink with dinner that night and occasionally, if you pay attention, something interesting might be mixed in there.

OTHER AWESOMENESS:

NOLA Brewing: this is the only brewery we have in the parish. They do amazing beers and are growing like nobody's business. Their slate of year round beers (Brown, Blonde, Hopitoulous, Seventh Street Wheat) and seasonals (Irish Channel Stout, Flambeaux Red, Hurricane Saison, plus a new Smoked Oktoberfest that is yet to be debuted) are available now on draft and in draft packs (you can find them at the grocery stores mentioned above). But they will soon be opening their canning line which will expand their availability exponentially. They have brewery tours every Friday at 2pm, and I highly recommend them for any beer tourist. If you see them on draft anywhere, order it, and consider the place you're at a decent place to find a beer. For example, Parasol's in the Irish Channel carries NOLA Blonde, and while I did not include them as a beer destination bar, it's still noteworthy.

St. James Cheese Company: I didn't know if I should include it with restaurants, because they serve food, or stores, because they sell food, but they are true believers in pairing cheese and beer and will be happy to talk to you about it!

Brewstock: Homebrew supply store. Is excellent... owner is very friendly and happy to help.

Websites: well, this one of course! Also the Beer Buddha and Beer Advocate.

Advice: if you are in a regular bar which will definitely be serving Abita, I recommend asking if they have Jockamo IPA or Restoration Pale Ale. They aren't amazing beers or anything, but you have a decent chance of getting them at many bars.

Stuff outside of New Orleans!

Breweries: Abita, Heiner Brau/Covington, Bayou Teche, Tin Roof, and Parish Brewing

Also, The Barley Oak on the North Shore.

Chime in with your thoughts and suggestions!