Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holiday Hiatus and NYE Beer Dinner

I am currently watching snow fall in the frozen North, so I have not been drinking beer in New Orleans, thus, not much to say till I return on Monday. Trying to decide if I should try to get out for the Crescent Pie and Sausage New Year's Eve beer dinner (featuring NOLA Brewing beers) on Monday night.

Check out the menu:

Happy Hour (Starting @ 6pm) w/ Hors d'oeuvres:
Grilled Sausage with Ice Cold NOLA Brown Ale in the Can

Amuse:
Foie kisses with raspberry coulis
Irish Channel Stout

1st Course: 
Deviled Chappapella farms duck egg, lardon & arugula
7th Street Wheat

2nd Course: 
Local cauliflower bisque with citrus marinated fried oyster
Guajillo pepper infused Blonde Ale

3rd Course: 
Choice of grilled gulf fish-spicy cioppino and corn porridge
Hopitoulas
or
Seared beef tenderloin served with two sauces tableside
Smoky Mary

Dessert: 
Homemade Cake & Ice Cream (made by French pastry chef Jasiah St. Pierre)
St. Bernardus Abt 12 Quad

$65 - all inclusive. Call 504-482-2426 to make a reservation.

Sounds pretty tasty!

Friday, December 21, 2012

New Kid on Freret Street

Over the past couple of months, I've been quite intrigued by a place being built on the corner of Freret and Cadiz, called the Freret Street Publiq House. I did a little research, and saw the theme would be craft cocktails, craft beer, craft food, the whole thing. But I didn't get much more information than that.

Today, after enjoying an always-wonderful lunch and beer chat at Ancora, I wandered down the block because it looked like there was activity happening at the ole Publiq House. I saw a Crescent Crown truck making deliveries, and people going in and out... all good signs of life.  I asked a guy working on the front exterior if the owner/manager was around, and he told me to go inside and ask for Will.  Which I did.

Will came out, gracious enough to take a few minutes to talk to me although he was swamped- he explained that after months of waiting, they finally got their license yesterday and were working hard to get everything in place to open to the public next week after Christmas. I asked him how many of the 40+ taps would be dedicated to craft beer, and he replied, simply, "all of them."  WELL THEN.

I'm excited to check out the Freret Street Publiq House after I return from my travels to the frozen north, right after New Years. I hope you all check it out too, and continue to encourage craft beer growth in the city! I'll report back here after I get to check it out in its post-opening glory. A big part of this place looks to be live music too, which is great.

I thought I took a picture of the exterior, but my phone doesn't seem to back that claim up, sadly. Ah well- it looks really nice- they did a great job restoring the building. Really looking forward to seeing it in full swing.  Here's their website. Looks like their beer selection is highlighting all of Abita and NOLA Brewing's beers, which is good, having a local focus. I am interested to see what the other side of the list shapes up to be- Blue Moon and Lindeman's isn't really my idea of craft beer, but I know they are good intros to craft beer to others, which may have them join the craft beer lover ranks eventually! The Brooklyn and Sierra Nevada stuff are always solid bets. Be nice to see some stuff like North Coast or Unibroue or Green Flash or Stone on draft as well. Looks like the bottle list includes some of that, which is awesome. But I imagine this list is really just to give an idea of what's to come, not serve as the definitive and inclusive list of beers. Can't wait till after the New Year!

A couple other storefronts on Freret between Ancora and the Publiq House:



I don't know what the deal is with them, but something to keep an eye out for!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Barley Oak and The Old Rail

I first heard about the Barley Oak's plans for a brewpub almost a year ago, during the Swedish Beer event at the Avenue Pub. Vanessa Gomes, the high energy, friendly, and beer-loving Director of Marketing at the Barley Oak told me they had broken ground the previous summer (of 2011) and were building a brewpub, called The Old Rail, from the ground up.

Fast forward to today - the brewpub is built, the brand new steam powered 10bbl brewing system is installed, the head brewer is hired, and a new chef brought on especially to create and serve a menu of beer enhancing food. However, since they are still waiting on final approval from the federal government (ATF) they have yet to start brewing. They'd hoped for the summer of 2012. Then the fall. Then the winter... now they are hoping the process will allow them to start brewing and serving thirsty and beer-loving patrons on the North Shore in the Spring of 2013.

Behold, photographic evidence of the early days of brewpub construction!

Exterior
From the Barley Oak's Facebook page, taken August 29, 2011

Exterior
From the Barley Oak's Facebook page, taken October 26, 2011

The downstairs/main bar area
From the Barley Oak's Facebook page, taken October 13, 2011

The downstairs/main bar area
From the Barley Oak's Facebook page, taken January 17, 2012


The downstairs bar, taken December 15, 2012
I was finally able to haul myself over the causeway to hit the North Shore this past weekend. Since the Barley Oak is right on the lake, you can really enjoy the splendor of a beautiful day there. The plan was to meet Vanessa and the Old Rail head brewer, Matthew Horney at the Barley Oak, and then make our way over the the Old Rail. Mostly because there's beer at the Barley Oak and none at the Old Rail, and I'm pretty used to being the first one to show up places, so I try to ensure there's beer nearby. So I settled in and ordered a Moylan's Special Bitter on nitro (Dear Moylan's: YES PLEASE BREW MORE BITTERS ASAP KTHXBAI.) and tell the bartender that I'm meeting Vanessa. Vanessa comes out and we chat a bit and then she orders me the specials of the day that the head chef from the Old Rail has been doing, while waiting for the brewpub to open.

Chef Brett Monteleone came to the Old Rail after another Executive Chef position at another good food-good beer restaurant called Brady's in Hammond. Previous to that, he was sous chef at a more formal restaurant called the Jacmel Inn. Looking at the Jacmel Inn's website, it looks like they focus more in fine food and wine pairings, something that Chef Brett confirmed. When we met, he said that he was still learning all the intricacies of various beers and beer styles, but that he thoroughly enjoys menu planning around beer. He's been doing special pairing dishes for special releases at the Barley Oak, which are as much a draw as the beers are, and there are plans in the works for another beer dinner in April with a local brewery. Based on the simple but delicious with complex layers of flavor dishes I was served that afternoon, I am very excited to try more of Chef Brett's food. I started with a collard green-pulled pork soup with butternut squash (which sounds a little weird, but was wonderful) and then had a great jerk chicken sandwich on Texas toast with mango salsa. The flavors were excellent, my only quibble was that pieces of chicken and mango kept falling out of the sandwich.

Vanessa and I left on foot for the Old Rail, which I'd estimate was a good half mile or so up the road from the Barley Oak. I enjoyed the opportunity to see the local businesses of Old Mandeville on our way up to the brewpub. We discussed the Old Mandeville business association, the work that Vanessa and the Barley Oak have done with it, and the role of both businesses as an economic driver for the area. This was a continuation of a conversation we'd started at the bar with owner (of both the Barley Oak and the Old Rail) Nick Powers. Nick was kind enough to come out while I was enjoying my sandwich and talk to me about the process of building the market for craft beer in Mandeville. He is pleased enough with his success to open another craft beer operation, but understands that it's a somewhat frightening prospect for a first time craft beer operation owner. It's a gamble, but one that has so far paid off well for Nick.

He talked about how at first, customers would come in and expect mass market BMC beers, but now, as Vanessa says, "if they came in now and saw a beer like that, there'd be hell to pay!" Nick described it as a process- you introduce better but still easily accessible beers to the market, and as more people come to appreciate them, start rotating in more and more specialized beers. Over the months and years, you've got a community of craft beer drinkers, enjoying great beer at a great bar/public house..Nick believes in Louisiana craft beer- he thinks that an explosive expansion is just "bubbling under the surface." And obviously, he's positioned himself for that expansion by bringing a true brewpub to the North Shore.

Back to the Old Rail! When we arrived, I was struck by how similar it was to the Barley Oak in architectural   style, although it's laid out differently, with the main bar on the first instead of the second floor. But it has a beautiful balcony and tons of beer-garden style outdoor seating. Vanessa explained that it's the site of the old train depot that used to run through town (that path is now a bike bath) which is why it's named the Old Rail, and they worked to reuse some of the materials they dug up during construction by re-purposing old rail tracks as foot rests at the bars. A very cool nod to the history of the place.

Upstairs bar with railroad tracks incorporated into the design!

Another shot of the railroad tracks along with the floor- gorgeous!
The above pictures are from the smaller upstairs bar, which is part of the second floor event space, which Vanessa will be working on booking up with business meetings, parties, weddings, private beer dinners, and the like. It has a great view from the wraparound balcony:




Then it was time for the good stuff. The heart of the brewpub. Which, of course is the brewhouse. Matt (the head brewer) met us in the brewhouse and showed me around. They haven't actually brewed any beer in the equipment, so everything is still SO VERY SHINY. It's a brand new, stainless steel, steam powered, 10 barrel system made and customized for the Old Rail by Newlands in Vancouver

The grain storage/milling room
(Note Matt's homebrew setup of the right, all the better to make test batches of beer!)

Fermenting tanks, with Vanessa and Matt in the background

Awesome view from the second floor, of the fermenters, the mash tun, the kettle-
pretty much the whole system

The series of beer tubes to get beer into one's beer hole.
Matt was clearly excited about his toys, but also frustrated that he couldn't really play with them yet. He says they've been able to work out the kinks of some of the equipment and connections just through how things settled after installation or when he's run water through. Brewing is Matt's second career. He grew up in Michigan, studied landscape architecture at Michigan State University, and worked as a landscape architect for ten years before quitting and working at Abita just up the road in 2010. I would love to get more info on how and why that transition happened- I think I will explore it for my next Brewing Bigshot Interview (TM, copyright Nora 2012). I was more focused on the brewpub itself at the time to ask more about that. So shiny! Anyway, in 2011, Matt moved out to Atlanta to work at Terrapin, and then moved back here in May 2012 to be head brewer at the Old Rail.


The above picture is of Matt and a water treatment/filtration system that Nick told me about at the Barley Oak. Both Matt and Nick are really excited about it - from what I could understand, it strips the minerals, ions, and other molecules out of the water, and then you can add the mineral makeup you want for a particular style. Nick invested in this system (it's pricey!) because he envisions being able to brew authentic German and British style beers; as he pointed out, beer is mostly water, so it's a very important ingredient to be able to manipulate to the best of one's abilities.

Matt, Vanessa, Chef Brett, and I chatted for a while about beer and food; cooking, brewing, eating, and drinking. Chef was extremely excited about the fact that the gas was turned on in the building; I could see that his kitchen pilot lights were lit and as I left, he was saying, "I feel like I need to cook something RIGHT NOW!"

I feel like I want to eat and drink at The Old Rail RIGHT NOW!! C'mon, Feds - get it together and let these folks brew some beer and cook some food!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

10 Best Louisiana Beers

Top 10 Louisiana Beers of 2012

This is according to Jay D. Ducote, Baton Rouge blogger and personal role model of mine. He asked me, Jeremy "Beer Buddha" Labadie, Polly Watts from Avenue Pub, Vanessa Gomes from Barley Oak, Eric Ducote, and Brenton Day to submit our top 5 beers of the year brewed in Louisiana and created a Top 10 from our replies. I think I'm attributed in the blurb for every beer on the list that I had a part in nominating.

Anyway, GO CHECK IT OUT! It's awesome to see more an more advocating around craft beer in Louisiana. THAT'S THE DREAM! Check out the other blogger's blogs as well, and make them a part of your Louisiana beer blog reading.

ALSO!

Stay tuned this week for a write up of what Barley Oak in Mandeville is up to with their new brew pub, The Old Rail. I talked to Vanessa Gomes, the public face of the Barley Oak (formal title: Director of Marketing and Event Coordinator), Nick Powers, the owner of both establishments, Matthew Horney, the head brewer at the Old Rail, and the head chef there, Brett Monteleone. Keep an eye out for my blog post about my visit and my conversations with all these beer lovers.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friendship


Green Flash has a new collaboration with Brasserie St-Feuillien called Friendship Brew an "ale brewed with spices." We picked up a 4-pack at the Breaux Mart (long the unheralded supplier of randomly awesome craft beer) and tried it after we came home from sampling the Vertical Epic beers. It's a black saison, and is something else! The American hop profile and dark roasty malts work beautifully with the Belgian yeast and spices... I'm not sure how to describe it, but it's like a balance of these 4 divergent flavor profiles that actually works. I don't know how or why it works, because it could easily be a total trainwreck, but it's an interesting and unique beer that I could just enjoy all day long. And at 5.7% ABV, it packs much less a punch you might expect with these characteristics. 

Interesting- looking at some of the reviews, there seems to be an issue with menthol/herbal notes, which I don't get at all.  The herbs I get aren't mint or astringent, they are more... lavender, grains of paradise, allspice type of thing. I don't get the medicinal flavors at all. I don't know if it's a function of a couple more weeks of age on it, or my palate, or what. Weird!

I actually heard about this beer from a somewhat unusual source- Bryn, the bar/front of house/business manager at Ancora. Ancora is (for me) turning into a stealth place to go and hang out over a couple of nice beers over there on Freret. I went there for lunch a few weeks ago, and Bryn the manager, Jeff the chef, and I got into a great beer discussion (based on the pros and cons of Green Flash's HopHead Red), and Bryn told me they had just gotten the Friendship Brew in, and I needed to try it when it came on line. Since then, I've kept my eyes open for it - I think the world of Ancora and absolutely trust anything they say is good, food-wise, and I don't see why it should be any different for beer.

It's a really interesting beer. Really interesting. A good way to test your skill at picking out flavor profiles, because there are a lot of them happening there. And I like it. Sometimes when there's a lot going on in a beer, it will leave me cold, but somehow, here, all the various threads came together into something that worked for me.

Mmm, now I want to pair this with some Ancora food. It's a very powerful beer, so I think it would match up really well with their kalamata muffaletta or lamb meatball sandwich. Or their Putenesca pizza.  I highly recommend all these things!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stone Vertical Epic Tasting is... Epic.

So, I am ashamed to say, in my previous post, I mixed up Dec. 12 with the 21, re: apocalypse. Please forgive me, and we shall move along with my Vertical Epic tasting!

The Avenue Pub offered tasting tickets for all 8 years that they had in stock (2005-2012). We went to the Pub yesterday after work to try the first four years (2005-2008) and returned tonight to try 2009-2012. These were all 4 oz. pours, which was good, because they ranged from 8.4-9.5% ABV. Also, some of them were pretty intensely flavored and maybe wore out their welcome by the time 4 oz was imbibed? (I am looking at you, 2006 and 2011!) Anyway, I appreciate the opportunity to do a tasting like this and extend my sincere thanks to Polly and the staff at the Pub for making this happen and celebrating a great project by Stone.

So, for those who aren't familiar with Stone's Vertical Epic series, it's a series that started in 2002- they are all brewed with a Belgian style twist, and are meant to be cellared and drunk one after the next. I am pleased I was able to do so!

Here are my thoughts on the beers:

05.05.05
2005: YUM. This is described on the tasting notes as a Belgian dubbel(ish), and could also be described as a Belgian strong ale. A dark Belgian strong ale. This was a nice start to the series- almost sticky with toffee and treacle, almost like a Stingo, great mouthfeel, dry finish even with the toffee stickiness. It seems like it has aged quite nicely.

2006: After the previous beer, the 2006 (could call it a stout, could call it an abbey dubbel) had a spicy smokiness, almost like a chipolte pepper. It was much lighter on the tongue, and almost felt like it cleaned off the aged sweetness of the 05 with an almost astringent quality. It made a good first impression, but I think wore out its welcome quickly.

07.07.07
2007: Very different in color- much lighter! Inspired by both the saison style and the golden tripel. Had a heady floral herbaciousness in the nose and palate, and a lavender start on the tongue gave way to almost spicy ginger notes. There was very nice citrus in the aroma and finish. It was very nice.

2008: Oh my, hops! This was probably the most hop-forward of the series BY FAR (not surprising since hop aroma and flavor will fade pretty quickly, so probably not something to aspire to in a decade-long aging project.) Amazingly, there was a subtle but distinct hop aroma on the nose, and a thirst quenching bitterness on the tongue, which made the beer very refreshing and drinkable. Really crisp finish but smooth mouthfeel.

08.08.08
According to Stone, they were going for a "Strong Golden Belgian style ale highly hopped with American hops (Ahtanum, Amarillo and Simcoe)" This was definitely one of my very favorites of the series.

2009: This fella was a very smooth operator. It had aged and mellowed with an almost port-like flavor of dried dark fruits. I could definitely taste an appealing charred wood/oak in the finish. It seemed like it had aged quite nicely, as well. Lots of complex flavors (there was a whole vanilla-chocolate-orange thing going on), but more importantly, it was just damn enjoyable to drink. Another one of my favorites.

10-10-10
2010: I actually remember trying this back in 2010! This year's vintage had an almost sour/funky aroma and a vinous flavor. It was a golden color and finished nice and clean. This was an incredibly interesting beer- I liked it a lot and Tom did not (I think because the aroma was very reminiscent of sours, though that didn't really translate into the taste.) I guess the timing of this particular beer lent itself to using Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc wine grapes, which is pretty cool. Also in the mix: chamomile (!!) and triticale (!!!!) (a hybrid of wheat and rye, originally bred in Scotland and Sweden). Made for a pretty unique beer that I quite enjoyed.

2011: I remembered not loving this one so much last year. I was, however, pleasantly surprised tasting it tonight. The chiles had mellowed so that the predominant contribution was the chile fruitiness, not the heat/spice. You got the spicy flavors, but not in a jarring or hot way. Man, the banana phenols in the aroma almost killed me as I was walking our pours up the stairs - I really thought I'd hate it based on the aroma that appeared to be bludgeoning my nose. It was a nice drink, though- as I mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised. However, I don't think I'd want more than 4 oz of it to drink. I'll give the bottle we have at home another year, see what it's like in 2013.

2012: The new guy! Stone's tasting notes say that they couldn't think of a better way to finish this series of beers, and I have to say, I agree. It's a big ole beer, color is as dark as the night, and the first sip I take brings me right to fruitcake batter and pumpkin pie. But in a good way. The molasses and faint citrus notes balanced the spices and the yeast complemented the spices as well. I will definitely be picking up a bottle or two of this, I will be very interested to see how it ages.

2012

I am still amazed by the opportunity afforded us here by The Avenue Pub. Being able to taste all these beers - and they made it EVEN EASIER to do so with the tasting ticket - was a once in a lifetime experience that I'm thrilled to have been a part of.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The End of the World As We Know It

And I feel fine. Thanks for asking!

Anyway, the whole end of the Mayan calendar is coming up this week and will tie into 2 beer events that I hope we all live to see.

First of all, I'd be nervous about this, because the monks of the Abbaye Sint Sixtus are releasing its beer geek Holy Grail, Westvleteren XII, for the first time EVER for sale outside the monastery itself. They SAY it's to finance repairs to the abbey, but the apocalyptic timing seems TOO coincidental. Anyway, this one time only situation has apparently been a bit of a challenge for the distributors, since the monks insisted that the 6 pack (plus 2 tasting glasses) cost no more than $84.99 for the consumer, and that the boxes not be broken up and sold individually. Here are the retailers in Louisiana who will have them on 12/12/12:

Whole Foods, Baton Rouge
Aquistapace’s Grocery, Covington
Whole Foods (Veterans), Metarie
Stein’s Deli, New Orleans
Whole Foods (Arabella Station), New Orleans

The second 12/12/12 event this week is, of course, the final chapter in Stone's Vertical Epic series. Stone's been putting beers out since 2002 with 2/2/02 and been going up a numeral every year since, Since this is the last one of an almost 11 year project, it's being celebrated by Stone, of course, as well as The Avenue Pub.  Apparently they have the 9/9/09. 10/10/10, and 11/11/11 on tap now (and available as growler fills) and on Tuesday night they will tap 5/5/05, 6/6/06, 7/7/07, and 8/8/08 and right after midnight will start pouring the 12/12/12. Should be fun! (speaking of a fun vertical tasting, it looks like the Pub has 2008 (in bottles), 2009, and 2012 versions of Anchor Christmas Ale as well.)

Also, if the world does end this week, I'm pleased that I enjoyed the hell out of myself at both Zwanze Day (and Eve) AND the Irish Channel Stout release party at Finn McCool's. Two very different events, but both with lots of great beer and great people. I REGRET NOTHING!

See y'all on the flip side! And lemme know if you have any Westys you don't need or would like to share.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

NOLA Brewing - A Brewery On the Grow

When talking about NOLA Brewing's incredible growth, the key word is "double". Double the staff, from 6 to 13 in the past year. Double the production every year from the year before since they opened. Double the brewery space. Um, Mecha Hopzilla a double IPA, and the first beer in NOLA's high gravity line of beers.

The changes aren't just quantitative; NOLA recently went through a restructuring after head of brewing operations, Melanie Knepp, left New Orleans to become a regional sales manager for Stone about a month ago. Acclaimed home brewer and friend of the brewery Derek Lintern became the newest brewer, alongside brewmaster Peter Caddoo and brewer Indy Grap. Buck Brown has shifted his focus more exclusively to sales, bringing on marketing and events new kid on the block, MacKenzie Oescher. Also, the least sexy but possibly one of the most important upgrades: a MUCH larger and powerful glycol beer chiller system behind the brewery. NOLA Brewing thinks about keeping their fresh, unpasteurized beer cold in the Louisiana heat so you don't have to!

The considerable damage sustained by Hurricane Isaac in late August posed difficulties and challenges in keeping operations up to speed during repairs- as well as serious opportunity to make some amazing upgrades. The office area is fully renovated and the biggest and most exciting change is the beautiful tap room and bar area, which was open to the first brewery tour in 3 months just this past Friday.



Not only is the tap room a great place for folks to hang out during brewery tours on Friday, thanks to a reinterpretation of state law by the new commissioner of the Louisiana ATC (office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control) that deems that selling beer on brewery premises is actually now legal, it will soon (pending city licensing) be open to the public to sell pints on draft and cans to take home straight from the brewery. Once that's up and running, look for openings for a bar manager and bartender(s)!

Buck, Kenzie, and I talked for quite a while about NOLA Brewing's growth, and what that means for craft beer industry growth in New Orleans and Louisiana - in fact, in the entire Southeast region. NOLA Brewing hopes that breweries keep on opening in Louisiana, and is hoping that they have company at some point here in Orleans Parish. It's so crazy, we agreed, that what was once the beer mecca of the South, the City of New Orleans, still has only one commercial brewery within parish limits. With the incredible and non-stop growth of NOLA Brewing, it's clear that there is a market for local craft beer.

We talked a bit about the huge leaps that Alabama and Mississippi have taken legislatively, through grass roots advocacy and education. Raise Your Pints in Mississippi and Free The Hops in Alabama have been working to educate lawmakers of the economic development that craft beer and brewing provides as a small business incubator and job creator, how it leads to increased tourism and greater quality of life. Louisiana, especially New Orleans, has a bit of a schizophrenic relationship with alcohol. On one hand, you have the partying in the streets, the drive through daiquiri stores, the go cup. On the other hand, zoning laws and community support are against craft beer because of the fallout from other kinds of alcoholic excesses and subsequent negative perceptions. The three tier distribution hamstrings profit margins and profitable business plans and creates barriers for brewers to get their beer to the public. Laws are changed by the personal interpretation of the commissioner in charge. 

It would be great to have a Louisiana craft beer advocacy group to not only think about craft beer in terms of consumption and diversity and supply and demand, but frame it in the context of economic development, job creation, and supporting small local business and products. I know Kirk Coco, NOLA Brewing Founder and President, has always been involved in providing support and advice to small business owners, and aspiring small business owners, and not just brewing business. And anyone who's ever asked Kirk a question about running a brewery knows that he will answer any and all questions you have plus a few you didn't even know you had. 

I digress... back to the awesome new tap room! Buck mentioned that they are hoping to have 3 of the taps there dedicated to the brewers' experimental test batches- getting instant feedback from customers about the beer they are playing around with. That sounds amazing! It's a great opportunity for the brewer to connect directly with the beer drinker and over a new and exciting beer that no one outside of the brewery has had. When you think about this in conjunction with NOLA's cask ale program, it's clear that NOLA Brewing values the creativity of its brewers as well as the opinion of its consumers. In fact, NOLA Brewing does very little (if any) paid advertising, and that's a very deliberate choice. It's the company philosophy that the beer speaks for itself and the many events they create and sponsor have spread the word in a much more personal and fun way. 

In other key growth milestones, I asked about the response to the recent cans of Hopitoulous sent out for sale, and apparently they've been selling fantastically. The first weekend of their release, the Metairie Whole Foods saw it as its highest selling beer, straight up. The increasing diversity of the cans available seems to be benefiting all their beer. I also wondered how Mecha Hopzilla has been received, and was told that not only has it been selling well, it was NOLA Brewing's highest placed beer at the GABF this past year.

TONIGHT marks the debut of the third year of Irish Channel Stout, one of my favorite NOLA Brewing beers. Last year the release was at the Irish House, and this year (tonight!) the release is at Finn McCool's in Mid City. ICS Pints are three-fiddy all night long, and every beer you buy also gets you a chance to play "Plinko McDrinko", which sounds kind of insane but awesome. There will also be a cask of ICS Girl Scout Cookie, with mint and cocoa nibs in the cask mix, which I recall was quite well-received last year. Starts at 7pm and goes till 10. 



Also, at the Crown & Anchor on Algiers Point on Friday (tomorrow!) they'll be bringing by a cask of Mecha Hopzilla dryhopped with Simcoe, which sounds just delightful.

I urge everyone to try to get out for one of NOLA Brewing's events this week, and to check out the new and improved brewery tour and tap room. You'll be blown away by how much NOLA Brewing has expanded while staying true to their mission of bringing quality craft brew to the New Orleans market. NOLA Brewing is totally poised to be the Elder Statesman of New Orleans craft brewing- we just need some young whippersnappers up in here to test that theory. YA HEARD.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Guest Post: Tours Resume at NOLA Brewing

(Note from Nora: See below for Tom's experience at the first NOLA Brewing tour since hurricane Isaac! Stay tuned for more info on this blog later this week about updates and changes at NOLA Brewing...)

Friday afternoon tours at NOLA Brewing resumed on November 30th after a three month hiatus due to damage inflicted by Hurricane Isaac. The brewery has taken advantage of the break to build out an impressive new tap room and merchandise area. For long-time NOLA fans, the line of taps next to the cold room is still in operation.



Earlier this year, the brewery expanded into the building next door. This new space contains the tap room, with the rest being used for bags of grain and pallets of cans and kegs, waiting to be filled and distributed to thirsty NOLA fans.




A gleaming set of new stainless steel fermenters tower over the main brewing area, where NOLA President, Kirk Coco, gave a spirited tour. He alluded to a secret new beer that is currently in development and also mentioned that the can design for their next beer to be available in that format is being finalized. More information on this will be coming very soon!




Ahead of the official launch on Thursday, December 6th, their winter seasonal, Irish Channel Stout, was available in the tap room. I sampled a glass and can confirm that it is as delicious as ever, whether served straight or mixed half and half with Hopitoulas IPA.

If you have never been on a tour of the NOLA brewery, or if you haven’t been for a while, it is well worth a trip to check out their new digs.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Change is good!

So, I've changed the title of my blog to Nora's Beer Blog, and changed the main url to nolabeerblog.com. Update your bookmarks, boys and girl, because although nolabeerbitch.com will point here for a while, it won't do so until the end of time.

Also, props to Tom for wrangling me an adorbs little cartoon beer-drinking Nora! Love it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

How to run a perfect beer event

Inspired by Polly Watts' and all of the Avenue Pub staff's work this past weekend.

1) Have a specific plan and communicate it clearly and frequently. The Avenue Pub, upon getting formal notification that Cantillon had chosen it as one of a handful of beer bars in the world for its 2012 Zwanze beer release, immediately sprang into action. Emails went out to the email list, the Facebook event was set up, all with a good general plan of what to expect - the event and its logistics on Saturday, of course, but also what was happening the week leading up to the main event.

2) Explain the system and be consistent. Watts worked hard on getting the Zwanze ticketing system in place last year- she wanted to be able to serve the great demand while making sure her staff wasn't overwhelmed, that customers weren't frustrated, and that the system would be difficult to "game" or exploit. Instead of setting something up so that people would be stressed out about getting in line and being uncomfortable, she was able to figure out a way to separate the hordes of descending beer geeks into more manageable "boarding pass" groups, which were physical cards of different colors: the first group was light green, the second group was yellow, etc. You went to Polly after buying your beer and settling in to wait and drink and have a nice time, and she would give you a color-coded boarding pass that would determine the order of people to get upstairs to buy their tickets and then, later, to get pours of the actual Zwanze 2012 release.

3) Keep things loose - but organized. So this I think is the art to a well executed event. How do you straddle the line between making sure the system is respected and becoming a tyrannical buzz kill? I think the Avenue Pub succeeded because the staff were all patient, pleasant, but firm on what was permitted and when. Also, the thoughtful system in place created an atmosphere where the customers knew that they didn't need to push and shove to get to the good stuff. Yes, you were rewarded for getting to the Pub early - but you weren't punished for showing up later, if that makes any sense. (Another small but important detail is that the Pub waited an hour after all ticketed people got their pour of Zwanze to release the rest to purchase.)

4) KISS. Make things simple enough so that even alcohol-impaired people can follow instructions. I particularly admired the note on the beer menus reminding people that these beers were pretty spendy, and recommending some less expensive beers to balance out your tab so you don't yell drunkenly at the staff that this tab is OUTRAGEOUS! (I did gulp at our tab though, true story. But I had more than fair warning!)

5) Understand your audience. I think that events like Zwanze might be a little easier to herd customers through, given the self selecting nature of the attendees. Most folks who would make it a point to get to a Zwanze tapping 3, 4, or more hours in advance hopefully have an understanding of what makes this special and challenging, and are more or less pretty chill. I could be wrong about that, though- I wasn't on staff! I've been to two Zwanze events at the Pub now, as well as  the Swedish beer extravaganza, which was just as well organized, though I don't think they did the "boarding pass" system for that- but certain beer geek "catnip" beers (like Stormskaporter) were held back and distributed fairly so everyone got a chance to try. Watts truly tries to see things from everyone's perspectives - customers (both beer nerds and less-nerdly), staff, distributors, and business owner - and creates an environment to please them all.

6) Stay calm in a crisis. Apparently the tap system both upstairs and downstairs got messed up that morning (which, talk about terrible timing!) but THE EVENT STILL WENT OFF SMOOTHLY. Many thanks to Crescent Crown, who sent out folks to repair it, as well as the staff for handling it all with aplomb. According to Polly, "our main co2 line running upstairs melted and blew up before the tapping. Something that has never happened before. Thank god for my staff who figured it out before someone got hurt and for CC who fixed it. The guy from CC that came in was on vacation. That's dedication."

Now that's how you run a perfect beer event.

Cheers!
photograph courtesy of Amy Murphy

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Zwanze Day!

I am in heaven.  Got some amazing Zwanze 2010 before they ran out and I love the Zwanze 2012. Rhubarb is amazing, it's balanced, clean-finishing, and refreshing. Really loving it. Other star of the day is the Augullons Setembre, in my opinion.

Great day, great beer, great friends. Thanks to Cantillon and The Avenue Pub.

Hooray! (Photos to come, my phone is being stupid.) (Also, I may be sort of drunk, so it may be me who is stupid!)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Brewing Bigshot Interview Series:Andrew Godley, Parish Brewing



Welcome to the latest in my Brewing Bigshot Interview Series!  Today's subject is Andrew Godley, Founder and Brewmaster of Parish Brewing in Broussard, LA (in Lafayette Parish). Parish has gone through an ENORMOUS transition in size of facility and staff this year, and tomorrow it will be debuting Andrew's baby, the Inaugural Grand Reserve Barleywine at the Avenue Pub, so I thought the time was right to see what's going on here!

Andrew Godley founded Parish Brewing back in 2008 while he was still working his day job as a chemical engineer. He was working in a rented commercial warehouse space on nights and weekends, brewing 16 kegs of Canebrake (his wheat beer brewed with Steen’s sugarcane syrup) a week. Then in 2012, he moved his operation into a new, large, state-of-the-art brewery and brewed more beer on his first day there than he had in his entire first year of brewing. To break it down into comparable numbers, Andrew was brewing 150 bbls a year in 2011, and 2012 will see more than 3000 bbls, and it wasn’t even a full year in the new digs. He hopes to double that number in the coming year. It’s still a small artisan brewery though; Abita brews around 150,000 bbls a year, just to keep things in perspective.

Andrew has also moved from a staff of one (himself) to a staff of six - he’s brought on Will Gallaspy as lead brewer (Andrew says Will’s primary responsibility is to “work the brewhouse and produce the finest wort this side of the Mississippi”, heh.), who’s been working in breweries all over the country since 2006, most recently at Bosco’s Restaurant and Brewery in Little Rock and Nashville. He left Bosco’s early this year to return to his hometown in Lafayette Parish, and work with Andrew at Parish Brewing. Andrew, who now works full time (no more “day job”!) as Founder, Brewmaster, and Head of Brewing Operations, works very closely with Will to brew every batch of beer, and the brewery also employs an additional 2 assistant brewers, a packaging lead, and a cellarman. But even with folks in specific roles now, everyone still pitches in to get everything done, as is often the case with small operations, and breweries especially, I’ve come to discover. Parish will soon be shifting to a 2-shift day, one early and one late. That means that he’ll be hiring at least two more people in the next six months, so if you know a talented, experienced brewer, let Andrew know!

Parish Brewing currently devotes most of its time and resources to fulfilling demand for Canebrake in Lafayette (which was previously its only market, pretty much), Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and the Northshore. Andrew says that the demand for Canebrake has limited them in expanding their market and diversifying their beer lineup, but they are working with an eye to the future to be able to expand while keeping up with current demand. He hopes that adding fermenters and employees will permit his team to move forward with the great recipes and ideas he’s had in his head for a while now, although expanding the distribution market may take a while longer than that, even with increased capacity. (Although one of Andrew’s goals in 2013 is to start distributing bottled Canebrake outside of Lafayette to the current Louisiana Canebrake keg market.)

The Inaugural Grand Reserve Barleywine that’s being released tomorrow night at the Avenue Pub (on cask and keg) is the result of four years of work - brewing, changing, aging, testing, brewing again, and so forth. The first big batch (what will be released this week) was brewed back in April and has been cellaring since then, as Andrew says, “softening, rounding, and improving.” He promises that it’s a very balanced and smooth beer, yet “monstrous.” The Grand Reserve uses eight times the amount of hops used in Canebrake and has dark Belgian and German malts to create what he calls “serious maltiness to match.” He says he’s most proud of the balance that they’ve achieved through the brewing and aging process. The idea, he says, is to do a vintage of the Grand Reserve Barleywine every year, to age and compare through vertical tastings and the like. Although the recipe may be tweaked year to year, the plan is for it to stay consistent.



Although the Grand Reserve will remain a barleywine, Andrew has plans for more big beers down the line. Parish’s bottle-conditioning room at the brewery is almost finished, and will have the capacity to condition up to 60bbls of 750ml bottles at a time, enabling the brewery to produce and sell beers like Belgian Farmhouse IPA, Saison, and L’autre Femme Double IPA in 2013 and beyond. Andrew hopes to eventually have a permanent line of big-bottle beers that solidifies its reputation as a high quality brewery.

When I asked Andrew about beer events and festivals, he said that although he loves meeting people at these events and getting direct feedback, their small staff and tendency to obsess over brewing can limit them in their exposure at such events. The most important events, he says, are the ones where he and the team can talk to their customers, as opposed to industry marketing and promotion. When you have a small and very busy staff, you need to identify priorities and make choices.

Since I’m pretty interested in the challenges that Louisiana (and New Orleans) brewers face, I asked about that as well. Andrew admitted that there were many along the road. In addition to financing (something he strongly advises any budding brewer have well in hand before doing anything else), the beer distribution laws in Louisiana make it very difficult to nurture small breweries like Parish. Since breweries cannot self-distribute, all breweries regardless of size are forced to sell all their beer at wholesale prices so that the distributor middleman can make a profit. This makes it incredibly difficult for any artisan business to succeed; the only way that a business can is if they are large enough to have the economy of scale working for them, like Abita. The wholesale prices that breweries get for their beer are usually less than a quarter of what the beer costs retail. Only $1 of a $5 pint goes to the brewery, which needs to pay for hops, grains, salary, and brewery upkeep. While Andrew is telling me this, I can see that he’s frustrated. However, he adds, there is still incredible potential in the market. He believes that the demand and sales are out there (spending years desperately trying to keep up with the demand for Canebrake certainly informs this opinion, I imagine) and that if all these new breweries can stabilize financially, there is a market for growth. However, this growth is difficult when wholesale pricing keeps new small breweries on financial shaky ground.

Hey, if you want to buy Andrew a non-Parish Brewing beer, get him a Saison DuPont, or Tripel Karmeliet or St. Arnold’s Endeavor if they don’t have the DuPont. Turns out those are some of his current favorite beers. I like asking brewers this question because it says a lot about their personal tastes that is somehow more pure than just about the beer they brew.

I’m looking forward to buying Andrew a beer myself on Friday, when the Grand Reserve is released at the Avenue Pub upstairs on the Balcony Bar, starting at 5pm. Both Andrew and his head brewer Will will be there. So should you!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Zwanze Day and other New Orleans Beer Updates!

Regarding my previous post, I want to make it clear that I am incredibly grateful and inspired by the work that the Avenue Pub, NOLA Brewing, and other breweries and bars are doing in New Orleans and Louisiana. They just shouldn't have to carry the whole load! There's room for everyone at the table!

On that note, behold the upcoming craft beer awesomeness here in New Orleans::

First and foremost, ZWANZE DAY is on Saturday, December 1! This is the day that Cantillon Brewery in Belgium reveals their annual Zwanze beer, which is different every year. This year, it's a recreation of their first Zwanze vintage in 2008, a rhubarb lambic.  Since Cantillon is all about "celebrating the style of spontaneous brewing" the road to Zwanze 2012 was a bit rocky, as you can see from this blurb on Cantillon's website:
When in early April we brewed a top-fermentation beer which was to become Zwanze 2012, we hoped that it would be ready 3 or 4 months later so that we could organise another Zwanze Day sometime in September.
However, since we are working in the very specific environment of traditional Lambic brewery where natural yeast flora reign supreme, even a top-fermented beer can take control of its own destiny. As such, on the occasion of a final tasting session at the end of June it became crystal-clear that the Zwanze 2012 would not be ready in time and that it would, we hope, become Zwanze 2013.
Seeing that we had received numerous requests to organise a Zwanze Day this year we decided to recreate the very first Zwanze produced in 2008. As a reminder, that year's vintage had been brought about by soaking rhubarb in Lambic. The ultimate result of that experiment was a very delicate and complex product in which the beer' acidic taste struck a very nice balance with the plant's tartness and then lingered long on the palate.
For this new production batch we decided to work with organically-grown rhubarb, and you can really taste this in the beer, which is more structured and full-bodied than the 2008 vintage. We opted to recreate the rhubarb Lambic because very few consumers had been able to taste this beer 4 years ago, when only 300 litres had been produced. On top of this, unlike fruit crops, rhubarb production was not adversely affected by the very poor weather which hit Europe this spring. And finally, the last, perhaps most important reason of all for bringing back Zwanze 2008: my wife tells me it's one of her favourites.
The Avenue will be supplementing their Zwanze 2012 allotment with kegs and bottles they've cellared all year in preparation for this day, which you can read all about on their web page. Sadly, I don't see Cantillon Iris on their list, which may be my favorite Cantillon beer (after Zwanze 2010) but hope springs eternal.

Also at the Avenue this weekend will be local brewer Parish Brewing's rollout of its first Grand Cru barleywine release. That will be on Friday, and it will be on both keg and cask (which intrigues me! Can't wait to taste them side by side.). The Avenue will also be starting to offer some of their special sours on Friday, so that's another reason to check it out.

I'll be interviewing Andrew Godley, founder of Parish Brewing, about the Grand Cru experience as well as Parish's enormous growth over the past year or so, so keep a look out right here on my blog for that tomorrow or Friday.

Also something to stay tuned in for: NOLA Brewing's Irish Channel Stout release!  It will be next week (Thursday, December 6) at Finn McCool's in Mid City. Hoping to talk to the guys at NOLA Brewing before then about what's going on over there on Tchoup. One exciting thing that IS happening- NOLA Brewing Brewery Tours will be starting back up THIS Friday, November 30! Brewery tours had been suspended as the brewery was repairing the damage done during Isaac as well as finishing their expansion into the building they recently acquired next door to their original building.

This weekend is looking most promising- very excited!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Want To Go To There

I have done a lot of travelling this fall (which is kind of weird, for me) and as you might imagine, I tend to focus on beer-related activities while on the road. I have enjoyed many beers and breweries and beer bars over the past two months and would like to share what I've learned and seen. (and eaten and drank)

First trip was to San Francisco. My trip to the Bay Area in early October was short and sweet, so I didn't get to go to the many beer places in the city. (Note: I've gone to the Anchor Brewing tour on a previous trip in 2009, as well as Monk's Kettle, Alembic, Toronado, and Magnolia, as well as outside of the city, where of course there's Russian River, as well as Bear Republic, Silverado, Moylans, Anderson Valley, North Coast, 3rd Street Ale Works, Calistoga Brewery, etc. We enjoyed excellent beer service at the French Laundry as well during that trip.) But this past trip, my primary beer activity was focused on my pilgrimage to Toronado - but I was able to enjoy beers from various Bay Area/Northern CA breweries pretty much wherever I went. Heretic, 21st Amendment, Russian River, Lagunitas, Moonlight, Speakeasy, Almanac . There appear to be 10 breweries (and 15 beer-focused bars) in San Francisco proper, and more than a dozen more in the immediate area surrounding it. I event found a great place in Redwood City for a few pints, Martins West on Main Street.

Mmm... Supplication...

The Holy Ground

Me with a giant bottle of the beer that Russian River brewed specially for the Toronado.
(no, I didn't get to drink any of it)

Toronado beer list

My next trip was to Chicago, in mid November. There is some amazing beer being brewed in Chicago and the state, as well as in the Midwest region. We enjoyed beer from 5 Rabbit, Half Acre, Goose Island (which, yes, has been purchased by Anheuser Busch, but we went to one of the brewpubs and drank the beer brewed on premises), Piece Brewery and Pizzeria (its beer The Weight just won silver in the GABF Pale Ale category and was fantastic), RevolutionHopothesis, and Haymarket (was also able to enjoy Two Brothers, Founders, Bell's, and Three Floyds pretty much wherever we went).  We went to a couple beer bars - there were plenty of them, but we focused on the Hopleaf and the Map Room, which were great- great beer list, great vibe, great staff, but each had their own personality. We went to a couple very popular restaurants (Frontera Grill, Girl and the Goat, The Peasantry, and the Farmhouse Tavern) that took great pride in their beer list and heavily promoted the local beers on their list. Didn't get to a bunch of places that were on the list like Publican, Clark Street Ale House, Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar, and Sheffield's.

Tap list at the Map Room

Map Room

Philosophizin' at Haymarket Brewery (and Theater, apparently)

Revolution's IPA, love the graphics

My most recent trip was to Austin over Thanksgiving, which blew me away. There are 10 breweries in the Austin city limits ALONE (with an additional 3 just outside the city), and over a dozen beer bars with great food in their kitchen or at one of the many food trucks that Austin has, parked outside. There are collaborations between restauranteurs and breweries. There is a beer co-op. It is amazing. And the beer they are brewing is incredible. And Texas has pretty tough beer laws as well, on par with the kind that Louisiana brewers and brewpubs face. We went to Hopfields, who celebrated their first anniversary while we were there, The Draught House, which not only has an amazing tap list, but also has at least 3-4 casks on, including their own brews, Black Star, the aforementioned co-op, Jester King, an amazing new(ish) brewery that does a great tour and tasting on Saturday afternoons, and a new place (like, a month old), Pint House Pizza.  We drank beer from Hops and Grain,  Live Oak, Real Ale, (512) Brewing, Adelbert's, and more.

Beer list at Hopfields

Jester King's Commercial Suicide, in front of their tasting card
A very small selection of the taps at the Draught House

Beers in Austin and beyond, as listed by Black Star

One of the founders of Jester King, explaining all the crazy shit they do with barrels.

New Orleans has one brewery in the city proper (NOLA Brewing) and one brewpub (Crescent City Brewhouse.) (I'm never sure where to slot Gordon Biersch in this accounting.) Although there are a couple bars around that have pretty large beer lists (Bulldog, Cooter Brown's, dba) there is really only one craft beer bar as well, the Avenue Pub. Some restaurants are trying to bring up the standard of their beer lists (like Root, Coquette, Boucherie) but by and large, it's spotty at best. Outside of New Orleans (but stiil in Louisiana) we have some up and coming breweries like Parish, Bayou Teche, Tin Roof, Chafunkta, Gnarley Barley, Mudbug, and 40 Arpent. About half of those are in full production mode. We also have a very large brewery across Lake Pontchartrain, Abita Brewing, as well as Covington/Heiner Brau. The Barley Oak on that side of things is probably the only other beer bar in the area that even compares to the Avenue. That is crazy, that our craft beer resources are so scant. CRAZY I TELL YOU.

What makes us so different than Chicago, San Francisco, and Austin that we are so far behind them in beer culture? I assume it's laws, regulation, and the need to educate the community about the benefits of craft beer. I want very much to understand all these things so that I can work to change them and help the craft beer culture here finally blossom and bloom! I think there's a tendency (in all things, not just beer related) to shrug shoulders and say, "well, what are you gonna do?" What I AM gonna do is try to help liberate an amazing community and small business/economy driver, which means I am going to have to get off my ass sooner or later and actually do stuff. More on that later.

There's so much potential! Let's get to it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Beer! Cheese! You Know You Want It.

OK, this event was like three weeks ago, and I had so much fun talking to local brewers and other awesome folks, and I didn't even post anything in a timely fashion!

Since I was out of town this past weekend and missed the rescheduled New Orleans on Tap (as well as the Outlaw Homebrew Festival in Hattiesburg, MI, which John from the Keg and Barrel had invited me to judge) I figured I'd discuss the recent, more low-key local brewery and cheese/charcuterie event held on October 24 at the St. James Cheese Co.



Peter Caddoo was there with a firkin of NOLA Brown ale, Gordon Biersch had something that was pretty unremarkable but fine. Gnarly Barley was there, and I hadn't met them yet. They had a very interesting rye beer, that was being called an IPA but didn't quite fit into that category, in my opinion. I think if they can call it something so that the IPA expectation isn't there, they'll have something. They also had a pretty decent coffee porter on tap.



Chafunkta Brewing was also in the house with its Voo Ka Ray IPA and the Old 504, a coffee infused vanilla porter, which I was actually pleasantly surprised by. I thought it would be super sweet and vanilla-y. but the finish was dry and it was pretty balanced.



Also hard at work was one of the new brewers from Crescent City Brewhouse. I tried his hoppy pilsner and probably one of my favorite Oktoberfest beers I've had all year and revised my previous opinion of CCB's beers. He invited me to come by next time we're in the Quarter, and I think I will take him up on it.

Bayou Teche was there, but didn't have anything I hadn't had before and was particularly looking to try again. They had their noir beer, the passionfruit beer, and their smoked beer. I like the noir, but with so many choices I can't actually get in stores, I didn't see the point of having any. It would have been nice to have something a little special. The marketing guy didn't have a lot of news about what Bayou Teche would be up to and my charm did not seem to work on him. This, of course, could be the fault of my charm, or lack thereof.

Hung out with the Tin Roof marketing dude who had cans of the Blonde and Perfect Tin. Was kind of bummed that they didn't have the new Parade Ground Coffee Porter, though. I enjoyed talking to the Tin Roof guy very much about beer culture in New Orleans and Louisiana- we had a great conversation that I look forward to continuing!



There was a homebrew guy who had a (I think) steam/California Common ale, a crazy fruity (guava? mango?) wheat beer, and something else I can't remember. (see, this is why people respect my beer reporting!) He was a lot of fun, kind of crazy, but aren't all homebrewers? (and by extension, brewers?)

Lazy Magnolia had also made an appearance with their new offering, their re-released Gulf Porter, a pretty tasty porter. Lots of porter offerings, between Lazy Magnolia, Chafunkta, and Gnarly.

The cheese/food portion of the evening was amazing as well. I got to talk with, of course, folks from St. James, but also Cam Boudreaux, one of the the creators and executive chefs of one of my favorite po-boy popups, Killer Poboys serving up in the kitchen of the Erin Rose on Conti. We talked about popups and poboys, and our mutual friend Rob who is doing the NOLA Food Podcast (and is the talent behind the NOLA Smokehouse kitchen.) I tried his Jameson grilled cheese, which is awesome, and his roast beef, which is also awesome, but I knew that already.

Also, look at the spread that St. James put out for us! Ooh.




After a few beers, I had an interesting conversation with the brewer from Gnarly Barley about the control you give up with making cask ales. This guy has been working for years to carefully create a consistent product; it totally freaked him out to think about throwing caution to the wind with playing with cask conditioning. It gave me an interesting insight about the varieties of brewers' personalities.

After drinking everyone's beer, giving everyone my card, and buying $60 of cheese, I went home a happy lady.

I hope that more and more craft brewers keep stepping up to the plate, I want to see dozens! Too bad we didn't get Parish, Mudbug, 40 Arpent, and Courtyard Brewing (who is a new player around and has been ruffling some feathers of other local brewers... we'll see how that works out.) And also, even though it's in Alabama, I wanna see Fairhope and if we're bringing in Magnolia, I want to see Gordon Creek and Lucky Town! Come on, let's find multiple ways to showcase all these emerging breweries...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Crowdsourcing a new brewery co-op in New Orleans!

Aaron Hyde, owner of New Orleans' only homebrew store, Brewstock, has a dream. A dream that Tom and I definitely share. A dream of creating a brewing cooperative that the entire beer community of New Orleans can participate in and benefit from. 

I urge you to take a look at what Aaron is envisioning and perhaps make a donation at his Indigogo fundraising page. I hope that he can raise $55,000 in 12 days, but he needs YOUR help to make it happen!

When Tom and I moved to New Orleans, one of the reasons was that the beer culture here seemed to be poised on the edge of greatness. It has one fantastic beer bar, one amazing brewery, many passionate supporters, restaurants that are improving their beer lists, all that. We wanted to be a part of that. We are still trying to find our way. If money were no object, I'd love to open another beer bar, maybe on the other side of Canal. If we were 20 years younger, then trying to open a brewery or find work at one would be our goal. I've been toying with the idea of making a "craft beer pop up" a viable thing, as well as working with restaurants on their beer lists, beer pairings, and marketing to beer lovers.  However,  as we are both employed full time, old and feeble, and broke, we haven't had the opportunity to really pursue any of our wild dreams.

That's why, when I woke up this morning and saw Aaron's call to US, to the beer and brewing community of New Orleans, I was ecstatic!

In Aaron's own words:
This will be a creative outlet for the brewing community in New Orleans. For homebrewers wanting to learn commercial brewing techniques, for college students who want to get started in the brewing business (marketing, advertising, legal, etc..) and for all other folks who'd like to dabble in the process. We hope to allow for brewing and business creativity all along the way. As always, community first (but lawyers and accountants close behind.)
I know this brewery will be a centerpiece of the New Orleans community, and look forward to not only sharing the brewery with those interested in beer, but sharing the beer with the world. Food and drink is a major part of life in Louisiana, and as more folks begin to drink craft beer, we think they should be looking for it locally first.

I want to build community around the brewery.
Check out his fundraising page, read for yourself, and make an investment in the future of beer and brewing in New Orleans!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Beer in the Bay Area

So, obviously, a significant part of any trip I take is about the beers I can find and drink that I can't get here at home.  Therefore, I report here, the tales of my San Francisco beer adventure!

First night in the Bay area, we were in Redwood City, south of SF. We went to an English/Scottish gastropub type place called Martins West, which had a very nice selection of beers on draft. I started with an Evil Twin by Heretic Brewing, which was fantastic. Such a well balanced beer.


 Had a Honey Saison from Almanac Beer Co., out of San Francisco. I had a sample before committing- but I was impressed. It's a very nice saison, the yeast, hops, spices, and honey balanced nicely. I recommended it to someone sitting next to me, who dismissed it as "something girls drink" and therefore I needed to hold forth and lecture about what girls ACTUALLY DRINK. Which is to say, everything.

The next day I enjoyed a Scrimshaw Pilsner with my oysters at the Ferry Building (I'd recommended it to the guy at the bar as a really good pilsner the night before, so it was fresh in my mind) which was a very pleasant pairing. Also at the Ferry Building, I found a wine store that had a lovely beer selection, including a selection of Russian River beer, which made me so happy to see.



A little later, at Pier 23, I had a Big Daddy IPA from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, also out of San Francisco. It was a glorious day for a fresh, local, delicious beer:


 We watched the Blue Angels do their thing, and I also enjoyed a Lagunitas Czech Pils and a Fat Tire by New Belgium. Later I checked out the oldest bar in San Francisco, The Saloon, drank some bottles of Anchor Steam and had a a shot of Fernet, and danced to the live blues/jazz action they had going on. That was a fun place. The end of the evening brought me to The Boardroom, a great bar in North Beach, where I tried a Hell or High Watermelon Ale by 21st Amendment Brewery (another San Francisco brewery). It was pretty easy drinking and not super sweet or cloying. It was the end of a long day of walking and drinking, though, so my thirst may have been easily quaffed.


I ended my night back at my host's home in Redwood City with a beautiful and amazing wild ale from Russian River, Supplication:

Note: that's my chocolate shake from In-N-Out burger in the background
The next day was a special day- my pilgrimage to the Toronado. I arrived about 10 minutes before it opened at 11:30.


Once there, I took a look at the beer board:


You can't see in this picture, but all the way to the right is their selection of hand pump ales. I selected the Twist of Fate Bitter from Moonlight Brewing Company out of Santa Rosa. A locally brewed bitter style, served on cask? Yes please!


I next tried Boulder Beer Company's Freshtracks Wet-hopped Singletrack. Very nice. My third beer was very special though, Brouwerij Bockor's CuvĂ©e Des Jacobins Rouge, an excellent example of a Flanders Red Ale. My last beer at the Toronado (before I had to leave to go to the airport, sniff!) was a classic- Russian River Pliny the Elder. Before I left, however, I purchased a hoodie and struck a conversation up with the owner about the Toronado 25th Anniversary ale brewed by Russian River for them. They had no bottles for sale, but did have a 3 liter bottle that they're saving for a special occasion. He brought it out for a photo opp:


The Toronado is my happy place!

I was struck by how many small local breweries were in the area, in San Francisco proper, even. It would be great if New Orleans were more hospitable to developing more breweries within the parish limits.

Next time I go, I'll be bringing my beer suitcase with me. Didn't have the opportunity to do that for this trip, but there's always next time!