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...