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!)