Friday, April 26, 2013

Two interesting beer tidbits

1) Ron Swodoba, Director of Craft Beer Education at Crescent Crown Distributors, is now the second person in New Orleans to be designated a Certified Ciccerone! The test sounds really hard, and I'm really glad his hard work paid off. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

2) Got a peek at August's new beer menu from my old friend Robert Wailes; and it looks nice.

our beer

Saison Dupont, farmhouse Ale
Citrus and spice notes, full-bodied and malty;
It sparkles on the palate and finishes with a zesty hop
and citrus attack.  12.

A strong, golden ale with aromas of citrus, apple,
hops and yeast.  It has a delicate sparkle and a
refined silky taste.  9.

Brasserie Trois Dames, L’amoureuse No. 1
Ste-Croix, Switzerland
 This ale is brewed with 15% of Chassalas grape must
Medium in body.  Malt forward with light hops, bitterness
and a dry finish  13.

Unibroue, La Fin Du Monde
This triple-style golden ale is mildly yeasty with a complex
palate of malt, fruit and spice notes followed by a
Smooth, dry finish.  8.

Abita Brewing Company
Abita Springs, LA

Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager
Brewed with pilsner and wheat malts, Vanguard hops
with fresh strawberry juice added after filtration.  6.

Abita Amber
Munich-style lager; smooth, malty and slightly caramel in flavor.  6.

Abita Light
Traditional light beer-flavorful and silky.  6.

Abita Restoration Ale
A brilliant gold ale with a rich body, mild bitterness
and a snappy-fresh citrus hop flavor and aroma.  6.

Abita Turbodog
Chocolate malts help give this dark brown ale its rich body,
color and a sweet, toffee-like flavor.  6.

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company
Kiln, Mississippi

Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale
Made with roasted pecans that provide for a nutty
character and a delightful depth to its flavor profile.  6.

Bayou Teche Brewery
St. Arnaudville, Louisiana

LA-31 Bière Noire
This beer is made with specially roasted German malts and select
American hops which provide a small bite of noble bitterness
and a dry, French roasted coffee flavor.  6.

Southern Star Brewing Co.
Conroe, Texas

Buried Hatchet Stout
Taste and smells of chocolate and coffee with hints of
creamy toffee and roasted malt.  6.

Southern Brew News!

Finally, the new issue of Southern Brew News has been uploaded to their website!

I wrote the cover story, "Louisiana's New Brewery Boom"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bugs & Brew For Drew!

OK, I'm late getting this blog post up - I am working on an article about American Craft Beer Week, so that's been taking up a lot of my beer brain space.

But! Bugs and Brew For Drew was a huge success (so it seemed!) and a whole lot of fun. We were signed up for the cask beer "garden" tent, which had casks from Abita, NOLA Brewing, Covington, Parish, and Bayou Teche. Tin Roof didn't do a cask, but they did do a special keg of their blond ale fermented with Thai chiles which was crazy spicy on the aroma but pretty fruity and balanced on the tongue. Interesting, and a nice surprise.

My favorites of the day were Abita's ZSB (Zach's Special Bitter), which I've had several times before, but this was by far the best. I think it's pretty cool that they have such a solid, approachable beer as exclusively served on cask. Definitely gives the concept a lot of exposure to folks who haven't had cask ale: I think the Abita name is trusted by the local, more casual beer drinker, and this was a great way to turn them on to this style of brewing and serving beer. I had a lot of awesome conversations with both total beer nerds and neophytes, and everyone seemed like they were having fun.

My other favorite of the day was the Canebrake dry hopped with Pacifica hops. Canebrake is a very well made beer and is much loved around these parts, deservedly so. But the style is not really in my wheelhouse, so while I respect the beer, I don't usually drink a lot of it. Dry hopping and cask conditioning really made this batch sing. It was just excellent. Parish was also pouring samples of their soon-to-be-released Farmhouse IPA, which was also very good. A little over-carbonated, but I know the small kinks will be worked out; it's a well made and great tasting beer. My hat is off to the folks at Parish.

But every cask had its fans in the crowd; it was very cool to see people come up for more and talk excitedly about what they loved about what they were drinking. I can't thank the organizers of the event as well as the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild for providing this opportunity to showcase local beer. I was privileged to be a part of it.

Also ran into the breweries that are still getting their businesses together- Michael at 40 Arpent had brewed a new Belgian ale that came out nicely, and Leith with Mudbug had his King Cake beer - the first run off his newly installed Psycho system. I tried the King Cake with and without the rim, and it's so much better without it. It doesn't need the cinnamon-sugar to highlight the flavors, the beer does that very well already. Gnarly Barley was also in the house, serving their Common and Imperial Rye Pale Ale.

40 Arpent's stout description

Insane contraption brought by the homebrew store on the Northshore

Half rimmed King Cake ale
Just a great time. Also, I got a ton of new local beer T-shirts, which I am looking forward to wearing proudly (and actually already have, for most of them.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Homebrewing and the French Quarter Fest

The homebrewing and the FQF actually have nothing to do with each other, besides the fact that they were to two beer related activities I had this weekend.

Homebrewing: after my tales of brewing and bottling, this was the easiest (but most nerve-wracking) step of all: tasting.

From Friday night

Bottle opened today (it's less carbonated than the other two were for whatever reason.)
The color and the clarity (as you can see) came out beautifully.

As far as aroma and taste goes, the hops presence I was hoping for really didn't make it into the final product, so it wasn't really what I was expecting. However, I still really like it! The absence of the hop flavor gives prominence to the yeast. Still plenty of bitterness. So it's kind of more like a Belgian pale ale? I need more palates to tell me if the spiciness in the flavor is just yeast and hops intermingling, or if it fermented too warm and those are esters or off-flavors all up in there. But it's plenty drinkable. Definitely not a masterpiece, but I enjoy drinking it and I MADE IT! Me! Now, what to brew next...?

In other news, I signed up to work in an Abita beer tent at French Quarter Fest. I worked the middle shift (2-6pm) right next to the Abita music tent. For the first 2 hours I took beer orders and worked the cash register. Then I noticed we had a serious supply issue - one person pouring beers for 3 cashiers and many, MANY thirsty patrons. So I jumped behind the taps and started pouring beers like a maniac. Amber, Light, and Purple Haze (man, that Haze tap was SO FOAMY for the first hour I was pouring.) Amber, Light, Purple Haze. AMBER! LIGHT! HAZE! The dude from Crescent Crown was impressed by my beer pouring style, asked if I was a bartender. No, I said. I just drink a LOT of beer.

Got to listen to Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers and Little Freddy King - both great shows! Mostly background, though, since I was quite busy. I'd definitely do it again, but maybe in more low key location like the Mint - I almost had a panic attack trying to find my assigned tent in the very very crowded Abita stage area.

My pouring post

The view from my beer tent
(this was the end of Donald Harrison Jr.'s set, which was right before my shift.
I had no time for pictures once I started working.)
After my shift, I enjoyed a roast beef debris poboy with truffled cole slaw from the Restaurant R'evolution tent. Came home and had another homebrew. All in all, not a bad way to spend the day in New Orleans.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Links to Bugs & Brew buzz from around the interwebs (also NOLA Brewing Friday tour news)

My previous post about the beer lineup at Bugs & Brew For Drew has gotten some notice:

Here's my slightly different writeup for the Gambit blog, posted yesterday.

Here's a link from La Trappe Monk's beer blog

I love the cask ale love! I hope it leads to more and more of it!

Also, re: NOLA's famous (or infamous) brewery tours, starting tomorrow (4/12) they are going to start charging $5 for a pint glass that is necessary to gain admittance. According to a Facebook post made this afternoon:

"Starting tomorrow, we're changing the setup of our Friday tours due to the steady increase in size. We will now be charging $5 for a NOLA logo pint glass when you arrive. This will still include unlimited beer and an actual tour, but you will now get to take the glass home with you when you leave!"

Personally, I think this policy is long, LONG overdue.Five dollars isn't too much, but it's enough to discourage habitual free loaders (myself included!) They spend a lot of resources and energy on the tour, now that attendance often tops 100 people, and there should be some remuneration involved. Selling the pint glasses is a good way to bring some income to the brewery (especially since it can't sell its beer on premises... YET.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bugs & Brew For Drew on April 20

I haven't mentioned much about this, since everything's just beginning. But I've been working alongside other beer nerds to create a nonprofit that will promote New Orleans and Louisiana craft beer and craft beer culture. It's called the Louisiana Craft Beer Collective. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter, and a website with more on our mission will be coming soon.

While exploring this idea, I got together with Conrad Rolling, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild. The Guild is the professional organization representing the brewers in the state and their interests. (Keep an eye out for them opening their membership up to "enthusiasts" which is non-professional member category.)

When talking to Conrad about potential partnership opportunities, he told me about his connection with the local fundraiser "Bugs and Brew For Drew" which is held annually to benefit the Drew Rodrigue Foundation, which has the mission to "change the lives of individuals who have stared their adversities in the face and have bravely decided to suit up and march onto the playing field of life and show others that giving up is not an option." Besides the cause being close to Conrad's heart personally, as ED of the Brewers Guild, he was excited to share that the event this year (April 20, 2013) will provide beers from all seven Louisiana breweries - and ONLY beers from Louisiana breweries. Also tastings from local homebrewers!

The seven breweries are: Abita, Bayou Teche, Chafunkta, Covington, NOLA Brewing, Parish, and Tin Roof. They will be providing beers served from kegs and each brewery will be providing a cask ale for the event's cask ale garden!

I have been looking forward to a cask focused event like this since moving down here. Confirmed casks so far:

  • Bayou Teche will be bringing a cask of Bec Francaise, which is a Louisiana style pale ale that was dry hopped with beaucoup hops imported from Alsace France. The hops are Bouclier, Triskel, and Aramis.
  • Covington is providing a cask of Pontchartrain Pilsner that was dry hopped with Citra and Glacier hops, aged with toasted oak chips and primed with honey from the head brewer’s personal beehive.
  • NOLA is bringing a cask of Irish Channel Stout with Centennial hops and primed with Brown Ale 1st wort.
  • Parish is providing a cask of Canebrake that has been dry-hopped.

Here's the scoop about the rest of the event, as provided to me in a handy-dandy press release.

Where: River City Plaza at Mardi Gras World

When: April 20, 2013, 11:00am-5:00pm

Who/What: Crawfish enthusiasts, local breweries, and musicians come together to support the fight against cancer.

  • Crawfish competition with over fifty teams
  • Local music, including Papa Grows Funk, Honey Island Swamp Band, Johnny Sketch, and Stone Rabbits
  • Admission to the festival is FREE. Advance VIP tickets can be purchased online for $50 until April 15 at, or after April 16, for $60. Also known as the Cajun Pass, this ticket allows you to eat and drink all day. Separate drink and food tickets will also be sold at the event.
  • Entertainment for kids
  • Raffle supported by local businesses
I'll definitely be there, pouring beers and eating crawfish! Can't wait to hear about the casks the other Louisiana breweries will be bringing. If I find out, I'll post about it.

Oh, also there will be a Bugs & Brew meet and greet at the Bayou Beer Garden THIS THURSDAY (4/11) where you can buy tickets, enjoy a beer or two, and talk to the folks behind the event and the foundation! Check out the event on Facebook for more details

Sunday, April 7, 2013

St. Arnold's Pub "Qrawl"

The "Q" in "Qrawl" stands for "Quarter" as in the French Quarter.

Yesterday was a fine day to wander about and drink beer. I don't hang out in the Quarter too often, so I thought this would be a nice opportunity to do something different and maybe see if there were any surprises for craft beer in the Quarter. It was an interesting day, for sure.

We biked to the FQ and went promptly to the first stop on the crawl, Finnegan's Easy on St. Peter between Royal and Bourbon.

Nice looking bar

Santo and Canebrake!

Dagger holding the Santo mascot
Finnegan's was a nice place: long wood bar, great natural light, a gorgeous courtyard in the back. The Saint Arnold they provided was Santo, a "black Kolsch" which is easy drinking and flavorful. They also had Canebrake, NOLA Blonde, Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal, Guinness, and Abita Amber. I'd definitely duck in here if I was looking for local craft in that area. The Santo was $4.25, the cheapest beer we had on the crawl.

Next up was Bayou Burger. This involved two of my least favorite things in New Orleans: walking on Bourbon Street and hanging out on Bourbon Street.  Seriously, I cannot emphasize enough how much I hate it. But I persevered and walked down two blocks of the damned to get to the burger place. It was alright, I guess. I wasn't thrilled about paying $6.30 for a Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower, and though they had a bunch of Lazy Magnolia and Tin Roof beers, the beer lineup wasn't particularly impressive.

We took the long way around on Royal to get to the next place- the Copper Monkey on Conti. Tiny place, with a dive bar feel with friendly bartenders and a couple local craft beers (Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower, Bayou Teche Biere Noir, Canebrake and Perfect Tin Voodoo Bengal) and a courtyard. Since it was the halfway point of our crawl, we ordered food - something simple, cheap, and easy to prepare- the chicken quesedilla. It was serviceable, cheesy, and provided protein and carbs for the second half of the crawl.

Speaking of the second half of the crawl, it was time to get to it. Originally it was supposed to be at a new place within the House of Blues on Decatur called Big Mamma's, but it wasn't ready to open in time for the event. Instead, we went to their Voodoo Garden courtyard bar where they served Santo and Icon Blue from a jockey box. So, I can't really speak to the beer selection at House of Blues, but the atmosphere of the courtyard/patio was nice. The two Saint Arnold beers were $5 each, and it was the first time I'd tried the Icon Blue, a new beer and new style for them. It was a Cascadian Ale/Black IPA, and had plenty of hop character, The dark roasty maltiness balanced the bitterness nicely as well.

Our last stop was the one I was most intrigued in going to from the start. Evangeline (warning: music plays upon loading) on Decatur (more or less across the street from the Bienville House) has been open for about a year and a half now and exclusively carries local and regional beers on draft from Covington, Tin Roof (2 beers), Bayou Teche (2 beers), Parish, Lazy Magnolia (2 beers), and of course Saint Arnold (3 beers).

The manager, Eddie, was extremely passionate about serving local beers with local food, and we had a great talk about the various area beers and we ended up agreeing on a bunch of stuff. So these folks at Evangeline really get it, I think. They are going to be expanding the number of taps soon, I believe I heard him say (bear in mind this was at the end of the pub crawl.) And the space is gorgeous - the interior, the bar, and especially the courtyard.


Lounging area at the end of the courtyard

Dim interior shot

Courtyard decoration

Eddie pouring beers for the pub crawlers
If I were to rank the pubs in order of preference, I'd probably say... Evangeline, Finnegan's Easy ('cause they were the only ones with NOLA Brewing beer), Copper Monkey, House of Blues' Voodoo Garden (because I don't know their beer list but the space was super nice), and then the Bayou Burger. (OMG I hate Bourbon Street so much.)

It was interesting to check out places in the Quarter. I'm glad I checked it out. It was a beautiful day, and I learned about new bars and tried a new beer (the Icon Blue). Nicole, the Saint Arnold sales and marketing rep here, will be leaving New Orleans for Colorado next month, so it was good to get a chance to hang out with her as well! This pub crawl was part of Saint Arnold's annual "New Orleans Super Weekend" and it's quite apparent that these folks have a lot of fun with the market out here.

Oh! And Tom and I went to The Erin Rose to have some post-pub crawl Killer Poboys, which were amaaaaaazing. Lamb sausage and Dark & Stormy pork. Highly, highly recommended. Beer list is nothing to write home about (I had a Pimms Cup) but those poboys more than make up for that deficiency.


Monday, April 1, 2013

New Belgium launch and Southern Brew News!

So, today was the first day of New Belgium release in Louisiana! I saw the display in Rouses on North Carrollton at lunch:

$2.99 for a bomber, FYI. I need to pick up a six pack of Shift ASAP.

So, New Belgium is only in bottles and cans right now- it'll be on draft at the end of May, from what I hear. The Avenue Pub offered bottle pours for the occasion today - $14 for six 4oz pours, which included a nice glass. I also scored a lip balm, a hat, and a coozie. Single 4oz pours were also available, $1.50 for the standards and $3.50 for the three Lips of Faith. I focused mostly on the Lips of Faith stuff, since I had the basic lineup beers last week at the distributor roll out. I did start out with a Shift, though, 'cause that's my jam. And I did use a Fat Tire to cleanse my palate after drinking the Cascara Quad.

First of all, the La Folie- a Flanders Oud Bruin, It was straight up excellent. I need to see if I can get my hands on a bottle. Or two. After that, I tried the Dieu de Ciel collaboration, Heavenly Feijoa, a tripel with hibiscus, Belgian yeast, and Nelson Sauvin hops.

Heavenly Feijoa, on the Balcony of the Avenue
Also, feijoa? Which is also known as a pineapple guava? I didn't get the tropical fruity feijoa aroma, but it was a nice beer. Hibiscus was well deployed.  Finished up with the Cascara Quad, which was far too much beer for a sunny day like today. I also had a second glass of La Folie, because of its extreme awesomeness.

Spent some time with Casey from Crescent Crown, the distributor that has New Belgium in its portfolio for New Orleans (I'd been confused and thought it was Southern Eagle before, but I was wrong.) She seemed pleased and relieved that this day had come to pass after so much planning and work. I also met Rusty, a New Belgium Ranger from Austin. Regarding the New Orleans Ranger position, it will stay posted for about another week or so and then they'll start processing applicants. It appears that there has been a lot of interest in the position.

So that was much fun. Saw a lot of friends enjoying the new brewery in town. It was a lovely day drinking good beer with good people. That's what it's all about.

UPDATE: (on 4/3/13) As my fellow writer Brenton Day up in Baton Rouge pointed out in his writeup on The Ale Runner (and I forgot to mention, and Imma blame the Quad for that) is that Louisiana's getting New Belgium's Sunshine Wheat is actually the first time it's been rolled out from the start in a region, and I believe that really there aren't many places that have it in bottles at all (like Florida, though NB regional manager Rusty Hancock says they will probably be distributing Sunshine Wheat in the Sunshine state soon.)
I was also intrigued by news of New Belgium's summer seasonal that Brenton writes about: - "Rolle Bolle, which is brewed with monk fruit and soursop." That should be available on May 20, along with beer on draft, six packs of bottles (Rusty also mentioned that we're one of the first markets to get the shift in can six-packs, which is awesome, because it's my favorite,) and their Rampart Imperial IPA and black lager 1554. Props to Brenton for his excellent coverage and reminding me what I forgot!

AND! The Southern Brew News issue (April/May) with my front page article was at the Pub too, so I was able to not so quietly geek out about that.

It's not online yet, but I'll link it when it is!