Yesterday, the rain held off to ensure the crowds of beer drinkers in the Warehouse District were able to enjoy the offerings from five different bars as part of the Gambit's foray into ACBW, the inaugural FestivALES event. As an attendee, I was relieved at the unexpected break in the weather, but conducted my logistical plans in a manner that would be most efficient in case of downpours.
Tom and I registered at Fulton on Tap and grabbed our first beers. I got the Coney Island Lager from Schmaltz Brewing; that's a good beer. Tom got a "crafty" beer called Batch 19, brewed by Coors. (he was on a mission to try the BMC beers disguised as craft beers, so he could try them. Since he probably wouldn't ever order one. This was a decision he would later regret when sampling another Coors wannabe craft called "Third Shift" which was so terrible that it's possible it may have been a bad keg or infected jockey box line.)
|The lovely folks at the Grand Isle table|
We strolled over the the outside table setup by Grand Isle. I tried a shandy by a brewer called Curious Traveler. Ron Swodoba had mentioned that the guy who started Curious Traveler had originally founded Magic Hat back in the day, so I thought it was worth a try, even though I'm not much of a shandy fan. It was pretty good, if you're into that kind of thing. Then tried the Harvey Weinhard Amber (a label taken over by Miller) and it was all right, but waaaay too malty-sweet. I finished up there with a Laughing Skull Amber by Red Brick out of Atlanta which was a much better example of the style. Craft v. crafty, ladies and gents.
We hightailed it up to Tchoupitoulas to check out Barcadia. Barcadia had a couple decent beers to sample-I got an old favorite, Green Flash West Coast IPA to start, and then the Wittekerke, which was OK and one of the more unusual beers of the day (as in, I don't see it around very much.) I opted to pay an extra dollar to get a pour of Stone's Sublimely Self Righteous Ale, because that's consistently delicious. I ran into Jay, an Avenue Pub bartending alum, who mentioned that she and Al (another bartender I met originally at the Pub and is now in charge of Barcadia's beer program) are hoping to have some ACBW events this week. Apparently Al has been hanging onto some nice bottles, so that may be a fun activity on Tuesday. Stay tuned to my ACBW Event page for more updates and details.
|Barcadia's beer list|
After chatting with Jay and checking out the games that surround the main room of the bar, we walked down a couple blocks to the District. It was here that Tom had his terrible no-good Third Shift beer, but I had a lovely Sam Adams Summer and paid a dollar for a pour of Sierra Nevada Torpedo. Talked to some folks from the Gambit and from the industry about local craft beer and had a very nice time.
|Jockey box setup at the District|
We headed to Manning's where it appeared that only one person was available to pour for thirsty FestivALES attendees, but I got a NOLA Blonde (the only NOLA beer on the list all day!) and the Abita Lemon Wheat. The Lemon Wheat has had some controversy in reviews, so I had been wanting to try it for a while, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to do so. It was actually much better than I anticipated. I can see it being quite pleasant to drink during the sweltering Louisiana summer heat, and I imagine that was the main goal of the brewers. It sort of reminded me of the shandy I'd tried earlier, so it wasn't to my taste, but I can definitely see the appeal.
We headed back to Grand Isle to have something to eat, and I enjoyed a lovely refreshing cocktail called the Spa Collins, which was a nice tall glass of Hendrick's Gin with ginger, cucumber, soda water, and fresh lemon and lime juices. Man, that was good stuff.
My thoughts on the event: I thought it was a good first outing, but I would definitely love to see some changes. First of all, if it's going to be an American Craft Beer Week event, let's get rid of the Bud-Miller-Coors crafty beer. There are so many awesome craft beers on the market that would truly apply to all palates, that it's really not necessary to dumb it down with these imitators. I think it would be well worth it to have a higher ticket price to have more consistent and better quality beers. Maybe have each bar on the crawl showcase a local Louisiana beer and have a representative of the brewery present to talk about their beers to anyone who might be interested. The logistics were also a little clunky- the best service and experience by far was Grand Isle's, which had a table set up outside and had a friendly Grand Isle staff person paired up with a Gambit representative/volunteer. This way these bars won't be swarming with people who want tiny pours and probably won't be tipping. These kinds of customers do not make bartenders happy, and it shows.
All that said, I'm always happy to see more and more bars and other entities get into beer events. Thank you, Gambit, for the tickets and for the opportunity! It was a great time.
Aline Street Beer Garden (Prytania at Aline streets, 504-891-5774; https://www.facebook.com/AlineStreetBeerGarden)
4 p.m.-6 p.m. — Saint Arnold tasting of German style beers brewed in Texas. Tastings of Weedwacker (a Hefe) and Lawnmower (a traditional Kolsch) and free full pours of Santo (a black Kolsch) while supplies last. German-American food will be served and Saint Arnold will be giving away merchandise.
Avenue Pub (1732 St. Charles Ave., 504-506-9243; www.avenuepub.com)
noon: tapping a firkin of Bayou Teche's Bec Francais, a "French kissed" pale ale — triple dry hopped with three hops imported from France.
4 p.m. — Kick off Crawfish boil and tapping Bayou Teche's Cocodrie Belgian Tripel IPA.
Chimes of Covington (19130 W. Front St., Covington, 985-892-5396; www.thechimes.com)
7 p.m. — Covington Brewhouse flight including Pilsner, Bock, Strawberry, India Pale Lager, and Imperial Stout.
I will be trying to hit both the Avenue Pub Bayou Teche/crawfish event and Aline Beer Garden's St. Arnold event.
Until tomorrow... happy and safe drinking out there.