Friday, June 29, 2012

Beer Travels: Hopjacks - Pensacola, FL

Alright, long overdue it's a return to Pensacola, with a post all about the awesome beer bar that is Hopjacks.  Well, it's actually a small chain with a couple of locations in Pensacola and another in Mobile, AL but Jay and I, after a nice visit to the Pensacola Bay Brewery, made the short walk up Pensacola's main drag to Hopjacks.  Hopjacks was recommended to us as the best place in town to grab a craft beer, but it also was a pretty large restaurant specializing in pizza!  We weren't in the mood for a full meal though, so we bellied up to the bar and started with the beer.

The first thing I noticed as we sat down was the impressive wall of taps at the end of the bar.  112 taps is what they claim, and with them all squeezed together on the wall of the walk-in cooler it was pretty impressive.  

Now that's a lot of taps!  I liked how they grouped them together by brewery for the most part, and there were even more to the left of the picture.  The first one that caught my eye was a Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA on tap.  Whoa, on tap?  I had tried it once before in the bottle and reviewed it since also from the bottle but this was my first time having it on tap.  From there I moved on to a Southern Tier Back Burner Barleywine.  I wish Southern Tier would find their way down to Louisiana, but despite the name they are actually from New York.  After that I stuck with New York and ordered a Hoptical Illusion from Blue Point Brewing.  Not a bad IPA at all!  We also tried the Belgian Fries (fried in duck fat, yum!) and some of the Creamy Brie, Bacon & Artichoke Dip.  We weren't really hungry but sometime you need a little food with the beers and these both hit the spot.
The Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA!
The next night the whole crew decided they wanted to go out downtown and catch Trombone Shorty who was conveniently playing a show next door to Hopjacks.  So, go back again?  Hell yeah we did.  This time I grabbed a Toxic Sludge Black IPA from Blue Point and an Unearthly IPA from Southern Tier.  Two more New York beers?  I guess so, but we can't get them in Louisiana and both impressed.  We also split up some pizzas, and I can definitely say I'd eat there again if I'm ever back in Pensacola.  They were a little on the pricey side, but big and tasty.

All in all, a really nice place with good food and a fantastic beer selection.  If you're a craft beer fan visiting Pensacola, this should be the first (and maybe second and third) stop you make.  

Hopjacks on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Westvleteren XII US Release - Now September.


Unless you can were up at The Festival in Massachusetts last weekend, it looks like September will be the earliest that Westvleteren will be commercially available in the USA.  This release was originally scheduled for April... then June... now September.  Ouch.  The good news is that when it does get here, I can promise it's worth the hype.  Or at least really close to it.

Plus, the importer that was originally going to handle the product coming to Louisiana lost out on their deal.  Shelton Brothers is the sole importer now, and although it's not certain they will probably be helping bring some of the product to Louisiana and eventually to Baton Rouge.  We might not see much, but I bet we'll see some.

Well... someday we might.  September maybe?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Oh goodie, it's time for another beer review, although one that we unfortunately can't get in Louisiana.  I've tried the 120 Minute a couple of times now, first at a little dive bar in San Antonio and again on tap at Hopjacks in Pensacola.  Wait... I need to write a Hopjacks post... mental note.  Well not long ago I found myself in Delaware and needless to say some Dogfish Head (Facebook - Twitter) was on the menu, and the 120 Minute was out and available.  Jay and I picked up plenty, tried one while we were there and the rest made it back to BR for Mandi, beer nerd friends, and a few for myself!

Well... after letting the inebriation from the Delaware trip pass (more on that in a later post...) I decided that Mandi and I needed to break out one of the 120 Minute IPAs and give it a proper review. 

I poured into a couple of smaller snifter-style glasses, and noticed immediately that there was very little head on this beer.  I wonder if that's a factor of the insane amount of hops that go into this beer?  Not that it's a big deal at all, the smaller head is going to take away absolutely nothing from my enjoyment of the rest of this brew.  

The first thing on the nose is booze.  This is one hell of a boozy beer, but also rich with hops and an underlying malt base that can't be ignored.  To get 18% alcohol in a beer and still have it appear hoppy is amazing without using adjuncts to increase the alcohol content.  

The taste is more of the same... alcohol, malt, and hops all blend together pretty well all things considered.  It's hard to really look at this as an IPA with such a strong abv and so much malt, but it sure is delicious either way.  It's one all craft beer drinkers should try at some point in order to cross it off their bucket list.  
Mandi and I both enjoyed this one and I have a few more age... hey, it even says on the bottle that it ages well and the bottle never lies, right?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Green Flash is in Louisiana!

Hey everyone!

A while back I mentioned that Green Flash Brewing was expected to make its Louisiana debut at the WYES International Beer Tasting... well that didn't end up happening (silly rumors) but the time has finally arrived. 

The official roll-out will begin tonight, June 19th at no place other than Avenue Pub in New Orleans.  I know it's a bit of a tough call for Baton Rouge people to make a weeknight trip to the Big Easy for some beer, but they will be breaking out the West Coast IPA and Hop Head Red to start.  Tomorrow night will be even more Green Flash beers making their debut and then Thursday night will feature even more, including their Imperial IPA, Barleywine, and Belgian Tripel. Tempting, I know.  Hey, I might end up there on Thursday night yet!
For those who find the North Shore a little easier to get to, the Barley Oak in Mandeville will be having their Green Flash roll out this Thursday, the 21st.  I don't think they will have the full range of beers that Avenue Pub will feature but they will have some of the standards.  

And for those who can't make it to New Orleans or Mandeville, Cuban Liquor in Baton Rouge will be hosting a Green Flash tasting this Friday, June 22nd from 5-7 PM.  You can expect to see me make an appearance and try out a few of these brews for sure.  It won't be long until they are in bottles around town, and hopefully even on tap at a few places.  Green Flash is a fantastic addition to the local beer scene, and hopefully more craft brewers will follow their lead and open up to the idea of distributing in Louisiana!

Monday, June 18, 2012

WYES International Beer Tasting Recap

Alright, time to get into the nuts and bolts of the 29th Annual WYES International Beer Tasting!  Unlike the Private Beer Sampling the night before, I had a little commitment to this one as I was on site with the Brasseurs A La Maison and even serving up one of my own beers, another batch of Praline Dubbel.  We arrived a little after noon and got the canoe set up before heading to Avenue Pub for lunch and some pre-drinks.  Polly was even nice enough to loan us a few tap handles to fill out the entire canoe!  Thanks again!

Then it was back to the New Orleans Lakefront Area for the beer tasting!  We got back a little early and with the fancy wristbands for media/vendors I got a chance to try some of the local beers before the crowds hit up.  In addition to several "breweries in planning" around Louisiana there were homebrew clubs from all over the gulf south.  Awesome!  Once the crowds came in it was harder to check out all the brews, but here were some of the highlights!

Gnarly Barley Brewing: All four of their beers were quite tasty, so now I'm really looking forward to an expected Fall 2012 commercial release!
Chafunkta Brewing: Good beers, just like at the Zapp's Beerfest, and now that they are brewing on Parish Brewing's old system it's just a matter of time before this nanobrewery hits some taps around the Northshore.
Pensacola Bay Brewery: Hey, I was just there!  In fact, the same bartender from my trip to the brewery was serving up two of the ones that I liked the most, the IPA and Porter.  
40 Arpent Lafitte's Blacksmith Stout: Another brewery in planning, this one from Chalmette, had a mighty fine stout for everyone to try.
Parish Canebrake: When I see some, I drink some.  Every time.
Brasseurs A La Maison: Self-serving?  Yes, absolutely, but every time I try my fellow club members' beers I'm impressed and realize how much better of a homebrewer I can be myself.
Bicycle Brew Club: The newest homebrew club in Baton Rouge, they didn't have a lot of beer but they had some good ones and I was able to try most of them.
Hoppy Homebrewers of South Mississippi: They had some tasty beers and a really cool custom PVC rig to pour them all.  Picture below somewhere!
L.A. Lagers Homebrew Club: This club from Mobile, AL had a few really good beers, including a Bitches' Brew brewed by all the women of the club.

Disappointments: (Few and far between...)
40 Arpent Creole Red Beans & Rice Ale: This one missed the mark for me, but I'm not much of a red beans & rice fan to begin with.
Bud Light Lime A Rita: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, I'd drink a gallon of the Red Beans & Rice Ale before I'd touch this one.
Miller 64: Shit, now that jingle is stuck in my head.
I didn't have much intention of tasting any of the non-local commercial brews, but that doesn't mean there weren't some good ones.  I'd have given the Magic Hat Elder Betty a try if I had seen it around.
Too many homebrews, not enough time.  I didn't get back to the Crescent City Homebrewers for a second straight night, and also missed out on the Escambia Bay Homebrewers
Brewstock was back with some different beers than the previous night, and I missed out on them all. 
I also missed out on a second round with the Mystic Krewe of Brew, dammit!

All in all it was a great time... there is so much beer to go around that anyone could find themselves immersed for three hours and never trying the same beer twice.  I'm already looking forward to brewing a few beers for next year and trying as many as I can!  And of course, here are some more pictures from the day:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Celebrate Father's Day With Zea and Beer!

Uh oh... Father's Day is coming soon, did it sneak up on you too?  Father's Day is almost always a struggle for me, because I never know what to get my Dad.  He has all the tools he could possibly need, and his go-to beer is Bud Light.  In fact I'm not sure I've ever seen him drink a beer that wasn't Bud Light?  If your Dad likes new beers though, then Zea's might be just the ticket, as they are once again running their Father's Day FREE BEER! special.  All you need to do is head in on Sunday, order two entrees, and every father should receive their own 4-pack of Zea's own beers.  

They have four of their own brews, the Clearview Gold Lager, Zea Amber Lager, Category 5 Pale Ale, and the Pontchartrain Porter!  For more detailed info about the beers, I reviewed all of them for Father's Day 2011.  It's a good deal, and could be a good way to try some new beers.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

WYES Private Beer Sampling Recap

Alright, after a few weeks of hype and impatience, the long awaited WYES Private Beer Sampling was finally upon us.  Mandi and I took off a bit early to grab a bite to eat at Avenue Pub, because no beer trip to New Orleans is ever complete without a trip to the pub, right?  They had Canebrake on tap so I had that and after a few other beers and some sandwiches it was off to the fairgrounds for the beer sampling.  I had read up a bit on some of the breweries that would be there and was excited for some of the Tin Roof Porter, Abita's barrel aged beers, and trying several of the homebrews from the New Orleans clubs.  Honestly there were so many local options that I didn't even need to get into all the various other beers.

The highlights:
Parish Canebrake through the hop Randall: delicious and obviously extra hoppy.
Tin Roof Coffee Porter:  The rumor mill says this could be the next seasonal and if this recipe works large scale then it'll be their best beer yet.
Abita Bourbon-Barrel Aged Doubledog: Aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, this is a strong improvement on the mediocre regular Doubledog.
Lazy Magnolia Southern Hops'pitality IPA: Good IPA that we should see more of.
Saint Arnold Endeavour DIPA: Fantastic double IPA, should be available locally.
Mudbug Brewery Cajun Stout: A low-abv stout with some cayenne, pretty good.
Mudbug Brewery King Cake Lager: This one had me worried but was actually quite delicious, really surprised me!
Brewstock Imperial Hazelnut Brown and Black IPA: Two brews from the local New Orleans homebrew store, both were fantastic.
Crescent City Homebrewers Strong Scotch Ale: A very good homebrew, in my opinion.
Mystic Krewe Of Brew: I tried most of their selections and really enjoyed the Rosemary Pale Ale, Hot Chocolate Porter, and the Imperial Vanilla Milk Stout. 

Yeah, there were a few disappointments... it happens when you try so much beer.
Abita 18th Star Biere de Garde: Mediocre beer, which is a shame because usually their selects are pretty solid.
Bayou Teche Cafe' Brulot Biere Joi: Sorry guys, this just didn't work for me.
Tin Roof Zythos Hop Project: I think even they were let down by this one. 
Nothing really new from NOLA Brewing... they had a cask Hurricane Saison but I was hoping for something a little more from them at their local festival.
Rogue Voodoo Maple Bacon Ale: I had been wanting to try it but not wanting to buy a full bottle.  After tasting it I'm glad I didn't spend the money.

Not drinking more from Crescent City Homebrewers, they had 5 or 6 beers and I only tried one... oops! 
Totally missing out on Cajun Fire Brewing, a "brewery in planning" in New Orleans.
I missed the New Orleans Rum Barrel Aged Abbey Ale from Abita... would have liked to give it a try.

That's the summary, and as you can see there were a lot more highlights than disappointments.  I didn't even get to some of the really good craft beers there like the Stone RIS, Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, or Schmaltz Human Blockhead.  There were just too many locals and homebrews to try everything as it was.  At the end Mandi and I were both thorougly satisfied with some great beers and a few we might never get to try again. And because I know pictures make every blog post better, here are some of the best ones:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Parish Brewing Update

Not too long ago I had the chance to swing by Parish Brewing Company (Facebook - Twitter) in Broussard, LA to check out all the progress founder and brewmaster Andrew Godley has made on his new brewery.  I had swung by a few times in recent months to see the new digs but this was the first trip with the equipment installed and beer flowing.  Here's a shot of the new place, empty and waiting to be made into a fully operational brewery:

As you can see there are just a few pieces of equipment hanging out... a keg washer, bottling line, a grain mill, and the lines for the heating and cooling system along the wall.  On the last visit, this is what had taken over:

Well would you look at that!  A 30-barrel brewhouse, hot and cold water tanks, and three 60-barrel fermenters!  Parish Brewing was operating on a 1.5 barrel brew system before this, so it's one hell of an upgrade.  Andrew figured in the first batch of this system he'd brew almost more beer than in a year on the old one.  Currently only Canebrake is being produced but once the demand for that one is more consistent the plan was to move on to the South Coast Amber and Envie American Pale Ale.  Bottling was slated to begin shortly as well once the brewery got a handle on the demand for the draft supply.  In fact, bottling was almost ready to begin, with stacks of labels, 6-pack holders, and cases at the ready:
And I know the question everyone wants to ask... when will we be seeing some of this magical Canebrake in Baton Rouge?  The answer is soon, the word is that once the demand for the current markets levels off and the brewery can plan their allocation for Baton Rouge, we'll be seeing some.  I'm pretty sure Mockler has the account so getting a few tap handles in town shouldn't be a problem once they are ready.  In fact, some of the kegs stacked in the walk-in cooler were already planned to be sent to the BR bars!  And if that looks like a lot of kegs, well keep in mind that 60 barrels of fermenting space takes 360 1/6 barrel kegs!  (Yeah, I know it won't be 100% efficient, but it makes the math easier.)

I can't wait to see it on the taps next to some other local favorites... then see it on the shelves in the store in 6-packs (and possibly bombers?) shortly after.  And I know it won't be too long before the other flagship ales are available and I know there are a few seasonal and specialty beers already in the works.  So all I can say is that even Abbey Ale is pretty excited about more Parish Brewing beers.


Friday, June 1, 2012

WYES International Beer Tasting - Tomorrow!

Tomorrow might be tonight by the time you read this, but the WYES International Beer Tasting will be June 2nd, at 6 PM at the New Orleans Lakefront Arena.  All of Louisiana's breweries plus several others from around the region will be represented, in addition to the homebrew clubs!  

WYES is a not-for-profit event, like the Zapp's Beerfest in Baton Rouge, so they are allowed to serve beers from area homebrewers as well and in-progress breweries like Chafunkta Brewing, Gnarly Barley Brewing, and the most recent addition, 40 Arpent Brewing.  I'm excited about trying all of those, in addition to serving up another couple of batched of my own homebrew with the Brasseurs A La Maison, Baton Rouge's largest homebrew club.  Hope to see you there!