Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Brewery Update: Great Raft Brewing in Shreveport, LA

Another takeaway I had from the Beer Bloggers Conference is that Louisiana - with seven active craft breweries and two brewpubs - is woefully behind almost all the other states in terms of number of craft breweries.  With that in mind I shot an e-mail to co-founder Andrew Nations up at Great Raft Brewing to see how things were going for one of Louisiana's breweries in planning.  

Here's what Andrew had to say about the brewery progress: "We are in full build out mode. Our cooler will be installed tomorrow (now today) along with most of our trenching. We will pour new concrete next week and install our Big Ass Fan. Right now it’s all the boring but necessary stuff. Boiler, RO Water filter, chilled water piping, epoxy coating for floor etc."

About the next steps in getting up and running: "Next week Harvey is headed up to Upland to pick up a DE filter we bought from them. Soon after, we are all headed to Portland to sign off on the system before it ships. Between now and then we might have finished can designs to share..."

And of course I asked when they were hoping to be in production mode: "Our goal is to have draft beer to market by Halloween. That’s pretty aggressive but we are working like crazy to make it happen."

I have to agree that Halloween is aggressive, but their brewhouse is coming soon, and it sounds like the building will be ready for it. They have an experienced brewer and it's entirely possible they can make it happen. They are even working ahead on the can designs for label approval, so the team at Great Raft seems to have their ducks in a row.

One of the biggest points, that I didn't actually ask about, was that Great Raft is planning on canning their craft beer.  After losing a handful of bottles on the way back from the Conference, this makes me happy.  I'm becoming more and more of a fan of canned craft beer... I don't think there is a huge taste/flavor factor, but cans can go places that bottles can't, and they are lighter and safer for transporting.  Andrew outlined many of the reasons they decided to go for cans in a blog post in late 2012

Their Ermahgerd Hops Double IPA was one of my favorites from WYES, so I know that Great Raft has the potential for some awesome beers.  Cheers to Louisiana Craft Beer! Here's to 8 breweries (or maybe more...) by 2014!  


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Catching Up On Louisiana Beer News - NOLA - New Belgium - SweetWater - Ballast Point

Readers, I've been away at the 2013 Beer Bloggers Conference learning how to be a better beer blogger.  And drinking, doing a lot of drinking.  It turns out the Beer Bloggers Conference is almost as much about the drinking and meeting new people as it is about learning how to be a better bloggers.  Almost.  

While I've been gone, here are some of the goings-on in the Louisiana craft beer world.  One of the things I learned over the weekend is that regurgitation of information isn't the key to a good blog... putting out original content is.  I'm going to ignore that advice this once and throw out some links to the LA bloggers that couldn't make the conference.  Then I'll get back to that advice and tell you what I think!

NOLA Brewing is teaming up with New Belgium from Fort Collins, CO for a special Louisiana Craft Beer Brewer Week release!  As reported by The Beer Buddha, the beer will be a Belgian-style single (or Abbey Ale) brewed with local Muscadine grapes, and named Swamp Grape Escape.  The name throws me off, because I keep wanting there to be an "ape" in there by itself, but there isn't.  No Swamp Ape, no Grape Ape... it's making my head hurt!  The beer though, I'm excited for, as New Belgium makes some great Belgian-style (duh) ales and I love the use of a local ingredient. And I'm really thrilled to see another big brewery come into Louisiana for a collaboration with the local guys. Not too long ago it was Stone coming down and brewing with NOLA, now New Belgium. Having these collaborations can only be a good thing for the local beer scene.

SweetWater Brewing out of Atlanta, GA is coming... I wrote about them being on their way back in April, but the official release date has been announced as August 19th!  I imagine that they will start at Avenue Pub, but Mockler Beverage in Baton Rouge has their local distribution rights and they have announced that the SweetWater team will be in town on August 21st to promote the new beers.  So worst case we're looking at August 21st in Baton Rouge.  They will most likely be starting with the core styles similar to New Belgium's market entry, with beers like the 420 Extra Pale Ale, SweetWater Blue, and their flagship IPA.  Honestly of all these, the Blue interests me the most because it would instantly be the best blueberry beer available in Louisiana.  There is a lot of competition for best pale ale or best IPA, but SweetWater would have blueberry on lock down. Hopefully more styles will follow!

Brenton over at TheAleRunner reported that Ballast Point Brewing out of San Diego, CA is planning on making an early 2014 entrance into the Louisiana market.  He even went so far as to confirm this with their VP of Sales/Marketing!  One of the other big points at the conference was to confirm with your sources and not just post rumors, looks like Brenton didn't need the conference to know that.  As he said, the popular and highly rated Sculpin IPA will probably be the biggest score, and we'll just have to see which other Ballast Point beers make it our way.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Feature Beer Friday! - Good People IPA

Picture from DingsBeerBlog
We have a new brewery to feature this week, Good People Brewing from Birmingham, Alabama.  My favorite beer of theirs has usually been the Snake Handler DIPA, but this time Dustin brought us a can of their regular IPA.  It uses primarily Willamette and Cascade hops, with a solid bitterness of 68 IBU and 7.7% abv.  Usually the line between an IPA and a Double IPA is around 7.5%, but with Snake Handler on tap this is definitely the smaller of the two from an abv standpoint. 

Here's what they have to say: "Crisp and refreshing, the IPA packs an aromatic and flavorful punch reminiscent of the pine and floral bouquets of the original British-style.  But we’ve added a little American flair with some West Coast hops, infusing citrus intimations to cut the British aggression.  It finishes nice and dry with just enough bready backbone balance it out. 

Great for grilling out or any occasion where you are proud to be an American."  

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Dustin Davis, And Mandi Kaelberer.

Serving: 12 oz. can.

Appearance: Caramel color, nice head.

Aroma: Caramel malts, spice and fruit aroma.  Dustin said, "sweet maltiness meets citrus hoppiness."   

Taste: Really nice, I picked up plenty of citrus notes as well as a little piney hop flavor.   

Mouthfeel: A little more lingering bitterness than I like, but not bad. 

Overall: A really good IPA overall, nice hop notes, well balanced without being too malty, and easy to drink despite being on the extreme strong end for a single IPA. 
Mandi especially enjoyed this one, giving it a robust score of 88, while Dustin and I weren't far behind, both scoring it higher than an 80.

Overall Rating: 83.33
My Rating: 81

Thursday, July 18, 2013

One Week Until The Beer Bloggers' Conference!

I'm starting to get excited, the 2013 North American Beer Bloggers' Conference starts one week from today!  Yeah, that's an unfortunate acronym.  It's going to be a pain to type out "Beer Bloggers' Conference" the whole time, but do I dare just call it the BBC? 

Looks like we have some really fun things on tap for the Portland, Maine pre-conference excursion.  A beer & cheese pairing at Cabot Cheese with Geary's beer, a beer dinner at Sebago Brewing Company, and then a party at a place called The Thirsty Pig.  Now, I write about beer, so one thing that might not be as readily apparent is that I fucking love cheese.  Everything about it.  Starting off the trip with a beer & cheese pairing?  I'm pumped.  I've honestly never even heard of Geary's or Sebago, so I get cheese, new breweries, and then a party at what looks to be a pretty awesome beer bar?  Fuck. Yes.

After that we're going to hit up the Portsmouth Brewery / Brewpub in New Hampshire for a beer lunch on our way to Boston.  I've never been to Maine or New Hampshire, so that's two states crossed off my travel list, and even more breweries. 

From there it's Boston, where trips to the Boston Beer Company, Heavy Seas, and Harpoon Brewing await.  I've had beers from all of these breweries before but I've never been there in person... it should be awesome!  Plus all sorts of good seminars on how I can be a better beer blogger... hopefully a few of the tips stick with me this time rather than getting washed away in a sea of beer.  

And probably the best event of the weekend will be the beer social on Saturday night.  A beer social with a lot of beer bloggers?  Yeah, it's basically a massive bottle share featuring an entire county's worth of great brews.  Awesome, is what it is. Last year I tried some of the best beers I can remember... a Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow, an Alchemist Heady Topper, a Bruery Black Tuesday, and even a Westvleteren 12.  Really the only question is what beer do we bring?  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Feature Beer Friday! - New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA

Picture taken from
And finally, after appearing in the Louisiana market in early April, it's our first Feature Beer Friday! to feature New Belgium Brewing.  Most people think about Fat Tire when they think New Belgium, but they are about far more than just their signature amber ale. They have put several other year-round releases into the local market, as well as seasonals and several of the Lips Of Faith series.  The Rampant Imperial IPA is one of their year-round offerings, and probably the "biggest" of the year-round beers.

Their take on the 85 IBU, 8.5% abv beer: "A burly and bitter Imperial IPA, Rampant pours a pure copper and carries the sheen of a rightly hopped beer. The Mosaic and Calypso hops bring stonefruit to the front seat, and the addition of Centennials nod towards citrus for a well-rounded aroma. The taste expands these hops with heavy peach tones and a profoundly bitter bite. There is some malt sweetness to stand this beer up, and Rampant's finish is bone-dry."  

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Brenton Day (, and Dustin Davis.

Serving: 12 oz. brown bottle.

Appearance: Deep gold to amber color, thin white head.

Aroma: I just wrote "hoppy and delicious." Brenton thought it was "citrusy, a touch of cat piss." Dustin thought it was piney more than citrusy.   

Taste: I was let down by the taste... the nice hoppiness on the nose turned into a more harsh bitterness on the tongue without a strong malt backbone to support it.  Dustin agreed, writing, "not as flavorful as I hoped.  Just bitterness." 

Mouthfeel: Too harsh on the bitterness for me.  I like hoppy beers but this one was too out of balance even for me. 

Overall: I want to give this one a chance to redeem itself, but this tasting wasn't impressive at all.  We all agreed that it was a little TOO far on the bitter side, and enough so that we didn't want to drink any more of the Rampant.  I feel like it's deserving of another shot though, as taste buds change and sometimes get really distorted when we're sitting down reviewing multiple brews. 

Overall Rating: 63.67
My Rating: 59

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Parish Vanilla And Orange Canebrake Cask - Tomorrow Night At Pelican House

Alright, that's a long title, but it pretty much sums it up.  Parish Brewing will have a cask of Canebrake with vanilla and orange tomorrow night at Pelican House.  It's going to be tapped at 6 and once it's gone, it's gone.  

Pelican House will be pairing it with a blood orange, white gulf fish, and crab ceviche and sweet potato chips.  Sounds pretty tasty to me!  

Check it out if you can, but be sure to get there early!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Santa Fe Brewing Coming To Louisiana!

It looks like Santa Fe Brewing is making their way to Louisiana.  As noted by BeerPulse and brought to my attention by David Komendanchik, they had this to say:

Right now I’m finalizing a distribution contract in Louisiana so, at this point, I think we’ll stick with the nine states until we build a new facility with more capacity. “After that, I would hope that in the next 15 to 20 years we can be at 200 to 250 thousand barrels – that would be a nice place to be in size and scope. But 25 years out is kind of hard to project.”
Santa Fe Brewing is probably best known for their Imperial Java Stout, Happy Camper IPA, and Chicken Killer Barley Wine.   I want to say I've had the first two, but I know I've had the Chicken Killer Barley Wine recently, along with the bourbon barrel aged version.  They would be a couple of good additions to the local scene, and I'm sure the rest of the lineup would be as well.

All in all, a win for the local beer scene.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Feature Beer Friday! - Green Flash Grand Cru

Picture from my old review!
And we're back with the second Green Flash brew to make an appearance on Feature Beer Friday!  We reviewed the West Coast IPA not too long ago to generally high marks, and this time it's the Grand Cru, their take on a Belgian Dark Strong Ale... basically the same style as a Belgian Quad. I've actually reviewed this one once before, an earlier version well over 2 years ago... it'll be interesting to see how my thoughts then compare to my thoughts this time around. 

Their take on the beer: "Our Belgian-style Dark Ale is inspired by traditional Abbey Ales to deliver the richest malt flavors. Dual-yeast fermentation and spicy hops provide increased complexity and depth of flavor to satiate your palate and keep your taste buds dancing."  That sounds good to me!  Belgian strong ales have long been some of my favorite beers, so I'm excited to try this one for sure. 

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Dustin Davis, and Mandi Kaelberer.

Serving: 12 oz. brown bottle.

Appearance: Dark red bordering on brown with an off-white head.

Aroma: Fruity, rich, a little spice to it.  Dustin thought it smelled strong, and it clocks in at 9.1%, so he's not wrong at all. 

Taste: It has a really nice malt/fruit combination on the palate, but also some spicy hop notes.  

Mouthfeel: Good carbonation, a little bitter, nice body.

Overall: I really enjoyed this one, a nice slightly hoppy take on a Belgian style.  Very well done, I think I like it more now than I did two years ago.

Overall Rating: 83
My Rating: 86