Friday, August 30, 2013

Feature Beer Friday! - Sixpoint Apollo

And we're back for some more Feature Beer Friday! action!  Up this week is one that's unfortuantely not available in Louisiana yet, but they were somewhat recent entrants into the TX market, so your road trips to Houston or to Dallas to watch LSU destroy TCU could land you plenty of Sixpoint beer.  They are from New York City, but they package all of their beers in cans, convenient for gameday, although plenty of their beers are a little on the strong side for a day of tailgating.  

Apollo is their summer seasonal, a perfect tailgating beer for the hot months at only 5.2% abv.  Their take: "The unmistakable flavor of a Bavarian Wheat, but with a clear golden brilliance and a Sixpoint twist. An entirely unique canned offering for the sun-worshipping ale lovers." Sounds good to me... let's review:

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Jay Ducote (Bite And Booze), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Kevin Cowan.

Serving: 16 oz. can.

Appearance: A clear deep gold, bordering on orange.

Green apples, yeasty funk, very enjoyable. Chuck found it to be sour smelling and Brenton noted that it had some bubblegum and banana aromas.   

Taste: Very tart, both Jay and Brenton mentioned that it had a jolly rancher flavor to it.  I found it to be very easy drinking despite the tart flavors, and it was definitely on the sour side.  

I thought it had a really good lingering apple flavor.

Overall: No one disliked this one, but a few of us (myself included) really enjoyed it. I stand by my assertion that this would make a fantastic tailgating canned beer.

Overall Rating: 65.2
My Rating:76

Friday, August 23, 2013

Feature Beer Friday! - SweetWater IPA

Alright folks... by now this one should be out in store around town... if it's not then it will be
any day now.  SweetWater is the latest brewery to make it onto the Louisiana craft beer scene, and last week we reviewed the SweetWater Blue.  Since then I had the opportunity to serve some beer at the Ultimate Tailgate benefit party in Covington.  The beer cart that Mandi and I were working was loaded with a lot of BMC, but also a good bit of the highly anticipate SweetWater beers.  I'm happy to say that the SweetWater was moving just as fast as any of the BMC products! 

This week, we have the SweetWater IPA, their take on a standard American IPA style. Here's what they have to say, "This mammouth India Pale Ale is loaded with intense hop character and subjected to an extensive dry-hopping process. Our IPA is unfiltered and as always, not pasteurized, leaving all the natural flavors intact.

The Beer You’ve Been Training For."

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Jay Ducote (Bite And Booze), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Kevin Cowan.

Serving: 12 oz. bottle.

Appearance: On the border between gold and amber, with a little haze.

Hoppy, but I found it to be a little mild.  Jay picked up some piney notes and Brenton also noted that it had some grapefruit aroma.   

Taste: Brenton described it as, "citrus & hop flavor with little bitterness." I think he means that as a good thing, and I definitely thought the flavor was better than the aroma.  

Easy drinking, a lot of hop flavor but not off-puttingly bitter.

Overall: We had a lot of variation in the scores on this one... as low as a 38 and as high as an 85.  I had it in the middle, and I think it's really a middle of the road IPA.  Brenton loved it, saying that it's "so drinkable for the amount of hop aroma and flavor." I'd certainly try some more.

Overall Rating: 61.6
My Rating: 56

Friday, August 16, 2013

Feature Beer Friday! - SweetWater Blue

 Alright, are you ready for some SweetWater?  They will be coming to Louisiana next week, and Brenton over at The Ale Runner had a few bottles sent to him in advance.  Well, that's perfect to include in a Feature Beer Friday!  I try to stay local and available and current, but sometimes it's just too hard to pass up the opportunity to review a Pliny The Elder or Great Divide Yeti, etc.  This time though, it's about as relevant as I can get... a beer that will be in our market within a week! 

SweetWater Blue is one of their 5 flagship year-round brews, and one of the three that should be coming to LA in the initial release.  It's only 4.9%, so this one isn't a big beer, but it's not trying to be.  Here's what they have to say about it: "Always the funky favorite at any outdoor beer festival, SweetWater Blue is a unique light-bodied ale with a hint of fresh blueberries. It begins with an appealing blueberry aroma and finishes as a surprisingly thirst-quenching ale."

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Jay Ducote (Bite And Booze), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Kevin Cowan.

Serving: 12 oz. bottle.

Appearance: Golden, with a little haze.

A blueberry dominant aroma, Jay likened it to "bubble gum, berries, and blueberry muffin." Brenton just said it was refreshing.   

Taste: Strong blueberry flavor again, and Brenton again wrote "refreshing."   

Light and thin... but that's what they were going for, they even say it's light-bodied on their website.

Overall: Nothing special, but that's not what this beer is about.  I think it's excellent for what it tries to be, but it's hard to stack that up against some of the great beers we've reviewed for the segment.  Bottom line, if you want to try a blueberry beer, go get some of this.  If fruit beers aren't your thing, this one isn't going to change your mind.

Overall Rating: 58.4
My Rating: 58

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beer Bloggers Conference 2013 - The Awards Show! (Part 2)

Okay... time for the second installment of the Beer Bloggers Conference 2013 Awards Show!  We left off in the first installment as we arrived in Boston for the official start of the conference.  Traffic sucked, we were late, and the trade show had already begun when we arrived.  That brings us to the first award of part 2...

Best Check-In Decision Of BBC13: Myself! When a busload of people arrive simultaneously, the lines can get rather long to get checked in... so I headed straight for the desk and left Jay and Dustin to grab my bad.  Mission accomplished, we were checked in, up to the room to drop off bags and back down to the trade show in no time. 

Best Beer From The Trade Show: Sierra Nevada Hoptimum! This isn't anything new, but we STILL don't have it on the shelves here in Baton Rouge, so it was good to try some of the 2013 version finally.  Other good options included the Ovila Saison from Sierra Nevada, the 80-Acre Wheat from Boulevard, the Robust Porter from Smuttynose, and a Woodchuck Farmhouse Cider.  There were several other beers, but I had left my phone in the room to charge and didn't get a good record... it happens.  Keeping a phone charged is a real challenge at this conference.

Most Interesting News From The Trade Show: Woodchuck! I was talking to the guys from Woodchuck (yeah, it's a cider, and yeah this is a beer bloggers conference... but whatever, I like cider.) and they have plans to do some dry-hopped ciders in the near future.  I know Woodchuck isn't "craft" since they are owned by C&C Group out of Ireland, and I don't really care for their typical ciders, but the thought of a dry-hopped cider certainly has me intrigued.

Most Ghetto Location For A World Famous Brewery: Boston Beer Company! Okay, so maybe the neighborhood wasn't really as bad as it seemed, and their full production brewery is elsewhere, but the original Samuel Adams facility is in one sketchy location.  Founder Jim Koch even alluded to this in his keynote speech, apparently they would give the local riff raff beer to act as a sort of security.  Plus I bet the rent was cheap... really fairly ingenious when you think about it.

Best Intro Speech: Julie Herz! Julia (with was back to officially open up the conference. She's a great speaker, and she knows the industry better than just about anyone. And she really respects the bloggers' role in the industry... gotta love that.

Best Reason To Give People Free Beer: Jim Koch! It turns out he doesn't like speaking to a sober audience, so there was a can of Boston Lager on everyone's chair.  Joke's on him though, we had already been drinking for hours!  Which in no way stopped everyone from enjoying a Boston Lager.

Coolest Moment Of The Conference: Utopias with Jim Koch! After the keynote speech there was food and a lot more beer... and in smaller groups we were able to go into the barrel aging room and try some of the 2012 Utopias with Boston Beer Company founder Jim Koch.  The beer was amazing, far better than I expected and a lot more smooth than I would have ever guessed.  It was rich, boozy but not overpowering, and extremely complex.  Really the only thing bad about it was the two douchebags in the corner who felt like their personal conversation was more important than the rest of us listening to Jim.  I won't name names, but if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, don't be that douchebag, and show some respect to everyone around you.  That said, it was still a pretty awesome moment.

Best Cheese - Day 2 Edition: Boston Beer Company! Seriously, we had cheese with every meal I think.  It should have been called the Beer & Cheese Conference.  

Best Sam Adams Beer Not Named Utopias: Sam Adams American Kriek!  I love a good sour and this one was really well done.  I wish I could find it locally, but so far I've struck out.

Most Beer Bloggers Crammed Into Too Small Of A Space: Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale! This place seemed really cool, had great decor, had a great vibe, and they had an array of Heavy Seas Beer on tap, but it just wasn't close to a big enough space for everyone at the conference.  If I'm ever back in Boston I'll do my best to make a return trip here for some pints and grub, but this time, we made a pretty quick exit after a few beers to make our way back to the hotel and call it a night.  It had been a long day!

Best Reason To Drink Before Noon: Because you can! Seriously, once the sessions started there was beer everywhere... people were passing bottles around the room, leaving them at the front table for whomever wanted a pour, etc.  The beer was flowing, it was 9:30 AM, and life was good.  

Most Entertaining Speaker At The Conference: Franck Evers! He's the "Global Draught Master" from Heineken, and he came to a beer bloggers conference.  Yeah, we thought that was a little weird, he thought it was a little weird, but he still is a really entertaining guy.  Just don't call him German, he doesn't appreciate that. And be sure to skim the head off of your beer, that's where hangovers come from.

Most Likely To Speak Fluent Russian, In French: Troika Brodsky

Best Beer At The Beer Pairing Lunch: Allagash Black! This one was paired extremely well with a Boston creme pie dessert.  The entire beer pairing lunch was excellent, thanks to the National Beer Wholesalers Association for putting it on!  

Best Beer At The Live Blogging Session: Night Shift Ever Weisse!  Wow, this is what a sour should taste like.  I had never heard of Night Shift Brewing before the conference, they are a small nanobrewery out of Everett, MA putting out some really awesome beers.  They have traditional styles, but also a sour series and even a barrel aging program.  It's really amazing what a little brewery can do in an area that's thirsty for great craft beer.

Honorable Mentions At The Live Blogging Session: Idle Hands Pandora, Thomas Hooker Old Marley Barleywine, and Rising Tide Daymark.  All of the breweries had some impressive beers with them, but these stood out the most.  

Best Red Carpet Rollout: Harpoon Brewery!  They really treated us right... a special Imperial White IPA created just for us, a tour held by one of the founders, and then a beer dinner in a private section of the massive tasting room.  They had all their taps opened up, and just kept bringing us more food.  And more food.  And then some more food.  Seriously, it was an insane amount of grub, plus all the beer we could drink.  I even snagged a nice Harpoon glass, but it broke on the trip home.  :-(

Best Cheese - Day 3 Edition: Harpoon Brewery! Seriously, it should have been called the beer & cheese conference.  

Best Beer Of The Beer Social: Goose Island Rare Bourbon County Stout! It was really a treat to learn that they were going to break this one out for us, and it did not disappoint.  Fantastic beer, excellent whiskey notes, and still among the best bourbon barrel stouts in existence.

Louisiana Breweries Represented At The Beer Social After-Party: Parish Brewing and Tin Roof Brewing! Thanks again for the guys at Parish and Tin Roof for donating some beer to bring and share.  All were a huge hit, especially the Parish Grand Reserve Barleywine.  It was highly anticipated and received rave reviews from the bloggers lucky enough to try some.  

Best Beer At The Beer Social After-Party: See, what had happened was, I had been drinking! I can't say for sure, I had been drinking all day and there was a lot of beer flowing. Untappd is telling me that I drank beers such as the Allagash Coolship Balaton, Wigglesworth Lord Falconer, Allagash FV13, Riverwalk Gnomad, Epic Ales Barrel Aged Huckleberry Sour, Rising Tide Polaris, Backlash Declaration, and Anchorage Arctic Saison, plus many more than didn't make it to Untappd.  It was an epic night for sure, plus I checked in to some Parish Grand Reserve... you think I would bring it all the way to Boston and not drink a little?  Ha!

Most Amazing Feat At The Entire Conference: I made it to every session!  This did not happen last year in Indianapolis, but I pulled it off this year.  Go me!  even after being up WAY past my bedtime at the after-party the night before I was up and ready to go for the 9:30 Sunday session.

Most Generous Beer Bloggers: 2BeerGuys! Sean and Ryan, two Boston area bloggers who run were hooking us up all conference with some awesome local brews.  They really treated us southern folk right, even giving us some Heady Topper to bring home!   If they had a good beer out at their table, all it took was a tweet to find some showing up at ours.  If the Beer Blogger Conference is ever down here, we'll have to repay the hospitality.  

Best Beer Of The Final Day Of The Beer Bloggers Conference: Cigar City Hunahpu's Imperial Stout! Gerard of Beer In Florida brought this one to share, and after his report on the state of craft beer in Florida he broke it out and poured some.  So good, if this weren't so hard to find I'd have Cigar City a lot higher on my breweries wishlist.

Crazy Stat Of The Day:  Florida has almost 100 breweries! I could only name about 5, but apparently I'm a little low.  Puts Louisiana to shame, even on a per capita basis.

Best Reason To Not Have Died From Alcohol Poisoning: More beer!  Seriously, it never stopped... there was so much beer flowing, and it was still before noon.  Somehow we all survived the conference, but Dustin, Jay, and I didn't fly out until the next morning, so we still had some time to kill in Boston.

Best Place To Watch USA Soccer In Boston: The Banshee! The beer selection wasn't impressive, but they had some awesome burgers and they had USA soccer on every screen.  We watched the Gold Cup final there and then headed back to the hotel to crash.  It had been a long fun trip and we had an early flight to catch.

Best Fiance' Ever: Mandi!  For watching the house and the dogs while I was gone, love you baby!

Thanks again to everyone who helped put the Beer Blogger Conference together!  It was a fantastic time, expertly run as always, and a great learning experience as well.  Until next time... cheers! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Beer Bloggers Conference 2013 - The Awards Show! (Part 1)

Alright, after some deliberation on whether to write this post or not, I was convinced to post something about the 2013 Beer Bloggers Conference.  Apparently enough readers & friends care, and that's flattering, so thanks you guys and here you go.  Beer Bloggers Conference 2013, Portland, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts... the best of the best!  (And some of the worst.)

Best Beer In The New Orleans Airport:  Abita Andygator! This was my first beer of the trip, while waiting to depart for Cleveland, and I think it's probably the best offering you're going to find in MSY.  Honorable mention would be Abita Turbodog, but it was only in bottles, and I generally go for draft when available.

Best Place To Drink In The Cleveland Airport: Great Lake Brewing Company!  That's what foursquare told us when we landed, and it was right next to our gate, so beers at Great Lake it was. Then the psychic ticket counter lady said, "Oh, you must be Eric, Jay, and Dustin" when we walked up... she even got the order right.  Yes, we were the last three people on the plane to Portland... and yes the stop for a beer was necessary.

Best Name For A Brewpub... Probably Ever: Gritty McDuff's! The beer was pretty good but nothing amazing... but that's an awesome name.  This was our first stop after checking into the hotel and walking to the old port section of town, which basically serves as a downtown in Portland.  This would also be our last attempt to walk from the hotel to the old port... it turns out cabs are pretty reliable in Portland.  Baton Rouge, take notice.

Best Place In Portland To Watch Tim Hudson's Career End: Commercial Street Pub! Really this place was a baseball fan's wet dream... they have about a dozen TVs and even though a lot were showing the Red Sox there were probably 5 other games going on around the room.  We had a few local craft beers, watching Tim Hudson's ankle explode, and then we attempted to move on to Novare Res Bier Cafe'... which brings us to the next award:

Hardest Place To Find In All Of Maine: Novare Res Bier Cafe! Okay, it didn't help that we had been drinking, and that it was at night.  It also didn't help that my phone was pointing us a mile or so away, and when we got there it turns out that was the Portland homeless shelter.  It also didn't help that once Dustin found it on his phone (not an iPhone) and we started going the right direction, his phone lost connection to the maps and we were once again in the dark.  It also really didn't help that the place is off of an alley and the address couldn't even be found on my phone.  So yeah, we didn't make it... at least not until the next day.

Best Place To Get Breakfast With A Beer In Portland: Hot Suppa! This fresh and local focused spot came highly recommended, so we decided to check it out for a late breakfast after getting a solid night's sleep in.  It lived up to the hype, plus they had 6 beers on tap, mostly local.  Local beers, good quality breakfast food... I liked this place a lot. I tried an Farmhouse Pale Ale from Oxbow Brewing, the Pemaquid Oyster Stout from Marshall Wharf Brewing, and a Bar Harbor Real Ale from Atlantic Brewing. Plus some scrambled eggs with ham, bacon, and feta complete with grits and delicious toast. 

Best New Brewpub In Portland: In'finiti Fermentation & Distillation! After leaving Hot Suppa! Dustin, Jay, and I walked down to the waterfront and headed toward to the old port.  We were about to stop at an English/Irish-styled watering hole when I noticed a brewpub sign across the street by the harbor.  Brewpub?  Yes please! We caught them just as they were opening, found a seat overlooking part of the harbor, and went to work on all of In'finiti's offerings.  My favorite was either the Sour Trouble (de Struisse collaboration) or the Transwesteit 12 Belgian Quad.  The oddest offering was definitely the Mar-GOSE-Rita... a German "Gose" beer, which is a wheat ale with salt and sometimes soured.  This one from In'finiti also had lime in it to give it a margarita quality.  It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't my style.  Unfortunately it didn't look like they had any of their own liquors ready yet... understandable, it takes a lot of time to produce good spirits.

Best Drink/Food Deal At An Irish Pub In Portland: Ri Ra Irish Pub! They had a deal where you could get a pint of Long Trail IPA and also a pound of either wings, mussels, or... I think fries? for $10.  We went with the mussels. 

Best Restaurant We Visited In Portland: Duckfat! If you're ever in Portland, go here.  At roughly 3:00 on a Thursday they were already packed with a waiting list.  Worth it.  I'm not a foodie or a food blogger like Jay is over at BiteAndBooze, but I still know good food when I eat it.  

Best Bar To Charge An iPhone: The Thirsty Pig! One challenge about a conference like this is keeping the phone juiced.  While Jay was making a pit stop at a local area hotel Dustin and I stopped in at Thirsty Pig (we would be back later the same night... but so what?) to grab some pints and charge the phones.  We went with the Peeper Ale and the Mo from Maine Beer Company... both American Pale Ales and both excellent.  They also do house-made sausages and hot dogs... too bad we had just eaten and were about to eat again.

Best Second Appearance On The Awards Show: Novare Res Bier Cafe! With a little more time to kill before the pre-conference excursion officially kicked off we finally found this place (right across from The Thirsty Pig it turns out) and we ordered a round.  And some t-shirts... my only non-beer or conference swag souvenir from the trip. 

Best Cheese - Day 1 Edition: Cabot Creamery! Our first official conference event kicked off at the Cabot Creamery, with all the cheese being paired with beers from Geary's, a local brewery.  Cheese would go on to become a theme of the weekend, this is absolutely not a bad thing.  Anyone who doesn't like cheese can't really be a friend of mine.

Best Beer Dinner Host: Kai of Sebago Brewing! Kai was the man, making us all feel extremely welcome for the Sebago beer dinner.  The dinner itself was pretty tasty as well, especially the lobster rolls.  Excuse me... the lobstah rolls.  In addition, Sebago had some really nice beers for us, inlcuding the Frye's Leap IPA, Patersbier, and Citra Saaz Down, a beer created especially for the conference in collaboration between Sebago and some of the local area bloggers.  We were also treated to a sneak preview of their newest seasonal, a Bonfire Rye smoked ale. 

Best Shameless Distributor Hookup: Patriot Craft Alliance! After the beer dinner at Sebago we all headed over to The Thirsty Pig for the after party... and Patriot Craft Alliance was nice enough to pick up the tab for all the Goose Island we could drink.  Yeah, Goose Island is now an AB-InBev brand, but with Bourbon County Stout and Paradisi on tap, I sure as hell wasn't going to say no.  Good beer is good beer, and those are some great beers.  

Best Third Appearance On The Awards Show: Novare Res Bier Cafe! This was our last stop in Portland, after a few Goose Island beers at The Thirsty Pig.  Most of the group eventually made our way across the street to the Novare Res Bier Cafe, but it was getting late and we had been drinking all day, so I called it a night after two beers here.  Novare Res really impressed me in general, really fun beer bar and I highly recommend both it and The Thirsty Pig for anyone heading to Portland, Maine. 

Best Place To Stop Between Portland And Boston: The Portsmouth Brewery! This turned out to really be a nice pit stop for lunch and beer.  The food was great, the people were awesome, and the beer was flowing freely.   The Portsmouth Brewery is a brewpub in downtown Portsmouth but they are sister-breweries with the larger Smuttynose on the outskirts of town.  This means that we had all the Smuttynose lineup at our disposal in addition to the Portsmouth beers.  Some of the highlights included the Bluebeery and Barleywine from Portsmouth as well as the Cluster's Last Stand and Durty from Smuttynose.


Best Beer Of The Trip, So Far: Portsmouth Royal Impy Stout!  The brewmaster broke this one out for us before we left, and it was a real treat for the collection of beer bloggers present.  Apparently the former brewmaster had left and in his absence Portsmouth has stopped making their renowned Kate The Great Imperial Russian Stout, so rather than make the same beer, the new brewmaster decided to make his own version of the ideal Russian Imperial Stout.  And he nailed it.  Rich, boozy, complex, just a real treat of a stout.  Best beer of the trip... so far.  There is still plenty left! 


And with that, I think the first half of this Beer Bloggers Conference 2013 Awards Show is done... tune back in for the rest, starting with the conference itself in Boston!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Feature Beer Friday! - New Belgium La Folie

And we're back... I ran out of new reviews right before the Beer Bloggers Conference, and just had the opportunity to get back on the radio with the Me And My Big Mouth radio show, which took over for Raise A Glass... so of course we did what I do best, drank some beers.  And we reviewed some beers, so Feature Beer Friday! is back!  

Up first is one that should be in Louisiana soon, the New Belgium La Folie, a sour brown ale that's part of their Lips Of Faith series. It was actually part of their initial Louisiana release, but supplies didn't last long at all.  The good news is that it should be on its way back, to replace the Pluot and Paardebloem in the Lips Of Faith lineup. The last I heard it was "in transit" so there's a good sign.  

Here's what they have to say about the 6.0% abv brew: "La Folie Wood Aged Beer is our original wood-conditioned beer, resting in French Oak barrels between one and three years before being bottled. Peter Bouckaert came to us from Rodenbach, home of the fabled sour red. Our La Folie emulates the spontaneous fermentation beers of Peter's beloved Flanders with sour apple notes, a dry effervescence, and earthy undertones.

Beginning in 2013 we'll do a single bottling of La Folie for the year. Collect the 22-oz. unique-to-2013 designed bottle and start a yearly wood-aged collection of goodness."

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Jay Ducote (Bite And Booze), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), and Kevin Cowan.

Serving: 22 oz. bottle, labeled 2013.

Appearance: Brenton described it as a "beautiful ruby red.

Sour, tart, rich with a strong malt base too.  Brenton picked up a hint of oak, as well as fruits like cranberries and cherries. 

Taste: Puckering, like a "plum that's gone sour" as Jay described it. The rich malt base is still here, no hops at all, but that's not what this beer is about.   

Puckering, that's all you need to know here.

Overall: An awesome beer, and maybe my favorite of the Lips Of Faith series.  This will be one of the go-to sour beers for the beer geeks out there once it arrives in Louisiana.  Jay said this beer "is as if Tinkerbell's pixie dust was a sour fun dip."  I don't think you want to miss out on that.

Overall Rating: 87.75
My Rating: 88

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ten Breweries I Want To See In Louisiana!

Normally I'm a fan of staying local, but with craft beer these days, expansion is inevitable.  Some craft breweries (Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Shiner, even Abita) are almost nationwide while others have a huge reach spanning both coasts.  Several breweries have recently opened up second locations, or are in the process.  Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Lagunitas are in that group where they were growing so fast they decided to open up a second brewery in a different part of the country rather than keep expanding.

So what breweries would I most like to see make it to Louisiana?  First off, a few rules... it has to be a realistic choice.  We're not any time soon getting 3 Floyds, Russian River, or The Alchemist, or even something like Night Shift Brewing out of Boston.  We tried some Night Shift beers at the Beer Bloggers Conference, and they are fantastic, some of the best sours I can remember, but they aren't coming to Louisiana anytime soon.  If ever.  So... keep it realistic.  I'm also excluding a few that I know are on the way... SweetWater, Ballast Point, Santa Fe... that means you guys.  You're off the wish list and onto the watch list.

So... the ten breweries I want to see heading this way... in reverse order.

10. Alaskan Brewing Company - Two words: Smoked Porter.  Some more words: also a really good Black IPA, and above average session beers in their Amber and White.  I'd like to see them here for the Smoked Porter alone, and the rest are just bonus.  Odds of them coming?  Moderate, they distribute to Texas already and are the 16th largest craft brewery, but they haven't yet hit a lot of bigger markets than LA.

9. Oskar Blues - Great beer, in cans.  We need more good canned craft beer and Oskar Blues would fill that niche expertly.  Dale's Pale Ale, Deviant Dale's, Old Chub, G'Knight, Gubna, Ten Fidy, etc... great beer, canned.  Perfect for outdoor activities!  Odds that we see these cans?  Decent, I'd say... Oskar Blues is one of the breweries with a second production facility open in North Carolina, so Louisiana might be on the list.

8. Cigar City Brewing - Too low?  Maybe... they were ranked #5 recently in a poll of "The 25 Best Craft Breweries in America" put on by The Daily Meal, and they have a huge following among South LA beer geeks due to the popularity of Florida panhandle vacations.  I'll be honest though, I find their regular releases to be a little overrated.  Just a little though, still worthy of my list, but not top 5.  If we were guaranteed some Hunahpu and other limited releases they would jump up. As far as the odds that we see Cigar City anytime soon, I'd have to say they're low.  The brewery is getting huge and I have a feeling the East Coast will be on their radar before we will be.   

7. Bell's Brewery - Bell's is an example of a brewery that pulls out just about everything exceptionally well. I'd love to have Two Hearted Ale available in bottles and on tap around BR, but that's just scratching the surface. Good stouts, good session beers, and good special releases... Bell's has them all.  They already reach into Alabama and Florida, but not into Texas... so here's hoping we don't get skipped over when Bell's decides that a new market is in order.

6. Founders Brewing - Similar to Bell's, Founders is just an all around good brewery.  Their standouts include the Founders Breakfast Stout, and its big brother, the Kentucky Breakfast Stout.  Founders has also started packaging their All Day IPA in cans, and I'm not opposed to more good canned craft beer in the state, especially one designed as a Session IPA.  Founders can already be found in TX, AL, GA, and FL... they're close.  

5. Terrapin Beer Company - The second Southern brewery on my list, Terrapin hails from Athens, GA.  Athens is of course home to the University of Georgia, and... uh... Terrapin.  That's all I've got. I do know that Terrapin puts out some great beer, year-round, seasonal, and special releases.  Terrapin has expanded their distribution to 10 states in the South and East... it's not too big of a reach for them to follow SweetWater and distribute our way.

4. Boulevard Brewing - Dark Truth Stout, Double-Wide IPA, Saison Brett, Rye On Rye, Tank 7 Farmhouse, Bourbon Barrel Quad... I could keep going.  Boulevard's Smokestack series is what craft beer is all about.  Boulevard was the 12th largest craft brewery in 2012, and already has a large presence in Texas.  In addition, they distribute to Arkansas, Alabama, and according to their website, one place in Mississippi? I think that gives us decent odds of Louisiana being in the future.

3. Firestone Walker - Boulevard was #12 in 2012, but Firestone Walker wasn't too far behind at #20. Hailing from California wine country (even their name sounds more like a winery), Firestone Walker makes some of the best IPAs around, and they don't stop there, with some fantastic stouts as well.  I haven't gotten into their regular lineup much, but if their bigger beers are any indication, I wouldn't be disappointed. They recently expanded to Texas, so Louisiana isn't out of the question. Side note: I've passed a few hundred yards from their Buellton Taproom and didn't stop... I fail at life.  

2. Great Divide - I might be playing favorites a little here, but Great Divide has long been a staple of any beer run I made to Texas.  It was extremely unlikely that I would be returning without a Yeti or two or three in the car.Or maybe some Hercules... or Old Ruffian Barleywine... this is of course assuming I didn't just drink them all while I was there.  The only strike is that Great Divide recently announced they were going to collaborate on some beer-inspired dill pickles.  What a waste of beer... fucking pickles... if we see Great Divide in LA anytime soon, I hope they leave the pickles behind!

1. Dogfish Head - This one is a no-brainer for me.  Surprisingly Dogfish Head was only the 13th largest craft brewery in 2012, behind #12 Boulevard and #7 Bell's that appeared earlier on my list.  I would have guessed they were larger, considering they seem to be everywhere, well everywhere except Louisiana. I'd have DFH in my fridge at all times if they were available... mostly 90-Minute but it's not their only worthy beer, not even close.  Odds they make it here?  I'd say it's going to happen eventually... craft beer keeps on growing and DFH is one of the front-runners.  They recently brought their beer back to several states, hopefully that means expansion is on tap next.

And there you have my top 10 breweries I want to see in Louisiana.  Feel free to disagree, curse me, call me an idiot, tell me I have terrible taste, or preferably, tell me what YOU would have picked instead.  Just try to play by the same rules, I know we'd all love to have Heady Topper cans available, but it's not going to happen.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Grapes & Grain - August 23rd - Benefiting The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

If anyone is looking to support a good cause AND drink some good beer, I have found the perfect event for you!  The Louisiana chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will be holding the Grapes & Grain fundraiser featuring craft beer, wines, and food from some of the best area residents.  The event takes place on August 23rd at Benedict's Plantation in Mandeville. 

Tickets are $50 for General admission and $100 for VIP, and can be purchased here:

You can get updates by liking the page on Facebook:

The craft beer list looks to be as follows:
New Belgium
Bayou Teche
Tin Roof
Covington Brewhouse
Gnarly Barley
Main Grain

So not only do you get to support a great cause and try some craft beers, but you'll get a sneak peak at Gnarly Barley and Main Grain, two breweries in planning on the North Shore. Plus some other great local breweries and you can't really go wrong with New Belgium or SweetWater either.  Plus there will be wine and food, but that's not really what I blog about.

If you're looking for something to do on August 23rd, check it out!   

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mead Day! - Saturday, August 3rd, 2013.

Organized by the American Homebrewers Association of America, Mead Day is a celebration of both making and drinking mead.  It started as, "a national event to increase mead awareness and foster camaraderie among meadmakers." No, there's not an Untappd badge, believe me, I checked.

Most of you know that I homebrew, but I've also made a few batches of mead in my day!  It's really simple, one of the easiest things to make at home, but it does require some special attention and a lot of patience.  

The basic process is as follows: 

3 pounds of honey per gallon of water... I used 5 gallons of water and 15 pounds of honey.
One packet of champagne yeast, starter preferred.
Any other flavors you might want to add... vanilla bean is one of the most common.

Bring all 5 gallons of water to a boil.
Add the honey, stirring until is all dissolves.
Cool the mixture until it's around 70 degrees, and transfer to a sanitized fermentation vessel. If you brew and have a wort chiller, great!  If not, an ice bath might work, or it's okay to transfer warm and let the wort (wort is the term for the "beer" before it has been pitched) cool on its on in due time. 

Pitch the yeast, stir vigorously with a sanitized stirrer.
Seal with an airlock, and store in a room temperature area with minimal light exposure.
After two weeks, transfer the mead into another sanitized fermenter, leaving the yeast sediment behind.
After two more weeks, repeat the process.
After four more weeks, repeat the process.
After four more weeks, repeat the process.  This would be a good time to add flavorings like vanilla bean, apricot extract, etc., just make sure everything is sanitized.
After it has been about 6 months since brewing, it's time to bottle the mead.
Make sure everything is sanitized (bottles, caps, utensils) and fill with an inch or two of head space.
I've done one batch with wine bottles and corked them, and another with 22 oz. bottles and capped them... both methods seemed to work fine as the mead isn't carbonated and won't push the corks out. 

Expect another 6 months of bottle aging to reach full potential!

Like I said, it's a long process, but it's rewarding.  I've learned from previous experience that "racking" the mead often helps in the flavor as it removes the mead from the dead yeast.  My first batch was very medicinal in quality, almost like cough syrup, but the second batch was outstanding. If you have any questions about the recipe or the process, shoot me a message on facebook or leave a comment here. 

Enjoy, and enjoy Mead Day!

The following products will be helpful if you plan on getting started with mead making and don't have brewing equipment already!