Friday, August 29, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Lazy Magnolia Lazy Saison

This review will mark our second review from the oldest brewery in Mississippi, Lazy Magnolia Brewing. Lazy Magnolia is a brewery out of Kiln, Mississippi, just a short drive down I-12/I-10 from here and an easy day trip. In fact, Mandi and I made the drive not too long ago and I wrote a post about our visits to Lazy Mag, Crooked Letter, and Mississippi Brewing.

The Lazy Saison is one of Lazy Magnolia's four current seasonals, available during the Spring. It's a Belgian-style saison with minimal bitterness and a robust 8.9% abv. You might be able to find it on tap, but you should definitely see some in bottles when the release rolls around.

And on to the review...

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge.

Serving: 12 oz. bottle.

Appearance: Deep golden and a little on the clear side for a saison.

Funky with some bubble gum sweetness. Brenton thought it smelled a little boozy and Buddy thought it smelled a little spicy.

Taste: More bubble gum sweetness with some fantastic spice at the end.   

A rather unique finish, easy drinking despite the abv, but it disappeared a little after the first hit.

Overall: This isn't a bad beer at all, but it seemed more like a Belgian tripel to us than a saison.  With its strong abv, this could get really sneaky if you bring it out to a crawfish boil next spring, but I also think it would really pair well.

Overall Rating: 66.75
My Rating: 67

Monday, August 25, 2014

Beer University at The Chimes

As some of you might have heard or seen, the Chimes Around The World program is no longer with us. This definitely makes me a little sad as I remember the old days with the beer-stained cards that we would fill out as we tried various beers from all sorts of different countries and always finished it off with a Little Kings Cream Ale. I don't know how that became a tradition, I think it goes back to when my cousin Travis and I finished our first round of Around The World and somehow ended up on that beer as #60, from there on out it was always the clincher.  

I managed it three times on my own, plus twice more as part of my kickball team's celebration and attempt at going Around The World in one night.  We'd bring 12 or more team members and friends, get a big table, and knock out 60 in a night, earning "Pirates Of The Caribballin'" a couple of plaques if you look for them. Great times, great memories, the problem is, not a whole lot of great beer. Unfortunately a lot of those offerings from random countries were quite mediocre. I'm not saying all the foreign beer was bad, because there are plenty of imports that are excellent, but in order to get to 20 countries you had to suck it up a few times and drink some swill.

Tyler, the current beer manager at The Chimes on campus, recognized this problem, and realized that if The Chimes was going to return to glory as a craft beer bar, they were going to have to ditch all the foreign filler. So it was out with Around The World, and in with Beer University.  

Rather than drinking 60 beers from 20 countries, in order to complete your "undergraduate degree," you need to drink 50 different beers from up to 15 "courses" such as Beginner Pale Ale, Intro to Imperial Stouts, or Study Abroad Germany.  In conjunction with their Beer U, the Chimes is now also offering all of their beers in 10 oz. pours as well as their traditional 20 oz. imperial pints.

Once you complete your undergraduate degree, you get a Chimes t-shirt, but then the fun begins and you can go for your Beer U Masters and PhD.  Tyler told me that those "degrees" are going to require some of the specialty beers that come through, the more rare stuff like Parish's Ghost In The Machine or a keg of Bourbon County Stout.  Once those advanced degrees are completed you can get your name up on the wall just like they used to do for Around The World.  

All in all I think it's a good program, and it's a great thing to see the foreign filler depart in place of more American craft and quality foreign beers. I'll be working toward my degree, I'm already 5 beers in!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Southern Tier Eurotrash Pilz

Alright, time to visit a much maligned (in America at least) beer style, the pilsner.  This particular example is by Southern Tier Brewing out of New York... yes, Southern Tier is in New York. This will actually be Southern Tier's pace-setting 5th appearance on Feature Beer Friday!, following the Hop Sun, 2XIPA, Live, and Pumking.  That's plenty of Southern Tier, but I can't say that it's a bad thing.  They are a great addition to the local craft beer selection.

The Eurotrash Pilz is their Spring seasonal, so the timing of this post is a bit off, but it'll be something to bump on a throwback Thursday when the release rolls around.  They describe their beer as a "lightly carbonated, malty pilsner, and is perfect for session drinking." It's obviously a pilsner in style, and they use lager yeast, two types of hops, and two types of malts.  Presumably pilsner malt and I don't know about the second... and I'd certainly guess that both hops are of the noble variety.  

Let's see how it goes...

Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge.

Serving: 12 oz. bottle.

Appearance: Clear, golden, nice head... typical pilsner.

 Grassy, a little sweet, not a lot of hops, and the sweetness from the malt definitely is the dominant flavor.

Taste: Very similar to the nose, a little grassy and malty sweet. I think this could definitely use some more hops, and we reviewed this one back in April, so it wasn't old at the time.   

 Easy drinking, no bad aftertaste, thin, but it's supposed to be on the thin side.

Overall: It's a well done pilsner, but I think that only gets you so far in these ratings. I'd absolutely drink this over the BMC of the world, without thinking twice.  It's to style, easy to drink, low in abv for a sessionable experience, and there's nothing bad about it. If this was in cans I'd be a lot more likely to buy more of these next spring.

Overall Rating: 55.75
My Rating: 53

Friday, August 15, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Terrapin Hopsecutioner

And now some more hops, but this brew is available in Louisiana these days, the Terrapin Hopsecutioner. Terrapin is a brewery out of Athens, GA that has been available in Louisiana for a little while now.  They can be found on tap in several places around town and in bottles at any store with a good selection.  Plus they have cans of their session pale ale, RecreationAle, available in 12-packs.  We'll be visiting that brew on a coming Feature Beer Friday! so be sure to check back. 

Hopsecutioner is the strongest of Terrapin's year-round selections, although their seasonal and special releases also make it to Baton Rouge from time to time.  Hopsecutioner is at 7.3%, so like last week's Jai Alai, it's toeing the line between IPA and DIPA, but I see nothing wrong with that.  They list it at 71 IBU, with Warrior, Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo, Simcoe, and Cascade hops.  That's quite the list, I expect it to be dank with those hops... let's see how it is for real...
Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge.

Serving: 12 oz. bottle.

Appearance: Deeper amber than the Jai Alai but still in the same color range, appears to be filtered, less hazy for sure.

Earthy and citric, Brenton picked up some pine notes, but Buddy found the aroma a little thin and weak.

Taste: A little sweet, but I still thought the hops all came through and worked very well together.  

Easy drinking, very similar finish to Jai Alai, another smooth IPA. 

Overall: Another excellent IPA, although we all scored this one a little lower than Jai Alai, if we came back another day that might change. Taste, especially for hops, can be so subjective, but consider this a great locally available and southern-brewed IPA.

Overall Rating: 65.75
My Rating: 77

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Definitive Summer Guide To Pumpkin Beers

Wait what?  Pumpkin beers in the summer?  Yes indeed, as the breweries fight to be the first one with pumpkin beers on the shelves the release dates have continues to creep up, to the point where Crown Valley's Pumpkin Smash was released on August 1st this year in Baton Rouge!  Whether you look at Summer in the celestial sense of June 21st to September 21st, or in the Louisiana sense of April-May until basically early October, August 1st is pretty much right in the middle. That being said, here are some of the pumpkin beers we can expect to see around Baton Rouge, and my thoughts...

Ace Pumpkin Cider - Obviously a cider and not a beer, this is a 5% post-Labor Day release. My suggestion: sure, if you really like cider.

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale - No.

Brooklyn Brewery Post Road - A traditional pumpkin ale, it's listed as August-November availability so expect to see it any day now.  It's absolutely worth a try, but don't get your hopes up for something extremely daring.  My suggestion: try it when it comes out, and if you see some still around come Thanksgiving, grab some more. With a minimal hop profile, a little age won't hurt a thing, but at only 5%, it's not going to help either.

Crown Valley Imperial Pumpkin Smash - As mentioned above, this one is already out.  It's a pumpkin imperial stout and it's a good one.  The problem is that it's still way too fucking hot for a 10.6% stout. My suggestion: buy a 4-pack, if you want to try one now go for it, but save the rest for when the weather gets cold. Or maybe buy another 4-pack and save a few for next year and compare to that release.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - This one isn't available in Louisiana, but if you make your way to Houston for the LSU-Wisconsin game or head to Florida for a late Summer beach trip you might see it on the shelves. It's typically released around September 1st, and my suggestion is to grab a pack if you see it, because they usually go fast.

Harpoon Pumpkin Cider - Yes, Harpoon makes cider.  No, I've never tried it.  I'm not even sure if we're going to get this in Baton Rouge, but I'll be trying it if we do, because I'm a pretty big fan of cider.  This is also an August release, so if I see it I will report back later, but for now my suggestion is that if you like cider, why not give it a try?

Harpoon UFO Pumpkin - Yet another August release, what sets this one apart is that it's unfiltered, and it's 5.9% which is stronger than the rest of the non-imperial pumpkin ales on this list. My suggestion: If you want a little more kick without getting into a real high-gravity beer, this is one to try.

Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela - The name of the brewery is Jolly Pumpkin, and they usually put out some really good and interesting beers, so I'd have high hopes for this one.  I haven't ever tried it, but I'll definitely grab one if I see it on shelves this year.

McAuslan St. Ambroise Pumpkin - I'm 99% sure we'll get some of this down here, I've definitely seen the McAuslan beers before.  They are out of Canada, and they do a really good Apricot beer, so I'd have high hopes for their pumpkin release as well.

New Belgium Pumpkick - Their version of a pumpkin beer is brewed with cranberry juice and lemongrass.  My suggestion: If you like sour beers, this might be the pumpkin beer for you.

Saint Arnold Pumpkinator - Yes!  This one is released every year around October 15th, which is the PERFECT time for a good pumpkin beer. Buy some, enjoy it, age it, share it. You won't be disappointed. Don't try to drink too many by yourself though, or you'll be hurting the next morning.

Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale - According to their website this is not currently brewed... so... I guess I'll have to pass!

Shipyard Pumpkinhead - One of the older pumpkin beers that I can remember, this one comes out in August as well, so sometime soon! It's only 4.5%, and a traditional lighter pumpkin beer.  My suggestion: give it a try, it's not the best on this list, but not the worst either.

Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin - This is basically an imperial version of the Pumpkinhead, a little darker and a lot stronger, doubled to 9%.  It's also an August release, and I recommend grabbing a bottle or two, one for now and one for later.  This one should age pretty well.

Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat - No.

Southampton Pumpkin Ale - Another one that I haven't tried, I expect it to be released in Louisiana as I've seen previous Southampton beers on the shelves.  Their Double White and Imperial Porter are both excellent, so I'll give their pumpkin ale a try for sure.

Southern Tier Pumking - They describe this one as an Imperial Pumpkin Ale, at 8.6% with an August release.  I haven't seen any in Baton Rouge yet, but they are probably coming soon as well.  I reviewed one for Feature Beer Friday! a while back, and my sentiment holds true, it's worth picking a few up but not much point in aging these, although it won't hurt anything.

Terrapin Pumpkinfest - Honestly I've never tried this one, but we will likely get some in, as we got the previous seasonal, Maggie's Farmhouse peach ale. It's a german-style brew at 6.1%, I'll probably grab a pack and give it a try.

Wasatch Pumpkin Ale - I can't find release info on this one, but it's likely to be out soon. This one is the most "pumpkin pie" of all the pumpkin beers, and only at 4%.  My suggestion: get some for your friends or family that don't really like beer, they'll probably enjoy it.  And if not, you can always cook with the rest.

Woodchuck Private Reserve Pumpkin Cider - There is no release date that I see, but this is one of their limited releases, so quantity will likely be relatively small.  It's 6.9%, so if like cider and want a little more bite than the Ace or Harpoon, find some of these.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Louisiana Craft Brewers Week 2014 - September 22nd - 28th

Hey everyone, just passing this information along... here is the press release:

WHAT: Louisiana Craft Brewers Week
WHEN: September 22-28, 2014
WHO: Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild
New Orleans, LA (August 8, 2014) – The Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild announces the second annual Louisiana Craft Brewers Week to be held during the week of September 22-28, 2014. The week is dedicated to celebrating Louisiana breweries and the contributions that they have made to Louisiana.
In 2013, the Louisiana Legislature brought Louisiana Craft Brewers Week into existence by passing a resolution recognizing Louisiana Breweries’ efforts to preserve the environment by maintaining ecologically sound brewing practices, utilize all that Louisiana agriculture has to offer by incorporating Louisiana grown produce into their products, and support the enjoyment and export of Louisiana culture by brewing beer specifically designed to complement and highlight our extraordinary Louisiana cuisine. 
This year, the breweries will build on the momentum that was generated during last year’s Louisiana Craft Brewers Week by coordinating with their distributors and retailers to schedule events and promotions that feature all that Louisiana breweries have to offer. 
Events and promotions will take place throughout the state at local bars, restaurants, and breweries.

I'm hoping this event continues to grow and I hope that all the breweries and bars take place.  Hey, maybe the Tin Roof tap room will be open in time? 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - Cigar City Jai Alai IPA

And now it's time for our first ever Cigar City beer on Feature Beer Friday!, the Jai Alai IPA, which is one of their several year-round flagship brews.  The name Jai Alai is a throwback to an old Spanish game that used to be popular in the Tampa area, but is no longer played there.  It's unfortunately not yet available in Louisiana, but rumors have it coming before too long.  In the meantime, a trip to Florida or I'm pretty sure Alabama and you should be able to find plenty.

The Jai Alai is a single IPA, but it's really bordering on imperial at 7.5%.  Some websites use 7.5% as the cutoff but there really is no defined line between an IPA and DIPA, it's all up to the brewery.  It's not like a bourbon that has to meet exact characteristics to be able to be called a bourbon.  Jai Alai is the aforementioned 7.5%, with 70 IBU, again on the high side for an IPA, but go big or go home, right? 
Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Brenton Day (The Ale Runner), Chuck Pierce (Me And My Big Mouth), and Buddy Ethridge.

Serving: 12 oz. can.

Appearance: Deep amber, hazy with a nice head.

Orange, citrus, not overpoweringly malty. Definitely an IPA but more on the fruity citrus side of the hop spectrum.

Taste: Hoppy, again on the citrus side, and Brenton said it was a smooth drinker. 

Easy drinking, the relatively high abv is barely noticeable. 

Overall: An excellent IPA, available in cans for your next trip to the beach. Just watch out, or the 7.5% will sneak up on you!  We all really enjoyed this one with scores consistent from 70-80.

Overall Rating: 75.5
My Rating: 79

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beer Travels: Mississippi's Gulf Coast

Beer and traveling seem to go extremely well together, especially when you do a little research ahead of time and find some of the best beer destinations that happen to coincide with your actual destination!  From Baton Rouge there are plenty of reasonable beer vacations in range if you have a few days to travel, Houston is great, so is Austin or the Texas hill country.  St. Louis is a great time and an easy day's drive, and Asheville is beer city, USA, and also a day's drive away.  For something shorter though, out of Baton Rouge, consider the Mississippi gulf coast.  

You're not going to get the acclaim that some of the breweries in those other cities receive, but there is still plenty of good beer, and it's only a few hours away. I did this trip with Mandi not too long ago, and here's how it went...

There are three breweries currently operating on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Lazy Magnolia in Kiln, Mississippi Brewing Company in Gulfport, and Crooked Letter in Ocean Springs. As of this writing Lazy Magnolia offers three tours on Thursday and Friday evenings starting at 4, and 6 time slots on Saturdays starting at 11. Crooked Letter does tours on Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, and Mississippi Brewing Company is a brewpub open every afternoon and evening.  This pretty much limits the trip to Saturdays unless you can call ahead and make private arrangements, which is certainly possible with a big enough group.

For us it seemed simple enough, leave Baton Rouge in time to get to Lazy Magnolia for their 11 AM tour, which wasn't difficult at all.  According to Google Maps it's almost two hours from BR to the brewery, but it's I-12, so use your own judgement.  We ended up leaving early and stopping in Slidell for breakfast before continuing on to Kiln, which as you'll find out on the tour, is the hometown of Brett Fav-ruh! The brewery is in an odd location, just across the street from NASA's airport, and before you get to the town of Kiln itself, so there's no real connection to anywhere, but hey, it's a brewery!

Unfortunately for Lazy Magnolia, when there were designing and building out their brewery, taprooms and tastings weren't legal in Mississippi.  There is a gift shop which doubles as the office and tour starting point in the rear of the brewery, and once 11 rolled around everyone had paid their $10 it was time to start.  We made our way to right outside the office and tasted a few beers as the guide told us all about the brewery and let us try some malts and smell some hops.  There was a stack of barrels aging away, which was very encouraging, as Lazy Magnolia's barrel-aged products are some of their best.  The rest of the tour was pretty standard... if you've been on one craft brewery tour then you've pretty much been on them all. There were 6 beers to taste along the way, an upcoming barrel aged sour was probably my favorite, followed by the Timber Beast, which I've always loved.

Once the tour was over it was back to the gift shop / office.  Each tour came with a complimentary pint glass, but for $1 you could upgrade to a logo tulip glass... so of course we did.  There were also plenty of t-shirts, stickers, etc., and some of Lazy Magnolia's mead for sale.  Now there was no beer for sale at the brewery, which is against the law in Mississippi, but apparently mead is considered a wine, and selling wine direct isn't illegal, so if you want a bottle of Mississippi brewed mead, there's your stop!

After that it was time to head to Crooked Letter in Ocean Springs, which is about 45 minutes from Lazy Magnolia.  The tour and everything took about an hour, so we figured we'd be able to make it to Crooked Letter in time for their 1:00 tour, and we made it there a little early, which gave us a chance to take a few pictures and enjoy a few beers before the tour started. If you leave Lazy Magnolia a little early, or if you hang out there long and aim for the 2:00 tour, there is also the option of taking Highway 90 and driving along the beach the entire way, which would probably be a pretty nice drive, but around 30 minutes longer than taking I-10.

Upon arriving at Crooked Letter you'll probably find it to be the antithesis of Lazy Magnolia, and I'm not trying to bash Lazy Magnolia. Crooked Letter is located in the middle of the town, on one of the main streets and you have to pass through the very charming downtown area to get there. They have a large front porch with tables, and then a tasting room with some gifts once you go through the doors.  Tasting is legal in Mississippi now, but they still aren't allowed to sell directly to the public. Fortunately sharing their parking lot is a little restaurant that serves growlers!  

Crooked Letter has expanded their repertoire a good bit since I saw them at WYES a few years ago, but their flagship is still the Mystery Romp Porter, and it's still a thing of beauty. They also had their Gipsy IPA, Crooked Heffy, Mariposa Pale Ale, and Stabello lager on tap.  I'd recommend getting the pint glass so you can enjoy full pours of all the beers, unless of course you're driving, then enjoy a responsible small taste of a few!  They are supposed to mark off your wristband for each pour, visitors are limited to 4 total per tasting session.

For all interested there was also a nice tour, in our case it was led by Paul Blacksmith, the co-owner and brewer at Crooked Letter.  Basically, it's his baby, and he treats the place as such.  Like I said before for Lazy Magnolia, just about all brewery tours are the same.  There's no magic trick, or man behind the curtain, it's brewhouses, fermenters, bright tanks, bottling lines, sometimes a canning line, maybe some barrels aging some beer?  The stuff stays the same, but the scale does change, and it can change a lot.  From Lazy Magnolia to Crooked Letter is a huge drop off in scale, but trust me, breweries can get even smaller. 

In the end, I highly recommend a stop at Crooked Letter, the town is beautiful, the people are nice, and the beer is awesome.  In addition to their flagships they also brew three beers for the nearby Beau Rivage casino, and all were on tap as well.

From there we made the quick drive back West to Mississippi Brewing Company in Gulfport. It's less than 30 minutes from Crooked Letter, and you can either hop back on I-10 or take 90 down the beach... we opted for the beach route and headed through Biloxi and by the casinos until we veered away from the beach and along the industrial canal until we found the "brewery" itself. And I use brewery in quotation marks not because it's debatable whether they brew their own beer, it's just that the feel of the place is far from a typical brewery.

For starters, it's really a brewpub, licensed for full on-premise sales and no distribution. Their location is pretty cool, sort of a beach-cabana theme with a massive deck right on the water of the rather large canal.  There is a seafood restaurant next door, but otherwise the area is dominated by shipbuilding and other marine industrial uses.  They have a small stage set up for live music, and plenty of room for cornhole and other games, making it a really fun atmosphere for some drinks. 

Unfortunately when we went it was a little dreary and on the cold side, so the place wasn't lively at all and pretty sparse.  The good news is that gave us plenty of time to talk to the owner of the place, and time to try all sorts of good beer.  They had an assortment of styles, but nothing too crazy... blonde, brown, amber, red, pale, ipa, and stout were all represented, and all were pretty damn good.  They also regularly feature guest taps, often from other Mississippi breweries, although they just had some Kona on tap while we were there.

All of their beer is brewed on site in a small system pretty similar to what Parish started on. They said that they regularly put on new beers and change up the recipes, so I'll be looking forward to trying something different on my next time through.  And hopefully the weather will be much better for hanging out on the deck!

From there it was back home, with our Mississippi Gulf Coast brewery tour completed. The original plan was to stay out that direction, but the non-smoking hotel room that we booked turned out to be a smoking room and a bottle of febreze.  Fuck that. Fortunately we weren't too far from home, and were able to make it back without any problem.

If I had to do this trip all over again from Baton Rouge, I'd definitely switch it up some, and probably make the first stop Old Rail in Mandeville when they open at 11, then Crooked Letter and Mississippi Brewing Company.  Or make Old Rail the dinner spot on the way home... either way there are plenty of options, and really the north shore could be an entirely different trip!

Be sure to always drive safe, cheers!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Feature Beer Friday! - 3 Floyds Zombie Dust

And we have a first-time brewery to the Feature Beer Friday! reviews, but one you probably all should have heard of, 3 Floyds Brewing out of Indiana.  They are probably best known for their Dark Lord, which is only available from the brewery during a special release party known as Dark Lord Day.  It's generally considered one of the best beers in the world, and I can promise that the beer lives up to the hype.  As does 3 Floyds in general, I've been able to try several of their brews and not a single one let me down. 

Today's Feature Beer is unfortunately not the Dark Lord, but it is the Zombie Dust, their take on the American Pale Ale. It clocks in at 6.2% and 50 IBU, so pretty big for a pale ale, certainly not a session beer but not a strong beer either.  Let's see what we think...
Reviewers: Eric Ducote (BR Beer Scene), Jeff Herman (Tiger Deaux-nuts), and Dan Fisher.

Serving: 12 oz. bottle.

Appearance: Hazy copper color, just right for the style. 

Pale Ale my ass!  This aroma is bursting with hops, Dan described it as hop pellet candy. It's potent.  

Taste: Resin, pine, not much to balance it out, this is straight up hoppy.  Dan said "not a pale" and I agree, but that doesn't mean it's not delicious. 

Bitter, and a little creamy.

Overall: This deserves a spot in any IPA tasting, which reminds me that IPA Day is next Thursday!  I think in a blind tasting of pale ales I would pick this one out every time due to it's extra hoppiness, but that said, it's outstanding.  Zombie Dust is hoppy, delicious, and worthwhile of a selection if you're ever traveling up in the Midwest.

Overall Rating: 86.67
My Rating: 85