Louisiana Beer Revival
When I first traveled to New Orleans in 2004, the size of the beers was big, but there was nothing easy about them. This was a mass-produced, taste-free beer town, and even the local products, with the exception of an occasional brilliant flourish from Abita Brewing, did not stand out.
So, when the Beer Geekette and I went back two weeks ago for a friend's wedding and her fiancee told us that he was taking us to places to get the best local beer, I was skeptical. New Orleans gumbo? Yeah. Po' boys? You bet. Louisiana craft beer? Uh, really?
So, here's the pleasant surprise: A craft beer culture is growing in the town and the state, and its even taking on its own unique, refreshing and often fruit-flavored style. Many of the local breweries demonstrate daring in a different way than their peers in Colorado or California, but the results are very rewarding.
Take, for example, the aforementioned Abita
, a brewery that went national in the early '90s with its then-bold Turbodog dark brown ale but slipped into the background as the years advanced. In addition to its highly drinkable Amber and sticky-sweet Andygator doppelbock, the suburban New Orleans brewery is now offering a Double IPA in its Select Series. Thick with the strongly sweet citrus taste of Cascade and Centennial hops, this is a little more sugary than some of its ilk but packs a flowery punch.
More on the local-is-unique scale was the Hurricane Saison from Nola Brewing
, which incorporates the eponymous street-strolling sugar bomb of a drink with a beer style that tends to embrace its quirks. This rolls sharply over your tongue - and it's definitely not for those who don't like sweeter beers - but leaves a memorable impression.
Most impressive among the lighter, fruitier selections that seemed to dominate menu boards at the Bulldog
, a fantastic beer bar with two locations, was the Covington Brewhouse
Strawberry Ale. The eye-opening jolt of strawberry puree brewed into this cream ale took on a semi-sour edge that made this beer acidic enough to have some heft yet sweet enough to enjoy. And, for the record, very few member of the Fearless Tasting Crew drink beers with the word "berry" in them; this is a fantastic exception.
Even some beers that didn't bring their own stamp to the genre were fantastic sippers. The Weiss Beer (pictured lovingly above with me in its nearly finished state) at Crescent City Brewhouse
, the only brewpub in the French Quarter, was a smooth unfiltered wheat with just the right mix of banana and clove to aid you after walking the city in 92-degree heat.
The only beer that left a wholly negative impression was Perfect Tin Amber, a vile bastardization of an English-style ale from Tin Roof Brewing that left a highly metallic taste and unnatural aftertaste. Only then did one long for the "Huge Ass Beers" of mass appeal that are advertised by sign-twirlers on Bourbon Street.
New Orleans isn't ready to be mistaken for Denver yet. But what is growing there in its beer culture is something enjoyable and unique. Now I can't wait to find someone making a Po' Boy Pilsner.
Labels: Abita Brewing, New Orleans beer