Sunday was quite the trip. It lingered through Monday, but no regrets. Upright Brewing rocked my world. Le Pigeon made me redefine the word “burger.”
Upright Brewing was celebrating their 2nd Anniversary, so we made it a point to get their early to taste the new release. But, we couldn’t help but to shuffle around the city to visit some other favorites.
Top of the Morning with Imperial Workhorse
I won’t jump right into Upright’s display of greatness, because we had some other amazing visits that I’d like to share. First off, we visited Laurelwood’s production brewery in NE neighborhood of Hollywood.
Laurelwood Brewing recently released its first ever batch of Imperial Workhorse, a larger than life version of its iconic Workhorse IPA. The big brother is 9.9% and almost 100 IBUs. At first sip, it immediately wakes you from whatever slumber you might be residing within. The beer is incredibly flavorful, sharp and non-boozy. Lots to like about that beer, and the brewery will be bottling a limited amount in swing-top bottles that will be available at the brewery. Hint: Do not miss the Bourbon Barrel Aged Moose & Squirrel Russian Imperial Stout – I actually preferred this beer to the Imperial Workhorse.
Upright’s Rise to the Top
We left Laurelwood to head over to Upright Brewing, where we spent an hour crying in the last drops of each beer. Its that good. Watching it reduce to nothing was so incredibly painful.
Upright Brewing decided to release a sour version of its Four, a 4.5% wheaty farmhouse ale. The beer, appropriately named “Four Play,” uses a combination of fresh Oregon cherries, brettanomyces and lactobacillus yeasts aged in Pinot Noir barrels. This beer is right now, my beer of 2011. Drinking this beer reminded me of standing in front of Jean Van Roy in Cantillon’s tasting room, drinking one of their more celebrated Lou Pepe lambics – its that good. Incredibly smooth, yet refreshingly tart, the cherry flavor is subtle enough to keep this from being a kriek, but pronounced enough to not be forgotten. Do not miss, if you can find it.
To prevent a one-sided affair, Upright also decided to pour its last remaining portion of its christmas ale, Noel. This spiced farmhouse ale is aged in Pinot barrels and spiked with cherry juice. The wood really works well on this beer, because the alcohol is barely noticeable and it goes down very smooth. The spice is unforgettable, hitting you with concentrated dosages of black pepper and herb. Had Four Play not knocked me out of my boots, Noel would have stole the show.
To end our visit, we had a great talk with owner/brewer Alex Ganum. If you want to meet a great brewer and better guy, chat with Alex. Ganum hails from the ballyhooed ranks of Ommegang and certainly knows how to make incredible beer. Despite his incredible success (they made the Rate Beer Top 50 Brewers in year 2), he remains a normal guy, more than happy to stand and chat with his customers over a beer.
Some Old Favorites
After leaving Upright, we had quite the whirlwind trip around the east side. We visited renowned bottle shop Belmont Station, who was holding its 14th Anniversary sale (Congrats). There we got our first tastes of Corvallis brewers Block 15 and Flat Tail Brewing. Block 15 poured several bourbon barrel aged brews, including the rare Pappy’s Dark Ale. Pappy is a Strong Ale aged in 10 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels for 2-4 months. While a few other Block 15 barrel aged beers were surprisingly unimpressive – this one blew our minds. The Pappy wood is noticeably more rich and flavorful than other bourbon barrels, and we agree its worth the extra dough.
After Belmont, a visit to Hair of the Dog was simply nostalgia and routine. Why the hell would you ever go to Portland and not get indulge in Alan Sprints’ craft? The house flight of Greg (a spiced pilsner?), Blue Dot, Fred and Adam, will warm the cockles. If you are lucky, Alan might be serving the duck wings, a stack of 3 full wings smothered in a rich gravy. Get it.
A Burger for the Ages
Last but not certainly not least – a visit to Le Pigeon. While we were waiting for this renowned eatery to open, we ran over to Burnside Brewing and tried the Oatmeal Pale. I was surprisingly impressed by that beer, as Pales typically do nothing for me. The oatmeal was absolutely noticeable and really changed the body of this otherwise simple beer. But, 5:00 PM rang and we ran back to Le Pigeon.
Why are we running? Rumors of Le Pigeon‘s incredible burger have haunted my dreams for weeks. I have seen glaring images of this burger in nightmares in the previous few nights. It was seemingly stalking me – and for good reason. Le Pigeon makes 5 of these bad boys each night. Thus, its incredibly important to get in there when they open at 5 PM. By 5:15 PM, all 5 orders had been placed.
Le Pigeon has an earthy, classic gastropub feel. Sitting at the bar, you feel part of the kitchen and the decor makes you feel right at home. It only took about 60 seconds to order our burgers with greens ($13) and our $4 Pilsner Urquells (they also have $2 High Life – got to love it).
The icon of glory arrived before me in less than 15 minutes. I had ogled at its creation, built from the implements of success, beauty and wonder. Its time. I sliced the perfectly charred ciabatta bun in half and dig in. What followed was a protein orgasm smothered in pickled specter. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the best burger I have ever tasted – and my companion agrees. The meat is top notch, cooked to a perfect medium rare, maintaining its juiciness. The pickled slaw on top is such an added treat that you barely notice the perfectly melted cheese that covers 100% of the burger mound. Perhaps most important is the fresh powdered ciabatta roll that was charred to perfected, giving the burger an “off the grill” flavor.
Its not often when a Sunday in March results in my favorite beer of the year and my favorite burger of all time (and that is saying a lot). This past Sunday, Portland floored me. Well played, PDX.
2/3 of the team was away last week on a much needed vacation. We are now back in the saddle and ready to alleviate an immense pressure on Mr. Timperial.
We want to take a short moment to thank him for holding down the fort and offering some great content on bottle shops in the Seattle area. We got some good comments and emails on the topic and we greatly appreciate the dialogue.
Over the past week, I had to sit victim to an array of 15 identical beers on a cruise ship through the Caribbean. While this type of travel is not personal fave for me, it was a nice relaxing excursion away from the rigors of work. This is especially true for Jessica, the pregnant one of the bunch.
The reason I mention 15 identical beers is because its a rant-worthy topic. A few years back, I took a cruise through the Greek Islands and was met with 2 beer options – Nastro Azzuro (Peroni to most of you) and Franziskaner. Not good. But I read up about Royal Caribbean and found out that they offer as many as 15 beers! Hooray. Must be a few ales in there, eh? Not.
15 types of beer meant 14 lagers and 1 ale that might as well be an amber lager (Bass). 14 lagers includes all major US crap, Heineken, Pilsner Urquell, Peroni, Stella Artois, and a number of other disappointing beers that make me remember my life before good beer. The only savior was an Irish pub on board that poured Newcastle Brown Ale, Murphy’s Irish Red and Murphy’s Irish Stout. Unfortunately, the stout was out for most of the trip and lets be honest – I don’t like the other two very much. Little to no hops and no real flavor. Boring.
Where is the micro? I mean really, not even a Sam Adams? Not that I would be excited about a Sam Adams, but it would be better than what they have. The Irish pub provided about 20 choices – none of them an American Ale.
It seems that one of the larger craft brewers is sitting on a gold mine here. Cruises and airlines have got to begin offering some sort of tasteful beer option. While Alaskan Airlines offers Alaskan Amber – its the lone gun on the market (I believe). A brewery like Alaskan, Boston Beer, Pyramid, or Red Hook has got to make an overture. While I would love to see New Belgium or Dogfish get that contract, its probably too pricey for companies that charge a premium for cheap filth, anyways.
What do you think? Better beer on your next flight or cruise?
The article reviews Belgium as an educational trip abut beer. A place where you can sample endless styles, visit age old breweries and settle down at some of the best beer bars in the world. Its true. Its totally true. I have done quite a bit of travelling especially around Europe and even beer aside, Belgium stole my heart.
The article touches on the key places you should go in this tiny country. Of course, there are so many amazing places, the article couldn’t mention all of them.
IF YOU GO
In de Vrede (Donkerstraat 13, Westvleteren; 32-57-40-03-77; indevrede.be)
Moeder Lambic (Place Fontainas 8, Brussels; 32-25-03-60-68)
Cantillon (Rue Gheude Straat 56, Brussels; 32-25-21-49-28; cantillon.be)
’t Brugs Beerje (Kemelstraat 5, Bruges; 32-50-33-96-16; brugsbeertje.be)
De Dolle Brouwers (Roeselarestraat 12B, Esen; 32-51-50-27-81; dedollebrouwers.be)
Brouwershuis (Trappistenweg 23A, Watou; 32-57-38-88-60; brouwershuis.com)
We were fortunate enough to visit the top four places listed. De Dolle is one of my favorite breweries in Belgium and the 1998 Stille Nacht at the Kulminator (another amazing beer bar in Antwerp). Next time, that will be at the top of my list!
Other honorable mentions from our trip include:
Pater’s Vaetje ( Blauwmoezelstraat 1, Antwerp, http://www.patersvaetje.be/)
Kulminator (Vleminckveld 32, Antwerp)
Eetcafé de Gans (Diephuisstraat 6 (zijstraat Korreweg, bij het Noorderbad),Groningen, http://www.degans.nl/index.php?page=contact-locatie)
Brasserie Thiriez (22 rue de Wormhout, Esquelbecq, France) Although not in Belgium, it is a mere 4 miles from the boarder of Belgium and if you are in West Flanders, it is worth the trip!
For the full NY Times article, click here.
Some pictures from the road.
The Tremont Taphouse is a cool spot in a little known neighborhood called Tremont. They have about 40 taps, half of which are constantly being turned over. We reviewed this place last year, but they are improving. Its a must visit beer spot in Cleveland.
Great Lakes Brewing will always have a special place in my heart. Their Christmas Ale is the thing of legend and lore. In the above picture is a pint of Cleveland Browns Ale and Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA. The monster has alluded me in its first year of circulation. This is an amazing beer! Make sure you can track it down.
Here is the current list at Great Lakes. Salivation.
This is the most exciting news going round Cleveland beer. Market Garden Brewery will be located right around the corner from Great Lakes and directly beside Cleveland’s famous West Side Market. The Brewery is being run by Andy Tveekram, a famed former brewer of Dogfish Head and Great Lakes Brewing fame. I cannot wait for this puppy to open.
Just because we left Seattle – doesn’t mean that we left our love for brewing. Got to love my pop’s little stovetop setup. Some Simcoe IPA on its way.
Hope you all enjoy the Holidays!
Today we racked a 5 gallon keg of a new beer that Timperial and I brewed together. Our Imperial Cranberry Saison is not completely done yet, but with Thanksgiving making an appearance in less than 48 hours, we needed to pull a young version to compliment our Turducken.
As I tasted the young, incredibly sweet saison, I couldn’t help but wonder what this beer would taste like after sitting in a white wine or zinfandel barrel. Barrel-aged beers are all the rage these days. Adding a woody, boozy, tart flavor to your beer makes a rather simple beer more complex. I became intrigued.
To my computer I ran. I did a little searching for barrels and found that it takes a sizable investment to grab a wine or whiskey barrel. Online merchants often charge upwards of $200-$300.00 for wine barrels. Used whiskey barrels often come cheaper, but must be purchased in large volume. There are options to get newly crafted white oak barrels at reasonable prices, but you would have to condition the barrel yourself.
A solution: tap into Washington’s booze producing neighborhood. Take a look for instance at Seattle’s backyard wine country – Woodinville.
Woodinville is about 20 minutes from Seattle and houses more than 50 different wineries. From massive Chateau Ste. Michelle to tiny Mark Ryan (our favorite, by the way), there is something for everyone. Remember, you can even grab a beer (or many) during a quick tour of RedHook.
But, it was the distilling that got me giddy. Imagine, no trip to Bourbon County is required! I have whiskey in my backyard.
Distillers starting popping up in 2007, when laws made it possible. By 2010, regulations had been loosened to allow distillers to finally sell their own product, making tasting rooms a possibility. Now, we finally have a craft distilling industry.
While I don’t expect any distillers to be willing to hand off a barrel to me (most whiskey requires several years of aging – and these guys are young), I do hope to start seeing more of this amazing addition to the wonderful Washington craft booze industry.
We are starting to see a few pop up on the streets of Seattle (Sound Spirits is really good!) But, Woodinville already has a collective worth discussing.
Here are 5 distilleries that grace the streets of Woodinville. Check them out, next time you have a holiday weekend (oh wait, thats this weekend!):
Soft Tail Spirits
Soft Tail has been making grappa for some time. Now, they are producing vodka – and doing a damn good job. Soft Tail recently won a medal at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco.
12280 NE Woodinville Dr. Suite C. Woodinville WA, 98072 Tasting Room Hours: Mon. – Sun. 12-5pm
Woodinville Whiskey Co.
Yes, Yes & Yes. Woodinville Whiskey Co. – thank you.
I have dreamed of consuming Washington sourced whiskey for quite some time. Oregon has been producing barley whiskey for some time – now we have one of our own.
NW whiskey is starting to carve its own niche. Typically, un-aged and un-oaked, the clear version of whiskey served by WWC is the base for a wood-aged bourbon that will sit in barrels for 4 years. They are also producing a vodka made from Washington wheat. This place is first on my visit list.
16110 Woodinville Redmond Rd. NE, Ste. 3
Woodinville, WA, 98072
Tours at 4pm or by appointment
Would I joke about Washington made absinthe? Hell no. Its true. Just visit Pacific.
One night we were drinking bourbon at Zig Zag Cafe when legendary bartender, Murray Stenson, told me about Pacific. He poured me a whole drink of straight Pacific Absinthe and told me – its the best I can get. It was.
Pacific is also making a dry gin, which I am eager to get to try. Check them out, but make sure to e-mail first (no regular hours).
18808 142nd Ave. NE #4B
Woodinville, WA 98072
Project V Distillery & Sausage Company
Sausage. Thats about all I needed to know.
There is only one other booze and sausage place that I know of – and I’m in love with it. If you have ever been to Dick’s Brewing’s NW Sausage & Deli, you know what I am talking about. Smoked meats and craft booze is just plan good.
These guys are making vodka from Washington wheat. Check out their website (its a facebook page) for more information on when they are open. For now, it appears that they do not have hours.
19495 44th Avenue NE Ste A130 Woodinville, WA 98072 206-947-3667
JP Trodden Distilling
These guys are just off to the races, but about to do something amazing. JP Trodden will be making bourbon-style whiskey. Of course, they can’t call it bourbon since its not made in Bourbon County, Kentucky. But they are going to try and replicate the style.
They are still a few years away from pouring their first batch in 2012. I’ll be waiting.
18646 142nd Ave Woodinville, WA, 98072 206-399-6231
If anyone makes the trip to enjoy these fines beverages – please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by commenting below!
We had a hectic weekend, bouncing from wondrous beer excursion to the next. San Diego had its way with us. We will need some recovery time to get over having to leave that beautiful place.
But quickly, I wanted to check in and thank those of you that followed us during our excursions, via Facebook and Twitter. I realize that the updates trickled off by Sunday. That’s for good reason, as our energy had faded.
San Diego Beer Week was a smashing success, according to most of the bartenders, brewers and owners that we spoke with during our trip. But, I’m fairly sure the 10 day event wore them thin, and they were pleased to see it end.
We met some pretty amazing people, including Marin Brewing’s Arnie Johnson, Allagash Brewing’s Rob Todd, and the wonderful bar staff duo of Steph and Bob at Alpine Beer Co. During the next week, we hope to discuss more about where and what to do next time you visit San Diego.
For now, my favorites from our visit:
Coolest Place to Have a Pint – Hamilton’s Tavern – Awesome atmosphere, excellent grub and just an amazingly cool place.
Best Staff to Cure a Hangover - Alpine Beer Co. Brewpub – Steph and Bob helped us out of our slumber, thanks to amazing sour beer, the best IPAs and some smoked chicken wings.
Best Bar Experience – Blind Lady Alehouse – Serving flights via amazing bartenders will hook you everytime.
The Full Day – Stone World Bistro – The first place I have visited (since Water Street – RIP) where I could spend 12 hours. Not the hippest place, but a world of its own.
Best Brewery to Visit – Port Brewing/Lost Abbey – No food, little culture – all brewing. Check out the barrel room and die.
Best Place to Eat (and drink beer) – Small Bar – Something called Pork Desayuno (eh?) rocked my world.
Stay tuned for more on San Diego Beer Week 2010.
We finally located over 60 videos of our time in Belgium. During our March visit, we did some pretty goddamned amazing things. Its great to remember (duh, we forgot) that we captured it on video.
So, its time to kick out the vids and see if we can make something from them. I am excited to see Flaming Trappists at De Gans, super rare lambics at Paters Vaetje, and a mess of imperial stouts under a windmill at De Molen. What else will we stumble upon? Hopefully, forgotten treasures of late night!
We located ours – find yours! As part of our transition to the new, more media hefty, website, we are starting to utilize much more video on BeerBlotter.com.
If you have videos of you drinking in Belgium – please send them our way! We would love to share you amazing experiences with the beer public and maybe help someone find their way to an incredible venue.
Feel free to email everything over to email@example.com. We cannot wait to see what you found!
Week 39 of 52
166 Barbee Rd.
Abita Springs, LA
Wed,Thurs & Fri: 2pm – 3pm
Tour Time: 2pm
Sat: 10am – 3pm
Tour Times: 11am, 12pm, 1pm & 2pm
Type of Establishment: Brewery & Tasting Room
Visit: After a incredible week of consumption in the French Quarter, it was time to get the hell out of Dodge. We headed West to the Bayou to have some frog legs and catfish and embarked north to Abita Springs, home of Abita Brewing. It was about 85 degrees with 100% humidity on a late October day. We were thirsty, but severely full. The beer beckoned, we did not back down.
Beers on Tap (at time of visit):
Turbodog Brown Ale
Purple Haze Raspberry Ale
Select Rye Pale
Save Our Shores Imperial Pilsner
Its a brewery, you drink from the taps. You cannot get any bottles here.
But you can obtain Abita Brewing’s bottled beer at almost any store selling beer in Louisiana. They also distribute in 48 states, including Washington.
You can most reliably find some Abita down at Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle. Next time you have a fish fry, crawfish/shrimp boil, or a Mardi Gras party – head down there to get your Turbodog.
Again, my comments are limited. If you brought a bag of peanuts or chips – I think you can eat them here. But, this is purely a brewery visit. They are focused one thing: letting you drink the beer and see where it came from.
Abita Brewing does, however, have a brewpub up the road about 1 mile. In the teeny town of Abita Springs, LA, Abita’s brewpub puts out some interesting food and showcases roughly 20 beers on tap at all times.
More interestingly, the brewpub pours some pub exclusives that cannot be found anywhere else, including Chocolate Stout, Blue (blueberry wheat beer), and Nitro Pale. You can also purchase growlers of these beers, or snag a six pack of some of their packaged ales.
The food at the brewpub provides a nice snapshot of Louisiana cuisine. Its not the best place to get this food, but its serviceable. A collection of po boys with all the fixins, oysters brochette, fried artichokes, blackened shrimp, crawfish cakes and stuffed quail might make you right. For me, I always loved their home recipe meatloaf, which is no longer on the menu – boo. If you are looking for a recommendation, try the Andygator infused crawfish cakes topped with a Turbodog remoulade sauce. Yum.
I’ll just get this out of the way: You serve yourself at Abita Brewing. Yep, you heard me – be your own bartender at this tasting room.
The fact stated above was the main reason that I decided to return to Abita. Some six years ago when I was nothing more than a Loyola student, a few friends and I visited the still relatively small Abita brewery. We wanted to see what changed, after some major renovations and upgrades.
The Old Brewery & Tour
My first visit was back in 2004, before Hurrican Katrina. Abita was producing a lot of beer at the time, but not nearly what they sell these days. At the time, they had just a few beers in their collection and did not produce one hoppy ale.
The brewery was in the same location but remarkably smaller, less efficient and much less attractive. I remember walking into the brewery for a tour and being directed to what had to be a refurbished closet. The “welcome room” was a tiny space with a jockey box setup and about 5 taps. There was a stack of cups and sign that read: “serve yourself.” What!? Of course, I will. Thank you very much.
The mentality at the old brewery was grab as much beer as possible, make sure you try all five styles and then stumble around the brewery tour for 30 minutes, with absolutely zero idea what the brewer was talking about. Except for my buddy Nick asking dumb questions about how they clean the place – we had zero communication with the tour guide. We had no idea how to connect with the guy, because we had such little knowledge of the brewing process.
Regardless, the old brewery tour was a hell of a time. Not once have I visited a brewery that left you to your own devices in procuring drunkenness. What a world. Would it all change as Abita grew up?
All Grown Up – Abita Goes Gorgeous.
I had heard a lot of amazing things about Abita in the past few years. First, Abita underwent an incredible transformation right after we visited in 2004. Even before the great storm of 2005, Abita was in the midst of a great growth, increasing brewing capacity, fermenting capacity and brewery technology.
The brewery purchased one of only two Merlin brew kettle systems that are currently being used in the USA (we believe, but their may be more). Their 100 bbl system is only defeated by the 200 bbl system being used over at New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, CO.
The Merlin allows for an extremely clean brewing process, while maximizing heat efficiency (it saves 70% in energy cost) and removing trub. Its a pretty sexy thing to see and you can taste the difference in Abita beer.
Additionally, Abita grabbed a slew of 300 bbl fermenters and built a brand spanking new brewhouse that sparkles with cleanliness. Very impressive.
They also built a new administrative building with a New Orleans flair. This building houses the Tasting Room and patio, where you get to enjoy Abita’s beer – as your own bartender. That’s right, even though they built a gorgeous new bar – you still pour your own beer.
One big difference is that you now have to choose from about 15 beers! But do not fret, the tasting experience is now expanded to roughly an hour. After a brief introduction, visitors are invited to grab a beer (or two, three, whatever you can carry) and take a seat. The tour begins with an extremely informative and appealing video (on big flat screens) about the brewing process.
The video is perhaps the smartest move that Abita could have made. I was on the tour with my father and his friend, who know very little about brewing. But, Abita’s video showed the brewing process in action; the ingredients, the working parts, and even a life cycle of a beer were all comprehensible and tangible.
At this time, you are finally ready to take a quick (10 minute) peak at the brewery. By now, you understand how all the parts work and this is a great opportunity to ground the images you just saw on screen with the real thing. I love this tour.
Abita also uses this opportunity to “wow” you with its green initiative. I was utterly shocked to see a Louisiana brewery doing some of the things that Abita is doing.
As the site says:
“Conserving energy and water, reusing by-products and waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, driving greener vehicles and using recycled materials are some of the ways the Abita Brewing Company is working to keep our part of the world green and clean.”
This brewer is recycling cooling water into their liquor tanks, using a kettle that saves 70% in energy cost, capturing vapor to reuse steam, reusing waste water to produce energy, capturing bio-gas to fuel boilers, using snub bottles to reduce glass, and using recycled cartons that use 50% less paper. These are just a few of the things that Abita is doing to improve the way brewing damages the environment. If you ever brewed a batch of beer, you know how wasteful it can be; its nice to see someone doing something about it.
The Beer & Result
All in all – I was floored with the improvements at this place. That includes improvements to the beer.
I never have been a huge fan of Abita Brewing, but their beer is noticeably improved. Additions to the family include: Jockamo IPA, a 6.5% IPA generously hopped with Willamette and Columbus hops; Restoration Pale, a nice malty pale dry-hopped with Cascade, which was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and started as a fund raiser; and last but certainly not least – SOS.
SOS stands for Save Our Shores. Abita has always got involved with helping out Louisiana during times of disaster. This time, Abita put together a charity to help out families that were impacted by the BP oil spill. Abita brewed this Imperial Pilsner (its marketed as just a Pils, but its big as hell) with the intention of raising .75 cents per bottle sold for its charity – and its doing a heck of a job.
SOS is easily Abita’s most desirable beer. The wheat malts blend perfectly with the Perle and Sterling hops that are packed in the bottle gratuitously. While the beer has a subtle malt backbone, its sharp and packs a delightful hoppiness. Get this beer – and help save Louisiana shores. You can also contribute by going to their website here.
All in all, I still love New Orleans and I’m beginning to love Abita, more and more. I was blown away with what the brewery has become and how great this tour is for visitors. If you are in New Orleans, there is no justification for missing this trip.
Been to Abita – Let us know what you thought below!
I have been on leave from BeerBlotter.com in order to peruse the alleyways, taverns, and sound of the mighty New Orleans. And so I apologize to my fellow Blotter brethren/sistern (made up) for having to pull all the weight of this hefty machine. Kudos to them for keeping it running.
But alas, I miss the daily musings of musty bottles and bitter pints. The Blotter has become a reflection of what we all are: loose lipped, eager to share, legend seeking beer drinkers.
So, I decided to chime in this morning and share a snapshot of my adventures through the dirty. This will only be a peak of what is to come on the Blotter in the coming week.
Loving Me Some NOLA.
Last year, we visited a fledgling operation along New Orleans’ historic tongue twister of a street – Tchoupitoulas. The newcomer to the Louisiana beer scene (and really the only true brewery in New Orleans since Katrina sank Dixie Brewing), NOLA Brewing hit the market in early 2009 with two products: Brown and Blonde. They grabbed instant success and imminent growth could be smelled from a mile away.
We were not wrong. NOLA Brewing has grown in production size, quality, distribution, and of course – their lineup. Now brewing 4 year round beers and several seasonals, they are all grown up.
I decided to pop in, unannounced (sorry Dylan), and grab a taste of the new, the recreated and the “whats to come.” Luckily, I was able to siphon off a taste of the new Irish Channel Stout before its release. I was floored. Much more to come on these guys. Don’t miss that write up.
Holy Crap – What Happened Here?
6 years ago, craft beer was just a scant curiosity for me. I knew nothing, cared little and grabbed Schlitz cans without a second thought. But living in New Orleans, you had to notice the Abita Brewing stranglehold of 25 years. So, we took a little trip to the brewery.
6 years ago, the trip was just a hoot – now its an experience. Abita Brewing has undergone a dramatic face lift, expanding to an almost 50,000 square foot facility. Whats more is that they added a 100 barrel Merlin brewing system, a plethora of 300 barrel fermenters and a shiny new tasting room. Luckily for us they didn’t change the “be your own bartender in the tasting room” rule, which makes this the best brewery visit around.
Still On Top. Zero Challengers.
Last time I waxed poetic about New Orleans beer, we sat Avenue Pub right at the top. There is nothing that can change my mind about this choice.
Avenue Pub has all the factors: amazing taps, great bottles, phenomenal food, incredible aura and mind-boggling comfort/location (balcony over St. Charles!). With a direct line to Stone Brewing and Brooklyn Brewing’s top of the line beers, I am always surprised. With the new commitment to Belgian beer, my jaw drops with each visit.
Kudos to Avenue Pub’s Polly for keeping this one on top.
For now, I must rest as I embark on my final journey through New Orleans, tomorrow. I am going to peg gater and eggs, oysters on the half shell and some Liuzza’s gumbo for the day. How will I wash it all down? We’ll see what NOLA has to offer.
On Friday, Beer Blotter offered its 300th post! Over less than a year has elapsed since we first went public on BeerBlotter.com. We have a had a blast so far, and we look forward to much more ahead.
In almost 11 months, we have managed to put up more than 300 stories (this article is #302). From our editor’s first beer review of Lazy Magnolia’s Jefferson Stout to Mark Leavens’ review of sandwich board art over at Atlantic Crossing – we have come a long way.
While we look forward to big changes over here, we wanted to take a look into the past and discuss the three biggest, and most memorable, moments in our short history. We have visited Belgium, Holland, France, Canada, San Diego, San Francisco, New Orleans, Cleveland, New York, Washington DC, Portland, Chicago and more – all in that 11 month period.
These three moments stick out the most:
#3 — Beer Blotter Spawns From the New Orleans Beer Arrival & A Chicago Surprise
If you have ever visited New Orleans, you are probably aware that its almost impossible to find a good beer. You are almost assured of being stuck drinking some fruity concoction of a massive amount of liquor. Not anymore.
We visited New Orleans in the beginning of last November with little knowledge of any beer scene. But, we stumbled our way through bar after bar and discovered that craft beer does exist. In fact, we were floored with what we found; hope for a good future was established.
While we were in New Orleans, our editor was surprised with a no notice flight up to Chicago. It was her first visit – and a great opportunity to see an amazing world of craft beer. We visited the Publican, drank Three Floyds at the Map Room, bought a bounty of beer at Binnys and took in a Browns v. Bears game, before returning to New Orleans.
Upon returning, we decided to launch this site. Beer Blotter was born over a pint of Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout and NOLA Hopitoulas at the Avenue Pub. From that moment – 300 articles followed.
#2 — The Crew Visits West Flanders
The entire crew decided to throw down and take an excursion to Belgium, back in March. We planned the trip for a period of 12 months, holding epic Belgian beer tastings once a week until we left. As part of the trip, we decided to visit Germany, France and Holland as well.
Every day was filled with splendor. From the iconic bottle shops, to the revolutionary brewers, Belgium brought us to our knees. We saw Cantillon in Brussels, visited Moeder Lambis during its opening week, drank gallons at De Molen, sorted through bottles at Paters Vaetje, and gifted a Pliny the Elder to Hane at De Gans.
But, nothing was more epic than a one day visit to West Flanders. I had caught a pretty vicious cold that had put me out of commission for a few days, but I refused to allow it to defeat my trip to Westvleteren to catch Westy 12. I sucked it up, chugged some orange juice, bought some nose spray (so i could taste again) and we took off for West Flanders.
When we arrived at the Saint Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren – my cold cleared up. Whether this was an amazing intervention of the almighty himself or simply an incredulous recovery – we will never know. But, it all came together as my first Westy 12 was placed in front of me.
From there, we trucked on to St. Bernardus, visited a brewer’s cottage in Woesten, drove to France to sample Escambeq’s best (with a brewer who could not speak English), drank De Struisse’s finest in a living room at De Zon and enjoyed splendid wonders from the private collection of Alvinne’s owner. I’m unsure that this day could ever be eclipsed.
#1 — The Closing of Water Street Brewing & Alehouse
The number one moment is not a happy one. But, it certainly had a profound effect on me.
For days I labored over visiting my favorite beer spot before it would shut its doors, for the final time. In the end, I didn’t go. The horror was too much for me to handle.
If you never got a chance to read the hardest post I ever typed, take a gander now. For purposes of brevity, I will not relive the words that came to mind when I head that Water Street Brewing would close down. But if you were around me for those few days – you know it was always in my mind.
Bars come and go – that is for sure. Some bars leave way too early; that was the case with Water Street. Because of a legal spat that keeps the former Water Street brewing space vacant to this day (we just saw the space this past weekend and its still not even close to re-lease), Water Street was forced into early retirement.
But, like all great combatants, Water Street may rise again. Their Facebook page has provided snippets of hope to those of us who yearn to have Queen Nina pour us another IPA. Recently, Nina announced that Strange Brewfest would return this year! This was an amazingly welcoming sign that Water Street is still alive and kicking – somewhere.
300 posts of Beer Blotter has brought us this far and we vow to keep it going. In the next month, we hope to have our new site running, filled with gobs of media and more user friendly resources.
Stick with us, please. We’ve enjoyed your company.