Oh yes, the annual RateBeer.com awards are upon us. Every year in January, beer nerds come out from the woodwork, run a regression analysis, compute multiple methodology, average the cosign – plus tangent – and come up with these pretty rad rankings. Bon appetite.
I believe its a bit more simple than I made it out to be, but the rankings are up and that means the chatter begins. I have always been a staunch supporter of the RateBeer rankings. In fact, they have led the way on a number of significant beer tours around this great globe. Lets see how they did this year.
Here are the top performers in each category and some notes about NW people performing well:
Best Beer: (Click here to see list)
Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter – If you have had this beer, kudos to you. I have looked, believe me. From Belgium to the Netherlands, you aren’t going to find it. Someday, someday. It is interesting to see Westvleteren 12 unseated. Perhaps the lore of Michael Jackson has finally left the building. For the NW – Deschutes Abyss came in at a very impressive #17. Hair of the Dog’s Matt and Adam both made the Top 100. Surprising that Adam still topples Fred.
Top Beers By Category (Click here for the list)
I am not going to spend a lot of time on these, you can review them here. Suffice it to say that the only showings from the NW were from a sake producer out of Oregon and a surpirsing top spot in dark lager for Rogue’s Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager. Yikes. While expected, its so sad to see this repeated each year. Russian River whooped some ass, once again.
Best Beer in USA (Click here for the list)
Russian River Pliny the Younger – By now, we are all familiar with this hop monster. Though we would prefer to see something with a bit more complexity, its a deliciously unmatched hop beast. As for the NW, Deschutes Abyss at #13 and Hair of the Dog Adam #43 are all that made it. Strikeout, Washington.
Best Brewer in World (Click here to see list)
Three Floyds Brewing – I like em; hell i love em. But are they really the best? Their lengthy list of offerings and impressive showings in multiple categories (stout, IPA, pale, etc.) probably gets them the spot. My choice would have been the #2 on the list – Founders Brewing Company. Great to Hoppin Frog, Akron, OH, at #17. Great work Fred! Oregon did incredibly well: Rogue #21, Hair of the Dog #24, Deschutes #49, Cascade Brewing #57, and Upright Brewing #92 (wow). Washington = Elysian #92. I was actually surprised not to see Black Raven Brewing on this list. I think this is a testament to the fact that Black Raven is not yet bottling. Upright is probably smaller in production, but they send bottles into various states. I think thats the ticket here (plus great brewing).
Best Beer Bars in World (Click to see list)
The Kulminator – Its probably the most deserving, considering their iconic collection of cellar aged beers. Kudos to them for keeping this epic collection rolling. Our visit to Kulminator in March could not have been more eye-popping. The most amazing thing on this list – Avenue Pub at #8!!! Congratulations to Polly, the bar’s owner, who has worked her ass off to deserve this recognition. This is the only must see in New Orleans. This is typically a strong category for Washington – perhaps the only one where they typically overtake Oregon. This year they did the same, but only 2-0. Uber Tavern was #14 and Brouwers Cafe was #22. This is a bit of a drop for both of these two. The list also booted Naked City Taphouse, who made a daring showing last year. Nothing in Oregon made the list.
Best Brewpubs in World (Click to see list)
Brouwerij de Molen – The Windmill strikes again! This place has climbed up and up the list and I will agree that it deserves this spot. In a remote area of Holland, Bodegraven’s only beer spot is hidden inside a windmill. Inside you can enjoy excellent food, phenomenal beer and a pretty incredible bottle shop with a collection of US brews that makes me jealous in Seattle. This is a must see for anyone in Northern Europe. Great to see Walking Man make the list at #10. We finally got out there this past summer and thoroughly enjoyed this sunny spot. Deschutes Brewing was #18, Cascade’s Racoon Lodge was #48 (and will be bumped next year for the new Barrel Room) and then there is Pelican Brewing at #26. 26? Cmon man. If you have ever been to this magical surfers cove, you would spit at anyone that left this out of their Top 5. Go visit.
Best Beer Store in World (Click here to see list)
Het Oude Schooltje – Struise Brouwers @ The Old School – Ummm, I’m confused. I was in Oostvleteren and never saw this place! Kill me now. This is my own fault and I’m stuck with the consequences. Next time. Great to see some Washington guys on here as well: Malt & Vine #27 and Bottleworks #29. Oregon got showings from The Bier Stein in Eugene and Belmont Station in Portland, who fell all the way to #44.
Best Restaurant in World (Click here to see list)
Ebenezer Kezars Restaurant and Pub – This is on my list and will be visited in June when we do a brief NE trip. Tucked away in the Maine mountains in the little town of Lowell – this gem awaits. Is it shocking to anyone else that despite the NW’s extremely well-received culinary presence and beer presence, we cannot produce one beer restaurant in the Top 50? What about Brouwers Cafe? Ebenezars is just a pub, too.
Best Breweries to Visit in World (Click here to see list)
Picobrouwerij Alvinne Den Bier- en Proefzolder – Yes, yes and yes x 1000. This is the single greatest beer visit of my entire life. If its a little strange that we have yet to speak about this visit here on BB.com, its because I am intimidated. Timperial and I have feared drafting this inconic article for just about a year. Alvinne is located in a large barn-like space off a highway in Belgium. We arrived after closing on St. Patricks day and were awarded with private drinking stock from the owner. An unprecedented adventure. I was so glad to see Hair of the Dog Brewing on here as well at #2. Alan Sprints has done an incredible job putting together their new taproom, which is a must for any visitor to the NW. Great to also see Upright Brewing (Portland), who has a very cool tasting room where you can grab some schooners and some tunes for a few hours. Rogue, Bridgeport and Hopworks also made the list. A complete zero for Washington.
Ugh. Washington has to take a failing grade this year. I am really disappointed to see so many of the stalwarts take drops. It was very encouraging to see the locations do alright, but what about our beer?!
In short, most of our beer stays here. I think you can somewhat blame that on our alcohol regulation rules, because they facilitate a healthy market at home. But, you can see that the Oregon brewers making a name for themselves are selling bottles.
Forget Rogue and Deschutes – they are pretty big. But, think about Hair of the Dog, Hopworks and especially Upright. These guys all have bottle sales that go across state borders. That stuff helps.
In the near future, we hope to see bottles from great upstarts like Black Raven Brewing, Schooner Exact, Fremont Brewing and more. Hopefully, we can start to show the world why Washington beer is so damn good.
Draft Magazine is a nationally published magazine focused beer culture. They have been around since 2006, sometimes featuring celebrities on their covers. All in all, its not the nerds guide to beer. Its more of a sassy celebration of all things barley pop.
Don’t let my description drive you away. Draft Magazine is good. In fact, all 3 of the Beer Blotter writers are subscribers. We enjoy the fact that Draft presents a global expose on happenings in the beer world. Its really a good way to locate beer venues from around the world.
Just this week, Draft released its annual Top 100 beer bars list. This list is sorted geographically into 4 regions. I was afraid that they were attempting to force options for each of these regions, but it appears that the selections are not equally divided (for example, the Northeast has many more than the South). So, it appears that the choices are without prejudice.
In scouring the list, I was very pleased to see places like Avenue Pub (New Orleans), Apex (Portland), Blind Lady Alehouse (San Diego) and our very own Monk’s hole – The Stumbling Monk (Seattle).
But, one cannot peruse the list without finding their own list of absentees. While less deserving pubs made it (i.e. Cooter Browns (New Orleans), Green Dragon (Portland), McNulty’s Bier Markt (Cleveland)), some of the nation’s most celebrated beer venues are missing.
While that absentee list will differ for each of us, here are my Top 5 Absentees:
- Brouwers Cafe (Seattle) – They must have pissed off a Draft Magazine writer. Many of us know that Brouwers can sometimes rub the wrong way (and its been stated by commenters here on the site), but there is no better selection of ale in the NW. Brouwers routinely procures 60 taps of rare beer, one of the best bottle lists in the country and an unprecedented number of unmatched in-house beer festivals (See Sour Fest, Hopfest, Big Wood, and Hard Liver). Again, they must have pissed someone off.
- Bangers & Lace (Chicago) – This might simply be too early for Draft to call this place a winner. But, Bangers & Lace has quickly ascended to the top of the Chicago beer world. Presenting an unmatched selection of rare beer, along with phenomenal food, B&L deserves a spot. Guest writer For Whom the Bell Toales agrees that this is the #1 beer venue in Chi-town.
- Small Bar (San Diego) – Ok Ok, they got it mostly right. Hamilton’s Tavern, Blind Lady Alehouse, and O’Brien’s Pub should all be on the list. But, Small Bar gives that Top 3 a run for their money. Mixing a spectacular beer selection with epic food and spunky surroundings, I think it deserved a spot above many of the LA selections.
- Brew Kettle (Strongsville, OH) – Draft picked one of the many Cleveland suburb favorites – Buckeye Beer Engine. But, I think they got the wrong one. The Brew Kettle blends an incredible draft lineup (thank god for the connection with Founders), house made ales, and some spectactular bar grub. Get drunk enough? Go brew a batch in the back. Beyond that – its just a cool dark place to grab a beer.
- New York’s Forgotten Trio – Ginger Man, Mug’s Alehouse and d.b.a. (NY, NY) – They picked a lot of NY spots. I can understand that its pretty tough to run into your editor’s office and say we picked the Top 100 – 20 of them are in NY. Its a tough job to pick between the excellent spots in NYC. In my mind, they got the top 3 on the list – Rattle N Hum, Blind Tiger and Spuyten Duyvil. Those three are iconic, and the three places that I spend the most time while in NY. But, the above three all deserve a shot at the list. The Ginger Man is just a few blocks from Rattle N Hum – many would say its the cooler bar. Mug’s is tucked away in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But unlike the uber-hipster crowd at Spuyten Duyvil, you will find comfort at this grog spot. d.b.a. is the lone East Village fave. d.b.a. has been pouring beer for a long time and has an excellent wide spread selection.
I will say, writing the Top 5 absentees was pretty tough. All in all they did a great job finding the appropriate bars. The Top 100 is a worthy list and you should take a glance.
What else is missing!?
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.
I have usurped control of this column for this week. This is primarily for the sole reason that this is the most mindless and least intimidating of all of our columns. Hooked yet!? No really, I need some spiritual soul seeking, and a look at the beer calendar might just satisfy my urge.
What, pray tell, did our squad do last week, you ask? Lots. Depending on who you asked, we either visited some pretty amazing beer taps in New Orleans (Brooklyn Detonation Imperial IPA!!!!), hung out at Brouwers Cafe’s Washington Beer Fest, dabbled in a first-time Jillian’s craft beer night, soaked up an epic and undeniably amazing Elysian Great Pumpkin Beer Fest (we all were there – no way to miss that) or we brewed a massive batch of our very first pumpkin beer during Harvest Fest 2010.
Yep, we were busy. But, as we spend the week saturating the blog with mouth-watering tales of yesteryear – we focus on the week ahead. Giddy up.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Hoptoberfest Brewer Shenanigans: Seattle, WA
All Month Long @ Beveridge Place Pub
Since we are already a bit late on this event, I thought I would borrow from the comments of the amazing people over at Washington Beer Blog, Kendall and Kim Jones. Today, they ran a piece on the Elite Eight selections for the Hoptoberfest at Beveridge Place Pub. Hoptoberfest is an annual event spanning the month, during which Beveridge Place Pub slowly eliminates IPAs to eventually select its house IPA for the next year to come.
They are now down to the final eight at the mid-point of the month and the heat is on to make the final 3. Kendall Jones at Washington Beer Blog has been discussing the rumors of brewers sending in-house squadrons down to stuff the ballot box to ensure that they land in the top 3. Black Raven is trying to remain at the top spot, while Boundary Bay is trying to grab back what was their’s just two years ago.
By 6 PM, Kendall and Kim were already there at the Pub. But since that time, nothing to report on. Hopefully, they are simply inundated with enjoyment to give us an update. Regardless, if you want IPA, you still have two weeks of madness over at Beveridge Place Pub. Check it out and don’t forget to vote.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Can You Handle the Randall?: Cleveland, Ohio
Part 1: 4:30 – 6:30PM @ Winking Lizard Tavern (Gateway Location)
Part 2: 7:00 – 9:00 PM @ Winking Lizard Tavern (Cleveland Heights Location)
If you have yet to explore the wonderful world of Dogfish Head Randalls – do not miss this event! Dogfish Head started using Randall at many of their nationwide events several years back. If you have no idea what this is, check this picture, and then understand that you stuff it full of flavorful things and pump beer through it.
We have had the pleasure of tasting the Aprihop with fresh apricots and hops, as well as the 90 Minute Double IPA with Woodford Reserve soaked oak chips. Both were incredible. Well, now here is your chance at two different locations. More from the event pub kit:
Donn B. from Dogfish Head and Kev from Winking Lizard hit the Gateway Winking Lizard Tavern with Randall the Enamel Animal and a keg of 90 Minute IPA! Randall will be packed full of fresh hops and filter the 90 Minute IPA through it imparting even more hoppiness into an already ultra-hoppy Imperial IPA!
Randall the Enamel Animal leaves Gateway to make an appearance at the Coventry Winking Lizard Tavern. This time Randall gets packed full of fresh Saaz hops and hooked up to a keg of Dogfish Head Midas Touch. Find out what happens to Midas Touch, Dogfish Head’s mead-like ale, when it gets filtered through Saaz hops! Can you handle Randall?
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Farm to Table & Field to Pint: Boulder, CO
7:00 – 10:00PM @ Avery Brewing Company
Everybody is going local these days. Join the movement.
Freshcraft is a new bar and restaurant in downtown Denver, with an impressive beer list. They are joining forces with one of our favorites, Avery Brewing, for a night of local food and amazing beer. Check out these fairly rare Avery brews:
Freshcraft is one of Denver’s hottest new craft beer / fresh food joints to hit the scene. Owners Jason and Lucas have a particular fondness for great beer, and that’s where we come in! Freshcraft has devised a three course meal paired with three Avery brews (duganA, Fumator and Out of Sight), and Society members can sit down the for the entire meal or pick and items a la carte. The Avery crew will be out in force for this evening, and Freshcraft will be bringing a speaker from one of their local produce suppliers to talk about farm to table.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Founders Night: Cleveland, Ohio
Part of Cleveland Beer Week!!!
6:30 – 9:30 PM @ The Brew Kettle
This is one of our favorite joints in all of Cleveland. The Brew Kettle is putting on a pretty special lineup for the festivities of Cleveland Beer Week, which spans from this past weekend through the end of this weekend.
The Brew Kettle is down in Strongsville, OH, about 20 minutes outside downtown Cleveland. This place has amazing BBQ, phenomenal taps and even a U-Brew component in the back.
We noticed their quite impressive affiliation with Grand Rapids brewer (and my personal favorite) Founders Brewing when we visited back in September. Here is a chance to meet the brewer and taste their hop shocker, Devil Dancer Triple IPA:
Come meet Founder’s John Host and Dave Engbers as they walk you through a lineup of six beers which will include some seasonal/specialty offerings including DEVIL DANCER TRIPLE I.P.A. The beers will be complemented with different appetizers.
For a backup event: do not miss Light Up Night at the ABC Tavern in Cleveland. Founders Brewing’s & Victory Brewing’s brewers will be on hand to pour their amazing ales until 2:00 AM!
Friday, October 22, 2010
Naked City Brewing’s 2nd Anniversary Party: Seattle, Washington
All day long @ Naked City Brewing & Taphouse
You might have read about this can’t miss event on our website today. I am re-posting because of the urgency of this event. Its happening one day only people – be there. Here is the presser:
Join us for Naked City’s 2nd Anniversary Celebration Friday, October 22nd Open-Close! We will have prize giveaways and some very special one-off beers on tap for the occasion. Here is a sampling: Double Header Anniversary Ale (Oak Aged Imperial IPA) New Riders of the Purple Sage (Blackberry Sage Porter) Tay Yay Inna Win (Barrel Aged Sour Ale) Whiskey Oaked Brimstone & Treacle (Cask Old Ale) The Big Lebrewski (White Russian Imperial Stout) Boo Radley Pumpkin Ale Big Chocolate Wood (2010 Pro-Am by Dan Hansen & Will Fredin) Broken Bicycle (Fresh Hop Saison) You get the picture…Mark your calendars!!!
Tapping of a keg of Breakfast Stout that was brewed in 2008. Part of Brew Kettle’s vintage and rare keg tapping series (every day at 5pm during Cleveland Beer Week).
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Bay Area Craft Beer Fest: Martinez, California (near Vallejo, CA)
12:00 (VIP start time) or 1:00 – 5:00 PM @ Martinez Waterfront Park
This is the first go-round for this festival. But, its located in a very cool inland area on the Bay and it has a fairly exhaustive list of Bay Area brewers on tap.
Check out the website for further details on the festival layout and how to get there. Ticket prices are $35.00, and they offer a DD option.
Check out the list right here:
21st Amendment Brewery
Third Street AleWorks
Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Black Diamond Brewing Co.
Blue Frog Grog & Grill
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Gordon Biersch Brewery
Grand Teton Brewing Co.
Hoppy Brewing Company
Iron Springs Pub & Brewery
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Lost Coast Brewery
Marin Brewing Co.
Russian River Brewing Co.
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
Two Rivers Cider Co.
Amazing Alternative: Check out the Pizza Port Hoptoberfest! This string of Southern California brewpubs took major metal home from GABF this year:
Join us for a rooftop party with lots of hoppy beers and a Pig Roast! We’ll be pouring around 40 (yes 40!) beers with tasty hops… wet hops, IPAs, Imperials IPAs, and maybe even a worthy strong pale ale or two!
For your convenience and hoppiness, we’ll also be running a bus from Pizza Port Solana Beach and Pizza Port Carlsbad up to the event. $54 includes roundtrip transportation, beer on the bus, and admission into Hoptoberfest. Bus trip ticket will be on sale at pizzaport.com
Sunday, October 24, 2010
BeerTownAustin & Craft Austin Bike Pub Crawl: Austin, Texas
We very seldom come across a beer event down in Texas. But, if we were to find one, we would guess it would be in Austin.
Two great Austin beer groups are joining forces to put together one heck of a beer crawl by bike. So hop on your pedal machine and get moving. You do not want to miss this one:
Join us Sunday, October 24th for the most epic of pub crawls. It will be a clash of the fanboy titans as BeerTownAustin and Craft Austin go head-to-head in gruesome bike-pub-crawling. There will be biking. There will be pub crawling. There may be copying/pasting.
We will start the ride at Flying Saucer, hit up Draught House, then onto Billy’s on Burnet, with a swing through Thunder Bird, and end up at Black Star Co-op, with local beer specials along the way for everyone on the ride.
Have anything else to announce? Feel free to post below in comments or contact us at email@example.com! Have good beer drinking!
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.
On to the next saga in our “Top 5 Lists” column. We won’t stop until we hit all of the cities we have visited since our beer mania spawned. There are quite a bit of cities – we travel often.
Again, lets revisit the rules and disclaimer:
This will be a quick rundown of the 5 places that we would tell you to visit, if you happened across one of these fair cities. The reason that we want to do this is that we have been getting a lot of inquiries from readers who are simply traveling and want to know where to find beer mecca. The goal is to put this on the site in an easy to read format, cataloged for viewing at any time.
First, the rules:
- We go places because we want, not because someone asked. I cannot stress this enough. We were never enticed to these places by promises of freebies, attention, pats on the back or back room happy endings – we just went because we heard the word.
- We cannot be everywhere. Typically when we visit a city, its for a few days only. This severely limits what we can visit. If there is a critically-acclaimed otherworldly place that we did not make it to, we will try and asterisk it in the Top 5 list so that you know it exists.
- We are not millionaires. Wow, bet you could have guessed that one. We cannot purchase the best of the best all of the time. This limits what we might get out of a particular venue. Just want you to know.
- We like all types of places. These lists are not “beer bar” centric – far from it. In fact, you may find places that make you shake your head. But, if they have the total package of beer, character, service, food and aura – they get the mark.
- We try to poll our choices, but sometimes there is bias. There are 3 primary writers for BeerBlotter.com. We always try to discuss what we like best and poll our choices. Unfortunately, you cannot do it all the time because we are all not at the same places at the same time. As the variables change, so do our opinions. Thus, you might get some choices that are filled with bias. Again, just a warning.
Ok, now that we are through with the rules, lets move on to the Top 5 list for New Orleans, Louisiana.
New Orleans, LA.
- Visits: Man oh man. We have been here many times. The most recent being May 2009, July 2009, and October 2009.
- Area Brewers of Note: Not too many. A recent growth has significantly expanded the list – Abita Brewing, Nola Brewing, Lazy Magnolia Brewery (MS), Heiner Brau, Parish Brewing Co., and to some extent Dixie Brewing Co (though now made up in Wisconsin)
- Town Favorite: There is only one actual brewery in NOLA – Nola Brewing Co. They make some tasty beer. But the town favorite continues to be Abita Brewing Co., who makes beer up north about 45 minutes in Abita Springs. Read more about them below!
- The Top 5…..
Honorable Mentions – Generally a brewery and a beer store make it into the Top 5. Unfortunately, New Orleans lacks a Top 5 brewery to visit that is in New Orleans. As for bottle stores – almost non-existent.
NOLA Brewing (New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing) is emerging and the staff is incredible, but its not a “place to go drink a beer” (unless there are changes since 2009). Abita Brewing is a very cool place, and probably would have made the list if it rested within the boundaries of New Orleans (NOLA). Abita is out in Abita Springs, about 45 minutes north of NOLA, close to gator farms, swamps and back country Louisiana. Its a very good visit.
In the past, Abita had a self-serving tasting room! You’d guzzle endless beer in preparation for a brewery tour that began and ended in the beer room. Great fun. Since then, Abita invested quite a bit in making an incredible taproom. Their beer selection has expanded as well – including an IPA, Satsuma Ale and now….an Imperial Stout (would love to try that). If you visit, make sure to hit both the brewery and the pub, where you can sample some bottled ales and decent NOLA food.
Bottle Shop. There is only one that can be mentioned: Steins Market & Deli, 2207 Magazine, Lower Garden District. At Stein’s, you can find bottles from Brooklyn Brewing, Harpoon Brewing, Jolly Pumpkin, St. Somewhere and breweries across Belgium. If you don’t make it to Stein’s – Whole Foods (Magazine St) is not too bad and generally has some Brooklyn beers.
Now on to the Top 5…..
#5 -Turtle Bay -1119 Decatur St., French Quarter
This place makes it for a combination of good tap selection and excellent location. The place is located beside or across the street from three of our favorite places in New Orleans – Molly’s at the Market (excellent cocktails, incredible culture), Coops Place (our favorite restaurant in the city) and Fiorella’s (best fried chicken in the city).
But lets talk about Turtle Bay. Nothing flashy, but the same great edgy, back of the quarter, atmosphere that you expect from the Decatur bars. Turtle Bay has about 24 taps, including most of the best from the LA/MS scene. While we were there we had a NOLA Brewing Hopitoulas IPA and a Lazy Magnolia Sweet Potato Stout. These are our two favorite New Orleans beers.
Hopitoulas IPA is lightly bitter with a wonderfully delightful sweetness that has you coming back for more. The beer is named for New Orleans’ famed Tchoupitoulas Avenue that runs from downtown to uptown.
Lazy Magnolia’s Jefferson Sweet Potato Stout is typically poured on nitro and served as a sweet, creamy stout. The beer has a light smokey flavor with an incredible smoothness. A very good late fall beer in New Orleans.
Back to the place – it does the job. Go there and start up with a few beers. Head next door to Coops for their famous jambalaya, grab a few pieces of fried chicken at Fiorella’s and then head to Molly’s for an after drink cocktail. After that – head to Frenchmen Street…..more on that later.
#4 – The Bulldog – 3236 Magazine St., Garden District
This place is perpetually on the “must visit” list for beer bars in New Orleans. Its not our favorite, but its one of the original beer bars in the city, with one of the largest tap lists.
The thing that holds Bulldog back in our mind is that though they have a ton of taps, they are generally stuffed full of international macrobrews and beers that would not interest the beer aficionado. I do not want to dog the Bulldog (no pun intended), but the atmosphere here is directed towards college students and young professionals. Its more of a party joint – which is fine by us. We have had amazing times there over the years.
But, the Bulldog stays up here on the list for a combination of a few things. First, they are brilliantly located in the heart of Magazine’s bar district, walking distance to other entertaining watering holes. Second, they have really good food. Try the wings and any of their sandwiches. Finally, they do have an incredible outdoor seating area right on Magazine St. This has been the perfect spot to watch Magazine parades over the years.
Stop by and grab something from Abita on tap. Check the bottle list as well. Its pretty substantial.
#3 – Cooter Browns – 509 S Carrollton Ave., Uptown
Oh baby. Cooter’s is a lot like The Bulldog. Classic Uptown bar, extensive taps and bottle list, and even better food. Its probably the #1 spot on most “must visit” lists.
But unlike The Bulldog this one passes all our tests. The crowd can be strange, but the space is large and you are certainly never bothered. The tap selection is impressive, typically carrying everything that Abita, Lazy Magnolia and NOLA Brewing each offer. Their bottle list is the most extensive in the city. If for some reason you aren’t intrigued by any of their 50+ taps, you will find something in their bottle cooler, which generally has a few hundred selections, including many European ales.
The best part about Cooter Browns is the extensive and tasty food. Cooter’s is one of the only places in Uptown where you can have oysters on the half shell. Not only are their oysters affordable and delicious, but they come with the full gamut of toppings.
Head to the ordering space off the front and grab one of their famous po boy sandwiches. A favorite is the crawfish pie po boy, filled with two deep fried crawfish pies, gravy and all the fixins.
Stop by Cooters for any sporting event. They have about 12 large screen plasmas and a projector for New Orleans and LSU games. Its the perfect place for a mid-day beer stop.
#2 – d.b.a. - 618 Frenchman St., Marigny
#1 and #2 were very close, but for the wrong reasons. Since beer is the focus, I think this order is best.
d.b.a is a close #2 for one major reason – its on Frenchmen St. Frenchmen is the center of the musical universe in New Orleans. Besides having some of the most incredible music you will ever hear, the bars are also incredibly alive and filled with the culture that you expect to see in New Orleans. We spent many a day on Frenchmen during our times down there.
d.b.a is also one of probably three bars on Frenchmen that have music almost every night; and boy do they have music. This used to be the frequent home of the New Orleans Jazz Vipers (Now Cottonmouth Kings), and we have seen many impressive national blues and folk acts travel through those doors over the years.
On to the beer. d.b.a. New Orleans is the follow up to its sister bar in the East Village of NYC. The New Orleans version has typically slacked behind in the beer realm, but it seems to have a growing tap list. In the past two years, we have noticed that they are being more creative with what fills the taps. Now you will see Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA, Stone Smoked Porter, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine, Lazy Magnolia Pecan Brown, and Nola Hopitoulas.
During our last visit we saw an impressive swing band over a couple Leviathan Imperial IPAs. If you visit, check out Frenchmen extensively. Visit the Apple Barrel and the Spotted Cat, both icons seen in the HBO series, Treme. Also, try a bite at the authentic Japanese Izakaya (tavern), Yuki. Hint: get the beef tongue and mini fried crabs.
#1 – Avenue Pub - 1732 St. Charles Ave., Lower Garden District
Avenue Pub is situated in a rather unknown area on St. Charles up from downtown. Its essentially a place that visitors do not find. For these reasons, it had to be amazing to unseat d.b.a. for #1 on our list – it is.
Avenue Pub has the best of both worlds: the best beer selection and the best bar food of any place on the list. What makes it so head and shoulders above the rest is its creative beer and food menus.
The beer selection rivals that of your typical NW and NE beer bars. Its diverse, style-fulfilling, and unique to the area. They have a great relationship with Stone, who gives them vintage ales for their taps. They also have a cask on some days, and other beer events that are impressive. While we were there they had a Amarillo dry-hopped version of Hopitoulas on cask.
Their bottle list includes some favorites from Mikkeller and Brooklyn. They have approximately 50 selections in the bottle, and none of them are beers to frown upon.
Their food is almost as unique. The bar operates J’anita’s, a tiny kitchen/stand connected to the backside of the bar top. J’anita’s menu requires a double take. It has some items you would never think to see on a bar menu. Lets go over a few favorties…..
Buddha’s Temptation – bleu cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped, deep fried apricots!?!
Crunchy Duck Balls - duck breast rolled in Panko and fried, served with berry chipotle sauce.
Beach Sammich – blackened redfish, spicy slaw, and ceaser on a toasted ciabatta.
Swamp Reuben – this isnt anything amazingly weird, but its the best reuben we’ve ever had. Lose the pastrami, this one comes with pulled pork or beef brisket.
St. Chuck Duck – grilled sourdough w/ currant tapenade, topped with chedder and bleu cheese, over cabernet sauteed duck and granny smith apples. Wow.
Sweet Spot – Cabernet soaked burger with caramelized onions, pears, bleu cheese and balsamic reduction.
Got your appetite going yet? Whats cool about Avenue Pub is that they feed you normal pub grub – something you might get a hankering for after your 12th po boy, 6th bowl of gumbo, 4th order of jambalaya and 35th friend crawfish/crab/shrimp/fish.
Oh yes, we don’t want to forget to tell you about the balcony. Avenue Pub is right along the streetcar line. Their rooftop balcony peers over St. Charles and the streetcar as its passes you by every 20-30 minutes.
Go and grab some Buddha’s temptation over a Jefferson Stout. Love life.
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