Abita Bayou Bootlegger Hard Root Beer

19 Jan

Hey there! Long time, no blog. The holidays and the day job kept me busy, and I haven’t written anything in a while. Hope to turn that around soon.

At the end of 2015, Abita Brewing launched their foray into the hard root beer world with Bayou Bootlegger. They sent me a six pack of it to sample, so here are my thoughts.

If you’ll remember, I did a comparison of Not Your Father’s Root Beer and Coney Island Hard Root Beer back in the fall. I really haven’t had any since then, even though there’s some NYFRB in my fridge. It’s just too sweet for me. Let’s see if Abita’s version is more to my liking, shall we?

Here’s what Abita says about Bayou Bootlegger:

Bayou Bootlegger is a decidedly adult take on the old-fashioned soda fountain root beers of days gone by. Gluten-free and sweetened with pure Louisiana cane sugar, this handcrafted beer delivers aromas of wintergreen, vanilla and sassafras, with hints of clove and anise. Enjoy its smooth, complex and satisfyingly sweet flavor as your go-to thirst quencher or paired with your favorite meal.

Its namesake is inspired by New Orleans’ original bayou bootlegger, Jean Lafitte, the early-19th century French pirate and smuggler who took up arms in defense of New Orleans during the War of 1812. As the packaging says, these sodas “are brewed with the swagger and rebellious spirit of our most famous pirate.”

When poured, it looks like root beer, minus the fizz you get from Barq’s. The aroma? Well, the aroma was downright awful. It was disgusting. It smelled like rubber. Maybe it’s named Bayou Bootlegger because it was fermented in rain boots. It was so off putting that it didn’t matter that the taste was fine. But since aroma and flavor are so interconnected, I couldn’t get past the aroma.

I don’t know if this was a bad batch, but I couldn’t finish the first bottle and got the same thing from the second bottle. I ended up dumping the remaining 4 bottles, because there was no way I was going to drink them. Sorry Abita, thanks for the root beer, but this one needs to be fixed. I can recognize the difference between a beer that’s not my style and one that’s got technical flaws, and this one is flawed. It smells terrible.

So don’t bother. Ugh.

File Jan 19, 1 28 14 PM

Bell’s Brewery to launch in Louisiana in 2016

3 Dec

Great news for fans of Bell’s Brewery here in Louisiana. Bell’s plans to expand into Louisiana in 2016! See what they have to say below:

Bell’s beer will head to Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas

Josh Smith | Bell’s Brewery
We’re excited to announce that we’ve begun the process to bring our beer to three new states in 2016.

Bell’s beer will head to the great states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas next year, filling in our southeastern footprint.

As this process has just begun, no specific launch dates or other details have been finalized.

“We start with making sure we have the right people in any new state, then start looking for a distributor that believes in and follows the same standards of quality that we maintain,” Bell’s Vice President Laura Bell said.

“It’s about having the right partner(s). It will take a little time, this is a long-term relationship, and we want to make sure we follow our due diligence,” she said.

Construction at our Comstock Brewery is ongoing with new packaging equipment and fermenters recently being delivered. The expansion is not expected to be completed until the spring and summer.

The search for a Lead Brewery Sales Representative for Louisiana has also begun. Application details can be found here.

Additional details will be announced at bellsbeer.com and on social media as they become available. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and Flickr.

I am excited!


Saint Arnold Art Car IPA

17 Nov

Saint Arnold Brewing recently debuted a new IPA, inspired by the hand painted cars that brewery team members can be seen driving from time to time. Art Car IPA has finally made it to store shelves in south Louisiana, and naturally, I had to test some out. Saint Arnold says this about Art Car IPA:

Art Car IPA is an American IPA featuring a blend of both new and old hop varieties from the Pacific Northwest.

The nose is a blend of apricot and tropical fruit and mango. The taste starts with a big bitter blood orange that morphs into mangos and sweet tropical fruits. There is a lightly sweet malt body that allows the hops to shine while maintaining a nice complexity to the flavors.

Art Car pours a light orange color, so right away I know this one will feature the hops. If you’ve read any of my IPA reviews (OK, most of my reviews are IPA reviews), you’ll know that I don’t particularly care for an IPA that’s full of dark crystal malts, as I find it really takes away from the hops. So when I see an IPA pour like this one, it’s already won the first battle in my view. Apricot was the first thing I smelled, followed by some tropical fruit and a touch of pine. I can’t say I got the blood orange flavor that Saint Arnold describes, as again, I got apricot and a touch of pineapple with a little pine. This isn’t a bitter finishing beer, and it has a medium body, making it pretty dang easy to drink, especially given that it weighs in at 7.1% ABV.

File Nov 17, 10 58 11 AM

Saint Arnold uses Columbus, Cascade and Simcoe hops in the boil, then hits it with a big dry hop blast of Amarillo, Simcoe and Mosaic.

I love that Saint Arnold is canning this beer, and I’m a huge proponent of not only canned beers, but canned IPAs, as I find they stay fresher longer. I was really happy with Art Car IPA, and I can definitely see this one being a staple in my fridge as a go to single IPA. Well done, Saint Arnold.

Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop IPA

6 Nov

Sierra Nevada Brewing is well known for their use of whole cone hops in their beers. They also were among the first breweries in the US to use wet hops in their Northern Hemisphere Harvest IPA. Here’s what Sierra Nevada says about this limited release beer:

Northern Hemisphere was the first wet hop ale and it inspired the wet hop craze here in America. Wet—undried—hops go straight from the fields into our kettles within 24 hours. Because hops are incredibly perishable, using hops wet preserves all of the precious oils and resins for a unique drinking experience as evidenced by the intense herbal green flavors and citrus-like and floral aromas. Northern Hemisphere is part of our five-bottle Harvest series which features single hop, fresh hop, wet hop, and wild hop beers.

Northern Hemisphere pours from the 24oz bottle a copperish-amber color. Uh-oh. For me, this is not a good sign if the beer is allegedly designed to feature wet hop characteristics. Why is that, you may ask? In order to get that amber color, they had to use crystal (caramel) malts, which for me, detracts from the hops. Sure enough, their website confirms that Caramel malts are used to brew this beer. Fortunately, the aroma is still hop forward, with pine being dominant, but citrus and grapefruit coming through as well, along with some bready malt. This is a nice IPA, as the taste is distinctly Sierra Nevada. The hops are certainly there, but there’s also a big malt backbone that doesn’t allow those wet hops to truly shine. There’s nothing wrong with this beer, and it’s certainly enjoyable, but I think it could let those wet hops be featured a lot more by cutting back on those crystal malts that bring the caramel and bready notes with them. I think their Hop Hunter IPA is actually better in terms of fresh hop aroma and flavor than this Northern Hemisphere Harvest IPA.

Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest IPA

Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest IPA

It also must be said that I’m disappointed that the bottles that hit shelves yesterday (November 5th) here in south Louisiana were bottled by Sierra Nevada on September 22nd. Why does it take a month and a half for an IPA that’s supposed to feature hops that are super fresh to get to our shelves? There’s a breakdown somewhere between when it was bottled in Chico, CA to our shelves here. I don’t know the answer for sure, but I have my suspicions. However, that is a post for another day.

LA Homebrew to host Learn to Homebrew Day on November 7th

4 Nov


Learn to Homebrew Day (LTHD) was established by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) in 1999 to encourage homebrewers to introduce their non-brewer friends and family to the most rewarding hobby, obsession and lifestyle since the beginning of time!

Through beer making, demonstrations, tastings and other educational efforts, LTHD events around the world are spreading the joy of homebrewing far and wide, so don’t miss out!

LA Homebrew will be hosting an event from 9:00am until 4:00pm on Saturday, November 7th to celebrate the occasion and to draw new homebrewers into the hobby.


They will have beer brewing demos for first time homebrewers and they will be brewing a 10 gallon batch of beer. Local homebrewers will be there making beer and there should be at least one professional brewer on premise. The event is free and takes place from 9:00 a.m. 4:00 p.m at the shop. Additionally, they will be launching the Biere Noire kit, their collaboration with Karlos Knott at Bayou Teche, as well as their 1 gallon kits.

They will also have free food (smoked pork shoulder and chicken) as well as tailgating games, and college football games on the flat screen TVs to get you ready for the big LSU-Alabama game later that night.

The international event is sponsored by the American Homebrewers Association. They will also have sales going on for anybody new to homebrewing and anybody who brings in a friend new to brewing will get a free pint glass. Their goal is to have anybody interested in homebrewing to be able to brew a beer by the time they leave the shop.

“Join us as we celebrate Learn to Homebrew Beer day with free food, beer brewing demos, tailgate games, food, football and special sales. Bring your pots and burners to brew with us. We’ll be open early so you can brew, play, and drink and still make it home for the game!”

Let LA Homebrew know you’re coming with an RSVP to their Facebook event page.

LA Homebrew 3

Gnarly Barley Imperial Korova Milk Porter

30 Oct

Last Saturday saw the 2nd Annual GnarBQ at Gnarly Barley Brewing, and along with that, the release of their newest beer, Imperial Korova Milk Porter. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the event, but I did get a bottle of it (thanks, Chuck P!). This is how Gnarly Barley describes Imperial Korova:

This is an Imperial version of our Baltic Oatmeal Milk Porter. This beer is Cold fermented in order to allow the malts to shine. You can expect to taste sweet notes of chocolate and coffee with a slight hint of alcohol on the finish.

The bottles were bottle conditioned, and should age well. The beer pours a very dark brown to black, with very little head. The first thing I got from the aroma was dark chocolate, and the taste followed. There’s little to no hop presence in either the aroma or flavor, so the big malt bill shines. As it warms, I get some coffee flavors, but the dark chocolate is still dominant. The finish is easy with no bitterness coming through at all. Mouthfeel is medium, and while you can perceive a little alcohol on the tongue, it is easy to drink for a 9% ABV beer. I feel that it was slightly undercarbonated, but fortunately this is a style that can benefit from that, or rather, doesn’t require a lot of carbonation to be a good beer. This is definitely a porter, as it doesn’t ever venture into stout territory with any roasted notes or chewy mouthfeel. All in all, a really well done beer.

If you were like me and missed the release at the brewery, you’ll soon be able to pick up bottles or try it on draft. Starting in early November, a limited bottle and keg release in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and the Northshore will take place. You can also try it on tap and grab a bottle directly from the brewery if you’re in the area.

Gnarly Barley Imperial Korova Milk Porter

Gnarly Barley Imperial Korova Milk Porter

Founders Harvest Ale returns

29 Oct

Early this week, I wrote about the return of Founders Breakfast Stout. In addition to that wonderful stout, this week we saw Founders Harvest Ale show up around south Louisiana. Harvest Ale is a wet hopped ale, meaning that the hops were harvested, then immediately shipped to the brewery and used before they were dried. Founders says this about Harvest Ale:

This liquid dream pours a hazy golden straw color with a white, two-finger head. Your first sip rewards you with a super juicy hop presence bursting with fresh citrus, then finishes to introduce toasted malt undertones.

Founders Harvest Ale

Founders Harvest Ale

I poured it into my handy can shaped Founders glass (OK, it’s an All Day IPA glass), and I found it ever so slightly darker than “golden straw color,” but I would hesitate to call it copper or amber. The vegetal hops are noticeable right away (have I ever mentioned how much I love fresh hops?) along with lots of pine and some citrus notes as well. The taste is all hops, and it’s heavy on the pine. There’s a bit of malt to support it, but it stays the hell out of the way, like a good IPA should. For a beer that’s 7.6% ABV, this one is crushable and super easy to drink. The mouthfeel is medium with some creaminess. There’s a bitterness that resonates on the tongue and leaves a little stickiness, but it is enjoyable and not at all off putting. This is such an enjoyable IPA, and I’m really giddy that it’s back.

I have to say that Harvest Ale is probably my absolute favorite Founders beer. Yes, I know that KBS is a world class beer, and Breakfast Stout is a classic stout. But my love of wet hopped beers makes this one very hard to beat. Look for a 4-pack or a pint on draft soon, because this is a very limited release that will go very quickly.

Founders Harvest Ale

Founders Breakfast Stout makes its return

26 Oct

One of the biggest reasons I was excited that Founders entered the Louisiana market a year and a half ago was that we’d see their Breakfast Stout here. Indeed, stout season is starting to begin now and this week we will see the return of Founders Breakfast Stout here in south Louisiana in both 4-packs and on draft. Founders says this about Breakfast Stout:

The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and two types of coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever.

Breakfast Stout weighs in at 8.3%, so it’s not a beer that can be pounded all day long. But it can certainly be enjoyed at any time of day, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Founders was kind enough to send me a couple sample bottles of this year’s batch in early October, so I’ve been able to try this version a bit earlier than most.

Breakfast Stout pours a very dark brown to black color, with a smallish tan colored head. The aroma is certainly coffee forward, but there’s also a good bit of dark chocolate to it. The taste follows the nose, with the dark chocolate slightly more predominant than it seems in the aroma. There’s still plenty of coffee flavor to this beer, though. This is a wonderfully full bodied beer, thanks to the flaked oats, which contribute to the mouthfeel. The finish is big and bold, and while the IBUs are listed at 60, the hops really don’t take the spotlight here, rather they just counteract the sweetness of this malty stout.

The great thing about Founders Breakfast Stout is the wide variety of food it can be paired with. Whether you’re enjoying doughnuts, waffles or omelettes for breakfast, or a hearty burger or steak for dinner, this beer pairs equally well. It also ages very well, and I find that the coffee flavors hang around a bit longer than some coffee beers, so you can certainly grab some to enjoy well after it’s gone from the shelves.

Look for Founders Breakfast Stout to start hitting shelves this week.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Founders Breakfast Stout

The Hard Root Beer Trend: Not Your Father’s Root Beer vs. Coney Island Hard Root Beer

23 Oct

Among the beer trends we’ve seen blow up in 2015 is the emergence of so-called hard root beers. It began with Not Your Father’s Root Beer (which should also be labeled “Not Your Kid’s Root Beer”) from Pabst/Phusion, I mean Small Town Brewery. Recently Sam Adams, I mean Coney Island Brewing (which is owned by Sam Adams parent company) released their own Hard Root Beer. And not to be outdone, Anheuser-Busch will soon be releasing their own version, Best Damn Root Beer.

There’s plenty to be wary about with all of these beers. The story of Small Town Brewery is rather fishy to me, and you can read more about it here. Pardon me if I’m a little skeptical that the same company that produces Four Loko, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice is also “brewing” Not Your Father’s Root Beer. And when cases upon cases are stacked on the floor of nearly every grocery store in town, it’s hard to buy their “small town” shtick.

I recently tried Not Your Father’s Root Beer (5.9% ABV) side by side with Coney Island’s Hard Root Beer (5.8% ABV). And, BS stories aside, here are my thoughts.

Not Your Father's Root Beer vs. Coney Island Hard Root Beer

Not Your Father’s Root Beer vs. Coney Island Hard Root Beer

Both look like root beer when poured. The carbonation isn’t quite what you’d see out of a soda fountain root beer, but then again, it isn’t really supposed to be quite that carbonated. Both smell of vanilla. Lots of vanilla, with some licorice to boot. The NYFRB tastes like root beer at first. Very sweet root beer, but still, you could certainly mistake it for Barq’s or Dad’s or A&W. The finish is a little off, and that’s where the alcohol burn comes through. But the main thing I find is just how sweet this is. After a few sips, the sweetness actually begins to get a little off putting. Or a lot off putting by the end of the 12 ounce glass.

The Coney Island version wasn’t quite as sweet as the NYFRB. It was more like a beer with vanilla and root beer flavors, but there was something that was still a little off to me. It took me a while, but then it hit me about halfway through the glass. It had a distinct toothpaste flavor, specifically Pepsodent. You know, this stuff:


It was immediately ruined for me. Done.

But hey, maybe you’ll like it.

For me, I can enjoy the Not Your Father’s Root Beer in very small doses. My wife tends to enjoy it, so I’ll take a few sips of hers, which ends of being plenty for me. I can’t really say I’ll drink either of these very often.

What are your thoughts on these? Let me know in the comments below.

Surly WET: a wet hopped IPA

22 Oct

There are countless things to be excited about when autumn returns. Football, cooler weather, pumpkin spiced everything (OK, maybe not that), and the return of fresh or wet hopped beers.

One of those wet hop beers is WET from Surly Brewing in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Surly’s beers aren’t available here in Louisiana, but that didn’t stop me from acquiring some a couple weeks ago. Wet hop beers are unlike most beers, in that the hops used have never been dried and kilned, so you get an unbelievably fresh hop aroma and flavor. It takes quite a bit of coordination to pull off a wet hop brew, as the hops have to be used as soon as possible after harvesting, before they start to lose their fresh qualities. Surly says this about WET:

We took a break from brewing our Wet Hopped West Coast Style IPA in 2014 while we moved into our new brewery so for 2015 we came back with a bang. Our 2015 edition features 6,000 lbs of Simcoe hops harvested from the Yakima region of Washington. We went all out in 2015 and brewed 600 barrels, TEN TIMES as much WET as we first brewed when we started wet hopping back in 2009. And, for the first time ever, WET distribution will reach our neighbors in Wisconsin, Iowa and Chicago in both draft and 16oz cans.

Our 2015 WET hops were picked in the Pacific Northwest on a Sunday, packed into vented and stackable bins, loaded into a refrigerated trailer and arrived at our loading dock the following Tuesday ready to impart their aromatic oils into the beer in a way dried or processed hop pellets can’t.

Brewing WET takes a massive amount of teamwork and coordination. Beginning at 6am, WET dominated the production schedule, requiring 10 people to orchestrate the brewing cycle around the clock for four days. 2015 also marked the first year the brewers were able to utilize a rotary forklift to dump the hop back, increasing both productivity and efficiency when handling such a massive volume of hops.

Brewing WET is a labor of love so we are pumped to re-release one of our favorite seasonal beers.

WET looks like an IPA should. It’s a bright golden color. There’s no amber or copper notes to this one, meaning Surly wants the hops to shine, not to be “balanced,” err…hidden by caramel malts. The aroma is vegetal with notes of fresh cut grass and peaches. The aroma isn’t quite as strong as I’d hoped, but the flavor is wonderful. It highlights just how fresh hops differ from ones that are kilned, dried and frozen for later use. It tastes just like you picked the hops right off the bine and licked your fingers. The mouthfeel is light and this is an easy to drink beer.

Drinking Surly WET makes me wonder which Louisiana brewery will be the first to brew a wet hopped beer. Hopefully one or more of them can figure out the logistics to brew one in 2016, because it certainly makes the effort worth the payoff.

Surly WET

Surly WET


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