Archive | June, 2012

Parish Brewing Canebrake debuts in Baton Rouge

19 Jun

Parish Brewing Company is an up and coming craft brewery located in Broussard, Louisiana, just outside of Lafayette. Over the past year, their Canebrake beer has garnered an almost cult following in Lafayette, with word of how good it is spreading all over south Louisiana. Canebrake is a crisp American wheat ale made with Steen’s sugarcane syrup, giving it a sweet taste and a citrusy finish.

Earlier this year, Parish built and moved into their brand new brewery with the hopes of expanding distribution and brewing more great beer. Once the Lafayette market had enough Canebrake, they set their sights on expanding into New Orleans and made it their just in time for American Craft Beer Week in mid-May. In a matter of weeks, Parish was able to gain close to 40 new accounts and have been able to supply all of them with Canebrake.

Now a month later, Parish will enter the Baton Rouge market and Canebrake should be available at local restaurants and watering holes as soon as Monday, June 25th.

I recently caught up with Parish founder and brewer, Andrew Godley, who talked about how Parish Brewing came to be, what he’s doing now and where he envisions Parish in the future.

When did you get into homebrewing and how long have you been brewing your own beer?

I’ve been brewing for about 7 years now. I started with the intent of opening a commercial brewery. My first batch in my garage was an all-out, “all-grain” beer. I wanted to do it like a commercial brewery from the get-go. I was sitting at a restaurant and my only options were Abita amber and Heineken and I was getting tired of those and decided there was an opportunity for another local brew. This was before any Louisiana brewery other than Abita was available. So I saved some money, started learning and reading a lot. I spent most of my free cash on brewing equipment and ingredients and brewed at least 2 beers every week for a few years before deciding to take Canebrake commercial.

Tell me about the decision to brew your beer commercially and what went into it that the average beer drinker might not know?

I think lots of homebrewers want to start a commercial brewery. The hard part for me was building a larger commercial brewery when you’re not filthy rich. I’m sure most face the same issue. I like to pass on advice that the first step in brewing commercially is figuring out how to finance a sustainable enterprise. You need lots of money, and if you haven’t figured out how to get enough, there is no point in going any further. I almost turned back after operating the nano-brewery for 2.5 years. It was harder on me and my family than I ever imagined. I was working a day job as an engineer at a plant plus putting in another 30 to 40 hours at the brewery on evenings and weekends. After two years of burning the candle from both ends I almost called it quits, because every path I went down to finance a larger brewery turned into a dead end. I kept going because I figured this was my only shot to do something like this in my life and eventually put a deal together. It took longer than I imagined and the lesson I learned is that financing a business is a task not to be taken lightly. Brewing beer was the easy part.

Canebrake is the first beer we’ve seen from Parish, but you have a couple others in the pipeline. Tell me about them.

Of course Canebrake will be the beer we enter all new markets with, but we have a lot of other stuff coming out throughout this year that we are very excited about. In the next week or two, we will be brewing our first commercial batch of South Coast, an awesome session amber. Really great biscuit and cracker malt character in this one balanced by noble hops. Only about 5% ABV and a dry, crisp profile. I personally hate amber ales that are too sweet. Think of South Coast like a Fat Tire. Very similar profile. Not a traditional amber. We wouldn’t release it if it wasn’t a great brew. There are a lot of ambers out there that are just a sugary mess of caramel and dark malts and have no harmony or balance. We did a lot of side-by-side tasting of commercial amber beers and I was surprised by what we really discovered about most amber ales that are available here compared to better examples from out of state. Most “amber” ales available here are underattenuated, oxidized, and too sweet and they almost all have too much dark, caramel malt with not enough hop nose to balance. If I’m tasting dark things like tobacco and burnt brown sugar without appropriate hop or yeast treble to match, I am kind of turned off and can’t finish the brew. It just isn’t refreshing or tasty, which is the whole point of beer. I am optimistic South Coast will change a lot of perceptions of local amber brews. The first batch of South Coast will probably be distributed to all distribution areas including Baton Rouge. Same with our Pale Ale, Envie, which we will release a couple of weeks after the South Coast. It’s a solid, big, real pale ale. Some breweries would call it their IPA if they produce beer for the masses. It’s very hoppy and rich. We brew Envie to be a bit sweet to balance the heavy citrusy hop load. I just bought a filling machine for 750ml bottles that we plan to use to bottle condition limited release stuff a few times each year. We will be brewing Grand Reserve in a few weeks and then cellaring it at the brewery until release much later in the year, maybe even 2013.

You’re new system brewed more beer in the first batch than your old one brewed all of last year. Did that present any challenges?

There have been several small issues, but honestly we have had a pretty smooth transition to the new brewery. I’d like to think my experience as the chief engineer at a large chemical plant helped in the planning process. We bought brand new equipment so everything worked as soon as we got it all installed and we brewed the next day. Some small issues that we have had to deal with include moving hot brewery effluent and wastewater to the sewer and getting consistent water for brewing nearly 1,000 gallon batches. We installed a fancy water filter to make our beers even smoother with precise control of salt content in the water, for example. Honestly I’m just happy to be brewing at our own brewery during normal hours like a normal human being. It’s a dream come true and there aren’t any big issues that are worth complaining about. We are brewing badass beer, we are independent and free to brew what we want, and we go to work at a brewery every day. Doesn’t get any better than that!

I know you hate to try to nail down dates, but do you have any idea when we can expect to see Canebrake (as well as South Coast and Envie) bottles on grocery store shelves in south Louisiana? Canebrake sure seems like a great tailgating beer if you get my drift.

We are actually trying to get Canebrake bottles out ASAP. We are bottling some today as a matter of fact. Any delay is due to quality control, ensuring the bottles are filled properly and they still taste excellent after a week in the package. Getting beer in the bottle without oxidation isn’t easy and many beers out there don’t taste as good as they do on draft because it is a challenging process. We are using a used bottling line, so we have had to make adjustments and repairs to get it going properly. We think we are going to be making great bottled product this week, so Lafayette may get some as soon as next week. I don’t know if we will be able to make enough for Baton Rouge and other markets this year, but I am sure going to try.

To let you know how serious I am about not releasing anything until its perfect, we are actually dumping a bunch of bottles we packaged 2 weeks ago. In short, we had a small issue with our filler that caused very minor taste differences in our brew. Most people would never even taste the difference, but we could, and I decided that if it wasn’t perfect we wouldn’t sell it. I could probably have sold these bottles and had lots of “hey, this is good” responses, but we are going for the “this is the most awesome local beer I’ve ever had” response. Our goal is to be a great brewery, not just OK.

I know you’re a proponent of using local ingredients in your beer. Tell me more about that.

It’s as simple as trying to differentiate our products while using what we’re familiar with. I was using lots of local herbs and fruits in other beers before deciding we would make a wheat beer with sugarcane syrup as our first beer. Where we live is literally flush with sugarcane. It’s everywhere. Honestly it would be kind of silly if we didn’t use it in some way. At our new brewery, literally 20 feet behind the brewhouse is a huge sugarcane field. I would like to say that Canebrake is the only beer in the world that uses sugarcane in any substantial quantity. We buy it several drums at a time directly from the Steen’s factory down the road from our brewery. We replace a huge portion of grain with it. As far as flavor impact, it’s just like Belgian brewers using candied sugar in their brews. It adds alcohol with minor flavor components of sweet brown sugar. As we grow we will try to use as many local ingredients as possible, but only if it makes the beer better. Some things don’t work in beer and I will never use something just because it’s local to help sell beer.

What does the future hold for Parish? Any ideas on future beers or the direction you’d like to go?

Well we will be selling Canebrake, South Coast, and Envie by the end of the summer. I hope to get our first bottle conditioned, artisan beer out there by the holidays in Grand Reserve. After that we have plans for a Black IPA, a tripel IPA, a true Czech pils, 2 saisons, and an imperial stout. Obviously it will take a while to get all of this out there, but these are what we intend on brewing. Many will be seasonals or one-time, small batch, annual releases. Once we are selling enough Canebrake and other brews to pay the bills, we will be able to do more experimental and interesting stuff. We have plans for a barrel aging cellar as well in the future for small batch sours and brettanomyces beers. In short, the beers that we are releasing now are as plain as it will get for Parish. I have told people before that my goal is to be one of the highest regarded breweries in the South. We will keep working toward that goal one brew at a time and we have a long way to go.

It sounds like Parish Brewing is a fantastic addition to the craft beer scene, not only in south Louisiana, but the South in general. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them. It will be great to have some really top notch craft beers made just down the road, and I look forward to watching them grow. Be sure to get over to the brewery one Friday afternoon from 4:00 until 6:00 for a tour, free tasting, and merchandise available for sale.

Green Flash coming to Louisiana

18 Jun

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Yes, the rumors are true. Green Flash brewing is spreading their wings into Louisiana this month. To celebrate, The Avenue Pub in New Orleans is hosting a rollout party all week long, beginning tomorrow, June 19th.

Tuesday, Hop Head Red and West Coast IPA will be on tap.

Wednesday will feature Double Stout, Le Freak, Saison Diego, Belgian Trippel, Rayon Vert (bottle only) and Linchpin White IPA, a collaboration with Founders.

Thursday will feature all of the above plus Retro Extra Pale Ale, Barleywine, Imperial IPA and St. Feuillian collaboration with Biere de L’Amite.

See the full schedule here.

According to Avenue Pub owner Polly Watts, “Green Flash is a great West Coast brewery that does more than one thing well. They aren’t one trick ponies like a lot hops-forward West Coast breweries. Green Flash is going to offer New Orleans beer lovers a lot of variety and choice that we haven’t had access to before.”

Word is that Green Flash bottles will show up in Baton Rouge stores the first week of July. A Baton Rouge release event will take place at Cuban Liquor on Friday June 22nd from 5 til 7 PM.

Read more here from Todd Price at nola.com

Cheers!

Happy Father’s Day

17 Jun

Here’s to a happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Hope you’re enjoying a great beer today. I know I am.

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Westvleteren 12 gift pack US debut gets delayed

15 Jun westvleteren12

A few months ago, I wrote about the expected release of Westvleteren XII in the US this June. Many of you have asked for an update, and unfortunately, it looks like we’ll have to wait a bit longer.

First came word in early May that Manneken-Brussels Imports would no longer be the distributor west of the Mississippi. That left Shelton Brothers as perhaps the only importer of the Westvleteren XII gift sets.

According to a Shelton Brothers release, the Sint-Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, Belgium has asked for the public release to be delayed until September. However, Shelton Brothers will actually have some Westvleteren XII to preview to patrons at The Festival, on June 23rd and 24th in Worcester, Massachusetts. Each day, 8 cases will be served, with tastings limited to 1 per person. Also, attendees will be offered the opportunity to purchase their own gift boxes from Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, Massachusetts.

Obviously this is a fantastic opportunity if you are in the northeast and can attend. Hopefully The Festival attendees don’t buy up all of the Westvleteren XII allocated for the rest of the country.

More to come as I hear of it.

Read the official release here.

Words to live by

14 Jun

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Southern Tier 2X Stout

13 Jun

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Southern Tier is a 10 year old brewery located in Lakewood, NY. They currently brew about 50,000 barrels of beer annually and distribute to roughly half the US, yet Louisiana is unfortunately not among the states that gets it.

I recently had the opportunity to try their 2X Stout, which is billed as a double milk stout which contains lactose, adding a sweetness to the beer. It weighs in at 7.5% ABV. It poured a deep black color and the smell was of chocolate. The taste was sweet, with a hint of chocolate. I found it to be a bit thin for a double stout, yet there was a bit of a boozy finish for a beer with only 7.5% ABV.

Although it was a decent offering, it wasn’t quite the dessert beer I had hoped it would be. Their Mokah stout absolutely blows this one away. The 2X Stout gets 3 1/2 bottle caps out of 5 from me.

Hells Hills trail half marathon

13 Jun

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Saturday, June 9th marked the 3rd race in the 2012 Forge Trail Series. The Hells Hills 10K and half marathon was held at Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston, LA.

I rode up with race director, Jeff Beck early Friday morning. We intended to leave Thursday evening, camp that night, then mark the course Friday morning so we could take it easy that afternoon. However, a back injury had Jeff immobilized all day Thursday, and we were both worried about what that would mean for Friday and race day. But he soldiered through it and toughed it out for a couple days, doing much more than his doctor, physical therapist and wife would have approved.

We began marking the race course shortly before noon. He had his bike and did the first part of the half marathon course, which had more splits and intersections, while I tackled the 10K and second part of the half marathon course. I was on foot, and ran bits of it, stopping to put up arrows, tape and to take a few pictures. The trails at Lincoln Parish Park are very well marked already, so it was a pretty easy job to mark it do runners would stay on course. But I did manage to lengthen it a bit by adding a short hilly section not originally on the course map. I didn’t hear anyone complain, so it must not have been too bad.

Check out some pictures from the race course below:

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Of course I had to take a break to hydrate while marking the course.

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We had finished by 2:30, then put up a few banners at the pavilion near the start, then headed to find a campsite and a well deserved beer.

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Or two.

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Before long, some friends and fellow racers joined us at the campsite and we headed into town for a bite to eat at Portico’s, just a couple miles up the road. It was late when we got back, and everyone crashed almost immediately.

The 4 AM alarm came much too early, but there was work to be done. Jeff and I found a convenience store up the road and grabbed about 150 pounds of ice to keep the water, sports drinks and post-race beer cold. We then unloaded a trailer full of race gear, drinks, ice chests, PA system and many more things for the race.

By 6 AM, I was headed to some road crossings to set up the aid stations with water coolers and sports drinks while Jeff got the race numbers and shirts ready for packet pickup. Racers began filing in shortly after 6:30, and a steady stream was picking up their gear until 8:00.

Remembering I had a race to run myself, I gathered my things and took a few pre-race pics with my good friend and Rouge Orleans teammate, Kristin.

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Apparently, I was doing something wrong.

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Runners lined up at the start, butt to butt, as the 10K runners took off in one direction, while the half marathon runners headed in the other direction. The gun went off, and so did the runners. I was running the half, which meant one loop around the lake, which was about 1.3 miles. Then we headed into the woods and dirt trails. I kept a nice pace to start, somewhere in the group about 10 runners back. I only passed a couple of runners in the first few miles and felt pretty good. The trails were very dry and in great shape. You had to watch your footing though, as rocks and roots were abundant. The first few miles were relatively flat, with only some gentle rolling hills. The second half, however, was a different story.

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I refilled my water bottle at the first aid station, roughly 4 1/2 miles in, as it was beginning to warm up. Shortly after the mile 6 mark, we hit the section that I had marked the previous day. You would think I’d have an advantage, knowing what was coming. But no, at mile 7 1/2 it happened. One of those rocks jumped up and tripped me, sending me sprawling out on the trail. Once again, I scraped my left hand and dirtied up my water bottle (sweat plus dirt equals mud) and I was tasting dirt with every subsequent sip.

We hit a long section of switchbacks up a hill and I knew the second aid station would soon follow. I filled my bottle and took a gel and was briefly reenergized, even though I got passed by a runner as i refilled. The next couple miles were filled with gnarly up and down sections that sucked the remaining energy out of me. I got passed just after mile 10 by the eventual female winner. She had been close to me for a bit, then I wouldn’t see her for a bit before she caught up again. That happened twice. When she finally passed me, she said she had fallen twice, and her bloody knees were proof.

I was sucking wind at this point, but the toughest climb was ahead, followed by the steepest downhill. I was toast after both of those, and I realized that I went out too fast, while the late night and early morning took their toll on me. I passed the finish area, but still had another mile-plus loop around the lake. Everyone cursed Jeff for that one. It was much hotter for this loop, and my right hamstring decided to cramp up with a mile to go. That made the last mile take a whole lot longer than it should have, and again I got passed. This one cost me first place in my age division, which was tough to swallow.

I finally crossed the finish line just in time to break 2 hours on a tough course. Yet, it was good enough for 7th overall, so despite my struggles, I had a good showing.

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I refueled with a Stone Ruination IPA and some homebrewed wheat ale so graciously provided by Bobby and Jamie Love, as well as some freshly made jambalaya from
J.P. Delahoussaye.

I helped distribute awards and door prizes, then broke down the setup and packed the remaining things back in the trailer. Reality hit that we had 13 miles of course markings to take down, which was mentally draining. All I wanted to do was break camp, shower and get on the road home. But, we must leave the trails as we found them, so the course markings had to come down and the aid station trash had to be picked up. Now I know why many races go paperless and don’t give out sports drink bottles. It was amazing to see how many runners just threw their trash on the trails. That would never occur to me, but I don’t litter and I carry a handheld bottle to refill.

Finally, everything was put away and that shower was fantastic. There’s something to be said for getting clean before a 4 1/2 hour drive home. I made it home for 10:30, and immediately crashed.

It was a great weekend out on the trails. The hard work was worth it, and I got to run a great race. Those are some fantastic trails and there’s some great camping there. I fully intend to return with the whole family for a more relaxed weekend sometime soon.

See race results here.

Also, check out the great video put together by Brandon Williams of Claim Your Journey below.

Be sure to sign up for the 4th and final race of the 2012 Forge Trail Series, which is the Battlefield 10K on October 13th at the Port Hudson state historic site in Jackson, LA.

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