Since 2008, NOLA Brewing has been pushing the boundaries of local craft beer here in Louisiana. With brews such as Hurricane Saison (a farmhouse ale/saison), Irish Channel Stout (an American stout) and Smoky Mary (a rauchbier, or German-styled smoked beer), NOLA has venutred where other, more well known Louisiana craft breweries haven’t gone.
Enter the newest NOLA beer, Mechahopzilla, which is a west coast style imperial IPA. What does that mean? Well NOLA took a whole lot of malts, a whole lot of hops and made a beer that launches an assault on your palate from first sip. I was fortunate enough to be able to sample some (OK, lots) of it at the brewery recently and it was everything it was supposed to be. Mechahopzilla pours from the most badass tap handle ever, a dark coppery amber color and the nose is hoppy, just like a double IPA should be. The first sip is full of citrusy, piney hops that resonate on your tongue. Yet it is balanced with a big malt backbone and a hint of alcohol heat. The resinous hops stick around for a while, so your palate gets to keep enjoying them long after you’ve finished your sip. Overall, this is a wonderful imperial IPA, one that I will seek out as long as it’s available. It is only available on tap and the supply is a bit limited since this is a very expensive beer to produce. Mechahopzilla weighs in at 8.8% ABV, so this is no session beer. I was lucky enough to be able to fill a growler with it , so I’ll be enjoying it in the comfort of my home for the next day or two.
Interestingly, I also tried it at Avenue Pub in New Orleans, and the nose and initial hop bite was lacking when compared with the one I tried at the brewery. It was also served too cold, and I got more out of it as it warmed up a bit. It still had that resinous feel at the back end, where your tongue felt like it was covered in hops. But the hop aroma wasn’t there at first, though it did become more apparent as the beer warmed up a bit. I will be curious to try this in other places to see if this was an anomaly, or if something happened during storage at the distributor to take away from the beer. It’s an experiment that I will be happy to undertake so I can report the findings. The things I do for you people…
Anyway, get thee to your favorite draft house and give NOLA’s Mechahopzilla a try. This effort only cements NOLA’s place in my book as far and away the best craft brewery in the state of Louisiana. Everything they produce is a winner and it’s good to see them push the envelope yet again. There’s a reason that Stone Brewing chose to collaborate with NOLA last winter on Pour Me Something Mister, their imperial porter. That’s because NOLA makes really good and interesting beers. I keep hoping that other local breweries will see what NOLA is doing and kick their game up a notch or two to really help create a great Louisiana craft beer scene.
Fall is officially here, though you’d be hard pressed to know it gauging by the thermometers here in south Louisiana. But soon enough the warm days and humid evenings will give way to pleasant afternoons and cool nights. And what better to have on a crisp autumn evening out on the front porch than a pumpkin beer? Soon enough, I’ll have 2 different pumpkin beers that I brewed myself to enjoy this October.
I finally decided to try my hand at homebrewing earlier this summer. I’ve brewed 3 different beers since mid-July, a bourbon oak aged IPA, a hopped up double IPA, and my favorite of the bunch, a basil wheat. A week ago, I brewed a pumpkin ale, which fermented nicely and is now in secondary fermentation awaiting bottling this weekend.
Tonight I brewed a pumpkin wheat. Like the pumpkin ale, I steeped canned pumpkin at the same time I steeped the grains. And with 5 minutes left in the boil, I added some pumpkin pie spice, allspice and a bit of cinnamon. I pitched the yeast and expect it to be fermenting away tomorrow morning.
It will be very interesting to compare the 2 pumpkin homebrews when they are ready. I’ll of course revisit this post when I do get to try them side by side next month.
The picture below shows my pumpkin wheat (left) and pumpkin ale. Names yet to be determined, but I have some ideas.
I finally decided to start homebrewing a couple a months ago on a very small scale basis. I ordered a 1 gallon kit from Craft-a-brew and made my very first beer, a dry-hopped, bourbon oak aged IPA. It came out pretty nice, even if it still had some hops in the final product.
For my second effort, I did another IPA, but this time an all grain effort from Brooklyn Brew Shop. It was more effort, with the mash, and I kicked up the hops as well as the ABV with some additional corn syrup added to the boil. It ended up nice and hoppy, but the mouthfeel was thin without enough malt backbone. But this one was a much clearer beer since I racked it to a secondary fermenter and used an auto siphon with a filter, so I wouldn’t pull as much yeast or hops into the fermenter or the bottles.
My 3rd effort was an American wheat, again from Brooklyn Brew Shop. I knew I wanted to add something to it when I racked this one to secondary, but I was torn. I’ve had plenty of fruit wheat beers and I didn’t really want to go in that direction. Then it hit me. My wife has plenty of basil growing in our garden, so why not a basil wheat? I picked about 6 leaves, washed them well and tore them into small enough pieces to fit into the carboy. I racked it on top of the basil and allowed it to sit for another week before bottling.
After allowing it to carbonate for about 10 days, I finally got to taste it yesterday. Immediately, I got lots of basil on the nose. The first sip continued the basil-fest, and the finish was nice and crisp. This was by far the best of my 3 homebrews. The ultimate test was today, when my wife wanted to try it. Fortunately, it got 2 thumbs up from her. There’s only one problem: these 1 gallon batches don’t make enough beer.
I brewed a pumpkin ale yesterday, which is happily fermenting today. It should be ready for mid-October, and I’ve got a pumpkin wheat on deck to brew next week. After that, I think it’s time to upgrade to larger batches. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy what little I have left after sharing with some friends. Yep, homebrewing has proven to be addictive.
Goose Island Beer, from Chicago, will soon make its way to Louisiana, and a release party has been scheduled for Monday, September 24th at Avenue Pub in New Orleans.
According to Polly Watts at Avenue Pub, “Initially just the vintage series. They are doing a staged rollout which I think has as much to do with their production capabilities as anything else. Everything else will come in time. Don’t think it will be too long a wait for the Bourbon County Stout.” The first 3 to hit New Orleans will be Sofie (a saison), Matilda (a Belgian pale ale) and Pepe Nero (a dark saison/farmhouse ale). I’ve been fortunate enough to try all 3 of these, and they are fantastic.
This is very exciting for the south Louisiana area, and it’s good to see more craft beer (even if they are a subsidiary of InBev) entering our market.
Happy Sour Beer Day! What sour beers are you drinking today?
NOLA Brewing has been a favorite in south Louisiana since it came on to the scene a couple years ago. They have been busy churning out favorites such as their Blonde and Brown as well as numerous seasonal releases such as Hurricane Saison, Irish Channel Stout and the newly released fall seasonal, Smoky Mary.
But soon you will have a new beer to try from NOLA, and the hopheads will rejoice. Mechahopzilla will be a double IPA, weighing in at 8.8% ABV, and will be released on September 20th at Avenue Pub in New Orleans. Mechahopzilla has been in the works for a while, and it’s great to see that it will finally be released. It is brewed with Bravo, Columbus, Centennial and Citra hops, then dry hopped with both Centenniel and Citra. With the sheer amount of hops and malts required to make Mechahopzilla, look for this to be a more expensive pint than you’re used to. But it should also be well worth it. I know I’m excited to try a locally brewed double IPA, something this region has been lacking. Hopefully this will be the kick in the butt that other local brewers need to up their ante for the hopheads.
Also, look for Hopitoulas IPA cans to be released in late October. They will be sold in 4-packs of 16 ounce cans. Tallboy cans are always a crowd favorite, and it will be fantastic to finally enjoy Hopitoulas at home or while tailgating before an LSU or New Orleans Saints football game this fall. I know I’m excited to be able to buy Hopitoulas at my local stores and craft beer shops.
Here’s a sneak peak at the can design for Hopitoulas:
Saturday September 8th has been designated Sour Beer Day. In days of old, beers that had soured would be frowned upon by most beer drinkers. These days, sour beers are revered by many. But what is a sour beer? Well, it is a beer that has an intentionally tart or sour taste to it by allowing wild yeast strains or bacteria to be added to the brew. Common styles are Belgian lambics, gueuzes and Flanders red ales.
So, what are you celebrating Sour Beer Day with tomorrow?
Me, I’ve got this little baby in the cellar at the perfect drinking temperature of 52 degrees.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to try two of the penultimate double IPA’s in the world head to head.
Pliny the Elder from Russian River was one of the first double IPA’s ever brewed back in 2000. It is brewed in limited supply in Santa Rosa, California and has a cult following. It remains to this day a favorite of many IPA lovers. Pliny ranks #5 on the Beer Advocate list of top 100 beers in the world.
Heady Topper is brewed on the opposite coast, in Waterbury, Vermont by The Alchemist. Heady Topper is the only beer they brew, is put in 16 ounce cans and is in even more limited supply than Pliny the Elder. Heady ranks #3 on the Beer Advocate list of top 100 beers in the world.
I was lucky enough to acquire both of these recently, and shared them with my friend Eric of BR Beer Scene. We both have tried each beer before, but never together in a head to head environment.
So, what did we think?
Pliny is a classic double IPA. The fresh Simcoe hops shine through in both the nose and the taste. Despite the heavy hop aroma and flavor, it’s balanced well by a strong malt presence. This is one of the best. Many have tried to duplicate it, but few have succeeded.
Heady, on the other hand, would never be mistaken for a balanced double IPA. The first thing that hits you is the rush of hop aroma. This is probably the best smelling beer I’ve ever experienced. The assault of hops continues as you drink it, and the purported 120 IBU’s are apparent. This one doesn’t have the same malt backbone as Pliny as it is a full on hop onslaught.
So, who wins? It’s a photo finish, with Heady Topper winning by a nose (pun intended). The hop aroma of Heady makes this a slight winner in the battle between these world class beers. But you really can’t go wrong with either.