As 2013 comes to a close, I’ve decided to put together a list of the top 13 beers brewed in Louisiana that were available at some point this year. Some of these are available year round, some are available seasonally, and others were one-offs that may or may not get brewed again. These were my favorites this year. Some others initially made the list, only to be bumped by something else that I liked better. Tell me if you don’t see one of your favorites here.
13. NOLA Flambeau Red – This spring seasonal is available around Mardi Gras, and is a hoppy red ale. NOLA uses seven malt varieties, and three different hops to make this red ale a well-balanced version of the style. The piney hops combine with the caramel malts to make this a really enjoyable brew.
12. Tin Roof Rougarou – This autumn saw the release of Tin Roof’s first beer in 22-ounce bombers. Rougarou was a triple dry hopped imperial black ale. Roasty chocolate and black malts combine with a massive amount of hops to create a big black IPA. One can only hope that Tin Roof will continue to release more in their bomber series.
11. Abita Imperial Oyster Stout – This was a rare Abita Select beer to be brewed again last winter, and the recipe was created by Baton Rouge based homebrewer, Dale Yoes back in 2010. The Louisiana oysters added to the boil give this stout a bit of saltiness to accompany the full bodied roasty flavor.
10. Bayou Teche Miel Savage – Arnaudville’s Bayou Teche created an old French farmhouse style, biere de miel, with locally sourced wild honey, then aged it for 100 days in whiskey barrels. The result was a sweet beer coupled with vanilla, oak and whiskey flavors. This one was a real winner.
9. Parish Farmhouse IPA – Combining a traditional farmhouse saison with the hoppiness of an IPA, this creation from Parish Brewing was a delight. The aroma was floral, and the finish was spicy. It was a well carbonated beer that required a patient pour, but the result was well worth it as the effervescent mouthfeel only added to the appeal.
8. Abita Mayhawk – Starting with a Belgian strong golden ale, Abita added Louisiana mayhaw berries to give this beer a slightly tart finish. Brewed with pilsner and wheat malts and candi sugar, this beer was both sweet and spicy. Hopefully this will be a beer that Abita revisits in the future.
7. NOLA Irish Channel Stout – This American style stout has sweet caramel and chocolate flavors with a bitterness provided by roasted barley and American hops. Irish Channel Stout is well balanced, smooth and rich. This is now a year-round brew that will be available in pint sized cans by the end of the month.
6. Parish Envie – This well hopped pale ale is a hop lover’s dream. This is an easy to drink pale ale, yet it is dry hopped with plenty of Cascade, giving it a wonderful citrus aroma. Parish Envie has become my go-to session beer, since it comes in at only 5.5% ABV. When I want something with a lot of hop aroma and flavor, yet is light enough to have more than one, Envie is my beer of choice.
5. Tin Roof Parade Ground Coffee Porter – First released in the fall of 2012, Parade Ground is Tin Roof’s best beer. This year it returned on draft first, then followed by a can release in mid-November. The chocolate and coffee flavor is extremely well balanced, making this porter very easy to drink. The can design is really well done, and there is talk of this becoming a year-round offering. One can only hope that will be the case.
4. Parish Dr. Hoptagon – This black IPA was released in early October in 750ml bottles, and was quite the hit. Striking the perfect balance between hoppiness and roastiness, Dr. Hoptagon has a big citrus nose, yet a velvety smooth mouthfeel. Both IPA fans, and those who aren’t into hoppy beers really enjoyed this offering from Parish. I’m hoping it will make a return next year.
3. Chafunkta Old 504 Coffee Vanilla Porter – Mandeville’s Chafunkta Brewing made its debut in 2013, and shot straight to the top of the list with their robust porter. Utilizing Orleans Coffee Exchange coffee and real vanilla beans, this is one of my absolute favorite beers in the state. The mix of coffee and vanilla is perfect, and this beer won over many people who were not typically dark beer fans. Hopefully 2014 will see Chafunkta’s footprint expand more into other parts of the state.
2. Abita Bourbon Street Stout – Released in late December, Abita’s barrel aged imperial stout quickly won me over. Aged in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels, this big beer was brewed with a combination of pale, caramel, chocolate and roasted malts, as well as oats. Eight weeks in the bourbon barrels allowed this beer to absorb the bourbon flavors, providing a big roasty beer with hints of oak, vanilla and bourbon. This is by far the best Abita beer I’ve ever had. Job well done, Abita!
1. Parish Grand Reserve – Finally we get to the best beer brewed in Louisiana in 2013. Parish makes its fourth appearance on this list, and this one is well worth seeking out. Their “cellared annual ale” is an American barleywine that was brewed in early summer and bottle conditioned for nearly six months. It is hoppy, yet malty and bursting with rich and complex flavors. Grand Reserve will age beautifully for years to come. It is being released at an event at the brewery on December 14th, and 750ml bottles will hit retail the following week. This beer is in short supply, however, so grab it while you can.
Craft beer in Louisiana has come a long way in 2013. Eight of the 13 beers on this list debuted in 2013, and there will no doubt be some new releases in 2014 poised to make an appearance on next year’s version. Already, new breweries and brew pubs have opened late this year, including Great Raft and Red River in Shreveport and Old Rail in Mandeville. Gnarley Barley, Mudbug, Courtyard and 40 Arpent are all scheduled to open in 2014, so it will be interesting to see what this list looks like next year. If any of you breweries are reading this, here’s my 2014 request: I want a really kick ass IPA. I want something that people from other states will be clamoring to get. Something not too bitter, but bursting with aroma and flavor. Let’s put Louisiana on the map with a great IPA!
I’m interested to hear your opinion. What did I get right? Where did I go wrong? What beer would you have liked to see on this list? Cheers!