2014 was a banner year for craft breweries in Louisiana. Not only did this year see the opening of more breweries, but the quality of the beer produced has really taken off. This time last year, I posted my Top 13 Louisiana beers of 2013, and now I’m returning with a top 14 from 2014. If you recall, I issued a challenge to Louisiana breweries to give us a kickass IPA. Well, we got it, and it tops the list.
Let me preface this by saying that in no way have I tried every beer from every Louisiana brewery. I haven’t been able to have much from Red River in Shreveport, 40 Arpent in Arabi, or Old Rail brewpub in Mandeville. In particular, I know Old Rail has put out an anniversary barleywine as well as a double IPA that I’ve heard good things about. I also excluded brewery only releases that were only available on tap, so the NOLA taproom offerings aren’t on this list either. They have some good barrel aged versions of their core lineup as well as some new sours. I also wanted to include the collaboration black IPA between Gnarly Barley and Chafunkta, called Black Tooth Grin, but decided against it since there was such a small amount produced (only 7 kegs). This one needs to be brewed again on a larger scale (hint, hint).
You’ll see this list is dominated by two breweries at the top. It’s hard to argue that they aren’t the top two breweries in the state, because they are both really putting out some great beer. Hopefully the 2015 list will be a bit more diverse. So there’s my challenge to the rest of the state’s breweries. And I still want a great IPA that I can pick up easily on the shelf every day of the year.
14. Gnarly Barley Korova Milk Porter – this one was introduced in October, and is really a well done style that few others have tried to pull off. You see some milk stouts here and there, but rarely do you see a milk porter. Korova is widely available around south Louisiana on tap at restaurants and bars.
13. NOLA Rebirth pale ale – Rebirth was introduced earlier this year on draft and cans followed during the summer. This pale ale was brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops and is a great offering for a hoppy, yet drinkable pale ale.
12. Bayou Teche Teche Hombres – Teche Hombres is a Belgian style wheat ale brewed with organic agave nectar, aged in French white wine barrels and finished with Spanish orange peel and Peruvian Aji Limon peppers. This was a really tasty concoction that I hope they brew again.
11. Gnarly Barley Radical Rye PA – Radical Rye is a tasty rye IPA that is one of Gnarly Barley’s flagship beers. It’s a highly drinkable IPA that’s got a nice hop punch up front, followed by a spicy rye finish. Available on tap only, it’s also widely available all over south Louisiana.
10. Tin Roof Parade Ground – Parade Ground is a coffee porter that’s highly anticipated when it gets released in the late fall. It’s definitely my favorite beer from Tin Roof, and it features New Orleans Coffee Company’s mocha and French roast coffee and notes of hazelnut and vanilla. My hope is that one day it becomes a year round offering (again, hint, hint).
9. Parish Farmhouse IPA – this beer was on the 2013 list as well, but the latest release in November 2014 is the best iteration of it. Brewed and dry hopped with Chinook hops, this one really has a great aroma to go along with the saison yeast. It’s not as highly carbonated as previous batches, which actually makes it easier to pour. Give this one a try while it’s fresh.
8. Abita Bourbon Street Stout – this beer made the top 2 for me in 2013, and it’s still fantastic despite slipping down the list. Bottles of this were released in October, and they can still be found on shelves if you look carefully. This imperial stout was aged in bourbon barrels and the lighter body for the style actually makes it easier to drink.
7. Great Raft At Arm’s Length – this India Pale Lager from Great Raft was fantastic. It truly should be higher on this list, but the competition is getting stiff. It features a very hoppy aroma and flavor to go along with a crisp lager finish.
6. Bayou Teche Biere Noel – This is my favorite beer Bayou Teche has ever made. It’s an imperial porter aged and refermented in whiskey barrels with tart cherry juice. It’s got notes of chocolate, vanilla and oak to go with the cherry flavor. It’s really well done.
5. Great Raft Grace and Grit – this Double IPA from Great Raft was released over the summer, and was a very refined and drinkable version of the style. I was fortunate enough to get more than a case of it to share down in south Louisiana with friends who were impressed with it as well. I’m hopeful they’ll make it again next summer and have it available for us down in the southern part of the state.
4. Parish Grand Reserve – this is the third year Parish has released their barleywine style cellared annual ale, and the 2014 release was the biggest yet. The brewery had a huge party in late November to help celebrate, and it was a “grand” success. The #1 beer on the 2013 list is still fantastic, and a joy to drink now or aged for years.
3. Parish Imperial Reserve – Imperial Reserve is the second in Parish’s Reserve series, and is a huge imperial stout that is a dark beer lover’s dream. Notes of chocolate, coffee and dark fruits make this a decadent 12% ABV beer. It will be interesting to see how this ages, but it’s fantastic now.
2. Great Raft All My Tomorrows – this was Great Raft’s first bomber release, and truthfully, it was my favorite. A hoppy saison, it was just so juicy and hoppy and a perfect summer beer. I’m really hoping they make more of this in 2015, because I enjoyed it to no end.
1. Parish Ghost in the Machine – finally we hit number one, and for anyone who knows me, this is no surprise. Ghost in the Machine was released on three different occasions in 2014, and it was fantastic each and every time. This truly is a world class double IPA that’s too hoppy for you. The aroma and flavor is just bursting with tropical and citrus hops, while boasting a clean finish that’s not too bitter. Hopefully 2015 sees more batches of Ghost, and I’ll be finishing out the last few bottles I have as this year comes to a close.
As you can see, 2014 was a hugely successful year for craft beer in Louisiana. The quality of beers being pumped out of the breweries in this state keeps increasing, and that makes me excited for what will be on the list in 2015.
What’s your favorite Louisiana beer? Tell me in the comments below.