So the 2015 American Craft Beer Week has come and gone, with Baton Rouge saw quite a few (mostly successful) events last week. Here are some of my honest thoughts about last week.
The biggest pre-ACBW event was Gnarly Barley’s 1 year anniversary party on May 9th. This was a roaring success, as hundreds of people turned out for the event, and for $10, each attendee got a commemorative snifter glass and 5 pours of different Gnarly Barley beers, including some exclusive to the event (keep this in mind, as we will re-visit this value later in this post). The Raspberry Catahoula Common was a well done refreshing beer that would be great on a hot summer day. The barrel aged Korova milk porter was excellent as well. We also got the bright idea to have the Raspberry Catahoula Common blended with the regular Korova, and that was super tasty. The newer batches of Radical Rye PA are also really nice, as the hop aroma is on point. This was a great event, and I was very happy to help Zac and Cari celebrate their first year in business.
Monday brought the release of the newest batch of Parish Brewing’s Ghost in the Machine double IPA. I scrambled around town to pick up some 4-packs, then headed to Corporate Brew and Draft to try it on tap at 5:00 that evening. What was really interesting was that they had a keg of the previous batch (released in early March) to go alongside the keg of the new batch. There were obvious differences between the two batches, and this release has proven to be the most polarizing. The previous batch has been described by many as a juicy citrus bomb, while the new batch has more dank and resinous qualities to it, and the clarity has increased greatly. I think both are fantastic, yet I find myself gravitating to the newest batch since I find that it has everything I desire in a double IPA: great hop aroma, hops that will melt the enamel from your teeth, and an easy finish without much lingering bitterness. Others tell me they prefer the juiciness of the previous batch. So, for those of you who’ve had both, which do you prefer?
Tuesday, I went to the Tin Roof tap room for the BBQ dinner plates that Jay Ducote of Bite and Booze was cooking and to try the new Smoke Shack brown ale. The food was delicious (I think the greens may have been my favorite of all time) and I thought the Smoke Shack was a well done beer. I think I’d prefer drinking it when the weather is a bit cooler though (this would be a nice late fall football tailgate beer). This beer would be wonderful with some brisket, pulled pork or a good burger, that’s for sure. The taproom was packed, and it was great to see a lot of people there supporting the local brewery and chefs.
Wednesday I was able to try some of NOLA Brewing’s Arabella peach sour and Belma dry hopped Hurricane Saison at Chimes East, and both were enjoyable. I took that evening off to catch up with the family, but heard the turnout at Olive or Twist for their cellar night was nice, as they had a bunch of great beers that were opened. I did get to try Boulevard’s Calling IPA at home, courtesy of Scott, one of the Happy’s Running Club co-founders, and I think it’s by far their best IPA. Hopefully we will get to see Boulevard in Louisiana sooner, rather than later.
Thursday was also a slow night for me, as I just swung by Tin Roof to try one of their Single Hop Experimental beers, which was pretty good. The hop was HBC 512, and was nice, but nothing exceptionally memorable. I ended up having a couple of other beers at home, which is more my speed anyway.
Friday, I was able to try Bayou Teche’s peach IPA with lunch, and I was impressed. The peach wasn’t overdone, and the hops were fruity. It was a well done beer from them. I also opened my first bottle of NOLA’s Lowerline sour ale, and it was very nice. If you see any bottles, make sure to grab some, because there probably aren’t many left on Baton Rouge shelves.
And now we get to Saturday. First off, I stopped by Tin Roof’s taproom to try out a test batch of their double IPA. It’s a good thing we made it there when we did, because the 5 gallon keg took all of 40 minutes to float, and they were only pouring half pints. My honest feedback on this test batch is that the initial flavor was very nice, with notes of citrus and pine. However, I thought it was a bit boozy (I’m not sure what the ABV was) and the bitterness seemed to build on the palate as I drank more. After I finished my half pint, I couldn’t shake the bitterness from my palate. It could also use some more dry hops for a hoppier aroma to help offset some of the perceived bitterness. But I think this is a good starting point for this beer. Also, keep in mind, that different people enjoy different characteristics from a DIPA. I like a lighter mouthfeel and easy to drink beer with a huge hop aroma, which I find also translates to more hop flavor. Others like a chewier beer with more back end bitterness. So, what I may like in a DIPA may not be the same as what others like. I’d definitely like to try more of the test batches, and I hope my feedback helps.
Our next stop was the Pelican House for their inaugural Delta Brewer’s Ball. This is where I have to be brutally honest. First, let me start by saying this. Pelican House reached out to me well in advance to ask that I help promote the event. They gave me 2 tickets to the event for me to use, as well as 2 to give out to readers of my site. I did a promotion on here and on social media to give away 2 tickets, and I sponsored a Facebook post for the week leading up to the event so that lots of people were reached. Tickets to the event were $30, so I was able to attend for free along with a guest. But the whole event was poorly run, and I would have been pissed off had I paid $30 to attend. Basically, it was a $30 cover charge to get into the bar. Each attendee got a t-shirt and allegedly a goodie bag with schwag from each of the breweries represented. I never got said bag, but I really didn’t care. The specialty beers were being poured at the satellite bar, and the line was ridiculous. I never even got in that line, because I had no desire to wait that long to buy a pint of one of the specialty beers. But what angered most people is that there was no beer included in the $30 ticket. All the beers were full price with tax charged on top of it. There were a LOT of unhappy people that felt swindled, and I don’t blame them one bit. Remember when I said earlier that the Gnarly Barley 1 year anniversary event cost $10 for a commemorative glass and 5 pours of beer? Yeah, think about that versus $30 for a t-shirt and no beer. The best part about the entire event was the couchon de lait from City Pork. They even felt it was necessary to have a stripper get body art painted on her during the event. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up if you tried. That’s what people’s $30 ticket went toward. I honestly feel bad about even promoting event, and to anyone that bought tickets because they saw my promotion, please accept my apology. I don’t like to publicly bash a local business, but this was unacceptable. I left after only 45 minutes, and walked across the street to Corporate Brew and Draft. That place started to fill up with disgruntled Brewer’s Ball attendees, and the comments were all the same. Many of the brewers and brewery representatives were unhappy as well, because people who bought tickets were taking it out on them. That should not happen.
Here’s what this Brewer’s Ball should have been: $30 should have gotten you a tasting glass, not a t-shirt. Each attendee should be given a punchcard, allowing them to get a sample of each specialty beer that the breweries in attendance brought. Everything should be spread out more, so that there are no huge lines, and the attendees can interact better with the brewer representatives. And these breweries flagship beers can be sold at regular prices at the main bar, should the attendees want to drink additional beer. But the way this event was poorly managed this year will likely prevent a lot of people from ever returning. I can include myself in that one. There are too many well run craft beer bars and restaurants in this city for me to put up with one that still can’t get their act together after over two years. The guys and gals that work there are nice people. They really are. But I have had far more bad experiences when going there than any other craft beer bar in the city. I know that this will piss some people off, but so be it. They pissed a lot of people off Saturday. Good luck to Pelican House in the future. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for them. But they seem to have more than their fair share of “learning experiences.” Again, if you went because you saw my post about the event, I apologize.
I did have a great time afterward at Corporate Brew and Draft. There, it was about the beer with no bullshit. I didn’t have to wait in line or pay outrageous prices to drink good beer, and everything was nice and laid back, just the way I like it. The Gnarly Barley cask of Korova with coconut and cocoa nibs was outstanding, as was the NOLA Four Roses barrel aged Irish Channel Stout. I was also able to try the Chafunkta Bayou Blaze red ale, and it was a really well done beer that I will be happy to drink again, even for someone who isn’t a huge fan of the style. There was also a keg of a Thai spiced IPA with Falconer’s Flight hops from 40 Arpent that was really enjoyable.
I wrapped up this year’s ACBW with brunch at The Chimes. They still had some great beers on tap, and I enjoyed a snifter of 2014 Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout with my crab cakes topped with poached eggs.
Tell me about your American Craft Beer Week experiences. What did you do? What was the best beer you had last week? Did you try something new that you’ll be seeking out in the future?