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Monday, December 17, 2012

Louisiana's Best Craft Beers of 2012

Louisiana craft beer has made a lot of progress in the last couple years.  So much so that it is time for the masses to start paying more attention to what they drink, and just as importantly, where it is from.  Louisiana has always had a lot of pride in eating locally.  We promote our seafood to the rest of the world, and dishes like king cake, jambalaya, and boudin are symbols of our state that we wouldn't dare accept from outside our borders.  The farm to table movement has also hit the restaurant scene in Louisiana, where we see chefs actually paying attention to farms and local food manufacturers where they source their ingredients.  So now it is beer's turn.  This goes out to all the beer drinkers, restaurant and bar owners, servers and bartenders: start drinking and pushing more Louisiana-brewed beer.  These brewers are our neighbors.  They have made a commitment to us by setting up breweries in our state, and it is our obligation to drink it (I know, it is a tough job!)... and if you go somewhere that you can't find it, then demand it or drink somewhere else.



So now that everyone out there has agreed to drink locally, you may also want to know which beers to drink.  I took the liberty of compiling my top 10 beers brewed in Louisiana in 2012.  Some have come and gone, some are always available, and some will be brewed again, I'm sure.

Helping me with the list was an expert panel of beer opinions:

Polly Watts, Owner, The Avenue Pub
Eric Ducote, Blogger and Raise a Glass Co-Host, BR Beer Scene
Jeremy Labadie, Blogger, The Beer Buddha
Vanessa Gomes, Director of Marketing & Event Coordinator, The Barley Oak
Nora McGunnigle, Blogger, Nora's Beer Blog
Brenton Day, Blogger, The Ale Runner

That being said, the order of the list and selection of beers really was up to me.  So if you have an issue or praise, leave it in the comments here or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter!

10.  Abita Purple Haze

Say what you will, Abita's Purple Haze is still one of the most popular beers brewed in Louisiana.  Well regarded as one of the premier raspberry beers in America, Purple Haze made the Men's Fitness list for 6 surprisingly healthy beers in 2012.  So to all you runners and fitness nuts, you have no reason to not drink local!

9. Bayou Teche Bière Noire

The Bière Noire pays homage to the strong black coffee (café noir) and what it meant to South Louisiana's French speaking ancestors.  It is rich in dark German malts, American hops, and French roasted coffee flavor.  The Bière Noire made the First We Feast list of the top brews from all 50 states, representing Louisiana.  Congrats on that one!

8. Abita 18th Star Bière de Garde (Abita Select Series) 

Abita's Bière de Garde is a French style farmhouse ale that they brewed with pilsner and wheat malts, oats, and German perle hops.  They added a little lemon peel, then aged the brew for three months before it hit taps.  Polly Watts, owner of the Avenue Pub in New Orleans, admitted that this brew "blew my skirt up. Seriously a very good Bière de Garde, rich and the yeast shines."  The 18th Star is a tribute to Louisiana becoming the 18th state in the USA exactly 200 years ago.

7.  NOLA Irish Channel Stout

Irish Channel Stout Nitro at The Barley Oak
The NOLA Irish Channel Stout is a favorite of many people, including myself, from the Big Easy brewery.  While it is only a  seasonal (just released this year's batch on December 7th), it certainly has a cult following.  Nora McGunnigle from nolabeerblog.com fondly says that this beer is "so delicious, so complex yet straightforward. I can drink pint after pint with friends and have a wonderful time."  She goes on to say, "This beer makes me smile."  I like any beer that makes people smile!

6.  Bayou Teche Joie à Tous

Joie à Tous (photo from Bayou Teche)
The Bayou Teche Joie à Tous, a whiskey barrel aged dubbel brewed with Mello Joy coffee.  Jeremy Labadie, AKA The Beer Buddha, proclaimed this to be "One of my favorite beers of the year.   This beer will be my Christmas go to beer every year.  If they brew it every year."  Vanessa Gomes from the Northshore's Barley Oak told me, "I love how Bayou Teche somehow manages to incorporate a certain level of comfort in all of their beers. It's as though each one nostalgically brings you to the Sunday dinner table."  And clearly Polly Watts from The Avenue Pub in New Orleans agreed, making it known that she found the beer to be "yummy, satisfying...comfort food in liquid form."













5.  Parish Canebrake

Parish Canebrake in Bottles is Still Elusive
Parish Canebrake made perhaps the biggest push of any beer in Louisiana in 2012, surging onto the scene across south Louisiana after the Broussard brewery's expansion.  "This is my favorite Louisiana session beer," says Eric Ducote from BRBeerScene.com, referring to the fact that he can drink multiple of them without getting too intoxicated or losing interest in the flavor profile.  Brenton Day from The Ale Runner chimed in saying that "Parish Canebrake is an easy drinker that many south Louisianians have taken to. It's so popular that Andrew had to double his capacity just to keep up with demand."  I'm definitely glad that he did.  I love it enough to make sure it has a place in my Top 5!













4.  NOLA Mechahopzilla

NOLA Mechahopzilla (photo courtesy of The Ale Runner)
The Beer Buddha believes in the NOLA Mechahopzilla.  The Double IPA from NOLA Brewing "made me a hop addict," Jeremy admitted.  "I ended up pissing myself,  crawling in the corner and had the shakes for about a week."  That's how hoppy the beer turned out, and many of Louisiana's craft beer drinkers rejoiced.  Eric from BR Beer Scene noted that the DIPA is "without a doubt the hoppiest beer to come out of the state, a delicious double IPA."  Meanwhile, The Ale Runner left us with this verbal picture: "It is a full assault of hops that leaves your palate waving the white flag. Or if you're a hophead like me, wanting some more."  Even Polly Watts wanted more.  "What can I say... it is a baseball bat of hops but you still love it," she admired.  Nora McGunnigle needed a bit more convincing, but sure enough, she came around, saying that "This double IPA won me over, though I tend not to be a fan of the style. Great citrus and floral hop aroma, bitter but balanced."






3.  Tin Roof Parade Ground Coffee Porter

Parade Ground Coffee Porter (photo courtesy of Tin Roof)
"The Tin Roof Coffee Porter for me, other than being a fantastic robust coffee porter, was a pleasant production change from this football tailgating college town brewery," explained The Barley Oak's Vanessa Gomes.  "This fall seasonal gave us an exciting peek into what Tin Roof can really do in between cranking out the highly demanded flagships."  I'm in total agreement.  I absolutely think that the Parade Ground is Tin Roof's best beer to date, and it is a shame that is only a seasonal that will soon be departing the taps around Louisiana.















2.  NOLA / Stone Pour Me Somethin' Mistah

Pour Me Somethin Mistah (photo from The Ale Runner)
"The hops and the malt were great when fresh and mellowed nicely with some age," explained Nora from Nora's Beer Blog.  The collaboration between the NOLA Brewing Company and the Stone Brewing Company from California was "a collective proud moment for us all in the Louisiana Craft Beer World," as stated by Vanessa Gomes.  Like most people I drank the beer with, all of my colleagues agreed that brew began a little rough around the edges with the dry citra hopping.  When allowed to warm up, or when cellared, the beer transformed into a piece of art.  The imperial porter rounded out with molasses to impart delicate flavor with the robust roasty maltiness and citra hops.












1.  Parish Grand Reserve

According to Eric Ducote from BR Beer Scene, the Parish Grand Reserve is "in the running for the best Louisiana beer, period."  Indeed, it seems that the recently released special edition beer from the Lafayette area brewery lived up to the hype and proved that Louisiana can get excited about a special release beer.  It was a beer that people scrambled around town to purchase on release day and then again a week later when a second round was released.  "Was it worth it?" asked Brenton Day.  "Absolutely. It's a very big, yet remarkably smooth barleywine that I'm curious to see how it ages."  Andrew Godley from Parish suggests aging some, and will be holding onto several cases of the beer himself.  Polly Watts described the Grand Reserve as "silky and lovely with hidden strength like a very sexy woman in a white satin dress."  Now I'm thirsty.  Nora told me that "you could really taste the love and work put into this beer. Andrew did a great job and was able to leverage the reputation of his brewhouse up a whole other level with it."  Finally, Vanessa chimed in with "Parish Grand Reserve was absolutely perfect. To me it encompassed all that a barley wine should possess. It is perfectly balanced and has the smooth characteristics one expects from the reputation Parish Brewing has built for themselves."  Now we just need more Parish on the taps and store shelves!

Parish Grand Reserve in 750ml Bottles




Honorable Mention: I didn't list it above because it isn't commercially available yet, but it is worth looking forward to!

Mudbug Brewing King Cake Lager 

Our dear Beer Buddha let me have it.  He said, "I know this isn't commercially available yet but the whole idea of this beer makes me happy.  It's a tasty beverage complete with a rimjob.  Of sugar.  What were you thinking ya dirty bastard?"  He's right.  Even Vanessa Gomes from Barley Oak gave this beer some love.  "Mudbug Brewery has the King Cake Lager with lactose, cinnamon, & vanilla that will have you searching the bottom of your glass for the plastic baby," she said with a grin.  I just know I want some of that!



Join us at The Truck, the Brewer, and the Blogger IV Pop-Up Dinner on January 20th!