Friday, December 18, 2009


Got up way to early for a holiday morning and put the heavily stuffed with garlic, onion and pork sausage turkey into the oven about four and half hours before our guests were supposed to show up for Thanksgiving. I heavily sprinkled it with Penzy’s Bicentennial Rub – it goes on a bright yellow but I find it roasts to the prettiest brown of any seasoning rub or baste.

The evening before, I baked two pecan pies. One was a large torte with a shortbread crust and topped with honey, the other was a made from scratch pecan cheesecake. Those pies tempted me as I slept that night and well into our strawberry-filled crepe breakfast.

While the turkey was baking and filling the house with its pungent garlic scent, I fixed a tasso and shrimp cornbread stuffing. This is a very easy side dish to prepare. Just mix equal parts cornbread and French bread, add some sautéed onions and celery, fresh jalapeno peppers, chopped cooked shrimp and tasso. Stir in some salt, pepper and cayenne pepper with some chicken stock and bake.

My favorite vegetable side dish is petite pois. Stir a couple of cans into a thick white butter roux; add some pearl onions, julienned andouille sausage, a sprinkle of thyme and salt and black pepper. Our cranberry side was a mold made of fresh cranberries, lemon juice, and fresh rosemary from the garden.

Sounds like a lot of work, but it really was not.

Usually for every holiday we make a commemorative home brewed batch of beer. This year we thought it would be fun to buy a large variety of commercial beers and see which pared with the typically heavy, spicy and rich Cajun Thanksgiving meal.

Mom and Dad showed up with Mom’s famous Macaroni and Cheese, my son and his girlfriend with a large pot of crawfish ettouffe. My youngest brothers’ wife brought a pork roast and a platter of roasted green beans wrapped in bacon.

A few days before, I stocked the beer fridge with Abita Restoration Ale and Jockamo IPA. I also put a six pack of Lazy Magnolia Pecan Ale and a growler of their Gulf Porter in there, as well as Redhook Longhammer IPA, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and a La Goudale from France .

My wife’s sister surprised us with many six packs of New Belgium Fat Tire, Blue Paddle, and 3° Below. Also she had 3 very large bottles of Chimay, one each of Chimay Rouge, Chimay Blue, and Chimay Blanche. Having these Trappist monk brewed beers in the house gave me one more thing to be thankful for.

We set the table. Cajun family holiday meals are pretty informal affairs. The food is always set buffet style and everyone serves themselves and watches to see who does not serve themselves at least three plates.

The cooks also competitively watch to find out which dish is hit hardest for seconds and thirds.

This is the unscientific method I used to determine which beer most complemented this holiday meal. First off, I had to remove the Trappist’s Chimays from consideration as I had greedily hid them way in the back of the refrigerator hoping to keep them for drinking after everyone went home. Judging by the empty bottles my wife and I picked up while cleaning, I would have to give the title for the best beer to go with a Cajun Thanksgiving to New Belgium’s Blue Paddle. A close second place would go to Abita’s Restoration Ale.

And surprisingly for some, the Lazy Magnolia Gulf Porter perfectly complemented the pecan pies.

We had so much to be thankful for this year. We have been truly blessed and are looking forward to our Christmas and New Years celebrations.

A big Merci Beaucoup for all y’alls friendship and support of our tiny brewery. We are thankful for that as well.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bon Temps

Took the weekend off and brought my wife and little girl to the KBON radio listener appreciation party in Rayne this weekend. The weather was short sleeve cool and not a cloud in the sky. There were numerous Cajun and Zydeco bands performing on stage,
fresh gratons popping in grease, and beaucoup Cajun food vendors. One was even serving a rib-eye steak ettouffe.

Did I mention that my wife was volunteering at the beer booth?

It don’t get much better than that.

I arrived early enough to have a brunch of hot gratons and Budweiser beer. They were serving the beer ice cold, in those petite 10oz cans. I worked up quite a thirst jogging back to the beer booth every time I drained one of those little cans.

Man, the cracklins were fried perfectly – cooked all the way thru but not burnt tasting on the outside. They were seasoned with a light sprinkling of salt like the old folks used to do when I was a kid. I do savor cracklins spiced up with a Cajun
or Creole seasoning mix like most stores do these days, but these simple salted ones took me back to my Papa and Grandma’s boucheries.

My daughter and I finished the whole bag of them, wiped our hands on my pants and danced a few waltzes and 2-steps. She’s only four, so I had to hoist and carry her while we cut the rug. I got a good work out - and quite a thirst as well.

She really liked the Pine Leaf Boys. I am pretty sure they were her favorite band. I enjoyed them as well. Those young musicians’ version of the Pine Grove Blues was the high point of our weekend.

We made a quick run to visit my hard at work wife. I am sure she enjoyed all of our visits but to be truthful, I was there for another beer as much as to see her. Anheuser-Busch (I guess it is InBev now) got a bunch of my money that day.

I bought my little girl a paper basket of French fries. While sitting in our folding chairs right next to the bandstand we overheard a lot of French being spoken all around us. I told my little girl that we were experiencing our heritage and culture,
and that these were our people.

And a lot of these people had beer bellies.

Which is not surprising because they were drinking a lot of beer.

I bought myself a couple of KBON t-shirts and a koozie that said “AIEEEEE where’s the ice chest babe?” Man I wish I had come up with that slogan first. It would have looked great on our brewery’s koozies.

After things wound down and we packed up in the car to head home, I thought to myself, yes, this is my culture, and these are my people – beer bellies and all. And I thought about KBON. How many other states have a radio station whose playlist emphasizes
local artists? Not many I bet, we sure are fortunate to have them on the radio dial.

I also thought, “We have got to get the folks who organize the KBON party to let us serve our biere next year.” It is the kind of beer that goes with the foods the vendors were selling, it lubricates the French speaking and 2-stepping muscles and is the
kind of beer our ancestors would have recognized.

And it is the kind of beer that makes the burdens of a beer belly worthwhile.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Three Beer Lunch

Woke up this morning well before sunrise and sluggishly started a pot of Mello Joy dark roast coffee. Using one rounded tablespoon of grounds for each cup of water I was brewing what we call in South Louisiana café noir.

An extremely strong and very black cup of coffee.

My brother and I were getting ready to drive to Kiln Mississippi to tour the Lazy Magnolia brewery. MapQuest pegged it at a two hour and forty-five minute drive, so we would have to guzzle our café noirs to make our agreed upon departure time.

Cajuns love dark roast coffee - seems that people here have been steadfastly drinking Mello Joy coffee for as long as I can remember. From the time that my grandmother made me my very first childhood café au lait (much more lait then café) it seems that my fondest memories of growing up in Acadaina somehow included remarkably good beverages.

Oh there were a lot of good foods - Christmas Eve gumbos, Good Friday crawfish boils, boucherie boudin and cracklins. But the one constant in all of our family activities were great beverages.

Uncle T-boy would serve an out of this world bay leaf tea brewed with leaves from a tree in his yard. There were the illicit sips of locally distilled moonshine or nips from a flask of Southern Comfort while hunting or undetected sips of beer while fishing with some of our other uncles. Grandma’s homemade root beer (super sweet and made with Zataran’s extract) and lemonade in glass pitchers were always on the table for Sunday dinner, as was café au lait with couche couche in the morning. In the autumn, ice chests were filed with cream soda and red pop for refreshment after baled hay was loaded in Papa’s barn.

After every meal the adults would brew a too – strong greg of café noir. It seemed to us kids that the strong coffee would lubricate some kind of collective French speaking muscle, because the volume at the adults’ table would reach rock concert levels.

Byron and I finished our café noirs and hit I-10 east. Traffic was very light and we made it to Kiln with time to spare even after making two pit stops to relieve ourselves of all that strong black coffee. We met with Leslie Henderson at her brewery. We took an interesting tour and then spent the morning talking with her and Matt McKiernan about our lives in the South, Southern food, hospitality and the state of Southern beers. We suggested food and beer parings to each other – my brother and I were impressed with their passion for crafting great beers. Lazy Magnolia beers have an affinity for the foods of the Gulf coast.

After our visit, Leslie suggested my brother and I travel a mile or so up the road to have lunch at Banty’s restaurant. I ordered a large plate of red beans and rice with sausage and a large slab of cornbread. My brother had a muffaletta so big that if he held it up high enough, the sandwich would totally eclipse the sun. With our meals we each ordered a pint of Lazy Magnolia’s Reb Ale – served in Mason jars (a buddy of mine, also raised in the South said that he drank out of so many Mason jars growing up that his lips were threaded). Byron and I both agreed that it was one of the tastiest beers brewed in the region and I’ll be damned if it did not pare perfectly with our meals. Halfway thru our plates we rested to give our stomachs a break and each ordered a Magnolia Southern Pecan.

Struggling, we finished our too large dinners and the waitress asked if we wanted dessert. We both knew the perfect way to cap off this fine meal – not a café noir like our family did years ago, but a Jefferson Sweet Potato Stout from our favorite Mississippi brewery.

Next time ya’ll go to New Orleans, visit some of the local breweries. Lazy Magnolia is just thirty minutes or so east of I-10, Abita just north of Lake Pontchartrain in Abita springs, Heiner Brau in Covington brews some very authentic German beers, and the guys at NOLA are brewing in New Orleans (try their Hopitulas beer). All of them craft brews that marry with our region’s cuisine. With them we hope to revive the Deep South’s brewing traditions.

Or at least start a new tradition of the three beer lunch.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pecans are falling.

Took a break and spent a very wet October morning picking up pecans with my little girl. When we were done, the two of us sat on the porch of the brewery taking turns cracking them open with an empty German beer bottle. We ate pecans till we were full like the winter ready squirrels in the Brewery’s nearby trees.

I guess the significance of the beginning of autumn is different to people in other places, but in Acadiana it means we start picking, shelling and putting away pecans. In Germany they think of drinking Marzenbier at the Oktoberfest.

Marzenbier was what was in that empty bottle we used to crack open those pecans.

My brothers’ and my childhoods’ autumn weekends were spent picking sacks of pecans at our grandparent’s farm near Arnaudville. Most of those pecans were to be sold, but some were kept to be put away for the upcoming year’s pralines, fudge, pecan pies and cakes.

The first Oktoberfest was in Munich on October 18, 1810 celebrating the commemoration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwing and Princess Therese and also the introduction Marzen style of beer. Of course now, two hundred years later Bavarians celebrate the release of the new batch of Marzen beers at Oktoberfest and not the royal wedding.

Abita brews a celebratory Harvest Pecan Beer every autumn. Though not as good a use of pecans as pralines, fudge or pies, it is a very tasty brew. If Oktoberfest would have been invented in a pecan harvesting Louisiana instead of Bavaria, I imagine it is the kind of beer we would serve.

Our little town of Arnaudville had its first ever Oktoberfest last weekend. We brewed and served some German style Kolsch beer to go along with the mutzbratten, bratwurst, German potato salad, red cabbage, brotchen and German chocolate cake. Though not a style of beer we typically brew, or one served at your average Oktoberfest, it complements the hearty German barbequed meal rather well. There was a very large crowd there for the festivities, which surprised the organizers as there was an LSU football game that night.

There were complementary bottles of German Riesling – feeling German and only wanting to insure there was plenty of our beer for the guests, I consumed several of these wines myself.

In Germany, before refrigeration, it was risky to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and possible bacterial infection of the beer. Brewing ended with the arrival of spring, and began again in the fall. Thus, the last beers brewed before the warm months were brewed in March (Marzen). The beers were kept in cold caves for storage over the hot spring and summer months, and also brewed with higher alcohol content so they would keep. This is the beer of Oktoberfest and marzenbier is full bodied, rich, toasty and copper colored with high alcohol content.

Special autumn beers are a newfound tradition for American craft brewers as well. I just had a six-pack of New Belgium Brewery’s Hoptober ale smuggled in for me. Man was that beer fantastic. It tastes like an ale version of a Marzenbier (which is a lager), amped up with tons of hops. The Bayou Teche Brewery should be working a little harder on our autumn celebratory beer – we are tweaking a recipe and plan on having it on tap for Arnaudville’s Oktoberfest next year. The beer is a Top-Secret, Manhattan-style Project and will be like nothing else out there.

Just gotta stop taking so many breaks to pick pecans.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Months with R

The Saints are in pre-season and LSU played late Saturday night. We’ll be able to start hunting teal next Saturday. After a summers worth of days by the pool, our girls are back at school.

Shortly, Roberts Cove will have its Germanfest; Arnaudville will have an Oktoberfest, and New Iberia a Gumbo cook-off.

Though it is still hot, it is sure starting to feel like it’s cooling down - not cool enough for gumbo, unless you really turn down the thermostat.

The grass is not growing as fast as it was during the hot and wet days of summer. Now, we should only have to mow once a week, as opposed to the bi-weekly trims the lawn has been getting.

We still have a lot of mosquitoes in the yard, but thank the good Lord; we have not had a hurricane.

It is September in Acadiana. We have waited for September for four months. It is the first month with an R in it since April.

For the first time in four months, it is safe to eat raw oysters raw again.

We like to go to a good local restaurant or maybe to one of Abbeville’s oyster bars and throw back a dozen oysters, washing them down with ice cold beer. Unfortunately the beer selections at these establishments are usually pretty sparse – about the finest beer on the menu may be a Michelob.

Sometimes my youngest brother will get a sackful of oysters and using his trusty oyster knife, pry those shells open at our outdoor kitchen. You get oyster buzz eating so many oysters so fresh and a brisk brininess taste of the Gulf of Mexico. Any remaining oysters from the sack are fried the next day for afternoon poor boys and oyster platters.

Shucking that many oysters sure tends to make you thirsty. We have the advantage of drinking beer that is as fresh as our oysters – strait from the keg, LA-31 Biere Pale. The hand crafted beer accompanies the oysters and quenches the thirst, but its mellow, refined hop bitterness does not overwhelm the delicate taste of the oysters. Garrett Oliver in his book “The Brewmaster’s Table” recommends an Irish Stout with Oysters. We usually enjoy most of his recommended pairings of food and beer, but this time we are unquestionably skeptical. We will try some Guinness this weekend with a sack of oysters, but I am pretty sure we will quickly tap a new keg of LA-31.

Saving some for the teal gumbo next weekend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"What we’re dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the law" - Buford T. Justice

I smuggled some beer in from Texas yesterday.

Because of the arcane way beer is distributed in Louisiana there are many beers that are never brought into our state for sale. One brewery’s beer that I have been itching to try is Dogfish Head out of Delaware. I have not been able to locate a six pack in Louisiana and a cursory check of their website confirmed my suspicions – their beer is not sold here.

But they are distributed in Texas.

So that is how I wound up at an upscale wine and liquor store in the Woodlands Texas, looking for Dogfish head 60 minute IPA. I ran out of the store with my newly purchased six pack camouflaged in a brown paper sack, and drove straight to my hotel.

Once in my room, I whipped out my trusty Swiss army knife and pried out the well-worn bottle opener. After getting the cap off the bottle, it seemed the room was filled with intensely hopped incense. I knew this beer was going to be good - and bitter.

Before I took the first sip I amused myself with the idea that most men’s wives worry that there is a woman in the hotel room with their husband away on business. My wife instead is concerned with how much money I am going to spend on beer.

A mistress might be cheaper.

Man, that beer was exceptionally good. During the course of the evening I savored the other 5 bottles. After finishing the last one I considered not brushing my teeth so I could enjoy the flavor just a little longer.

The Dogfish Head brewery makes some unique, extreme and outstanding beer. Their motto is “Off-centered ales for off-centered people.” The beer I was drinking was an IPA with an innovative bittering technique that the brewers there thought up. Traditionally beers are brewed with two major hop additions - One very early for bitterness and one near the end of the boil for flavor. Their technique adds very small hop additions continuously throughout the boil. This makes for an IPA that is hyper-infused with hop flavor and “slaps your mama” with its bitterness.

It is a very different beer from our LA-31. We only use late hop additions that gives our beer a great hop flavor yet leaves smooth and mellow hop bitterness. I think the Dogfish would go great pared up with American style pepperoni pizza, a spicy meatball sub, or cheese enchiladas. We like to think our LA-31 really compliments our regions more refined cuisine, like gumbo, jambalaya or sauce picante.

The next morning I loaded my car up with several cases of the Dogfish Head IPA, a couple of another beer of theirs, Raison D’Être, and a six pack of New Belgium Brewery’s Fat Tire. Keeping an eye out for Smokey and singing “East bound and down, loaded up and trucking” I felt like Jerry Reed in Smokey and the Bandit. I smuggled my load of beer from Texas across the Louisiana line all the way to our Arnaudville brewery. There are still some cooling in the beer fridge now, tempting me still to forgo brushing my teeth before bed tonight.

So next time you are in Texas you might want to pick up some beer that is impossible to buy and enjoy in Louisiana. When safely home with your smuggled contraband, toast your inner Bandit, Snowman or Frog (Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, and Sally Field). And check out for some things you can do to help us change Louisiana’s beer distribution laws.

Brewery update: Had a couple of small setbacks this week, one with the zoning folds. It seems our building was a little too far back from the state highway and would be on land zoned Agriculture. After taking out some brewery equipment supplies and carpentry tools we moved the operation a little closer to the road. We have not heard back from the government on our license, but they have cashed the check for our bond. That makes us think we should be legal soon. Even with the setbacks we are still shooting to have some beer for sale for November.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bayou Teche Brewing at Gulf Brew

Gulf Brew is the annual beer tasting event held in downtown Lafayette that raises money for the Acadian Center for the Arts. They are a wonderful organization that runs a popular local museum dedicated to the area’s art, as well as programs that promote the arts in Lafayette. We were asked to provide a couple of kegs of our LA-31 Biere Pale for the event’s VIP tent.

We have two artists working with our brewery who often show in Lafayette, so how could we turn the ACA down?

The invitation to supply the biere gave us just over a month to brew, ferment, age and package our biere.

It put us on a pretty tight schedule.

Things always seem to go wrong when you are on a tight schedule.

Fortunately we had most of the raw ingredients we needed to produce a batch of our flagship ale. I had been planning to replenish our yeast supply so I took this opportunity and placed an order for an overnight shipment – confirming with the supplier we use that they had the yeast in stock. Somewhere between my placing the order and their filling the order their computers crashed.

Of course I did not know of the snafu until the next day when we did not receive our order.

This was late Friday afternoon, meaning the order could not be shipped until Monday, arriving in Arnaudville on Tuesday.

A five day delay – A very tight schedule now but still doable.

The yeast arrived late Tuesday afternoon and then we brewed up 1 barrel (31 gallons) of Biere Pale. Man it was great, finally being able to brew up a batch alongside my brother. And fortunately the brew day went by without a single hitch. The wort was racked to the fermenter and we pitched the newly arrived yeast. Our ale takes about two weeks in the fermenter, so I had a little time to do maintenance around the brewery.

Right off the bat I accidentally demolished a CO2 regulator. I called our regular supplier and tried to order an emergency replacement.

Back ordered.

I scrambled to find one, finally stumbling on one locally a week later.

We transferred the contents of the fermenters to our cold storage tanks, to carbonate and further clear and age the biere.

I attached a full tank of CO2 to the new regulator, opened the valve and called it quits for the day. Inspecting the tanks the next day, I noticed I had forgotten to tighten the regulator to the tank, in the process emptying a CO2 tank in to the atmosphere, inadvertently enlarging my carbon footprint. Yep.

So I drove to Lafayette and filled the tank. When I got back I hooked everything up, making sure this time to tighten the regulator tight-tight.

Still with all of the snafus, setbacks and cussing, we had just enough time to sample and get our LA-31 into the kegs before the Gulf Brew.

We set up Saturday without a single hitch. The volunteers and employees of ACA were groovy and helpful.

While waiting for the doors to open, we visited with the guys from the Dead Yeast Society (Lafayette’s home brew club). Those guys really know their beer and had the most awesome setup! They also had very tasty beers (including one gallon of a vanilla-bourbon infused beer that could only be compared to a liquid praline). We are going to have to spend more of our free time hanging out with and picking those fellows’ brains.

We also visited with the folks from NOLA brewery (New Orleans) and from Lazy Magnolia brewery (Mississippi). Both breweries have given us so much advice, encouragement and compliments on our beer. I don’t think we can ever hope to return the favors in full. We do plan on making a trip very soon to visit both of their breweries, as well as to the Heiner Brau in Covington.

Damn their beers are good!

Then the doors opened and it was non-stop until closing. We were flooded with request from Lafayette’s most passionate beer drinkers for a taste of our biere. I know we had come close to perfection of our LA-31 recipe when so many people took a taste and requested a second or third glass before giving up their place in line. We had a large number of tasters come back with their own, larger cup for savoring.

I know we met, visited and served at least 250 people, because that is how many of our koozies and business cards we gave out (note to self, order more Koozies). We got to share our vision of our brewery, and the values and importance of paring good, real beer as an accompaniment to our Cajun and Creole cuisine.

We had a great time, drank a lot of outstanding beer and we met so many people who shared our vision of what great beer can do for our culture.

I hear that the ACA sold nearly 2500 tickets and raised beaucoup money for their organization. The folks at our fledgling brewery and also those involved in the art scene in Lafayette thank them for all they do and eagerly await next year’s event. If you can’t wait that long, we will be serving samples of our biere at Arnaudville’s Oktoberfest on September 26th, and at the Jefferson Community hospital’s Beer Tasting event on October 16th.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sportsman’s Paradise

After mid-morning Mass and a late lunch, my daughter and I walked to our backyard pond. Already there fishing were my brothers and a sister-in-law. My little girl picked up a pink Disney Princess fishing pole and I picked up a very cold Corona and wrapped it up in a tight fitting, new koozie.

Yep, our black Bayou Teche Brewing koozies look good.

My little angler needed some bait so I pinched out a live cricket from the bucket and slipped it on the hook.

My youngest brother pulled in a nice 17 inch bass on an artificial worm. Minutes later his wife reeled in one an inch longer. Neither my brother nor his wife spilled a drop of their Coronas while fighting their fish to land.

The fish remaining in the pond kept safely nibbling the crickets off of my daughters hook.

While holding a freshly-koozied Abita Amber my other brother had earlier told us that he had a taste in his mouth for fried bream. The old folks around here called that fish a patassa, and he was hauling them in as soon as his cricketed-hooks hit the water. Our younger brother and his wife pulled in several more bass.

I grabbed another Corona and put yet another cricket on my girl’s hook. All the two of us had managed to do so far was feed crickets to the fish my bothers and sister-in-law had not yet caught.

After my little girl got bored, we walked back to the house to get cleaned up. My wife and I then took her to see a movie in Lafayette.

My brothers cleaned and then fried the fish up with some French fries. They and my parents ate at our communal outdoor kitchen.

That night, after I got back from the movie, I carried my sleeping little girl upstairs and put her in bed. I went back downstairs and poured myself a tall glass of Abita Jockamo IPA and reflected on the day.

As much as things have changed in Acadiana, one thing that has not is the fun you can have taking kids fishing.

My father and our uncle would take my brothers and me fishing many weekends when we where young. My uncle would load up his metal Jax ice chest with cold beer and pop, and then put it and a paper sack full of Vienna sausages, potted meat and Evangeline Maid bread in a light blue wooden bass boat. We would trailer it to nearby Henderson and spend a day on the water. We would stay whether the fish were biting or not, heading home only after the adults’ beer was gone.

I look forward to taking my young daughter fishing again. We are lucky to live in an area where there is so many places to throw your bait - Louisiana is truly the Sportsman’s Paradise. With the introduction of our LA-31, which really compliments fried fish and French fries, we hope to make it a Beer Drinkers’ Paradise as well.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Beer is our Canvass

Saturday evening we handed out samples of an incredibly hopped-up version of our usual LA 31 Biere Pale. The occasion for this special brew was my son’s art show at Salon NV in Lafayette during this month’s Second Saturday Art Walk

If you have never been to Lafayette’s art walk, make plans to go next month – you’ll meet a lot of fascinating people and see some amazing art.

And maybe get some free beer.

The beer we were pouring was a highly amped up IPA; we use a late hopping process which gives our beer a mellow bitterness, and an extremely intense hop flavor.

My son’s paintings were an eclectic mix of what I’d call Southern Pop art. Each of his paintings were on giant canvases, including his surprise for my brothers and me – a four by three foot interpretation of our LA 31 Biere label.

The owner of the salon had put out tasty bottles of red wine and some very nice cheeses and crackers.

Supporters of my son’s art brought iced pitchers of gin spiked juices and boxes of fruit punch for the kids.

The weather was very pleasant, so Jefferson Street was crowded with people strolling the art scene.

Nearly everyone who stopped by the show sampled a glass or two of our beer. As we handed them out we had a lot of great conversation with people wanting to know about real beer. We were somewhat surprised with all of the positive feedback, as this was an extremely hoppy and somewhat bitter beer – the largest amount of hops we have ever used in any of our recipes.

As we picked up afterwards, we noticed that every plastic beer cup was drank dry – the keg was drained as well. The very bitter beer was clearly a big hit.

As was my son’s paintings.

The first painting sold that night was that large image of the LA 31 label. A couple walked in, sampled some beer while admiring the painting. They purchased it before I could get a bid in (I was moving slow as I had consumed a bit of wine, beer and Gin & juice myself). That painting would have looked good in our office.

My son’s art reflects the commitment he has to his craft. He is passionate about his paintings, paintings that reflect his bold aesthetic, and his courageous sense of place and humor. They are audacious and larger than life, both dimensionally and artistically.

We learned a lot from our visit with Lafayette’s beer-drinking art lovers last Saturday night. It prods us to renew our commitment to our own craft. We will continue to tweak our flagship ale, LA 31 and perhaps introduce our own larger than life artwork, an over the top IPA.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Boudin Eggroll?

Wikipedia defines fusion cuisine as:

Fusion cuisine combines elements of various culinary traditions while not fitting specifically into any. The term generally refers to the innovations in many contemporary restaurant cuisines since the 1970s.

Louisianaians have been fusing cuisines since the 1760s.

French, Spanish, German and African foods and preperations have combined to give us the Cajun and Creole foods we enjoy today.

There is also the one Cajun who commingled the activities of cooking and drinking beer. After consuming probably way too much beer, he shoved a half-full beer can in a chicken's rear end cavity. Utilizing the chicken's legs and the beer can, he stood the whole thing up tripod style and barbecued the contraption.

Those of us who have tried a moist, tender and flavorful "tipsy chicken" know that by combining two activities - drinking beer and barbecuing chicken - the innovative cook yielded a fused product - a creation that became greater than the sum of its parts.

But a boudin eggroll?

My brother told me about his quest for the boudin eggroll at Janice's grocery in Sunset. They have it advertised on the menu, but every time he tried to buy one they were sold out.

Always sold out? I had to get one.

Janice's has some of the best boudin in Acadiana. They also have an extensive beer selection and a sign over the deli counter that says if you are talking on a cell phone they will not take your order or check you out.

I love shopping at Janice's.

It took me three trips but they finally had boudin eggrolls tempting me from under the heat lamp - you have to get there early, way before the lunch rush. I actually purchased the last two of them and also a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Drinking several bottles of a hoppy American interpretation of an English Pale Ale, and polishing off spicy Cajun sausages enclosed in Asian wrappers put me in a fusion cuisine fueled, multiculteral heaven.

The boudin was well seasoned with an abundance of cayenne pepper, and the eggroll wrapper solved some of the physical problems of eating boudin on the run. Pairing it with a pale ale was a near perfect match, though next time I may try a Pilsner Urquell to help calm the heat of all that seasoning.

I am sure my brothers were working hard on the brewery building the whole time I was doing research (eating rich boudin and drinking way too much beer) for this blog post. It's looking like they are nearly halfway done. I'll repay them with some ice cold beer and hot boudin eggrolls this coming weekend.

If I can find some.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Status of the Brewery

“When are ya’ll gonna start selling biere?”


Short answer – hopefully soon.


I recently read an article about a very low-budget zombie movie premiering at the Cannes film festival.  It was shot on a shoestring budget of seventy dollars.


Seventy dollars.


The director counted on volunteer zombies, borrowed film equipment and makeup, and the labor of friends and volunteers to help keep his cost so low.  By all accounts the movie is a well-crafted, though low budget flick.


I talked to a representative of the trade association for craft beers and he said that most small breweries fail because they can’t service the debt that they incur starting up.  We have decided to forgo this debt and go the low budget route.


So like the zombie filmmaker, we too are resorting to begging and borrowing to build our low-budget brewery – though it will cost us a little more than seventy dollars to finish.


We got a very much used intermodal container from the Union Pacific railroad – for free!  These are the containers you see on railcars and on the backs of big diesel trucks.  Ours if forty feet long by eight feet wide.  The railroad had used this container as an office for its railroad police so the railcar already had windows, a cutout for an air conditioner, and a hole for a household front door cut in the side.  The car was the perfect size for our brewery project. 


We jacked the railcar up and leveled it on brick pillars.  We grinded some rust off and patched some holes in the roof.  A lot of caulk and Kool Seal later and the container is leak-proof.  However, I had a buddy of mine from work weld some angle iron on the top so that later we can put up some joists and rafters for a more permanent roof.


We did this work on typical Louisiana spring days.  Man was it hot and humid.


Then we went to work on the interior.  The floors were made of solid thick oak strips, but were in pretty sad shape.  The wood was buckled and rotten through in spots, so we ripped it out.  We also removed the plywood walls and then pressure-washed the interior.  All of the bare metal was then primed with Rust-Oleum.


Up to this point all of our volunteer zombies have been rewarded with cold beer.


In the next week or so we should start laying down the plywood sub-floor and then insulating the walls.


With proper budgeting and the help of friends, relatives and volunteers we plan to have enough work completed so that we can start brewery operations by the end of August. 


Just gotta keg a lot more beer.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Perfect Sunday

 Got up early and drank Mello Joy with my wife.  Through our kitchen window we watched a big blue heron enjoy the backyard pond.


Just before meeting my brothers at the brewery for a workday, I walked through our vegetable garden.  I noticed our first tomato of the year was near red enough to pick, we have some cucumbers getting close as well.


I knew the keg of LA 31 Bière Pâle in my fridge was nearly empty.


After a hot and hard days work of scraping, sanding, pressure washing, and priming our fledgling brewery, my brothers looked forward to tall glasses of Bière Pâle.  However the tap sputtered nothing but foam and CO2 – and then just CO2.


My brothers looked at me accusingly.


My wife hurriedly sliced some cold leftover roast beef and set it out with some salami slices.  She also put out provolone and Swiss cheese, as well as a tub of garlic and herb goat cheese.  A couple of boxes of buttery-tasting crackers completed the setting.


Now what to drink?


Our young daughter and niece and their friends were over, so we set them up with several party platters of our spread and some freshly brewed iced tea.  The girls giggled and ate, played and watched Harry Potter on the living room television.


I had beer in the fridge.  I usually have Abita’s Amber and Jockamo IPA on hand.  We also had some of their Strawberry Lager.  We had some Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan ale from Mississippi and some Bohemia from Mexico.   And I still had a few bottles of North Coast Brewing’s Silver Jubilee.


Any of these beers would be delightful on a good Sunday afternoon.


Instead we tapped a keg of one of our experimental biers, code-named Duck Blind ale.  Our idea was to brew an easy drinking beer that you could bring to the camp or Holly Beach.   A beer you could drink outdoors while eating boudin or cracklings, or maybe even a bologna sandwich.


As this was our initial batch, we knew we still had a lot of tweaking to get the recipe right.


I don’t know if it was the good company or the way that the beer and food conspired to amplify each other, but we drank a lot.  We ate a lot too.  We talked and planned – we laughed and dreamed.  Reminisced and joked.


Our mother and father stopped by for a visit.  Dad even drank a short glass with us.


When we were kids our parents would take us to visit their parents in the country every Sunday.  All of our uncles, aunts and cousins would be there.  In those days, Louisiana still had Blue Laws that prevented most people from working on Sundays, it was a common day of rest that every member of extended families shared.  Our family would eat at Papa and Grandma’s house every Sunday.  While the adults visited we played in the barnyard.


Did you ever stick chicken feathers in a dry corncob for a make-shift helicopter?  I have to round some up for our girls next week.


Those Sundays were close to Utopia.


This past Sunday was close too.  Here’s to perfecting Duck Blind Ale and the return of the perfect Sunday afternoon.


  À votre santé.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How We See Bière

Currently, we are Louisiana’s smallest brewery.


When we were kids, all of the adults spoke French to each other.  And for a reason we could not figure out, it seemed that they laughed a lot more then when they spoke English.  It was an infectious, joyous laughter that often melded with the French words until it became an entirely different and near impossible language to interpret.


As the years have gone by, we hear less and less of the French being spoken.  And we hear a lot less of that joyous laughter.  I wonder if there is some correlation.


I also do not remember ever seeing my uncles or their friends drinking a Budweiser, Miller beer or Coors Lite.  They drank some Falstaff, Jax or Dixie beer brewed in New Orleans – or maybe a Pearl beer from Texas.   These regional beers were much more flavorful than the bland national brews that would be pushed into our local stores’ refrigerators in the late seventies.


We’ve been thinking about these things so we could let you know our vision for our brewery.  How do we define its’ success?  We know our success won’t be measured by selling more bottles of beer than anyone else – I mean we are Louisiana’s smallest brewery.  To sell that much beer you have to compete on price.  You have to water down your products and use as much of the least expensive adjuncts as you can get away with.  We do not choose to use synthetic hop oils (or synthetic anything for that matter) nor filter the life out of our beers.  We want to sell an honest, natural, full-flavored beer – a beer that does more than quench thirsts, it nourishes souls.


Our vision of success is to sell a few beers that stimulate a good conversation about a contented, well-lived life.  We would like to remember and learn from our roots and educate our newly made friends on the joy of drinking real beer and how to pair it with Cajun and Creole cuisine.


Our goal is nothing short of joie de la vie, and to do this we must stay Louisiana’s smallest brewery.


À votre santé.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Finding LA 31, Our Signature Blend

We are crafting beers that compliment Cajun and Creole cuisine.


It has been hard work, but we have enjoyed the perk of tasting a lot of beer along with a lot of good food.


Cajun cuisine is spicy and complex.  As good cooks in South Louisiana know, you can not just toss a bunch of spices and seasoning into a black iron pot and expect something good – you have to build a foundation and then layer the flavors on.  Remember how your grandmother did it?  She would first brown the meat to give her dish a sweet, caramel-like foundation, and then she added thick, rich and mysterious dark roux.  She then smothered beaucoup onions, bell peppers and garlic until “limp-limp,” and then seasoned with black and cayenne pepper.  She threw in some thyme and a few bay leaves, covered and braised the meat and simmered the gravy for most of the morning.  Finally she cooked some rice and just before serving she would top the whole thing off with the final layer, fresh and crunchy parsley and green onions.


A mural of flavor!  It is hard for a beverage to compete, let alone compliment such a complex and spicy meal.


A beverage has to be able to cut through these complex flavors, lift the richness from and clear the palate.  It not only has to extinguish the heat of cayenne pepper, it also has to be highly aromatic, refreshing and flavorful on its own.  I asked the owner of the finest wine store in the Hub City what wine he recommended to serve with a special seafood gumbo I had prepared for Christmas Eve.  He said “You don’t drink wine with gumbo, you drink beer!”  You see if even a very knowledgeable and experienced wine connoisseur has a tough time paring wine with Cajun food, what chance do we mere mortals have.  By the way cola, lemonade, sweet tea, a wine cooler, or even a margarita does not stand a chance against the rich symphony of flavors and textures of Cajun cooking.


I think our flagship ale, LA 31 Bière Pâle, is evolving into the gotta drink beverage with gumbo, and almost everything else we eat down here.


We are committed to steeping a very generous amount of 15° lovibond crystal malt for ale that has a deep gold color, satisfying sweet grain aroma and full body.  However, we are still experimenting with the hop additions as we want this beer to have tons of hop flavor yet retain a smooth bitterness.  


We may be getting close to this goal with a relatively new technique known as late hopping.


Traditionally, bittering hops are added very early, and boiled in the wort for about an hour.  This extracts the maximum hop bitterness, but leaves very little of the highly aromatic qualities of the hop.  Towards the end of the boil, a small amount of hops are then added in for some aroma and flavor.


In late hopping, no hops are added early, but much larger, multiple additions of hops are added very late in the boil, preserving all of the hop’s aromatics.  Our current practice is for three late additions and so far our experiments have given us a beer with less harsh bitterness but with a huge infusion of hop aroma and flavor.  We have really had spectacular results using Glacier and Liberty hops, but are toying with replacing some of the Glacier with Northern Brewer, a German varietals.


Looking back on LA 31 Bière Pâle’s evolution what intrigues us is that the process which we craft the beer is much like the one our grandmother used as she cooked.  We lay down a base, a foundation of crystal malt for the rich and sweet grain flavor that it imparts.  Then we start layering on three separate late additions of unique hops for an intensely pleasant onslaught of hop flavor.  And our beer is like Cajun food in another way – It’s good enough for a special occasion, but can also be enjoyed everyday.


I look forward to sharing a pint of LA 31 with you very soon.


À votre santé.