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.