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.