Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pappa Was Not a Rolling Stone

Pappa was one of the last holdouts.

Every New Year’s Day we would all get together at my grandfather’s home in Bayou Portage. Like all of his French-speaking neighbors, our grandparents would slowly simmer a big pot of black-eyed peas promising next year’s good luck. There also was one of smothered cabbage, guaranteed to bring us money, also on Grandma’s kitchen table.

What separated us from most of the other families getting together that day was that we had presents for one another!

Pappa made sure of that. It was a tradition he wanted continued.

Funny, people of his parents’ generation would not have thought those presents odd at all. New Years day was planned around a large midday meal (called diner in those days), with the accompanying black eyed peas and cabbage, and multiple dessert dishes and demitasses of café noir. After the extended meal and multiple exchanges of “Bonne Année” presents were exchanged among the members of most Cajun families.

I just googled “Cajuns exchanging New Years’ Gifts” and the couple of hits I got suggest this Cajun tradition was one that was brought over from rural France, and was practiced there since Roman times.

Pappa did not like the way most of his neighbors (and his own grandchildren) were forgetting this old custom. To him, we were adopting the ways of Les Americans (what he called English speakers, a term almost as insulting as Yankees). You see, we were getting presents on Christmas – and to the older folks that practice was sacrilegious on one of the two most holy days of the year.

On Christmas, past generations in Acadiana would stay up for Midnight Mass, and then prepare for a thoughtful day celebrating our Saviors’ birth– and a very large midday meal in his honor.

By the way, this year in Arnaudville, Father Brown’s Christmas Mass rocked. He’s the best.

The last fifteen or so years my father has renewed the New Years’ custom his father so stubbornly held on to. My wife and I still exchange presents on Christmas – we do have a son and daughter who would move out if we did not. And they look forward to New Years at my Mom and Dad’s house (and a second round of gifts for them), continuing a Cajun tradition that goes back centuries.

We would like to thank everyone who has helped us start up the brewery this year – all of our family, friends, the supporters we have met during our travels around Louisiana, the retailers, bar and restaurant owners who continue to believe in us, folks at all of the distributors, the three people who read my blogs, and everyone who has stopped by the brewery to say hello. We appreciate all of the help more than we could ever express. And for those lucky enough to try one of the few cases of our most outlandish beer yet (a test batch of a very high alcohol Christmas seasonal ale, squeezed out of a single oak barrel and spiked with a very secret, and in many States, illegal ingredient), don’t worry, it will be available next year in larger quantities.

If I get my Christmas wish and the fine folks at the Federal Offices of the TTB approve the formula in time.

My brothers and I, our wives and family would like to wish everyone in the Bayou Teche Brewing community a Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the Importance of Taking a Nap

The morning sun never caught my grandfather in bed. Getting up while the roosters still snored, and also before the heat of the day, he would eat breakfast while watching Passe Partout. When we stayed with him and Grandma my brothers and I joked that they got up before anyone spoke English – in those days Passe Partout was broadcast entirely in Cajun French, as was my grandparent’s conversation around their kitchen table.

My grandfather would head out to his farm, working until dinner time. Dinner was served at noon, and it was the big meal of the day. Grandma would have two or three home-grown vegetable dishes ready, plenty of rice and gravy, maybe a roast, or a baked chicken and if my brothers and I had been good all morning there were mounds of French fries and a pitcher of homemade Zatarans root beer on the table for us.

I don’t know when we started calling the noontime meal in Acadiana lunch. I guess lunch is what you eat when you live by a clock, “we have one hour to grab lunch.” Dinner at my grandparent’s house was an event, often with visitors, boisterous laughter and long conversations, with no one looking at their wrist watch to see how much time was left till work started again. Coffee was served after dinner and as the conversations wound down, my grandfather would always head off for his nap.

He was not alone in his daily nap routine; all of the old Cajun men we knew would head off after a hard morning’s work for one. They always woke up to start the afternoon like it was a brand new day.

It had been a long time since I took a nap.

All of us have been very busy at the brewery. Byron, Cory and I are brewing up batches of our smoked beer, Boucanee. After each batch is ready there is also the kegging of the fresh beer and cleaning the fermenters and tanks, and then delivering of the filled kegs to our distributors across the state.

All of the work is done by hand and there is no air conditioning in the work areas of our little brewery.

Every weekend and many weeknights there are beer dinners, festivals, tastings and sales meetings with our distributors for Dorsey and Laurin to attend. If we are double (or triple) booked, then my wife and I, or Byron and Cory would head out after brewing.

We are loving every minute of it. We have met and made so many new friends, and enjoyed visiting with people passionate about craft beer, and about our Cajun and Creole heritage.

But a nap would be good.

Over the three day labor day weekend my wife and I, and our little daughter (with SpongeBob boogie board, SpongeBob beach towel, SpongeBob videos, SpongeBob fruit snacks, SpongeBob toothbrush, and toothpaste, and assorted SpongeBob products) loaded up in my wife’s little car and headed west to a condo on Galveston beach. We turned off our cell phones and did not bring anything that would remind us of the work piling up at our little brewery. LA-31 T-shirts and Koozies not allowed.

We did not even bring any LA-31 to drink. Three days without my favorite beer would be a difficult cross for me to bear. (The editor is not taking this well and is thinking about deleting the last two sentences…oh, last four sentences.)

We built a few sandcastles with our little girl and watched as the waves slowly eroded her fortresses. We then jumped in those waves laughing with our little girl as she tasted the water of the Gulf for the first time. Playing in the condo’s swimming pool is how we spent our afternoons and our daughter enjoyed soaking in the hot tubs in the evening; I’m sure she’ll want one for Christmas.

The second day there I got a nap, got another one on the third day, nice. The old Cajuns we knew growing up were right about a lot of things – the importance of the daily nap was one of them.

We are now back to work at the brewery, and though we cannot always squeeze in a daily nap, I caught Byron napping under a mulberry tree and our son Cory sleeping on the tasting porch after our two beer lunch yesterday.

Our grandfather would be proud.

Thanks to Erica for use of the condo and access to her fully stocked pantry. I especially appreciated the six packs of St. Arnolds and New Belgium beers she got for me – those beers made the two afternoon naps even more pleasurable.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In the Garden

My little girl and I worked all morning in our little vegetable plot
today. We harvested some Creole tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash
and zucchini, several bell peppers, and thyme and basil leaves.
When we were kids, our grandfather always tended a
large vegetable garden, and I kind of want to pass that tradition on.
Though it is a lot of work, my little girl is still small enough not
to notice that it is.

We still had a lot of food in the ice-box left-over from yesterday’s
Independence Day barbecue – mainly a lot of grilled meat.
Several species had a place on that July 4th grill, but the focus was
on the traditional hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken wings.
We also put some fresh pork sausage in our smokehouse,
smoking the links with the same cherry wood that we use to
flavor our Boucanee beer.

Man we drank a lot of beer yesterday for America’s birthday.

My daughter and I went back into the house with our freshly
harvested bounty. We washed and put away the vegetables,
taking the time to sample a few cherry tomatoes. Our niece
was visiting from Arizona, so we visited with her and
her toddler son. In South Louisiana, our conversations always
end up being about the next meal. We had plenty of left-over
barbecue beans, potato salad, Cole slaw and leftover barbecued
meats, but we decided on doing something with the vegetables
my daughter and I had just brought in.

While my wife boiled some angel hair pasta, I put some fresh basil,
olive oil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts in the food processer.
Seasoning with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, I then
pressed the pulse button several times making pesto sauce
for the pasta.

We often make fresh pesto – you can put some on top of
Cajun-seasoned, broiled catfish filets a few minutes before
you take them out of the oven. Sometimes I’ll mix them with
egg yolks for deviled eggs, or boiled potatoes and fresh
green onions for a pesto potato salad.

I poured an LA-31 for my niece – she lives in Arizona and
our beers are not available out of state yet. I then
sliced up the yellow squash and zucchini, tossed them with
some of the fresh thyme we picked, olive oil and salt and pepper.
I sautéed them on the grill outside for just long enough for
them to pick up some of that smoky goodness you can only get
from outdoor cooking. We also sliced up some of those fresh
Creole tomatoes and cucumbers.

You know, everywhere around Acadiana there are specialty
meat shops selling stuffed anything you can think of, multiple
meat sausages, tasso, turduckhens – you name it. Growing up I
remember holiday meals with many meats on the table – beef roast,
several chickens in a fricassee and smothered pork chops on the
side would be a typical holiday meal. We all fall into the trap
of thinking Cajun food is about meat and seafood, but we forget
about our tradition of delicious vegetable sides.

That same holiday table would have maque choux, smothered
cabbage with andouille, hot from the oven, and still in
their skins sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas and smoked sausage,
petite pois with onions and tasso, lima beans,
field peas with snap beans, and smothered potatoes.

Our grandfather had an acre set aside
for his vegetable plot, and he grew everything he needed there
for our grandmother’s signature vegetable dishes.
Though we often think of our area’s specialty meats, our
cuisine has some of the best vegetable dishes in America.

Like beans and rice.

So we opened a twelve pack worth of LA-31s, and served
ourselves heaping plates of pesto with shredded parmesan
(yeah, yeah I know that pesto is not a Cajun vegetable dish),
sautéed squash, and salted tomatoes and cucumbers.
We ate so much, and though we had no room for dessert,
we forced down some Blue Bell pecan praline ice cream.

Tomorrow it will be hard to get back to working at
the brewery; this has been one long and relaxing holiday weekend.

Happy birthday America.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Beer In Me :: Forums

From Andy Dugas of the Beer in Me:
Click here to read Forum Post at the the Beer in Me.

Bayou Teche Brewing is releasing LA-31 Boucanee, a lightly smoked wheat beer.

This news is from Karlos Knott of Bayou Teche Brewing.

Karlos tells me that their Biere Pale is selling very well in all parts of South Louisiana. The demand for Biere Pale is very high and they are selling out every month in every market.

Currently, it is my (Andy) favorite beer and is available in the New Orleans area.

Now Bayou Teche is releasing a new beer, LA-31 Boucanee. It is currently their favorite beer at the brewery and he describes it as a lightly smoked wheat beer, very refreshing and goes with anything grilled, smoked, or a meat that loves being smoked (pork or chicken). They also drink it with gumbo, boudin, sausage po-boys and grilled hamburger.

LA-31 Boucanee will be available for a tasting one night this week at the Avenue Pub in New Orleans in a cask. They will begin offering it on tap in about 3 weeks.

Karlos shared the tap handle artwork for the Boucanee with me. (Picture is to the right)

Thanks for the information Karlos, I can’t wait to try out LA-31 Boucanee!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Our Bayou Teche

Our niece and some of her friends from school were riding my brother’s four-wheeler a few weeks ago. The girls are way too young to know who Evel Knievel is, but they were riding that four-wheeler like they were possessed by his ghost, looking for something to jump.

Since we do not live near the Snake River Canyon, the Bayou Teche would have to do.

Scooting up and down the banks behind the brewery, they came a little closer to the bayou’s water each time – and eventually, like Mr. Knievel on his ill-fated canyon jump, they too did not make it across.

The budding daredevils swam back to shore. My brother’s four-wheeler flipped tire side up and bobbed with the current down the Teche.

At the brewery, we have just unveiled our LA-31 pirogue. Custom painted, we commissioned and are donating it to raise money for the first ever Tour du Teche canoe race. The Tour du Teche is a 130 mile adventure-canoe race set for September 17-19th of this year. The race’s organizers will raffle off the pirogue to help raise the grand prize money for the first team to make it from Port Barre to Berwick.

The floating, upside-down four-wheeler could make it there first.

The pirogue we are donating is the two-man Cottonmouth made by Ron Chapman Shipwright Inc. Their piroques are hand-crafted in Louisiana and at 13 foot, 6 inches, this one is designed to carry two men, their guns, decoys and dog.

And several six packs of LA-31 beer.

Our Grandfather hand-built many cypress pirogues for my brothers and me as we were growing up. We spent much of our youth fishing from one on the numerous waterways around his Bayou Portage home. We did not have a four wheeler growing up, so all of our daredevil stunts were performed from a very slow moving pirogue.

Till we got drivers licenses.

The drawing for the pirogue will be held at The Coffee Break, in Breaux Bridge on September 1st. Tickets are $1 each. They are available at a growing list of locations. Please buy some raffle tickets to help make the Tour du Teche a success. We have some at the brewery.

One of the benefits of the race is the renewed interest in cleaning up the Bayou Teche. Volunteers from Blake Couvillion’s clean-up organization, Cajuns for Bayou Teche, and workers from the Parish and City governments along the bayou are helping to return the Teche to a pristine condition and make it the recreational and cultural showplace of South Louisiana. You’ll find information on Blake Couvillion’s army of clean-up volunteers and information on the Tour du Teche canoe race at

Thankfully, the Bayou Teche looks a little better now that a budding daredevil’s errant four-wheeler has been fished out six miles down the bayou from the brewery.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Holy Smoke

I recently got a call from a good friend of mine from Eunice.
He suggested we meet in Opelousas – the halfway point between our
little Arnaudville brewery and his homestead’s smokehouse.
He just emptied his smokehouse of several chaudins (stuffed pig
stomachs) and was looking to trade one, along with some freshly
smoked homemade sausages. We have a family crawfish pond, and
I figured he wanted a couple of sacks of live ones in barter.

In South Louisiana, sacks of crawfish are legal tender – heck,
they're more important to our economy than the gold standard.
Everything’s value can be measured in sacks of crawfish,
so imagine my surprise when he turned down the two sacks,
suggesting a couple of six packs of LA-31 for the trade instead
– and this with crawfish prices hovering around two dollars a
pound just prior to Good Friday.

I drove up to Opelousas and made the trade, visiting my old buddy
for a while. Driving home, thinking of devouring that stuffed
pig’s stomach, I amused myself, “LA-31’s value on the currencies
market was going up!”

That night my mother smothered the chaudin with a bunch of
chopped onions – man what a nice brown gravy it made.
Nearby was a rice cooker with what looked like too much rice
and a pot of white beans and also a giant platter of cucumbers.
We all ate like it was Thanksgiving - that very rich and smoky
chaudin was the best I ever remember eating. Those produced
in our part of Acadiana are usually fresh, however this one
(like most made in the area of Acadiana from Eunice to
Ville Platte), was smoked.

Don’t tell my good friend Justin that I will gladly give him three
six packs for another chaudin. Crawfish prices however, are headed
south thanks to Lent’s end.

Our little brewery had a ribbon cutting ceremony last week, and we
treated the assembled guests and dignitaries to a surprise keg of our
second beer – Boucanèe. Like the chaudins from the Cajuns neighbors
just north us, this beer is smoked. My brothers
and I figured a few of our guests would be sampling one or two from
the keg, leaving plenty for us for the weekend.

Unfortunately for our weekend plans, that keg of Boucanèe did not
make it thru the ribbon cutting.

Everyone there drank several pints of our cherry-wood smoked wheat
beer. Russell’s, our local grocery store prepared for us a large
platter of delicious finger sandwiches and rushing, I put together
some pinchos, which are small, two or three ingredient appetizers
that are served on tiny wooden spears in the bars of the Basque
region of Spain. Our colorful platter had salami, olives,
mozzarella balls, roasted red pepper strips, pickled
okra, old fashioned ham, shrimp, Fontina cheese, dried
mission figs, and marinated artichoke hearts pared in several
interesting combinations. The smoky Boucanèe beer complemented
everything it was paired with.

Our Priest, Father Brown started the day out by blessing our little
brewery, and we enjoyed the visit from so many of our friends,
family and early supporters – and we all clearly enjoyed the good
food and beer. We were reminded about the things that
are really important in Acadiana.

And we learned that a stuffed pig’s stomach and a wheat beer both
taste better when they have been smoked.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reviews are In (indulge me)...

LA-31 BIÈRE PÂLE was recently given terrific reviews by two of the world’s most respected beer experts in the April issue of All About Beer magazine. The editors of the magazine noted that LA-31 is crafted to compliment our traditional Louisiana cuisine like jambalaya, sauce piquant, shrimp Creole, chicken and sausage gumbo, fried seafood platters, crawfish bisque and ettouffe. Brewing a beer that pairs with Cajun and Creole cuisine was our little brewery’s original intent.

In his review for the article, Garrett Oliver, who is an internationally recognized expert on beer, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and author of The Brewmaster’s Table observed: “This beer has an attractive orange-amber color underneath a tight, off-white foam. The aroma is earth, nutty, and musty, with mild notes of fruit and mint. The bitterness stands up front on the palate, broad and brash, before the full-bodied malts pull the beer back into balance. Hop bitterness lingers after a long finish.”

Roger Protz, a highly respected beer authority and author of The Complete Guide to World Beer and 300 Beers to Try Before You Die wrote that LA-31 is “A pale gold beer with a big fluffy collar of foam, it has a nutty and fruity nose with hints of caramel, butterscotch and spicy hops. Intensely bitter hops burst on the tongue, along with tart orange/citrus fruit and sweet malt. The well-balanced finish has creamy malt, tangy fruit, a continuing hint of butterscotch and bitter hops resins. This is a quenching and complex beer - I wish it were available in curry-mad Britain as it would be the perfect companion for spicy Indian and Bangladeshi dishes.”

I am excited that a BAYOU TECHE BIÈRE was reviewed by such a renowned national magazine. Our petite brewery that only sells beer in Southern Louisiana appeared in a Belgian newspaper and now we have been favorably reviewed by an English writer and New York based brewmaster who are respected authorities on beer. I read Oliver’s The Brewmasters Table once a month and everything that Roger Protz wrote while my family and I were planning our Arnaudville brewery. When I was not brewing or drinking beer, I was reading about brewing or drinking beer. I am grateful that our first beer has been recognized by two beer experts whose writings have inspired me to open Bayou Teche Brewing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Six more weeks of this??

A few weeks back, my little girl ran and jumped in the middle of our bed very early in the morning. She said it was too cold in her room to stay alone in bed.

It had been well below freezing in South Louisiana for a whole week, and that does not happen very often.

I got up and plodded down the stairs to crank up the heater. I also put on a pot of coffee. My wife and daughter were still asleep – I on the other hand had not had a good night.

The thought of cooking and eating beignets had kept me awake much of the night.

My wife and I had taken our daughter to watch the just released Disney movie, “The Princess and the Frog.” It was a funny movie, classic Disney. It was set in and around New Orleans and there were many, many references to Creole and Cajun foods, customs, music. Unfortunately for me, one dish in the cartoon that was served up several times was beignets.

The downstairs was starting to warm up and the smell of the chicory in the coffee was filling the air. I mixed up a batch of beignet dough and fired up our deep fat fryer. Working quietly, I fried up two dozen of them. I also scalded some milk for café au lait. About the time my wife and daughter made it downstairs, almost everything was ready. My little girl is always in charge of shaking on the powdered sugar, which she sprinkles on so heavily that the each beignet looked the snows of Kilimanjaro.

I could eat Beignets every morning for breakfast and then again for brunch. Pour me a bottomless cup of café au lait, and I could eat them all day long. I am the same way with Gumbo - I am destined to serve myself three bowls. And the next day, after it spends a night in the ice box, maybe even four.

Ever had that peanut butter in the chocolate moment – the revelation of two great tastes that taste great together. Beignets and café au lait are like that. Locals and tourist have enjoyed that perfect food and beverage pairing in New Orleans for 200 years. Pizza and draft beer are like that also – once you start eating and drinking you cannot stop. If you don’t believe me, go to Deano’s, Alesi’s or Pizzaville and order a large pepperoni and a pitcher of draft beer. You will finish both, even if you have to loosen your belt and run around the building a couple of times between the last few slices.

Gumbo and craft beer are like that. You cannot help yourself, if you pair a well crafted beer with your next cold weather gumbo, you will return to the gumbo pot (and to your ice box) at least two more times. I recommend a good American Pale Ale, or an American version of an India Pale Ale. If you must have a lager, try the Pilsner Urquell – especially with a seafood gumbo. The zip from the hops in that beer are refreshing and really cleanses the palate between the spoonfuls of roux, seafood and seasonings.

Of course you could try an LA-31 with your gumbo. It is still cold enough, light a fire under your gumbo pot.

Gumbo, pizza, I guess now we should be working on a beer that will enhance and pair with beignets - perhaps a Biere au lait?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Who Dat?

The Saints will be playing in the Super bowl next Sunday! A week later is Valentine’s Day, and the Tuesday after that is Mardi Gras. Crawfish season is really kicking off after the recent unexpected frigid weather. Dorsey caught enough in our pond for our first big boil of the year last night.

Is it a good time to live in Acadiana or what?

I am smothering some fresh pork sausage right now and the house smells like Grandma’s used to. Nobody could smother sausage (or anything else) as well as she could. I am looking forward to putting that rich sauce rouillè over a steaming plate of rice, sliding a link of smothered sausage on the side. I don’t know why, but white beans always seemed to be the vegetable she would serve with smothered sausage, so I am fixing a batch of those as well.

I am also drinking an LA-31 Bière Pâle out of the bottle.

Yep, our bottled LA-31 has finally hit store shelves around Acadiana. I had been stalking our area distributor’s salesman for days, and finally he had some cases of our beer in his truck. He set his first display up at Russell’s, a grocery around the corner from our brewery. I took some pictures of him working and later of our first paying customer.

Felt like we already won the Superbowl!

The brewery’s phone has not stopped ringing. Thanks to everyone who bought the beer and called to inform us of what Cajun food they paired it with. We have had beaucoup recommendations for dishes that our beer has complimented.

It was pretty damn good with the boiled crawfish last night.

Our local distributor ordered a two month supply of our beer - which lasted them only two days. Cajuns sure do like to drink beer. We are brewing up some more, but for now there are only a few cases left in stores. I am sure they will all be gone before lent starts.

One lady who called the brewery let us know that she had bought a case to pair with a large turtle sauce piquant she had prepared for a party she was throwing. Though we did not get an invite (and we love turtle sauce piquant) she did call back and say our beer was delicious - as was her sauce piquant. But the two together was to her a revelation - Crafted beer is the only beverage to serve with the Cajun food we long to eat.

I am looking forward to diving into that smothered sausage tonight – it is one of my all-time favorite Cajun meals. I know we will drive to Henderson for raw oysters and fried seafood platters at Pat’s restaurant on Valentines Day. We will boil some crawfish before the Superbowl, saving some for a celebratory crawfish ettouffe afterward, and I have got to hunt down some olive dressing for muffalettas and a King cake for Mardi Gras.

A big merci beaucoup to everyone who helped, supported and believed in our little brewery. We also want to thank everyone who has tried our beer – keep calling us with the interesting food pairing recommendations.

Is this a good time to live in Acadiana or what?