Abita Abbey Ale – News Flash

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Having recently been to New Orleans, when I came across an Abita I hadn’t yet had in BevMo, I had to check it out.

The Abbey Ale is an 8.0% Belgian dubbel, and, like most of Abita’s brews, was very tasty. Sweet and a little funky like the dubbels I’m used to, it also had nice spice notes (they say cloves on the bottle, which I couldn’t name but seemed to fit), and it was easy to drink despite the high alcohol content. Whether that last point is a point for or a point against is up to you. It was a nice dark color as well, looking very regal in our chalices. It didn’t have as big of a head as I was expecting, but it was still bubbly so I didn’t mind.

It was also pretty cheap, so definitely check it out. Only downside is that it only comes in 22oz bottles, which are a little less manageable than more normal sizes. And, what’s more, every bottle gives 25 cents to St. Joseph’s Abbey, which is presumably some nice monks in New Orleans? I have chosen not to research, in case I find out it isn’t…

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New Orleans By The Glass

I have already mentioned my trip to New Orleans, the birthplace of many a cocktail, but all I’ve given you so far is a review of one of their breweries. Here’s everything else that I drank while I was there. This is in theory a response to this prompt, but it’s also a travelogue of many drinks. I figure that’s pretty far from normal.

We got in to New Orleans in the afternoon, and took a walk around the Garden District and French Quarter before arriving at Three Muses, a tapas bar where we had some great food (falafel wrapped mozzarella balls, among other things), nice unobtrusive live music, and some nice drinks as well. I had the Knight Takes Bishop (“Silky Irish Whiskey take on a sour using egg white, honey, apricot, dry sherry, and tarragon”– $11), and the PiC had the Minor Swing Margarita (“Hibiscus, jalapeno and blood orange liqueur reinvent this classic drink finished off with grapefruit soda”– $11). We also tried the Flying Squirrel (“A smooth whiskey sour with subtle pine notes and hints of walnut make this anything but predictable”– $11) and The Other Redhead (“Ginger and ancho chili liqueurs spice up this bold Jameson sipper” – $10), which my brother and his wife had. I was impressed by how well the less powerful flavors came through (the tarragon in mine, the walnut in the squirrel, etc.) to bring a new twist to mostly classic drinks. The margarita barely tasted like alcohol, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. And, I like anything with egg whites, so mine worked well too.

The next day we wandered over to Galatoire’s for lunch, primarily on a quest for what are called soufflé potatoes, basically twice fried potato chips that we had seen once on an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. We also had our first bowl of gumbo here (our goal was to have at least five). The potatoes were… fine? As a vehicle for the béarnaise sauce they were very useful, but didn’t have much to them. The duck and andouille gumbo was delicious. And, of course, we had drinks as well! I had Galatoire’s Special Cocktail (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Herbsaint, Peychaud’s Bitters, simple syrup and a twist – $7), and the PiC had the 209 Cocktail (Pimm’s No. 1, Pearl Cucumber Vodka, sour mix, and a splash of ginger ale – $8). I didn’t love mine, to be honest — it was essentially a Sazerac with bourbon instead of rye, and I felt like the bourbon overpowered the rest and it mostly just tasted like whiskey. The 209 was basically a Pimm’s cup, and was pretty good.

We next investigated the amazing beignets at Café du Monde but didn’t drink anything so I won’t dwell on it. They are famous for their cafe (and chicory) au lait, I guess? I don’t like coffee. At this time we discovered that my brother and his wife had holed up at a nearby divey bar, Coop’s Place, where we joined them. We had another cup of gumbo (#2, not as good as Galatoire’s), and our first Abita beer, Turbo Dog ($4). It was very nice, a dark brown ale that cut through the gumbo’s stickiness well. I almost thought it was a stout, based on texture and the darker coffee and chocolate notes, but apparently it is not.

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We did various things throughout the day (it’s very odd to only focus on the drinkable parts of the vacation) and ended up at Jacques Imo’s for dinner. If you go there, get the Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake. We also had gumbo #3. I had the Abita Andygator ($5), a Helles Doppelbock which was sweet and malty as well as being strong. Both the Abita website and our waiter were very cautious about the high alcohol content (8%) but really that’s not that bad… The PiC had the Abita Purple Haze ($4.50) which was a little fruity for my tastes but she enjoyed it. It’s a raspberry flavored lager, and I do remember that it tasted like actual raspberries more than it did like raspberry flavor, so at least there was that.

Day 2’s lunch was Commander’s Palace, and their famous 25-cent martini lunches! Honestly, the food here was much more of note than the alcohol, except for the price. I wish I could have eaten more, but I had had a donut breakfast sandwich earlier in the day and was still recovering. Anyways, to the alcohol! There were actually four variations of martinis that we were allowed to have for the 25 cent price (three max per person). The classic (gin or vodka), a cosmopolitan, a blue curaçao and vodka mix that I think was called the Commander’s martini, and something with melon liqueur that none of us tried. We had all versions of the first three though. They were fine for what they were – very alcoholic. I don’t really like martinis (I had mine very dirty and still didn’t really enjoy it). I don’t have pictures of these because we didn’t think we were supposed to use our phones, but you can imagine them. They look like what you’d expect.

We finished up that night at Cochon Butcher, where I had a beer. Unfortunately, I did not track what it was. But it was good! And looked like this:

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The next day we were all on our own. My brother and his wife had gone back to the wilds whence they came. So, we went to a wine bar, Bacchanal, for lunch, and did what you would expect us to do at a wine bar — get a beer! Actually though, this place was pretty awesome, and was recommended to us multiple times before we went. It’s a little out of the way, but it’s worth it. You walk into the wine/cheese shop, and pick your drinks and cheeses (and meats, if you like), and they make a really nice plate with it, full of spreads and breads and all sorts of things. Then, you sit outside in their huge patio with live music and eat it. It’s great. Anyways, we got a Californian, so sue us, beer from the Bruery — The Terreux Gypsy Tart. It wasn’t quite a sour, but was on its way there, sort of a gateway sour. If I haven’t used that phrase already, which I may have. It was nice to have the sourness without the fruit, as well.

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On the long way back from Bacchanal (a nice walk along the river in a fancy park), we were in need of refreshment, so stopped in the French Market for a mango rum punch (ingredients what you would imagine, with a bunch of miscellaneous juice added that I’m not sure what it was). Didn’t taste at all like alcohol, and was very refreshing and fruity. Not something I’d want to drink with a meal, but on its own, it was perfect. Also, had very tieable cherry stems.

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After another beignet and a display of chinese lanterns, we found ourselves getting dinner at Parasol’s in the Garden District, including an Irish Channel Stout (NOLA Brewing Company) in a to-go cup. I still find the concept of to-go alcohol crazy, but hey, it’s New Orleans. Or Vegas. The stout was a good classic coffee-esque stout, not hugely remarkable other than the fact that we walked around with it on the street.

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Sadly, it was then our last day, but we were determined to drink it to the fullest. We stopped by Pat O’Brien’s, the home of the Hurricane, and got, well, a Hurricane. We had been warned against this by my brother but it was actually pretty good. Very similar to the mango rum punch in that it was sweet, fruity, and deceptively alcoholic. It has dark rum, light rum, passionfruit syrup, and lemon, according to Wikipedia, and Pat O’Brien’s serves a mix that you can use to make your own so it’s probably somewhat proprietary. If you’re eating in, you get it in a classic hurricane glass (shaped like a hurricane lamp, apparently), but we were getting it to-go so weren’t as fancy.

We got our final bowl of gumbo at The Gumbo Shop  (Galatoire’s may still have been best though), and accompanied it with a Brandy Milk Punch, which tasted like a not-nearly-as-cloying eggnog. It was cold, light, and nutmeggy, and the milk really smoothed out the brandy which can sometimes be a little too sharp. It also had the distinction of being one of the nicest looking drinks we had.

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And then, with only a few hours left to kill before the airport, we went to NOLA Brewing Company. But you already know about that.

So that was New Orleans. 19 drinks, or more if you count both mine and the PiC’s. Which you really should. But for one of the few places that’s actually known for cocktails, I think that’s a perfectly acceptable number. One side note: there is an antique gun shop that was the original home of Peychaud’s apothecary shop, where potentially the first cocktail was served. Unfortunately it was closed when we stopped by. But we were this close to a piece of bartending history, and I think that still counts!

And I will say, also, that even if you don’t drink, New Orleans was awesome. We will definitely be going back someday, and I totally understand why my brother has now been 5 times.

NOLA Brewing Company – News Flash

NOLA Brewing Tap Room
Source: Sarah Baird, http://bit.ly/1RhTkuE

In February (no, not during Mardi Gras, which I personally think is a good thing, but it’s up to you…) the PiC and I took a trip down to New Orleans, along with my brother and his wife — no code names there, otherwise that would start to get very confusing. We had a lot of different beverages throughout the trip, which I’ll go through in a later post, but this entry will be a continuation of my “drink many tiny beers at a brewery” series.

On our last day in New Orleans, we walked down to the NOLA Brewing Company space and had a flight of eight of their beers. They had a lot more than that, but we were but humans and could not really sample everything.

The brewery is down by the river — the mighty Mississippi! — and has a nice outdoor patio, as well as some indoor spaces with games, ping pong, and more. Sadly, there’s not so much of a river view (more of a warehouse view) but you know it’s out there somewhere. There were two bars, one upstairs and one downstairs, and then there was also a delicious barbecue window (McClure’s), with about 7 different sauces you could try. We had their mac and cheese and it was amazing, though we were also slightly inebriated so who knows. The brewery was within walking distance of our bed and breakfast, in the Garden District, which was very convenient, as the public transportation in the city left a lot to be desired. It was nice when we didn’t have to rely on a bus that was probably going to be 20 minutes late.

Anyways, we picked the 8 beers that we expected to like the most out of their offering. At the time we went, they had a ton of IPAs and other hoppy brews, so our choices were somewhat limited. We had also already had the Irish Channel Stout, which otherwise would have immediately made it onto our list. It was also good (more on that in the later post).

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Flambeau Red Ale
This was a little bitter, an little sweet, mostly tasted like a pretty typical red ale. Hoppy, but not in a terrible way.

NOLA Blonde
Very golden and blonde in color. It was nice looking, but tasted like nothing. It has a little bit of a fruitiness to it, and smells like honey — orange or clover were our thoughts. There was also a nice sweetness and it wasn’t hoppy at all. (What’s the word for not hoppy?) Could have drank this for a while, but probably wouldn’t want to.

Tea Birth
This was an earl-grey-infused version of their more classic Rebirth APA. And, it tasted pretty similar to what you would imagine that to taste like. The hops blended really well with the tea flavor, and I actually liked it (score another one for APAs!). I feel like APAs are the gateway IPAs — the hops don’t linger as much and so you can keep drinking after more than one sip. There was a clear bergamot aftertaste, in fact almost an aftersmell. If that’s a thing. But, just like 3D in a movie theater, it’s cool at first but you know you’ll forget about the bergamot by the end of drinking a pint. Pretty mild overall, but a nice drink.

Girl Stout Cookie
I GET IT. It smelled minty and a little creamy, but when I took a sip I thought it was pretty disgusting. Now, it did taste exactly like it was supposed to — chocolate and mint like a Thin Mint — but it turns out that those are flavors I don’t particularly like in my beer. The PiC didn’t hate it, but certainly thought it was odd.

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Out Tequil-ya: Sour Ale Aged in Tequila Barrels
The puns keep coming! PiC liked this a lot, though she also likes tequila and sours a lot so that stands to reason. For me, it was still a sour, and so I was conflicted. I actually didn’t mind it so much, and I liked the flavor, but I’d have trouble drinking a lot of it (like any sour, for me.) You could tell the tequila’s influence more at the beginning of a sip than the end. This beer made me realize one thing that might be part of the reason I don’t like sours, and you can see it in the picture up there — they’re often not very bubbly, and that makes it a weird drinking experience for me..

Breakfast Brown
This was ostensibly flavored with maple and other breakfasty things (cinnamon). I didn’t really taste much of the flavoring — it was more just like a brown ale, which is not a bad thing, especially after the Girl Stout experience. Certainly easy to drink and had a nice sweetness. The lack of flavor may also have been the mac and cheese that we got from the place downstairs and started devouring right about the time we tasted this one. I should start a mac and cheese blog. Delicious.

Scary Spiced Stout
While I was disappointed by the slightly misfired pun here — they should have just called it Scary Spice, without the d — I actually really liked this. It was flavored with cinnamon and chipotle, like mexican hot chocolate almost, and the flavor wasn’t overpowering like the GSC. It was also a little bitter, which cut through the flavor in a nice, beery way.

Desire: Raspberry Sour Ale
This smelled like the raspberry syrup I made for the various Jerry Thomas punches. It actually tasted like very tart raspberry juice, which was a nice end to the flight. If someone gave this to me on its own, with no description, I might not even know it was beer. PiC, of course, loved it.

Overall, it was a fun experience. NOLA had some of the first sours I’ve actually liked, and the pun quotient was right where it should be. New Orleans has a lot to offer, either in the drink line or otherwise, and this is a perfect place to take a look at. Next time you’re in town, take an afternoon and check them out!