Last September, NOLA Brewing (www.nolabrewing.com) knew its vinous Belgian single-style beer brewed with local muscadine grapes would take well to barrel aging. Six months later, the beer is the first in the brewery's NOLA Funk series. It's aged in pinot noir barrels, and the brewers also introduced the bacteria brettanomyces, which adds a funky, sour note. Use of brettanomyces is a growing trend in craft brewing. The barrel-aged Swamp Grape Escape is the first Brett beer brewed commercially in Louisiana.
At the same time, local beer blogger Jeremy Labadie teamed up with Argyle Wolf-Knapp of Commander's Palace to work on the first book about the history of brewing in New Orleans.
This history-making aged and brettanomyces-enhanced beer debuted, appropriately enough, at the release party of Labadie and Wolf-Knapp's New Orleans Beer: A Hoppy History of Big Easy Brewing, which outlines the history of the city's brewing culture and profiles the contemporary beer scene.
New Orleans was known as the brewing capital of the South before Prohibition, but it took time for Louisiana as a whole to catch up with the national craft brewing trend. "This is Louisiana," Labadie says. "We do things at our own pace." The state now has nine commercial breweries, two locally owned brewpubs, and two new breweries (Gnarly Barley in Hammond and 40 Arpent in Arabi) that will begin distributing soon.
Labadie is excited about the new NOLA Funk series. "The Swamp Grape Escape with the brett was amazing. Not a butt-puckering sour but just right."
Signed copies of the book are available at Garden District Book Shop (The Rink, 2727 Prytania St., 504-895-2266; www.gardendistrictbookshop.com). Barrel-aged brettanomyces Swamp Grape Escape can be found at NOLA Brewing's tap room. — NORA McGUNNIGLE