During this year's American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) May 11-18, a new Louisiana brewery will make its debut, a flagship beer will be released, the first all-Louisiana brewery collaboration beer will be tapped, there will be beer dinners, some special ACBW-only beers and dozens of events all over the state. Area breweries are excited.
"As a brewer, this is an unparalleled opportunity to reach out to the public and show them how limitless craft beer can be, especially in a city like New Orleans, where we have a captivated audience just waiting to be invited to the party," says Michael Naquin, founder and head brewer of 40 Arpent Brewery, which opened recently in Arabi.
Bayou Teche has brewed four special beers to coincide with ACBW. The first, a limited one-time release called Coteau Rodaire, is a farmhouse-style ale aged in French sauvignon blanc barrels. Another, a play on Bayou Teche's flagship LA-31 Biere Pale, is called LA-31 Spur and is refermented in oak barrels with Belgian candi sugar before being dry hopped. The third, Hoppy Jindal, a take on traditional IPA, is dry hopped in kegs. The fourth, a 2014 version of Biere Joi, was aged in oak barrels with cacao nibs, chili arbol and Mello Joy coffee, which is popular in Acadiana.
Cari Caramonta, co-founder of the new Gnarly Barley Brewing Company in Hammond, says the brewery was rushed to get its beer ready for release during ACBW, but it was worth the effort to have Gnarly Barley's grand opening coincide with the beer fest.
"We really didn't want to miss out on such an amazing week for craft beer," she says. "We are super excited to be a part of it for the first time as a commercial brewery and we are looking forward to the events we will be holding, but also getting to see and taste what everyone else has to offer." Gnarly Barley's Catahoula Common, a combination of ale and lager styles, will be available at various locations throughout the week, and several specially hopped casks will make appearances.
Chafunkta Brewing in Mandeville not only plans a wide release of its Kingfish cream ale in tandem with ACBW, it also worked with neighboring brewpub Old Rail Brewing Company to create the first all-Louisiana-brewed collaboration beer, Off The Tracks, a Belgian blonde ale made with boysenberries.
"We discussed adding fruit and wanted something that sounded fun and would suit the beer," says Matthew Horney, head brewer at Old Rail. "We did some taste tests and settled with boysenberry. It's a cross (between) a blackberry and raspberry, so you get sweet and tart,"
Old Rail Brewing also is pulling out several barrel-aged beers, including a preview of its Anniversary Barleywine and a barrel-aged version of its Dark Territory Russian Imperial Stout.
"ACBW allows us to go beyond marketing or promoting the product and allows us to show who we are as an industry," Horney says. "It's not about this brewery or that brewery but the people who make up the craft and make it what it is. For Louisiana, this is still a young concept but growing at an accelerated rate."
Andrew Godley, founder and head brewer at Parish Brewing in Broussard, agrees. "I'd like to think that more people get turned on to craft beer during ACBW than any other normal week in the year, thanks to the megaphone of so much talking, celebrating and drinking craft beer at once all across the nation," he says. In addition to the many specialty kegs and casks of unique one-off beers Godley will offer around the state during that week, he will collaborate with Red Fish Grill for Parish Brewing's first beer pairing dinner.
Other beer dinners during the week include one at The Chimes Restaurant in Covington that features a variety of high-end beers and another at Crescent Pie & Sausage Company featuring New Belgium Brewing Company beers.
The Avenue Pub is holding several theme nights during the week: Tuesday is Barrel Aged Night, where the pub pours the barrel-aged beers alongside its barrel spirit (mostly bourbon); Wednesday is Funk Night, which showcases American sours, saisons and Brettanomyces, as well beer infused with lactobacillus, which gives brews a sour flavor; Thursday is Hophead Night, with the best and bitterest beers available; Friday features a showcase of small and new Louisiana breweries like Gnarly Barley, 40 Arpent, Chafunkta and Old Rail; and on Saturday the pub hosts a grand tasting.
The Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant chain has ramped up its beer geek cred and is prepared to go all in for ACBW, says Amit Patel, manager of Buffalo Wild Wing stores in Elmwood and Metairie. "It creates a focused occasion for our guests to branch out and try something new," he says. The Metairie location will showcase 40 Arpent with a cask of Cafe Brulot, a firkin of its milk stout with wood chips soaked in Grand Marnier, cloves and cinnamon. At another event it will feature Parish Brewing's Canebrake cask with apricot and Galaxy hops. Both brewer-owners will be on hand for their cask nights. At the Elmwood location, the owner of Mississippi's Crooked Letter Brewing will present a cask of the brewery's Stabello lager, which is infused with cherries.