Acquired by the U.S. from France in 1803 as part of the largest territorial gain in U.S. history, Louisiana became the 18th state of the United States in 1812.
Louisiana has a long, remarkable history. Ruled by many yet tamed by none, Louisiana is well know for its Mardi Gras festivals, Second Lines, and famous streets. And when it comes to libations, Louisiana has more to offer than the Hurricane. Louisiana is also home to one famous craft brewer, and many more up and coming breweries to help you wash down that Po’boy, or my favorite a Muffuletta.
When it comes to Louisiana craft beer, Abita reins supreme. It is available in 46 states and is even served at a resort in Disney. Located just 30 miles north of New Orleans, Abita has been brewing craft beer since 1986. From those early days, Abita has developed a successful line of flagship beers complemented with a selection of seasonal, harvest and speciality brews that ensures there is something for everyone at this brewery.
Abita isn’t the only craft brewer in the state, there are new upstarts like Tin Roof Brewing and Parish Brewing Company. All of these brewers are newish, but growing, and from what I can tell, they can barely meet local demand. So at the moment, the only Louisiana beer available in my neck of the woods is Abita. As our only selection for this week, we sampled two different Abita brew styles: Turbodog and Amber.
My first experience with Abita was during an early episode of Essence of Emeril where the New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse often featured Turbodog in his cooking. After viewing an episode where Emeril divided a bottle between the food and himself while shouting “Whoo Doggie“, we had to seek out this beer.
Fast-forward to today and here we are, prying open another Turbodog.
For me, the classic craft beers (those started in the 80s) stand out from the rest of the craft beer industry. Not because of their extreme tastes and ingredients, but the exact opposite. These older craft beers were the foundation of what today has become a major industry. The first brewers, coming off the heals of the 1978 legalization of home brewing, were responsible for teaching the public that beer could be full of flavor, taste good and and not have to be translucent to be drinkable.
The Turbodog fits that description nicely. With its nice malty, caramel flavor, the Turbodog was an enjoyable beer. The malt gave this beer a slight thickness in mouth feel, but nothing atypical of a great brown ale. The carbonation was lower than expected, but again, for a brown it felt about on par. Like the first time I had this beer years ago, I still enjoy it.
The next beer for this week is The Abita Amber, the first beer offered by the brewer. According to the Oxford Companion to Beer,
American amber ale is a phrase first used by startup American microbrewers in the 1980s as a simple beer description for consumers, but it soon found acceptance as a formal style name.
While this beer was a fine beer, and I wouldn’t turn one down, it wasn’t as fun as the Turbodog. It was more basic in flavor and composition, which was expected. The brewer lists this beer as an excellent company for smoked foods and sausage, which I will have to give a try. However while this beer quickly brought back memories of New Orleans, scenes from Treme and is probably a wonderful beverage after a day in the Louisiana heat, in the end I was ready to grab another Turbo Dog.
Since that first experience of Turbodog, I have been lucky enough to try a few different brews from Abita. From the Purple Haze on Bourbon St., to the nice Pecan Harvest Ale, after a long day, Abita has never been a letdown. And with brews like the Restoration Pale Ale, where $1 from every six-pack is donated to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the S.O.S. big beer, a charitable pilsner dedicated to “Save Our Shore,” Abita continues to give back to the local community that helped it become an important figure in the craft beer world.
Next week, Indiana.