Editor’s note: here’s a primer about why we’re exploring this topic.
With a combined “weighted rank” of 3.629 (out of 5) for it’s top-10 beers according to Beer Advocate users, Louisiana placed 46th out of 51 states and D.C. in my recent analysis of ratings from the website. To help prove that isn’t indicative of all that’s offered within the Pelican State, I’ve enlisted the help of Nora McGunnigle, a freelance beer and food writer living in New Orleans, focusing and the unique food and beer culture of Louisiana and the Gulf region.
Before we get into a brief Q&A with Nora, let’s recap some of the vitals of Louisiana as found through my Beer Advocate series:
Top 10 Beers (as of Nov 2014)
|IRISh Channel||New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing||Stout||6.8||3.77|
|Mechahopzilla||New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing||DIPA||8.8||3.74|
|Save Our Shore||Abita||Pilsner||7||3.67|
|Hopitoulas||New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing||IPA||6||3.65|
|NOLA Brown||New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing||Mild Ale||4||3.56|
|NOLA Blonde||New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing||Blonde||4.9||3.51|
According to results of the Beer Advocate research, the average ABV of all “best beers” was 8 percent, with states having an average of 5.5 beers at or below that threshold. Louisiana has nine, including an odd choice for these kinds of lists – a pilsner.
In terms of Beer Advocate user preferences, all this means not many people seem to care about Louisiana beer. Why should you? Let’s find out with Nora.
How would you describe the beer and beer community of Louisiana?
The beer community throughout the state, from New Orleans to Shreveport, is small and impassioned. We have had to fight for every brand and brewery in the state and we are grateful for every awesome beer that becomes available within state lines.
The beer here tends to:
- Be designed to pair with the food.
- Reflects the area’s German immigrant heritage.
- Be unique and reflective of the local culture to include ingredients like local strawberries, satsumas, honey, passionfruit, molasses, and persimmon. Beer sales support local music and cultural heritage nonprofits and beer based on Louisiana traditions like Carnival king cake and red beans and rice.
It’s also important to have beer that is enjoyable to drink in hot humid weather, with spicy food, and relatively low in alcohol so that we can drink it all day during Saints games, LSU games, parties, crawfish boils, parades, parades, and more parades.
What are general misconceptions about beer or breweries from Louisiana?
That it’s all Abita and pilsners.
What are the unique aspects about Louisiana’s beer you wish people would “get”?
Louisiana beers are full of flavor and are perfect for the most unique food culture in the country. While beer is part of joy and celebration, there’s also an increasing number of beer lovers moving here (or moving back here) to brew, bringing craft traditions from around the country and the collective beer palate is growing and expanding and becoming ever more sophisticated. However, we’re not Denver or San Diego or Portland, and that’s a good thing.
What beers or breweries are often overlooked? Are there any taken for granted who produce great beer?
Covington Brewhouse has undergone a major transformation since they opened up as Heiner Brau back in 2005. Since the new management, branding, and brewer came on in 2013, the German style beers they brewed became consistently solid, fresh, and tasty. The previous incarnation was wildly inconsistent and it’s been hard talking people into giving them a second chance, which is a shame.
Also, Parish Brewing doesn’t do any marketing, and they’re best known for a crowd-pleasing wheat beer called Canebrake, but owner Andrew Godley and his team is quietly putting out some of the best beer in the state.
Why do you think beer raters have given lower scores to beer from Louisiana?
Because they aren’t big-ass sexy beers with high ABVs. It’s too hot and we drink too much to have a lot of 12 percent beers. And because they’re not pairing them with food.
What are beers you’d want them to try?
Great Raft’s IPL, “At Arms Length,” or Bayou Teche’s barrel aged beers like Coteau Rodaire. NOLA Brewing has just opened a brewhouse just for sour beers and their Sauvage Brett pale ale is fantastic. Parish Brewing’s Ghost in the Machine, and Gnarly Barley’s Radical Rye P.A.
Why should people come to Louisiana to explore your beer community?
Because we have the best food, and the best beer to pair with food. Also, we’re the most fun.
Feeling inspired? For foodies looking to learn more about Louisiana’s beer community, check out Nora’s website.
Tomorrow, we learn more about what South Dakota offers.
Learn more about under-appreciated beer from:
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac