Southern Beers: Abita Gets Toes Tapping in New Orleans

I mentioned that I returned from New Orleans with sore calves, but I forgot to tell you about my neck.

I woke up on Sunday morning thinking I had simply slept on it wrong, however as the day went on it became clear: The muscles that support my head were sore… from dancing.

Soak up that image for a second: I sure as hell dug in, burying the head and looking at the floor, swinging the arms and losing sight of my surroundings. No idea why I was staring at my feet so much – my moves aren’t that complicated.

If you’ve traveled with me or followed this blog over the past year, you know I have no clue what I’m doing on the dance floor, so I’m as surprised as the next that I enjoyed it for as long as I did. Who knows, maybe I’m coming around.

Or maybe it was because before we danced, we drank.

Come on – it’s New Orleans!

Abita Brewing Company (Abita Springs, Louisiana)

I was familiar with Abita’s flagship brew Purple Haze before my trip to the Big Easy – it’s available on beer menus and at distributors throughout the country – but I had no idea the brewery had such a grasp on the city, nor that it produced such a solid line of beers. It began in 1986 about 30 miles north of New Orleans, and today it is rare that a local restaurant does not carry at least one of their products on tap.

Andygator Dopplebock

I found the Amber to pair nicely with gumbo/sausage dishes and po boy sandwiches, and its makeup and structure reminded me of Yuengling Lager. Easy drinking, smooth, and a good cooking compliment, it’s what I would refer to as a pitcher beer – most people in your group will find it agreeable (as compard to Purple Haze and its specific raspberry flavors).

I discovered the Andygator Dobblebock at the Bulldog on Magazine Street (they had five or six Abita beers on tap), and I thought it was a good showcase of the brewery’s range. It’s a high-gravity brew, meaning it’s blended, in this case with pale malt, German lager yeast, and German Perle hops. At 8.0% alcohol, it drinks heavy and goes well with gorganzola/blue cheeses and crawfish dishes.

Lazy Magnolia Brewery (Kiln, Mississippi)

A little over a year ago I received a few bottles of Lazy Mag Southern Pecan in my beer of the month club (which is a fantastic gift idea, by the way), and I have since been awaiting the day when I could get it on tap, or at least find it in the store (the one frustrating thing about the beer club is that they overcharge to reorder specific beers).

I had not been in town for five minutes when I saw a six-pack of it on the grocer’s shelf (love it when that happens – I’m the guy who typically stands there for ten minutes trying to make a decision). According to Lazy Mag, it’s the first beer in the world to be made with whole roasted pecans, which I think adds a slight sweetness that you don’t always get in brown ales.

I was surprised to read that it’s the first in the world brewed with whole pecans – the traditional malty and caramel flavors of the brown ale seem to go well when paired with nuts in other forms (desserts, for example), so why not beer?

Sweetwater Brewing Company (Atlanta, Georgia)

When I was in St. Simons, Georgia, I wrote about how well the Sweetwater 420 (extra pale ale) went with the infamous Southern Soul Barbecue. From that same brewery comes the Georgia Brown, and I suppose my fondness for it officially puts me on a brown-beer kick.

I got involved with this brew at the Atlanta airport of all places – they have a draft house in concourse B.  It’s not overly heavy (both in terms of drinkability and alcohol content, 5%), and that makes it a good beer to have on the run in my opinion.

Even though the South is traditionally known for its booze (whiskey, bourbon), don’t overlook the microbrews that hail from the area. Most of these breweries are relatively young – Sweetwater began in 1997 when the owners moved to Georgia from Boulder, Colorado.

Hopefully I’ll do a beer story on Colorado my next trip out – the Rocky Mountain water seems to churn out good brews. Cheers for now!

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