Our Family Road Trip to Memphis

I don’t often get to take road trips anymore. A full-time gig and being a new dad(6 months, what?!) forces you to reprioritize your life. Luckily, my wife Jess has an adventurous soul and pushes me to take time to explore. So when she came to me and said we needed to take a weekend to go see some family in Memphis, Tennessee I was game. The tricky part was that we had to have a plan for everything what with the kiddo. Excited, we planned to leave Shreveport, stop in Little Rock(halfway for diapers and food), then on to Memphis. Jess is such a researcher, she plotted out the trip and found a brewery that served bbq in Little Rock… That’s why I married her.

We left late(of course) Friday morning but managed to land at Lost 40 Brewing in Little Rock around 3pm. When we opened the car door in the parking lot, I knew we were at the right spot. I was hit with smell for freshly brewing beer and the sweet smokey aromatics of slow cooked bbq. We didn’t spend a ton of time here but we maximized what we had.

We ordered a flight of their beers that included Trash Panda, Forest Queen, a sour beer, and the Double Snake Party DIPA. It should be noted that if you have pork belly on the menu, we WILL order it. That was our favorite thing besides the beer and the sorghum-black pepper pecans.

Sorghum-Black Pepper Pecans

I loved the Pale Ale. Crushable and light. It wasn’t too hoppy but had such great balance. This is definitely a great beer to mow the yard with or to sip on at the beach. I actually bought a 6 pack on the trip and I was out by Saturday night. Don’t worry, I was sharing.

Photo curtesy of www.fayettevilleflyer.com

Photo curtesy of http://www.fayettevilleflyer.com

Jess tends to be more of a hop head than I am so she was really into the Double Snake Party DIPA. She doesn’t drink quantity so to her it’s all about the quality of what she’s drinking. Lots hop here which lended itself to a great freshness. It was full with that hoppy-citrusy sweetness but balanced with bitterness. At 10%, that’s the only one you’ll need. We also picked up a pack.

Back on the road. We hit Memphis and went straight to see some family. At the door I was greeted with homemade pizza and Knob Creek. Maybe that’s why I really love Memphis. Something to think about.

Saturday afternoon in Midtown Memphis, just to break up the beer, I went to a great spot called The Second Line at the recommendation of a friend. This is a killer, casual restaurant and bar by New Orleans native Chef Kelly English. Chef Kelly worked for Chef John Besh for a while in New Orleans before permanently setting up shop in Memphis. Over the years, he’s accumulated a ton of awards from James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast to Memphis’ “Prince of Porc” in the national Cochon555 competition. At The Second Line, they specialize in Memphis inspired New Orleans cuisine. I parked at the bar and grabbed a glass of Anne Amie Pinot Gris(Willamette Valley, OR) while I was waiting on Jess and her sister to arrive. It just so happened Chef Kelly was working in the front of the house that day and we were able to chat for a while. I’d describe him as super approachable, classy, and what Danny Meyer would call a Hospitalitarian. Pimento Cheese and Andouille fries were legit. When we get back, I’ll for sure pop in again.

Photo curtesy of The Second Line Instagram

Saturday afternoon in Memphis, we went to Wiseacre Brewing Company. Full disclosure, this was my second trip to Wiseacre. It was first recommended to me by Andy Nations from Great Raft Brewing in Shreveport. Jess also told me about it since she lived in Memphis for a few years and used to frequent it.

Wiseacre is family friendly so we brought Ward with us. Not his first trip to a brewery(thanks for passing that law Shreveport). They have a small tap room and a large outdoor area with tables and patio games. It was cold but the brewery was packed. Maybe it was just a Saturday afternoon, but I think it’s just a great quality, local product.

I grabbed a pint of the “Gotta Get Up to Get Down” Coffee Milk Stout and loved it. I remember them not having it my first trip two years ago so I was really excited. It was dark and rich without being bitter. Texturally, it was silky and has this gorgeous coffee note on the end like a coffee ice cream. It’s not sweet but it is a milk stout so it’s innately a little sweeter than an normal dark beer. As one of my friends said, “Definitely my favorite coffee stout that isn’t barrel aged or a breakfast stout.” Needless to say, I grabbed a sixer for the road.

We also picked up some Tiny Bomb Pilsner. This is, from their offerings that I’ve tasted, the most crushable. Fresh and light. It reminded me of the Great Raft Brewing’s Southern Drawl, which is my “I don’t want to make a decision, I’m just going to order this beer because it’s always fantastic” beer choice. It has cereal layer with a light hay note and a dry finish. It’s a light-medium bodied beer that you can do some work with. An easy day drinker.

I guess our little, weekend road trip to Memphis ended up being majority about beer. That usually happens. It either revolves around beer, wine, cocktails, or food. We really enjoyed all of the spots we hit. Looking forward to the next trip.


Baller Budget Bubbles

So at the end of the year, everyone is looking for a nice bottle of Champagne. I love it because it’s a truly under appreciated wine. Sparkling wine in general. A lot of people think of it as only a celebratory wine because it’s “expensive.” Naahhhh. There are some incredible sparkling wines that are totally wallet friendly. First of all, let’s talk about sparkling wine itself.

Most people us Champagne is used as an all encompassing word for sparkling wine. They could mean Champagne, but chances are they are looking for Prosecco or something to make Mimosa’s with at brunch. Here are the basics:

Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. That’s right, it’s a region and not a grape. True Champagne is usually above $40 a bottle depending on the producer. Any other sparkling that comes from France is usually referred to as Cremant. Prosecco is Italy’s version of sparkling wine. It’s extremely popular in restaurants around town(Shreveport-Bossier) and usually ranges from $9-25. There are some exceptional higher end Proseccos around. Cava is Spain’s sparkler and also is usually very affordable. Much like the others, it’s crisp and dry. North America doesn’t actually have a name for it besides Sparkling Wine. There are some pretty great ones out there and they range all over in price

These are a few of my favorite “Baller Budget Bubbles:”

Monmousseau Brut Etoile, Loire Valley, France $12

This little gem has been one of my favorites for years. It’s remained pretty consistent in price and always consistent in flavor. It’s made with one of Loire’s best varietals, Chenin Blanc, and it’s produced with the same method that Champagne is. It has stone fruit flavors(green apple/pear), plenty of minerality, and it’s sweet. Just a bit fruity from the Chenin Blanc.

Serenello Prosecco Extra Dry, Italy $16

This is the Prosecco that we pour by the glass at Wine Country Bistro. It’s not super dry but has beautiful aromatics of white flowers and stone fruit. High acidity and a clean finish make it great for everyday.

Montmartre Brut, Tournan, France $9

This guy right here. Inexpensive and over delivers. That’s a deadly combo. This is what’s called “Blanc de blancs” which means only white grapes, like Chardonnay, were used to make this wine. Montmartre is bone dry and has a fresh, slightly fruity feel. This is super easy to drink solo or great for sparkling wine cocktails like Mimosas or French 75s.

Sparkling wine doesn’t just have to be for special occasions. If you look, there are some great quality ones available in our market that won’t give you a headache after one glass or cause you to have to break out the credit card. Bubbles are meant to be consumed everyday. I don’t think anyone’s day would be worse if there was a glass of bubbles waiting for them when they are done.

It’s Been Too Long

It’s been a while and I apologize. My life got a little busy with a new baby. He’s awesome and I love being a dad. While I’m a dad now, I’m still pretty stoked about my job. I’ve been tasting through a lot of wines and spirits and found a few gems. Here’s some of my favorites:

Caperitif, Swartzland, South Africa

So I know this one sounds weird and out there. Stick with me because this is worth a taste. This is basically like a vermouth. It has a Chenin Blanc based fortified wine with 32 different botanicals from South Africa. Chenin Blanc is one of the largest produced wines coming out of the region. It sometimes goes by the name Steen. Caperitif is an amazing aperitif on it’s own with a twist of orange or lemon. BUT, it makes a great cocktail. Try it with a barrel aged gin.

Erna Schein “The Frontman,” Napa, CA 2014

88% Merlot/12% Cabernet Sauvignon 

This winery makes some serious wines that are crazy fun. My first introduction to Erna Schein was their Saint Fumee red blend. It, exactly like Frontman, has an incredibly gorgeous label. Frontman is a right bank Bordeaux style blend with Merlot dominating. Lots of depth and density. Black and blue fruit on the nose with some dark chocolate. Blackberry and blueberry with some spicy oak in the palate. Medium acidity and medium tannins with a velvety finish. All this make Frontman seem unapproachable to a novice wine drinker. I think this is actually a great special occasion wine for the amateurs that cane really cultivate an appreciation for nicer wines. It’s not cheap, but it’s totally worth it.

Great Raft Brewing’s Creature of Habit Coffee Imperial Brown Ale, Shreveport, LA

Sorry I don’t have a photo of this, I end up finishing them before I can snap a photo. I got this one from the Great Raft Brewing site.

It’s no secret that I love GRB. This is probably one of my favorites that they do. I think the new recipe perfects the beer. Brewed with locally roasted coffee beans, the new recipe increased the alcohol content. It’s got some great roasted coffee note, nice maltiness, and a silky finish. I don’t think I’m off base by saying this is a killer breakfast beer.

Cesar Florido Moscatel Dorado, Chipiona, Spain

I have to confess, I didn’t find this wine. My colleague, Mario, introduced this wine to me at a South American wine dinner of all things. This is a fortified dessert wine and man, it’s uhh-mazing. There’s a little of forest floor/decay on the nose. I know this sounds off putting but it really balances out the heavy caramel, candied sweetness. It was served with crepes with a dulce de leche sauce. Absolutely divine pairing.

A Tale of Two Breweries in Tyler, Texas

Tyler, Texas is only two hours away from us yet it seems like I am constantly being introduced to new things that draw parallels with our very own Shreveport-Bossier City. They have a growing downtown scene, some incredible food, and even a couple of breweries. And that’s what I’m here to talk about. Beers, breweries, Tyler.

One Saturday I went on a trip with several other media folks to see what the buzz was about. We visited two breweries: True Vine Brewing Co. and ETX Brewing Co. I was really excited because I’d never knowingly had anything from these breweries and I’m always one to try something new. So first stop was True Vine.

Based on appearance alone, True Vine is all about the beer. Their brewery looks like it was an old garage on an industrial strip. They’ve created a distinct “backyard” vibe with a stage for musical acts, picnic tables, and even have trees for you to hang your hammocks on. I immediately felt at home. I went in looking for the restroom, since I overly hydrated on the ride, and bumped into Ryan Dixon. He is a co-founder and a former home brewer turned pro. He seemed super excited to see us and was extremely welcoming.

Ryan Dixon, Co-founder, talking with passion about inspiration, art, and beer.

After we all got settled and had beer in our hands, we were treated to a delicious meal from Aspen Grill(also in Tyler). Each course was paired with a True Vine beer and a menu item regular available at Aspen Grill. My favorite beer, which happens to be East Texas’ favorite True Vine beer, was the Mermaids & Unicorns Mythical Blonde. It was a super crushable beer with low IBUs(20) that was clean, slightly citrusy with a little bit of yeast and honey on the nose. The pairing was A+ with the Pow-Wow Shrimp.

My other favorite beers were the Bon Hefe Wheat, the Round Table English Style Amber, and True Culture Oatmeal Porter. Bon Hefe is a great beer to introduce a non raft drinker to because its not hoppy or bitter. It’s slightly fruity, light bodied, and very clean. Round Table is a solid Amber. I say that because over the last couple years, I’ve had some really underwhelming amber or munich style beers. Round Table hit every flavor profile I was looking for and did it with grace. Caramel, toasty, and malty with a medium body. The True Culture is made by infusing cold brew coffee from neighbors Porch Culture Coffee. This is a fall seasonal brew that I highly suggest you snatching up when you see it. I know I’m going to make the drive to Tyler for a sixer once fall hits.

Over all, the crew at True Vine is really committed to “make Tyler a better place with craft beer.” You can tell that to be true because of Ryan’s passion and commitment to his craft. I really enjoyed my visit and am excited to go back.

Our second brewery stop was in downtown Tyler with ETX Brewing. As soon as we got there, you could tell there was a lot going on. A food truck was backing into some prime real estate in front of the brewery and there were people walking all over the side walks on our side of and the other side of the street. I’m already impressed with the downtown vibes.

The building is night and day different from True Vine. The building actually used to be a oil change place which I think creates a really great, causal vibe for it’s customers. There is a bar inside that serves as a filling station for everything they have available. It’s indoor seating is a hair larger than True Vine.

I was greeted upon arrival to ETX Brewing with a ice cold pint of Brickstreet Blonde.

Aside from the building, the beer right? ETX has an extensive line of brews that are available. Their flagships are Brickstreet Blonde, Hitching Post, 1847 IPA and Red House Wheat. With a lot of self imposed effort on staying ahead of the game and to always be creating, ETX brews a new beer each week. That is a commitment.

I got a flight of beers that I could choose. I landed on Brickstreet Blonde, the Double Dry Hopped Brickstreet, 1847 IPA, and Root Beer. I did say Root Beer. I was blown away by the consideration for families since children are allowed to be there. It says a lot to offer something like and to take the time to make it on site. Kudos to ETX for that. The Brickstreet Blonde(Flagship) was my favorite of the day. There were multiple versions of the Brickstreet(Passion Fruit infused as well as the 2x dry hopped mentioned earlier) on the menu meaning they are very happy with the recipe and enjoy playing with it. It is also their most popular beer.

The Brickstreet Blonde stood out to me from all the beers I had. Little citrus notes and a hop balance make this a great beer to drink while your figuring out what to drink next. Can’t go wrong with that.

There was a warm(not only from the 193 degree heat) vibe radiating from patrons and employees alike. You can see the downtown culture thriving in this building. Come to find out, the owners were the first business to commit to the downtown location and more business owners followed suit. Now, next to the brewery there is a pretty cool record shop, a boutique retail shop that sells local goods(cloths, artwork, soaps, etc.), and a coffee shop. There was even a trio of talented young musicians set up outside the record shop providing music for the whole block.

I think the culture that ETX has created with it’s beer is also mirrored in the downtown vibe. It’s only the beginning. Brian, co-owner and brewer) even says they haven’t gotten crazy with their beers because they are introducing people to craft beer everyday. This is a common tactic a lot of breweries use when people aren’t used to having a local brewery. Seasoned craft beer drinkers can get their fix and the brews will remain approachable to the novice.

Add these two breweries to what Keipersol Winery & Distillery is doing and you literally have something for everyone in Tyler, TX. Next time you’re in town swing by either place and have a pint.

I’d really like to take a second and thank both True Vine Brewing and ETX Brewing for their hospitality and their time. Great people and delicious beers. It’s always rejuvenating to meet people that are so passionate about something that you can hear it their voice. Also, a big thank you to Chris Jay with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau and Holli Conley with Visit Tylershre for setting up this great trip.

Side note: It is incredible important for people to support local business but these are very important to actually go to their breweries and support. The breweries can’t sell packaged items on site. That means only pints to drink while you are there. This can be their life blood. Who knows, you may even meet some like minded folks or find out about a local charity, artist, or event that you could love. Get out there and drink some beer.

Lager Me Bro: A Bromance

In the spirit of American Craft Beer week, I thought it would be a good thing to post a story that is important to me and many another Shreveport craft beer lovers. Great Raft Brewing has changed Southern Drawl. *Gasp*

As with any story worth telling, you’ll need context. Here we go. I’ve been involved with Great Raft on a retailer/restaurant/customer level for the whole time they have been producing beer. We’ve done events, pairings, tastings, the whole shebang. I’ve always admired their drive for quality and determination. In working with them and enjoying their beer, I really have only missed maybe 3 beers they have put out. (One is a sore subject and not GRB’s fault and the others were literally because I missed an anniversary party) Needless to say, I like their product and brand.

Southern Drawl caught me off guard. The first time I tasted it and I never went back. Personally. I order it everywhere I go and if they don’t have, I’m usually that guy that asks why they don’t carry it. It has been my go-to for the last 3 or so years. I love that Pale Lager. When I found out they were changing it, I was devastated… for about 10 seconds. Talking to Bob(Tasting Room Manager), he explained to me the change, the reason for it, and even let me taste the new brew.

I didn’t think SD could get better. I figured I was going to proceed like it was another Marvel movie. I had to like it because, it’s Marvel. I was just going to drink it and dream about those early Southern Drawls I was crushing at Hogs For The Cause or taking 6 packs to my out of town friends and telling them this was the game changer for Shreveport. I thought, “There’s no way they could make my favorite beer better.”

I was wrong.

If possible, I personally believe the change is for the better. The new dry-hopped pilsner is cleaner, more crisp, and more (as Andy Nations would say) crushable. They are using rice from Louisiana to make Southern Drawl actually “southern” and I think it adds a more approachable aspect to the craft genre. People still have this automatic, “snob” response to someone using the term craft beer. (When I hear mixologist I sometimes pull a Robert Downey Jr.)

When you pop a can, you’ll get the hops tingling your nose. That cereal grain flavor I loved on the end of it has been replaced with a fresh, slightly sweet grain finish. I honestly think it’s the best beer they’ve put out since Near & Far(I’ll never stop talking about that one).

So, get out there and grab a pint or a sixer of the new Southern Drawl. Let me know what you think about it. Was it a change for the better? Email me at beardandbarrel@gmail.com

5 Favorite Patio Pounders Under $20| March 2017

Patio pounders. I love that phrase. It describes a group of wines I am completely in love with. The phrase is in reference to a sect of crisp wines, usually white wines, that are light in body and high in acid. If that sounds weird to you, then think about lemonade. It’s light and extremely high in acidity. It’s perfect for quenching your thirst on a hot Louisiana summer day. That’s what I’m talking about.

Usually, my favorites aren’t from around here. I’m a fan of Spanish, French, and Portuguese white wines in beautiful weather like this. California, Oregon, and Washington do make some great summertime wines. Most of the time I gravitate towards different styles but there are exceptions. Here are 5 Patio Pounders you need to know about(please note, I purposely didn’t include any roses so I could showcase some great white wines):

Broadbent Vihno Verde, Portugal. We just tasted this one out last week at the bottle shop and it was a huge hit. Super fresh, high acid, and just a hint of effervescence made it popular with everyone. It doesn’t have a vintage because its literally just built to drink fresh. “Vihno Verde” actually translates to “green grape.” Like young green not under-ripe green. Being $11 doesn’t hurt anything either.

Jo Landon La Louvetrie Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Loire Valley, France 2015. If you are eating raw oysters in France, this is the juice you should be drinking. Muscadet often gets confused with Moscato but hey, we all make mistakes. This drinks with zesty lime citrus and a slightly oily texture. Beautiful when paired with salty oysters. $17

Leitz “Dragonstone” Riesling, Rheingau, Germany 2015. You’re judging me for a riesling. Most people don’t know that riesling is actually one of the most versatile grapes out there. It can be super sweet, slightly sweet, dry, or bone dry. This little gem is dry with flavors of white peach, lots of minerality, and a boat load of acidity. It drinks smooth and doesn’t sit heavy. Try it with wasabi drenched sushi and thank me later. $19.99

Tuck Beckstoffer Wines 75 Sauvignon Blanc, California 2015. I know I usually like to drink European white wines but this one was just darn delightful. Citrusy with a tad of grapefruit and maybe something tropical like kiwi with a dry finish. Great Cali juice. $16

Domitia Picpoul de Pinet, Lanquedoc, France 2015. My first love in the patio pounding category. Drinks like a dream and doesn’t break the bank at $14. Zippy acidity and sharp apple-lime flavors. Perfect for Manchego or a cloth bound cheddar. These are built to be drank young so don’t be shy.

These are fun wines and affordable. Try them on your favorite patio or porch while the weather is delightful.

Teutonic Wine Co.’s “Bergspitze” Pinot Noir, Oregon 2014

So this wine caught me way off guard. I’ve not known myself to be the biggest Oregon Pinot Noir fan. It could have been a few things that factored in but I was really impressed by this gem. The only problem was that I bought what was left in the state for the Bottle Shop and found out it won’t be available anymore. Ya win some, ya lose some.

This wine is a geeky favorite of mine now. I love that it is whole clust fermentation which means the grapes weren’t destemmed. That imparts an earthy tone to what could be an overly fruity wine. To me, this wine has it all. The big plus of this purchase for us is that it was marked at a discounted rate so heck yeah, down side is the price will be higher than $24 if we are ever able to get any more.

Sight: Ruby

Nose: Black cherry, cola, tobacco leaf

Taste: Big cherry-cola flavor, fresh earth, tobacco-tea leaf, medium + acidity, medium tannin, short finish

The long and short of it is that I think this a great Pinot Noir repping Oregon terrain. I has everything I’d expect and maybe a little bit extra to keep me interested. I think under $30 this is a great wine to take home and I’d be extremly satisfied paying around $60 in a restaurant. I’d be interested to taste this again in a year or so to see the effects of the whole cluster fermentation. All in all, great buy around that $30 range.