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.


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


Abita Oktoberfest

Abita puts out some damn fine beer in Louisiana. Their flagship beers are great and their seasonal are pretty great too. I’m talking like you people in Louisiana have never had Abita beers… So let’s talk about the Oktoberfest.

Aroma: malty and toasted caramel

Color: copper/tea/amber

Flavor: Truly a German style. Very nicely malty with just a little spice to it. 24 IBUs so it’s not too bitter at all. Very easy drinking at 5.4% ABV.

Abita Oktoberfest is probably one of my favorite Oktoberfest seasonals. Maybe there is a bit of home court advantage there because I’m a Louisiana boy but whatever. This is probably one of the easiest to get ahold of since it’s running from now till November. It’s case stacked at pretty much every grocery store in Shreveport and on tap at a ton of your favorite beer drinking spots.


Horny Goat Brewing Oktoberfest

Horny Goat Brewing’s Oktoberfest ain’t bad. HGB is based out Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If you don’t like pumpkin flavored beers, you won’t like this one. It still brings standard Oktoberfest flavors of malt and caramel but a little pumpkin goes a long way.


Aromas: pumpkin spice and light hops

Color: light amber, caramel

Flavor: That pumpkin spice and hops comes through up front. 25 IBUs and light hops make this one not too bitter. At 5.6% alcohol it’s a super easy sipper. 

All in all, it’s a tasty brew with mild caramel and spice. It tastes more like a pumpkin beer than an Oktoberfest to me though. And that’s not a bad thing if you dig that style.


Oktoberfest is Upon Us

As much wine as I drink and talk about, I probably do the same for beer. Normally, you can find me savoring an ice cold Great Raft Southern Drawl or an Abita Andygator but not right now. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. The temperature is starting to drop from Hell to manageable and the word “Oktoberfest” starts popping up everywhere. Yep. Call me what you will but I love a good Oktoberfest brew.

The low down on Oktoberfest is that it started in Münich in 1810 and was a celebration of Crown Prince Ludwig’s wedding. It ran for 16 days up to and including the first Sunday in October(hence Oktoberfest starting in September). A special beer was made for the event and CP Ludwig and his bride invited all of the peasants to celebrate with them. After all was said and done, they thought, “That was a great party! Let’s do it again this year.” And the beloved worldwide beer drinking extravaganza was born.

Oktoberfest beers have a style to themselves. They usually have an amberish hue and a hint a caramel to taste. I always have an overwhelming sense of Fall while drinking them. To me, It kind of symbolizes the calm before the holiday storm that the retail/restaurant gig has from September to December. I adore them for that reason.

FYI: Zocolo Eatery is hosting an Oktoberfest celebration this year! Beers and beers on a September 27th. Make sure to put this t in your calendar.

Speaking of celebrating of one of my favorite drinking holidays, I’m going to review every Oktoberfest seasonal, I can get my hands on. I’ll start with the one that everyone loves, including myself. Samuel Adams Oktoberfest. It was the first Oktoberfest I ever had and knew nothing about it. I remember where I was and when I had it.

So here’s the beer:

 Aromas: salted caramel and lightly toasted walnuts

Color: deep amber, like bourbon

Taste: Not sweet but a savory caramel and malty grain. Big, rich flavor and a light finish. Super drinkable.

Look for more Oktoberfest Brew Reviews coming this month!