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.


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.

Beard and Barrel went to Spain!

I was lucky enough to to be asked to tour the various vineyard and wineries of the Juan Gil Family in Spain this past June. Because I am a novice traveler, especially world traveler, it has taken me a little more time than I thought to get readjusted to life back home in Shreveport. I do often refer to myself as a hustler and a get it done now kind of guy but I’ll say it was tough getting back to not having dinner from 10:30pm-1:00am. So here it goes.

First of all, it’s worth noting that I before this trip I had never been to a vineyard. This was the first time that I have set foot into a winery. I do think it’s pretty badass that my first trip to a functioning, highly functioning I might add, winery was in Spain. Not California or Washington or even Texas. But friggin Rais Baixas(they grow and produce Albariño there).  

The first vineyards my beard has ever grace in Rais Baxias

It was complete sensory overload to me. The smell of a winery almost smells like a bakery but someone dropped a case of wine on the floor. The huge stainless steel tanks towered over me and sat quietly next to a sorting table and stacks of grape baskets. I felt like I was on an episode of how it’s made when they showed us the intricately mechanized bottling line. The intensity of those moments were so significant because these are things I’ve read about for five years but have never seen in person. The look on my face was complete childlike wonder. 

The towering stainless steel tanks that Juan Gil has custom made for all their wineries. There were about 12 of these at Bodegas Juan Gil.

I was amazed at the scenery on the drives, there were a lot, and the actual vineyards where the grapes grow. At the time I was there, bud break had happened 3 weeks prior. That’s when the grapes actually start to flower. Most won’t we ready to harvest till around September. The soils that these beautiful wines group out of was so crazy. In Rais Baixas and Rueda, the vines grew out of sand. Like on a beach sand. In Jumilla, the Monastrell, grows in direct sunlight out of basically rocks. 

I was showing some southern hospitality to the 100 year old Monastrell vines.

We visited 9 wineries across the country in 5 days. If I wanted breakfast, I had to be up and out of my hotel room usually by 7am and the vans were loaded and left by 7:30. Most of the drives in the morning were about 4-5 hours and the drives in the afternoon were about 1-2 hours. I stayed in a different hotel each night except for the last 2 nights in Barcelona. It sounds much more intense than it was. I was traveling with some amazing people from all over North America that are just as passionate about wine as I am. The whole time I was there, I was in great company and excited for the next stop.

Insert trip photos:


The Spanish countryside


These aquaducts ran through the entire town of Segovia which was one of my favorite places we stayed.


Part of the tour at Shaya in Reuda.


The barrel room at Bodegas Juan Gil


Lunch time at Bodegas Juan Gil


You had me at Jamón. Most restaurants had this set up with pig legs curing behind the bar. Amazing.


Look at those vines growing out of rocks!


Baby Garnacha grapes

Jordi(the GM of the entire Juan Gil Estate), me, and Migel Gil after an amazing dinner


Night life in Spain at a Safari themed bar with Andy from Arizona and Bill(possibly the realest guy around) from Hawaii


Beautifully presented in a giant cast iron pan. Potatoes, eggs, wild mushrooms, and sausage.


My road warriors and I.


After lunch at Bodegas Can Blau


Super talented yet super awkward street preformer in Barcelona


Amazing open market in Barcelona. More fresh fish, just butchered meat and cured meats than you could ever image.


Yep. Giant pig head at a food and wine festival on my last day in Spain in Barcelona.


 From the trip, my favorite winery to visit was Juan Gil in Jumilla. That’s their flagship winery and the largest. They produce Juan Gil Monastrell out of there and I’d put that wine for $18 up against any Cali red for $20-29 all day, everyday. It has rich dark fruit and spice with curves like a woman out of a Foxxy Shazam video. The alcohol is high at 15% but you don’t taste it. That being said, my favorite wine I had while there, which I have had before, was the Kentia Albariño from the winery Lagarde Condesa in Rais Baixas. There is something romantic about having a glimmering glass of white wine that is crisp and refreshing while the chef is shucking oysters the came from probably no more than 15 miles from the vineyard. Kentia has the incredible tropical flavor of Sauv Blanc without the grapefruit bite and weightiness. 
Now, I’d love to breakdown each vineyard I went to but that post would be insanely long. I’ll say that if you’re interested in hearing about it, shoot me an email at beardandbarrel@gmail.com and we can meet up, I’ll bring a bottle or 3 of Spanish wine and we can clear our schedules and talk it out. H


Beard & Barrel goes to Spain

I am so excited to announce that this Sunday, June 7th, I am boarding a flight and heading to Spain! I’ve been invited to visit and tour the vineyards of the Juan Gil Wine Family throughout the country’s various regions. I’ll be there for five days meeting wine makers, tasting wine and walking through vineyards. This is one of the greatest honors I have had in my professional career. I’m so thankful and excited to taste some of my favorite wines in the world while I’m standing right next to where they are grown. Follow my Instagram, @juddsmithbeardo, for photos and I’m sure that I will have atleast one blog post about it when I get back.