New Orleans on Tap Recap

This past weekend, aside from my first anniversary, was the Third Annual New Orleans on Tap beer tasting/festival. I’ve been every year and it really gets better every year. NOOT is probably one of the better organized and better executed beer fests. Instead of being forced to drop $50+ and hope you can drink $50+ worth of beer you can probably go buy at a specialty store somewhere in a 5 mile radius„ NOOT is a pay-as-you-go model. You can be a handful of tickets or a truckload of tickets. Most beers are 1 ticket, some are 2, and more rare stuff is 3. You can get 3oz pours or 9oz pours. You can also opt to buy a package of tickets before hand (like 30 or so) and you save a few bucks/get free tickets depending on how you look at it.

In addition to over 200 beers to taste, there’s live music and food from area restaurants. It’s the full package deal, done in typical New Orleans fashion. Not only that, but entry is free, so if you just wanna soak in the nice weather and some live music for free, you can!

The first year was relatively small and took place on essentially the front lawn of the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. Last year it was moved to the other side of Big Lake in City Park, a much shadier area, thankfully.

After having to be rescheduled from September due to some nasty weather, NOOT kicked off at noon this past Saturday. Rhea and I got there super early because the weather was nice, we live really close, and hey, it’s City Park. Wasting time there is really enjoyable. We managed to get our wristbands and tickets a few minutes before noon and so we walked around and took note of where all the beers were.

We spent the majority of our time and tickets by the local nano- and homebrewery booths. This is where some truly interesting and magnificent beers were had. New Orleans only has one “major” brewery — NOLA Brewing — with a few nearby local breweries (Abita in Abita Springs, Tin Roof in Baton Rouge, Bayou Teche in Bayou Teche, Parish Brewing in Broussard, Lazy Magnolia in Kiln, MS, St. Arnold’s in Houston, TX), but the amount of up-and-coming local breweries is exciting. What’s more is they aren’t just shoving the typical stuff out at you. There’s some true ingenuity going on around here.

Because I tried mostly the local stuff and because that was also the most impressive and interesting stuff there, I’m going to focus on the beers from our small local breweries.

One such brewery is Mudbug Brewing, out of Thibodaux, LA. These guys are doing some quality work. The first I sampled of theirs was their King Cake Ale. This is an interesting brew. They rim the cup with brown sugar and cinnamon, like a sweet margarita. The beer itself was pretty tasty. It was a little sweet, but not overly so. It didn’t blow me away, but it’s worth drinking. Their other beers were much better. Their Pumpkin Stout was a solid stout with a nice pumpkin flavor. It was quite similar to St. Arnold’s Pumpkinator Stout. My favorite, however, was their Cajun Stout. A full-bodied stout with a cayenne finish. Not overly spicy and gimmicky like Twisted Pine’s Ghostface Killah, but truly delicious and enjoyable.

Chafunkta Brewing, who stylized Tchefuncte in a fun way that’s easily digestible by non-Louisianians, had some quality beers as well. I took a taste of Rhea’s sample of their Voo Ka Ray IPA, which was a nice IPA that didn’t slam you in the face with hops. Their Old 504 was absolutely delicious. A porter — a style I feel doesn’t get enough attention — with local coffee and locally grown vanilla beans. This would be a perfect digestif after a rich Louisiana dinner.

Another brewery starting up in New Orleans proper is Cajun Fire, brewing out of a kitchen in New Orleans East. These guys are making some quality beer. Their Pumpkin Ale was good. Thin bodied, but the flavor was solid. Their red ale was nice, one of the better Red Ales I’ve had, but could use a little improvement. Their most interesting was their Root Beer Ale — a root beer brewed as an ale. It was tasty. A little more of the “mintyness” that root beer gives off than I’d have liked, but it was good. I can definitely see that being a nice unique brew in their line up.

Gnarly Barley is coming from Ponchatoula, LA. They had a nice selection of quality beers. Their IPA, cleverly named Hoppopotomus, was pretty good. Nice balance of hops and malt. Much to Rhea’s delight, they had a Radical RyePA and the rye really balanced out the hoppiness. I’d probably drink this over the Hoppopotomus. My favorite, though, was the Korova Milk Porter. I’m assuming it’s brewed with lactose since it’s a “milk” beer and it really made the mouthfeel of the beer pleasant. Smooth, silky. The flavor was a really solid porter. Really would like to have this on a regular basis.

The Mystic Krewe of Brew had a nice spread of beers. I was hoping to try their Tootsie Roll Stout, but they didn’t have it with them. I did have their interpretation of the White House Homebrew Honey Porter. It was good. I wouldn’t drink it on the regular, but I liked it. It’s not a good representation of their beers though, since it’s not their recipe. I did try their Dry Stout, and it was good, but nothing to write home about.

Other stand-out beers included an aged Brooklyn Chocolate Stout from 2011. It aged with some smokyness with almost a bacon finish. It was absolutely delicious. Abita had their Select Series Kaiser Alt, with was surprisingly good — a bit sweet, but not overly so. I feel like these days, Abita’s only consistently good beers are Turbodog and Strawberry Harvest, so I was happy to see this wasn’t a poor attempt, though it wasn’t my favorite. I also had a collaboration between Shmaltz Brewing and Terrapin Beer Company, 2012 Reunion Ale. It’s a brown ale that drinks like a stout. My first words after a sip were “holy shit!”. It was damn good.

A surprise for me was how good Boston Beer Company’s Sam Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin Ale. Every so often, a Sam Adams brew impresses me, and this was one of those times. It’s not the best pumpkin beer, but it’s certainly in that conversation.

The winner for best flavor, for me, would probably be either the Reunion Ale from Terrapin/Shmaltz or Korova Milk Porter from Gnarly Barley.

The winner for best name would be a tie between Hoppopotomus from Gnarly Barley and Holland Oats, a collaboration from Stillwater/Emelisse (which was very delicious, too).

Winners for best gimmicky beer: Cajun Fire’s Root Beer Ale and Mudbug Brewing’s King Cake Ale.

If you’ve never been to the fest, I urge you to go next year. It’s usually around the end of September, so keep an eye out. It’s totally worth it, if for no other reason than to sample some local brews.