NOLA Hopitoulas

July 7, 2010

It’s the middle of summer and my mind’s on vacation. Unfortunately, the demands of a rigorous job and the vagaries of an aged vehicle prohibit my traveling very far. The good news is we’re fortunate to be centrally located to interesting destinations all well under a day’s drive. Now, destinations with their own breweries? My mind’s already made up.

Craft brewers are a passionate lot and they love to show people how they create their beverages. These guys will take time out of their busy schedules to give personal tours of their facilities. Everything from malting to boiling to fermentation to packaging will be demonstrated in detail. And why not? They’re proud of a thing that can take up to four weeks of constant care to make.

Kirk Coco, president of New Orleans Lager & Ale Company (NOLA) and husband to a high school friend of mine, recently invited me to hang out at his brewery and see how it’s all done. Three hours away, lots of great restaurants and I get to tour a brewery too? Consider my arm sufficiently twisted.

But how’s his beer? Cleverly-named Hopitoulas IPA is a complex ale brewed with six different malts and six different hops. Kirk and his brewmaster Peter Caddoo decided to dry-hop the beer for three weeks to grow the complexity of the aroma and the amount of hop oils in the flavor. It’s a pretty ale with a blend of pale gold and brown color showing faint reddish tints. A cloud of foamy white bubbles forms the head and sticks around for about two minutes leaving Arabic-script-looking lacing.

That dry-hopping process really shows up in the aromas: pine and pineapple, grass and grapefruit. There’s a touch of burnt biscuit amongst the sweet malt smells that manage to fight through the big hops. Flavors are pretty much the same as the aromas; big and balanced. Each sip seemed to highlight a different aspect of its flavors. One would be orange while the next one would exhibit sweet bready malts. Hopitoulas is a bit of a magic show in that regard. Mouthfeel is incredibly smooth with no real chewiness or viscous textures.

My thanks to Kirk and Kenzie for the invite. This has all the makings of a very nice day trip.