Once a year my friends in the Carter family throw a party. The epitome of southern hospitality, this three-day shindig makes it hard to come home again.
You have to drive to the middle of nowhere Louisiana to get to their farm. The first time I went night had already fallen. I drove up to the house and asked where my friends might be. “Oh, you’re looking for Pensacola.”
“No, sir. I just came from there.”
“Naw… That’s what we call the camp out there.” He pointed to the copse of large oak trees in the adjacent field lit up by a sizeable bonfire. Apparently, enough of us Florida folk show up that the Carters nicknamed the camp.
Too dark out to read the instructions, I gave up on setting my tent and resigned myself to a lumbar-twisting night of sleeping in my car.
The next day – Saturday – was the big day of the party. Anticipation builds and stomachs growl as the suckling pigs slowly roast in what’s known as a Cajun microwave. To pass the time we found a creek in which to swim, played bean-bag toss, strummed guitars and told stories to make each other laugh. Oh, and drank a lot of beer.
It seems like the fridge in the barn never ran out of cold Abita. Even as the guests showed up in the hundreds; even after six rounds of crawfish boil; piles of fresh-caught fried crawfish; blue crab brought up from Lake Pontchartrain that morning and that beautiful, juicy with fat, crispy skin pig… they never ran out of Abita.
The interstate there and back just happens to go through Abita Springs. Sadly, the brewery is closed to tours on Sundays. As a consolation, I took the Pontchartrain Expressway to New Orleans for a stop at The Avenue Pub.
One of these days I’ll make it over there to see the South’s largest brewery. I might even get to spy their latest batch from the Select Series in production. The current Select Series is pouring right now and it’s as nice as the Carters’ bonhomie.
Imperator is a black India Pale Ale – or Cascadian Dark Ale, if you prefer – making use of four different malts including black and chocolate along with a hop blast of six alpha acid titans. This intense beer is swamp water-dark brown letting in only a thin layer of light at the edges. The tall, beige head lasts a couple of minutes before settling into an ever-present cap. Leafy hop scents jump out at you with a big undertone of café au lait, earth and brownie batter. Strong, toasty dark malt flavors of burnt sugar and chocolate can barely contain the zippy hop bitterness that stays long after the sip.
This would be perfect with some of that roast pig. I’d take some along on the next trip if that barn fridge weren’t always full of Abita.