Hot times were had in Lafayette over the weekend as the 11th annual Gulf Brew Fest was held at Blackham Coliseum. Of course yours truly was there to enjoy and imbibe in some of the finest libations from Louisiana and beyond.
It was truly like a sporting event. Anticipation was high walking around Lafayette in the afternoon with every conversation with a stranger eventually turning to the question – you going to the fest tonight?
And like many football fans that love tailgating (and baseball fans at LSU) we did a little bit of “pre-gaming” before the game, I mean, festival. Our merry band of beer fans hit Lafayette’s Cajun Brewing to get primed and ready. After that “sort-of” tailgate (I only consider it a true tailgate if I’m standing in a parking lot during the morning hours) we headed to the fest where we immediately hit a long line of people waiting to get in. See? I told you the Gulf Brew Fest was like a sporting event. The staff handled the crowds expertly and we were quickly ushered into the cool, air-conditioned environs of Blackham Coliseum.
Game over. Just kidding, but the night was a beautiful event of Louisiana beers and one that drove home a weird fact. The Louisiana brewing industry, long hindered by state legislation, finds itself at the forefront of an interesting industry niche — college-branded beer.
So, lets check out some Louisiana beers and the respective, adoring college fan bases.
UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns – Bayou Teche’s “Ragin’ Cajuns” Ale
If you want to start at the beginning, you start with Bayou Teche. I’ll always remember the day I picked up this beer and asked, “How in the hell is this possible?”
Thankfully it is because this is a great brew made my cool folks. Honestly, even though Gulf Brew fest was a blast our weekend was made the night before when we ventured out to the Bayou Teche Brewery to drink from the taps and watch the Triangle Club featuring Corey Ledet, Louis Michot of the Lost Bayou Ramblers, singer, artist, writer and triangle player Ashlee Michot and a several special guests. The band and room were hot and we danced all night. I once wrote that Trimtab Brewing of Birmingham was the greatest time I’ve ever had at a brewery but that didn’t even hold a candle to this beautiful night.
LSU Tigers – Tin Roof Brewing’s “Bayou Bengal” Lager
Tin Roof Brewing used to get knocked around by the beer geeks but I feel their game is hitting a new high and the brewery is by far the best in Baton Rouge.
So now let’s talk about the garbage that is the LSU and Tulane baseball series coming to an end. After it’s all said and done, this reeks of a reactionary move by the LSU administration after Tulane elected to show its home game versus the Tigers on its own pay channel instead of taking the deal offered by Cox. After that, LSU didn’t want to play a home-and-home series but instead proposed a four-for-one scenario. As in, LSU would come to Tulane one time for every four times Tulane visited Baton Rouge. And one more note, LSU’s baseball coach Paul Mainieri saying this was his decision is laughable. Mainieri, you’re a great coach but you’re still an employee, this decision was made by your boss AD Joe Alleva.
Tulane Green Wave – NOLA Brewing’s “Angry Wave” Kristallweizen
Easily the coolest looking can in this list with the Angry Wave featured prominently. It’s not a bad beer but unfortunately for NOLA Brewing, it is far outpaced by the Kristallweizen put out by Wayward Owl Brewing.
Now let’s talk about the garbage that is the Tulane and LSU baseball series coming to an end. Here is a great write up about what Tulane AD’s Troy Dannen had to say about this awful joke. In the interview, Dannen states that LSU “may have nothing to gain” by playing Tulane, which, to me, screams why you don’t let this series slip through your fingers. LSU currently holds the upper hand with Tulane, so you shouldn’t disturb the balance by deciding to put a mid-week game only on your website’s pay channel. Absolutely doesn’t make sense.
Dannen was handed a tough situation in taking the Tulane job. He had bad football and basketball programs dumped in his lap and, in his first year, saw his baseball coach hire whiff in a big way by leading a veteran team to a losing record. All of that is just part of the job but losing the LSU series feels like the first major loss of Dannen’s tenure.
UNO Privateers – Wayward Owl Brewing’s “Privateer” Pale Ale
OK, back to some happiness. Props to Wayward Owl for joining forces with the University of New Orleans. It’s easy to make the decision to join a University of Texas or LSU but UNO is a small fan base that doesn’t even have a football team. So, the Privateer ale is an all-day type of beer that you can take to your non-existent tailgate in September!
OK fine, maybe you’ll need to wait until November when the Privateers lace ‘em up and hit the basketball court in a year that will see UNO host the likes of UL-Lafayette and travel to play Baylor, Tulsa and Northwestern. Either way, good beers here.
Southeastern Louisiana – Gnarly Barley’s “Lions Up” Wheat Ale
To keep the good vibes flowing and to end this on a positive note, I like folks who love their hometowns and this weekend everyone I met from Hammond always asked, “Have you heard of Gnarly Barley?”
After yelling out, “Of course!” our conversation immediately turned to Gnarly Barley’s Jucifer, one of the most popular beers in the state. Yet, that beer isn’t the only goodness out of Hammond these days. Check out this story about three members of the Lions baseball team — Trey Morgan, Evan Pace and Kyle Schimpf — who saved a woman from a burning car in British Columbia.
Some of the greatest attributes that sport teaches us is to be ready at all times, sacrifice and to lay it on the line. These young men have definitely taken these lessons to heart. Congrats, gentlemen.
Remember — whether you’re at a game or in real life — always drink responsibly and do whatever you can to make your mama proud.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: I just gave you five!
Playlist Recommendation: Bob Dylan – “Hurricane”