Tuesday, March 07, 2006

March 2006 - Mardi Gras

Millions of people every year crowd New Orleans to view the Mardi Gras parades. "Mardi Gras" means "Fat Tuesday." Traditionally, it is the last day for Catholics to indulge and often Ash Wednesday starts the sober weeks of fasting that come with Lent. Formally known as Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras has long been a time of extravagant fun for European Christians. In fact, some people think Mardi Gras celebrations have their source in the wild springtime orgies of the ancient Romans. In the United States, Mardi Gras draws millions of fun-seekers to New Orleans every year. Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans on a grand scale, with masked balls and colorful parades, since French settlers arrived in the early 1700s. Hidden behind masks, people behaved so raucously that for decades in the early 19th century masks were deemed illegal in that party-loving city.

In honor of Mardi Gras (and supporting New Orleans) we will be tasting beers from the Abita Brewery in Abita Springs Louisiana. The natural spring water of Abita Springs has long enjoyed a good reputation in the area, and Abita Springs Water is bottled and sold in volume. In the 1986 The Abita Brewing Company was established as a regional beer brewery, and in 1994 the added a brew pub & restaurant.

We will be trying 5 beers from the brewery and started with Abita Light. I was opposed to trying a "light" beer at beer club, but we decided to give it a try. Compared to other Pale Ales this is one of the better ones I have tried. Today, Abita brews over 45,000 barrels of beer and 3,000 barrels of root beer, and they are still growing! But don't let their growth fool you. The lagers and ales are still brewed in small batches, hand-crafted by a team of dedicated workers with only the highest ideals of quality.

Next we sampled the Abita Amber, which is a Vienna style beer. Abita Amber has a smooth, malty, slightly caramel flavor and a rich amber color. Abita Amber was the first beer offered by the brewery and continues to be our leading seller. Many New Orleans Chef utilize Abita’s beer in Cajun cooking including Emeril. Emeril always has a cold 12 pack of Abita Amber and Turbo Dog in his refrigerator.

The first Fruit style beer we have tried in beer club was the Abita Purple Haze. Purple Haze is a crisp, American style wheat beer with raspberry puree added after filtration. Therefore, you may see raspberry pulp in the beer. The raspberries provide the lager with a subtle purple coloration and haze, a fruity aroma, and a tartly sweet taste. The raspberry was much weaker in the bottle than on draft.

The fourth beer we samples was the Fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale, which is a Golden/Blond Ale. The Fleur-de-lis name and symbol were chosen for this very special beer with a dual purpose in mind. It's a well recognized symbol of New Orleans, but it is also a symbol of light and life. The Fleur-de-lis was adopted long ago by ancient warriors who safely found their way through treacherous waters by following the water lilies. This golden ale's label is decorated with purple and green combining colors historically representing justice, hope and generosity. Fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale was created to raise funds for those whose lives have been torn apart by Hurricane Katrina. $1 from every six-pack will go to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation. Abita is also selling special pins, hats, t-shirts and more to help in the charity effort. 100% of the net proceeds from the merchandise sales will benefit the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation. To learn more about the La Disaster Recovery Foundation visit Show your support by purchasing these products here.

We finished the beer tasting with the Abita Turbo Dog. The Turbo Dog pours a deep dark brown which is almost black. This Brown Ale has a rich body and color and a sweet chocolate-toffee like flavor. Turbo Dog began as specialty ale but has gained a huge loyal following and has become one of Abita’s three flagship brews. If you ever have a chance I would recommend trying this beer. It looks much darker than it taste and is a great alternative to other brown ales that are easy to get.

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