Hot, humid locales always seem to have bad beer. I don't know why, but it just seems to happen that way. The Abita Brewing Company from Abita Springs, La., is the exception to this rule, brewing up some extremely flavorful ales.
Hot, humid locales always seem to have bad beer. I don't know why, but it just seems to happen that way.
The Abita Brewing Company from Abita Springs, La., is the exception to this rule, brewing up some extremely flavorful ales.
For years, the only Abita beers you could find this far north were Turbo Dog and Purple Haze. Now, the small, southern brewery has started sending its new India pale ale, the Jockamo IPA, the Strawberry Harvest Lager and the Restoration Ale up to the Bay State.
"We're the oldest and the largest brewery in the Southeast," said brewery president Dave Blossman. "I think the tide is changing. I think people are really starting to take to craft beer down here."
Jockamo IPA is the brewery's newest beer and it is named for the slaves who escaped their owners during pre-Civil War days.
The slaves were taken in by American Indians when they ran into the bayou, and they became known as the Jockamo Indians. Jockamo means, "I mean business," in loosely translated Cajun, Blossman said.
"We think this is a serious beer, it means business," he said.
The Jockamo IPA is a wonderful beer. It's not a big, double IPA, but rather a good, drinkable brew. It's not too bitter and relies as much on its sweet malts as it does its hops to produce the flavor.
"We do like to accentuate the malt backbone of the beer," said Blossman. "It has a nice copper color and a great mouth feel. We hop it perfectly for the amount of malt character in that beer. Our water is very soft here, which leads to a very clean bitterness, not an astringent bitterness. It really has a nice bouquet of hops."
The Strawberry Harvest Lager has all the makings of a beer that I don't like. I was allergic to strawberries as a child, and still have a distaste of that fruit today even though I don't get a rash from it anymore.
Also, wheat-based fruit beers rarely excite me. Usually the fruit tastes syrupy and fake, and overwhelms the beer-ness of what I'm drinking.
All that being said, the Strawberry Harvest Lager really works. The strawberries taste real and fresh and do not overwhelm the beer flavors.
This is a winner of a fruit beer, and will make a great summer brew.
"We're a brewery, not a fruitery," said Blossman. "We want to accentuate the beer with the flavor of the fruit, not overwhelm it."
The strawberries used in the beer are grown locally. Abita brewed 25,000 cases last year and sold out within eight weeks. "People were driven to it like a crazed addict," Blossman said.
This year production nearly tripled, to 73,000 cases.
I prefer the Strawberry Harvest Lager to Abita's most popular beer in the Northeast, the Purple Haze. This is brewed with real raspberries, but the fruit taste is too overwhelming for me.
The next harvest beer will be a Pecan Harvest Ale, a brown ale brewed with locally grown pecans.
Restoration Ale was originally brewed to raise money to help restore Louisiana to how it was before hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"We felt compelled to do something and we decided to do what we do best and that is make beer," Blossman said.
Abita raised more than $550,000 in the first two years selling the beer. The pale ale became so popular the brewery continues to sell it, though no longer for charity.
"People were hooked on the juice," said Blossman. "It's great for our crawfish. It has a nice sweetness from the malt to balance the hot spices coming from our crawfish. It's a nice tone."
My favorite Abita beer is the Turbo Dog.
"People ask what style it is, and I say, Turbo Dog has it's own style," said Blossman. "It's made with German alt yeast, but it is too dark to be an alt. It's too roasty to be a brown ale. It's a hybrid. It's a very good beer. We call it a dark brown ale."
Abita beers are available at Colella's Market in Hopkinton, Hickey's Liquors in Milford, Marlborough Wine & Spirits in Marlborough, Kappy's in Sudbury, Friendly's Discount Liquors in Whitinsville, Julio's in Westborough and Grape Expectations in Hopedale.
It is also available at several restaurants and bars, including the Horseshoe Pub in Hudson, Bison County in Waltham and Ruby Tuesday's in Marlborough.
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail email@example.com or call 508-626-3823.Check out the Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/