Wow! That’s my overall impression with Nuit Belge, an event that changed my ideas of what a beer fest can be. I had loosely heard of this event through friends, and I knew that it was a beer and food event pairing Belgian inspired brews with various dishes. What I did not know was the outstanding quality of said beer and food and how everything beautifully worked together in a classy but non-pretentious environment.
Let’s start at the beginning. After listening to rave reviews of previous years’ Nuit Belge events, I decided to take the Avenue Pub discounted ~$85 plunge and buy a ticket to the event. This was no insignificant amount of money for a 3 hour event, but I found it to be easily worth the investment. The day before the event, my friend warned me that the attire for Nuit Belge is classy. Nice jeans, a jacket, button-down shirt, and dress shoes were par for the course, and many guys even donned suits. Amongst the ladies, dresses were pretty typical, and a few ball gowns were sighted in the crowd. Being an event full of beer nerds, there were inevitably people not dressed quite as nice, but in general it was refreshing to see the beer community clean up nicely for a special night. After arriving early at the historical and beautiful Generations Hall and waiting in line for the 7PM door opening, we were let in, and the fun had begun.
While in line, I analyzed the beer and food menu and planned my route of attack. First stop would have to be Fou Foune. I’m not one to pass up an offering from Cantillon, and Fou Foune is one of the best beers they make (that I’ve had). The apricot stone fruit flavor stands out incredibly amongst the blue cheese funk that Cantillon does so exquisitely. Each restaurant had two small dishes to go along with two beer pairings. The Fou Foune was being offered by Toups’ Meatery, and I sampled a Pickled Louisiana Shrimp to go along with my lambic. Every restaurant offered something different in terms of their food, and as opposed to some other food festivals I’ve been to, the samples were mostly very legit. I did not experience any half-assing or poor quality just to meet the demand. Restaurants were prepared for the couple hundred people sampling their wares, and they planned appropriately. Standouts of the night were a Pulled Pork Vindaloo Roti from Saffron Nola featuring excellently seasoned melt-in-your-mouth meat, Oyakodon wild Steelhead Trout and roe from Two Ten Jack, Swordfish “Takoyaki” from Boucherie, and Som Tam Salad from Mopho. There were other very good dishes, but these in particular stuck out to me. I also love Asian food, so perhaps it’s no surprise that’s what I gravitated towards.
The beer pairings were not too shabby themselves. When your first sample is a Fou Foune, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re in for a night of great beer. While Fou Foune was my favorite beer of the night, there were some other bangers as well. The next two beers I tried after the Cantillon were both lambic style rarities, but these hailed from a little closer to Nola. Jester King brought along some big guns by bringing many bottles of their SPON Syrah & Sangiovese and SPON 3 Three Year Blend. The entire SPON series from Jester King is amazing and is quite literally redefining the definition of American lambic. Morpheus Wild by Alvinne was another sour that struck the right notes for me. Creature Comforts is known to make some great beer, and I finally got to try more of their wares since they were visiting the city. Booger Hill was an enjoyable Biere de Garde and surprisingly refreshing at 7.8% ABV. The Pleiades collaboration between Black Farm, NOLA, Creature Comforts, and Jester King was a little disappointing, but according to a brewer it was tapped prematurely and will improve with a little more time under its belt. I’ll have to look for that soon to give it a more fair shake.
Besides the amazing food and beer, Nuit Belge is also a veritable Who’s Who of the New Orleans and beyond beer scene. I saw pretty much everyone I’ve gotten to know in the Nola craft beer community at the event. It was great to interact with people outside of their breweries and bottle shops and see them let their figurative hair down. There were also many brewers, beer writers, and other industry folk visiting from outside of Louisiana, and I enjoyed getting their perspectives on the event and the general craft beer vibes of our fair city.
Overall Nuit Belge was quite amazing. Everything about the event was top notch: the beer, the food, the venue, the atmosphere, and the people perfectly joined for a memorable evening. Props to Rhizome Productions for organizing and pulling it off masterfully. I won’t hesitate to go again in the future, and next time I’ll recruit even more beer nerd friends to join me. What self-respecting craft beer and food lover would pass up on a night full of delicious Belgian inspired beer, delectable food, classy attire, and camaraderie amongst like minded fun loving folk? Add in the fact that it’s all-you-can-eat and drink for a reasonable price, and you’d be a fool to miss out on this incredible evening.