Since I decided to not go to Shelton Fest this year, I did the next best thing possible and attended a local beer fest. Brewsiana was a combo beer / music fest featuring 16+ Louisiana breweries and 7+ local bands. For a state that does not exactly have a long and storied brewing history, it was impressive to see so many local breweries get together for a single event.
The beginning got off to a shaky start. I had sprung for the VIP tickets giving me early access at 6 PM. Pre-communication had told us to pick up our wristbands in Big Mama’s Lounge, so there were naturally a lot of people standing around waiting for the door to open. HOB employees did not enforce a line until right before 6 PM, and their arbitrary line forming caused some people to have to move farther back in line than they otherwise would have been. When the doors opened at 6, the line was moving very slowly as a nonsensical system of letting in half the alphabet at a time was implemented. I heard quite a few grumblings from the people who had paid to be let in at 6. I made it through the line around 6:10. While in the grand scheme of things 10 minutes is not a big deal, I could see why people who paid extra for the VIP experience could have felt cheated. I had also never been to a beer fest before that either didn’t ship out wristbands ahead of time or didn’t have much larger capacity for checking tickets. Hopefully their system can be improved in the future.
Having made my way into beer heaven, it was time for that first liquid elixir. I made my way upstairs and simply grabbed the first sample I came upon, Reasonably Corrupt by Great Raft Brewing. Considering recent issues with New Orleans’ Sewerage and Water Board, this seemed appropriate. The German style schwarzbier was expectedly dark and roasty with a touch of smoke. While not my favorite style, this was a solid representation. A band started playing, and the party had officially begun. While there was certainly a heavy musical component of this festival, I do not have the aptitude for nor an interest in reviewing concerts. I love music and appreciate many different genres, and live music has a way of easily making my feet start stomping (at a minimum). The musical acts varied from smooth 70-80’s to roots rock to funk to blues to house music. I listened to several of the bands and enjoyed myself, but that’s not why I was there. I had come to drink as many 2-4 oz. samples as I could, and nothing was going to stop me! Except perhaps self-preservation…
Overall I tried around 30 samples during my evening. It would bore you for me to talk every one, so I’ll hit the highlights. Techeticles by Bayou Teche was one of the greatest named beers I’ve ever had. It was also a 12% malty IPA that unapologetically punched me in my throat and laughed about it. Bayou Teche brought more heat with Cocodrie, an 8% Belgian IPA, and Teche-Sector, a wine barrel aged sour with lime and passionfruit. Lemmings was a newly released hazy dry hopped IPA from Chafunkta. Ponchatoula Porter was an enjoyable porter from a brewery I had never tried before, Louisiana Purchase Brewing. There were of course beers I’d had before and couldn’t pass up. The tasters were unlimited after all! Jucifer has stolen my heart and also kind of broken it by no longer being canned. I’m looking forward to when Gnarly Barley will once again regularly have cans of this juice bomb available. Ghost In The Machine is another NEIPA I can’t say no to. I threw another taste of a barrel aged RIS in the mix with Cease To Love by Second Line Brewing. The festival’s lowlights unsurprisingly included beers from Dixie and Abita. Their Whiskey Sour Pale Ale was an interesting concept but ultimately pretty bad. Thankfully there was plenty of good beer to make me forget about the bad.
The breweries’ booths were located in various rooms at House Of Blues, so I got a chance to check out the entire venue. My VIP ticket even gave me access to the exclusive Foundation Room which contained a couple beers not offered to the general Brewsiana public. The room had a more laid back vibe compared to the rest of the venue, and there were plenty of couches and chairs to lounge in. I did not make much time for lounging, but I did have the chance to chat with 2 awesome dudes.
I was slightly disappointed to learn that they were not in a band playing the festival, but nonetheless their costumes were phenomenal. My dinosaur shirt clearly couldn’t match the coolness of their ensembles.
Eventually I reached my practical drinking limit for the evening. A reasonably priced popcorn chicken and fries snack had helped to sober me up a little, but I probably should have consistently drank more water throughout the night. It was time to go for a stroll through the French Quarter and Warehouse District to have a nightcap at my personal Old Faithful, Courtyard Brewery. I went big before I went home with an Oskar Blues Ten FIDY. Not wanting to tempt fate, I ordered a Lyft and called it a night.
So what were my overall impressions with Brewsiana? As a relatively new Louisianan, it was cool to go to an event with so many breweries from the state. I got to try a couple different breweries I never had before, and some of the individual beers brought along were very impressive. But as a huge beer nerd dropping $90+ on an event, it was disappointing. The vast majority of beers served were the standard affair. At a beer fest, I like to have more rare beers to entice me. For the same price as Brewsiana, I could have gone to one of the Shelton Fest sessions and had my fill of rare beers from some of the best breweries in the world. If you’re really into one of the bands playing, that may play into your value proposition, but for me that was an added bonus and not part of my initial decision to go. I’m glad I went and tried some new breweries, but I don’t plan on attending again in the future. Ultimately there was not enough value to justify spending $90 to get drunk on decent beer. Add to that the botched logistics of entering the festival late with a supposedly premium VIP ticket and the value proposition just did not work for me.