Another new guest author from the south of the border has joined the team, Scott Gordon of Evanston, Illinois near Chicago. He sent me some information about Reconstruction Ale by the Abita Brewing Company from near New Orleans and I thought it would be a good intro to a review of some of the brews of Abita that I got a while back in New York.
Let's see what we had to say...
The Abita Party Pack
Here is what Scott had to say:
After Hurricane Katrina spared its Louisiana brewery, Abita Beer launched a fundraiser featuring hats, t-shirts, commemorative pins, and, of course, a special new brew for the occasion. It's called fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale, and in terms of flavor, it's more FEMA than Category 5.I think that is a fair review in line with my experiences. When I pop open an Abita Light, it doesn't take long to know that this is a light, light take on beer. There is some of the tell tale weird roundness that I suspect is made from seaweed derivatives but there isn't that lip stickiness of brewer's sugar, the bad brewer's cheat. There is, however, a touch of grain that gives me some hope and in the finish a bit of metallic hop. By comparison, TurboDog pours a garnet mahogany with a mocha head resolving to foam. There are some nice raisin and chocolate notes tangling a bit with that same steel hop jag. An interesting but firm take on a richer brown ale. What I don't really care for is the significant hardness of the water. You mouth starts to pucker a bit between sips. For me, this is a harbinger of a hangover and I can already feel the scalp tightening - but I get that from anything with too many sulfates. It also lends a general saltiness to the brew which could act against the all important soft water moreishness we crave in ales as Scott noted.
Abita debuted Reconstruction Ale in October and is donating $1 from the sale of each six-pack to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Fund. It says the beer is made with a mix of English Pale, Lager, Crystal and Cara Pills malted barley. That doesn't surprise me, because this isn't a beer that really hits you with any one flavor. If Reconstruction wasn't called an ale, I wouldn't necessarily know what it was. Sure, it's got strong hints of pale ale. There are also strong hints of a near-tasteless light lager. I started out enjoying it, but for some reason it tasted more and more watery as I went along. In fact, it's hard to describe the flavor in any detail, because it just doesn't assert itself. Maybe it's just ever-so-subtle, but what's subtlety without a little boldness?
Appropriately, I encountered this at Dixie Kitchen, a Cajun restaurant in Evanston, Illinois (just north of Chicago). I sipped it down before a meal of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Two things about that: First, unlike every other beer I've had just before eating, it didn't really increase my appetite (and no, I wasn't filling up on the free corn cakes). Second, this beer doesn't really seem to complement Cajun food, though I can't think of a beer that would—maybe a rich dark ale like Negra Modelo.
I wouldn't actively avoid Reconstruction, though. It's a good introduction for people who aren't into ales yet. The first few times I had Sierra Nevada and Red Hook, they left this aftertaste, kind of like a big disgusting belch after a Mexican meal. That turned me off of ale for a while. And drinking Goose Island's India Pale Ale, though I like it, gets pretty overwhelming, building up a weird, faintly vomit-like odor as I go along. It gives me the feeling of running up a steep hill while someone at the top sprays tear gas at me. Reconstruction Ale, though, is as inoffensive as a Bill Cosby album - just not necessarily as amusing.
In the end, you have to be frank. This is an old style regional brewery like the good folks at breweries like High Falls in Rochester NY that make Genesee Cream and other good if plainer brews. There is nothing wrong with a simple brew made pretty well. And their work to help the reconstruction of New Orleans is a fine way to use what they can do for the common good. I would imagine the hard salty aspect would work well with seafood. Who knows? Maybe that is the plan.