Let's get one thing straight real quick-like: New Orleans will never be mistaken for Tokyo. There is no ginormous Fuji sign to be swatted, nor an endless sea of Japanese commuters to be terrorized. Instead of an unending landscape of metal and skyscrapers to be toppled, you shall encounter wide, tree-lined avenues and meandering streets where locals wander almost lazily. And you will definitely not find the same fascination with radioactive lizard-beasts or the giant costumed heroes that appear to thwart them. No, there are many differences between these two renowned cities... but sometimes, if you examine closely, you might find a similarity or two.
My most recent experience with this connection was on Thursday, September 20th, when NOLA Brewing Company announced the tapping of its first keg of their new double IPA, Mechahopzilla. The streets ran mad with beer-crazed citizens, sprinting to and fro, hoping to get their hands on this beast's initial offering! Screaming crowds of hopheads, launching themselves with abandon against the walls of The Avenue, tearing down the doors for that first, sweet sip of heavenly nectar! And there it stood, like a glowing man-made beacon of all that is beer, striking fear into the hearts of competitors and brew-lust into the dry, holler-hoarse throats of its fans... Mechahopzilla.
Now this is where I depart from the hyperbole and bring you the facts, because we all know that there was not an alcoholic riot on St. Charles yesterday evening as this lovely ale was introduced. (Was there?) Still, the level of mania this brew inspired within beer geek circles in this town was likely unprecedented. Could this creature live up to the hype... and its ridiculously hype-inducing name? To probe this question, I snuck through the hordes last night at The Avenue Pub and grabbed myself a pint to determine whether Mechahopzilla was all that.
The answer: a resounding yes!
The beer is beautiful... a glint of amber in a glass... with a lasting head that clung to the sides with ease. The only thing lacking was in the aroma... there was almost nothing in the nose, even when I tried so hard to smell anything that I practically dunked my face in the beer. This worried me at first, knowing that hops are often quite aromatic, and most big IPA's display that profusely in the scent. Yet with my first sip, I knew this was not an issue. Despite a hearty backbone of malt, the hops made their presence felt nicely. Certainly more than the Hopitoulas, but not overpowering. An extremely buttery-smooth mouthfeel made for a pleasant delivery to the taste buds, and a tangy, but not biting, finish topped it off particularly well. Plus you could hardly tell this is a monster of a brew at 8.8% abv. Simply put, this is an exceptionally well-constructed, and delicious, beer that should please the biggest hophead without alienating the casual IPA fan.
With all that said, I honestly think the best result of this hubbub is the knowledge that a Louisiana brewer can create such an excellent beer, and still somehow manage to sell it to the people. Craft beer is the future, and the demand for more quantity, greater variety, and higher quality has begun to seep into the collective consciousness in this Dixie and Daiquiri town. (No offense to Blackened Voodoo intended!) There is good beer here, and there can be even greater beer, whether brought in from out-of-state or crafted within our very borders. And this growing community of beer geeks will gladly be here waiting to imbibe it. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a revolution whose cusp I believe we are straddling...
So keep your eyes open for the Mechahopzilla around town, but don't be afraid... Whether it stomps through your palate like some 200-foot-tall nuclear dinosaur, or just tastes really, really good, is up to you... yet the fact is: big, bad beer like this is here to stay.
And I'll keep drinking to the last drop while the city crumbles around me.