Louisiana Loves its Strawberry Beers
California, Florida and North Carolina leading the bunch, the North American Strawberry Growers Association represents commercial farmers in 40 states. But none of them seem to take up the mantle of celebrating this crop in their craft beers more than Louisiana. (I think we can all agree that the Pelican State chose wisely, since no one really wants a beer made with crawfish.)
Here are several standout Louisiana strawberry beers that have beer lovers talking.
(READ: 2018’s Great American Beer Bars)
Berry Good: 7 Louisana Strawberry Beers
Strawberry Harvest Lager & Strawgator | Abita Beer | Covington, LA
Abita president David Blossman thinks about it and then pegs 1998 as the year this Covington, Louisiana, brewery first brewed their most popular seasonal offering, Strawberry Harvest. It was made to celebrate the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival located a half hour from the brewery north of New Orleans across from Lake Ponchatrain. Abita now sells 200,000 cases of this strawberry beer, which is released between March and June. No longer does Blossman cold-press the Louisiana-grown berries himself; Abita sources juice from a local vintner who makes strawberry wine. It’s added to the lager–made with pilsner and wheat malts–post-fermentation and filtration giving Strawberry Harvest a slight yellow not pink haze and huge berry aroma. There’s also the bigger, bolder Strawgator, a fruited riff on Abita Andygator helles doppelbock, which adds a fresh strawberry juiciness that’s right on the nose and belies its 8 percent alcohol.
Strawberry Ale | Covington Brewhouse | Covington, LA
According to area brewers, neighboring Covington Brewhouse was likely the second brewery in the state to release a strawberry ale and this one is available year-round. Strawberry puree is added to their cream ale to keep this offering exceptionally light and fruity making it pair well with barbecue.
Strawberry Canebreak | Parish Brewing | Broussard, LA
Founder Andrew Godley acknowledges, “I don’t know exactly how people around the country respond to strawberry beer, but I do know that here in Louisiana the consumers love it. Our strawberry beer seems to capture many customers who are outside of the traditional craft segment and aren’t purchasing IPAs, for example.”, “but it was clear,” says Godley, “based on the customers who visited our taproom and only would drink the Strawberry Canebrake that we had a fan favorite.” Available from February through May, this one’s got the sweetness of shortcake but the crisp and light qualities of a sunny-day sipper.
Strawberry Alarm Hop IPA & Tart Side of the Teche Strawberry Sour | Bayou Teche Brewing | Arnaudville, LA
First there was the fruit IPA, punnily named (as many Bayou Teche Brewing beers are) Incense and Peppermints for the psychedelica band Strawberry Alarm Clock. As one of the three Knott brothers who founded the brewery on the edge of swampland near Lafayette, brewmaster Karlos tells us this beer was brewed for an audience thirsty for strawberry beers and includes “a ton” of fresh fruit from a nearby wholesaler. He says a kiss of habanero added to this spring seasonal is meant to brighten it up. It’s only available in four-packs at the taproom. The same goes for the brewery’s brand new release in their Tart Side of the Teche series (cue smirks from Pink Floyd fans), Strawberry Sour. Brewed with lactose, oats and wheat, the pureed fruit is added during secondary fermentation and complements the sour mash by delivering a pucker punch.
Incidentally, I learned from Karlos that a bar in New Orleans called Cooter Brown’s that has offered dozens of craft taps for ages, hosted the Strawberry Showdown last spring and among all the widely distributed and one-off entrants, Bayou Teche’s Magical Brewery tour won the showdown. The French farmhouse ale aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels and pitched with Brettanomyces, Pediocaucus and Lactobacillus saw berries added on the hot and cold side, and the result, according to a biased Knott, made the competition “not really fair.” They will be releasing 22-ounce bottles soon.
It’s a given that one modern-thinking brewery would give the hazy and milk sugar dosed IPA (“milkshake IPAs”) the strawberry treatment. Boasting Citra, El Dorado, Simcoe and Denali hops and finished with vanilla, this small-batch, brewery-only release was a big hit. So much so that the New Orleans brewery is releasing this strawberry beer’s sequel in late March. “I’m personally a big fan of eating fresh strawberries and mango together,” says founder Jacob Landry. Strawberry Mango Milkshake IPA will feature more hops, more vanilla, and more fruitiness.
My Funky Family | Wayward Owl Brewing Co. | New Orleans
Starting with a Kristallweizen–a crystal clear weisse–base, this wheat beer is fed a steady diet of berries during its barrel fermentation with Brett Brux. Owner Justin Boswell says what emerges a few months later is a dry, funky beer where the fruit character has mostly fermented out, but the beer retains a hint of sweetness in the nose and on the palate. Boswell tells us they’re going to brew a special taproom batch with additional strawberries in the brite tank.
(MORE: Seasonal Beers)
Strawberry Catahoula Common | Gnarly Barley | Hammond, LA
In Hammond, just outside Ponchatoula, where they can hardly devote any tank space to anything other than their Jucifer IPA (it’s juicy!), they make an easy-drinking California Common style beer called Catahoula Common. The strawberried version buried in fresh fruit is a fan favorite, including among other brewers of Louisiana’s strawberry beers.