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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Crossed the Pearl into Louisiana


Saturday February 8,2014  2:30 PM CST Comfort Inn and Suites Slidell, La Suite 104

Some days you just want a taste of home for breakfast. Out came the honey and the grapefruit. I’d also made a biscuit and sausage patty at yesterday’s motel for the road. Never ate it so zapped it in the microwave. Finished off with a good cup of java and ready to hit the road once more. Good bye boots and hello sneaks. Good bye sweater and hello light weight hoodie.

Lazy day today—took some Mississippi back roads almost to the Gulf Coast. It is so neat to see how the warmer air from the Gulf moves inland and pushes the cloud cover back and eventually, once it really warms up, dissipates the mass of buttermilk sky. The sun broke through and, finally, we could say things are better than at home! Although,even in the cold weather we had for so long, Bill has been happy just with the absence of snow!  There are all kinds of Southern softwood plantations along the roads—sometimes on both sides cutting off the view of the sky. Today we also traveled through an area of pecan plantations.

As we pulled into the town of Kiln ( no one around here says KilN—it is the Kill—we say Kill! ) there was a mural depicting Where the Legend Began!  That’s all I saw anywhere in town that even hinted at Brett Favre, Shortly past this convenience store we turned onto Stennis Airport Road which literally ends at the airport! Made a right and into the driveway of the Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company. It had billed itself as Mississippi’s brewery and for many years it was the only one. Several others have started up so now it is known as Mississippi’s OLDEST brewery—all of nine years old. It IS the only brewery in the country which uses pecans in one of its beers.

Our guide, Stephen, started us off with a glass of the Southern Pecan –the original pecan nut brown ale—which I had found in Nashville and really liked. As we sipped away at it, we found that it is the best selling of their beers. He went on about stats that indicate bitterness and others that indicate the amount of alcohol. Since I’m not really into that I decided to take a picture of the board that listed the beers available right now and their info.

He also passed around canning jars for us to smell and taste, if we wanted, the various grains used in the beers and one that contained pelletized hops. Just as in Ky distilleries the claim is that the water here is so wonderful that it gives the beer its smooth texture and also helps to hide the taste of alcohol. By this time –well, somewhere during this portion of the tour—we were parched and so we were introduced to Jefferson Stout to make the point of the smoothness. Not a strong Guinness but really very good.I loved it—it is called a Sweet Potato Cream Stout—and is really made with sweet potatoes and lactose with undertones of chocolate,coffee and caramel,. Sounds very sweet but it isn’t at all.

Having finished with the ingredients tour we had our glasses filled with Southern Gold—a honey infused ale—it was developed for the city of Hattiesburg. As Stephen filled our glasses, Ginger, who had been drawing pitchers from the cooling tanks, joined us for a bit. Seems First Friday of every month there is a party in this small place and Stephen’s Mom, who had been warned about the insidiousness of Mag beer drank three Timber Beasts and was pretty fried. So she sat down in the office with Ginger—Stephen said they had a great old chat about lots of subjects—I bet!

The brewery is really tiny but it is bigger than the original—which basically was the area around the bar. There was one vat, which is now behind the huge line of fermentation vats and is used for experimental brews. Stephen led us through the process from the loading of grain into the hopper from sacks or into the grinder through PVC pipes from grain tanks outside. The purpose of the grinder is really just to crack the husks of the grain, not to grind or pulverize it. It is then transferred to a stainless steel vat where very hot water is added to it to soften it up. It gets washed with hotter water in the next vat. Then it gets transferred to a whirlpool where the husks etc are removed and local farmers come to buy it for livestock feed. ( Note that no fermentation has taken place so there is no alcohol present.) Hops are added. Now the liquid is subjected to high enough heat to kill any bacteria that may have been on the grain. At this point, it was time for another glass of Southern Hops’pitality---oh, this was a hoppy IPA and I know Bill would love it. He likes his hoppy IPA ( He opted not to taste the beers since we would be driving to La after this –also he really doesn’t like craft beers –very high alcohol content. As a matter of fact, he said he wouldn’t drink this one though he’s sure the taste is great!) I am really not an IPA lover.

After chatting a bit—the couple with us are from Hancock, NY which is near Binghamton, They are staying in Gulfport and visiting the lady who was with them. I never found out where the other gentleman with us came from though he was very personable. Then Stephen continued—the hot liquid must be cooled rapidly to room temperature before it goes into the bank of fermentation tanks—don’t want to kill the yeast! The carbon dioxide is piped into buckets beneath the tanks and into the air. 

Having now returned to the bar area it was time for another drink—this tour in this tiny building makes one very thirsty. I noted that , though Stephen was not stinting on sample size, most of us were taking far less. This stuff is potent! This time a touch of the Winter seasonal—Black Creek Stout. If it is possible it is more delicious than the Jefferson which, up to this point was my favorite. We climbed up behind the original vats to stand on a balcony overlooking the brew room . One can easily see how small the operation is though the amount produced is impressive, I think. I do forget Stephen’s prodigious display of math, however. 1 barrel = 20 gallons and one of the fermentation tanks holds 30 barrels—I forget how many bottles that is and don’t feel like doing the 600 gallons to 12 oz bottles calculations but it’s a lot.

From the balcony we saw where the bottles are sterilized ,inside and out, after having been labeled. The bottling section was in the cubicle on the far wall. There are two huge tanks where the beer is carbonated before bottling. Also there is a rectangular device which he calls a pallet lifter—it takes the plastic wrapped pallets to the area of the bay door. There is also a keg sterilization station invented by the owner, Mark Henderson, who is an electrical engineer. Apparently, he’s the energy and crazy let’s try this guy who is married to Leslie Henderson, a chemical engineer and the brewmaster. She got her training in Burlington Vt and then worked in Crescent City Brewing in NOLA as an apprentice before they started up this little operation. It is doing so well they are currently constructing a huge addition to this building. It is obvious that things are rather cramped in the existing space. They contractually also brew and bottle the beers of Bayou Teche Brewing, which I also want to visit.

Somewhere along the line we also tasted Timber Beast—which is really dangerous. But as a finish we tasted Indian Summer which is nice and spicy—a Belgian wheat and one I’d drink in summer for sure. He also gave us a taste of a sour beer they are trying out—well, it’s SOUR, I’ll give it that. I don’t think any of us fell in love with it.

And so the tour ended. We each who paid for the tour received a free pint glass—I opted for the one with the Magnolia flower—the painting on the wall was done by Mark and is reproduced on the glass.

Headed down to Bay St Louis to Bay Tobacco and Beer to pick up a variety pack, since Ms law ( and I think, La law ) prohibits them from selling beer at the brewery. All sold out but I bought a six pack of Indian Summer and a variety pack of Abita Springs beer. Then across the River Pearl and into Louisiana. A monument there documents the first Lone Star State and it wasn’t Texas. It was the 74 day Republic of West Florida. A little bit of a jab at their next door Western neighbors!

Arrived at the Comfort Inn at 1:30. Lobby is all beautifully decorated with the Mardi Gras colors and paraphernalia.  We are, after all, right across the Ponchatrain from NO. The reservation agent on the phone offered me a King suite for $119 plus tax. I asked what a double queen would be—$83. plus tax. I reserved it and asked if upgrades were available when I checked in. Got the King suite for the $83! And a little lagniappe---a large bottle of water, a small bag of Fritos chili-cheese corn chips and two mint patties. Because I am a diamond elite I also got a Nature Valley peanut bar all for myself! Pays to be an Elite—lol  Although I realize I’ve been out in the boonies a long time now, I felt absolutely provincial when I saw the small HD TV mounted on the bathroom wall so you could watch from the tub or the throne!!!

After getting everything we need in the room we read for awhile and went out to eat. Bill wanted to eat at Chili’s and I wanted to eat at Olive Garden. He said we’ll stop at whichever one we see first—that was Chili’s at the very end of the strip. It was okay, though the barmaid kept sneezing and coughing etc and then handling the lime slices that went into our beer. I hope I don’t contract anything fatal. We never saw OG until we were on our way back and it is right across the road from our driveway!  Set back behind trees we just didn’t see it—darn, I would have loved a nice red with a bit of pasta.

It is now going for six, the laundry is in the wash, the sun went down in the first sunset we’ve seen on the whole trip. We’ve been gone one week today. Seems much longer. Not sure where the wind will blow us tomorrow –a Sunday in Catholic Louisiana?—not much open. We’ll see. Until then, nighty-night! KandB

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