Beer to the rescue!

By BRYAN T. McMAHON

Football got its biggest fan boost in 6000 B.C. when a sudden downpour soaked a wooden harvest bowl filled with grain and a few days later one of our ancestors (who would have been wearing a Saints jersey had he waited a few centuries) liked the smell of it so much that he took a long drink, belched loudly, and started looking around for pretzels and a channel changer.

Beer was born.

Andy Turcotte, owner of Louisiana Purchase Brewing Company, 128 West Pine, did not put it in exactly those words when he spoke to Ponchatoula Rotarians at their Thursday luncheon meeting, but the essential facts are the same.

Turcotte is one of a growing group of former home brewers who have gone pro.

Ponchatoula’s Zac and Cari Caramonta, owners of Gnarly Barley Brewing, 1709 Corbin Road in Hammond, pretty much followed the same trajectory. You can now buy their beer at retail outlets, sold in cans. Catahoula Common is well worth trying.

Low Road Brewery (the name originates from earlier in our history when I-55 was being built and became known as The High Road) recently popped up in the same Fagan Drive cluster of buildings that includes Lorinda Ross Associates art gallery and custom framing, 1108 CM Fagan Drive.

Brewer Joe Ribando operates the 30-taps establishment, with the first 10 taps devoted to local brew of his own creation, while 20 taps are reserved for guest brews.

You will likely find your friends (the like of local Ancient Order of Hibernians – AOH historian Andrew Hollingsworth), your fellow hobbyists and your co-workers holding down the seats. Lemon Blueberry beer is the top seller.

Thursday is Trivia Night, a time of great contemplation and conversation for everyone interested in the finer points of brewing, all while tasting the subject at hand. Friday there is live music, and Sunday afternoons are devoted to Beer Yoga.

Did I mention that drinking beer is a great way for people of like mind to get together?

That is the same way the late Dr. Jim Patton, who founded Abita Beer, got his start. He approached me one day as I was shopping in a food cooperative in Covington, a friendly bearded SLU professor who reached out his hand and accurately said, “You brew beer.”

The evidence could not be denied, as all the ingredients were in plain sight with my other grocery purchases.

That began a lasting friendship that endured for years.

The late Bob Troyer, a former Ponchatoula city attorney, did not graduate from brewing beer to running a brewery. In Troyer’s case, the hobby spun into a business supplying all the equipment and ingredients needed to make homebrew.

That in turn resulted in many an enjoyable hour spent sharing literature, technique, and the inevitable stories of brewing and bottling kitchen disasters while travelling along the learning curve.

You do not have to stick with it long before you learn some helpful truths:

First and foremost, you soon figure out that you do not want to fool with the bottling end of the process.

Kitchen bottling is inevitably messy and most marriages cannot withstand the stained ceilings caused by overly-exuberant chemistry experiments in achieving high alcohol content by using injudicious amounts of sugar, which turn capped bottles of beer into explosive charges, using a bottle opener as an igniter.

By this time you have amassed a collection of beer bottles that all have to be sanitized before refilling, and take up a lot of kitchen space that your spouse has already annexed as her own.

So you hit on the idea of dragging out your faithful crab pot. This gets you out of the kitchen, out of the house altogether, and keeps your marriage on the rails for a while longer.

Logic itself, assisted by more than a little male laziness, soon draws you rushing to the conclusion that you would be better served by “kegging” your beer in five gallon batches. These fit comfortably in those easy-to-sanitize 5-gallon metal soft drink containers that you can rig with a supply of compressed air on one end and a thumb-operated dispenser on the other.

Time marches on, while your popularity grows, as your name becomes associated with free beer.

Inevitably, you realize the value in letting someone else do all the hard work, the grinding and the cleaning, the long waits and the testing, all the hard work of producing your very own favorite beer, the storing of huge bags of sugar, and the lovely ambience of living in a home that reeks of your favorite pub.

All of a sudden, that 6-pack of store-bought lager looks pretty ideal, aesthetically and in terms of cost-efficiency.

Of course by this time the world has caught up with your hobby. Microbreweries are everywhere now and craft brews are stocked on the shelves of your favorite grocery.

In Tangipahoa Parish, your choice now is not which beer to buy, but which small brewery do you wish to bless with your business this week?

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Readers who are home brewers are welcome to send their recipes and the stories of their own brewing adventures for publication in The Times at the following email address: editor@ponchatoula.com)