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The Big Easy Beer Scene
A winter trip south to New Orleans and a homebrewing contest

Photo courtesy of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp

I took a four-day sojourn to New Orleans with eight friends to celebrate the New Year. I sampled several solid brews from NOLA, Lazy Magnolia and, of course, Abita. It was a great time with one huge exception – I failed to make it to the Avenue Pub. Whenever I take a trip I make it a point to head to any bar mentioned by Draft Magazine’s as one of the top 100 beer bars in the country. The Avenue is on the list but I never found time to get there. I did make it to The Bulldog on Magazine Street, another stellar beer venue with dozens of taps and a beer garden featuring a fountain made entirely of tap handles (beer geek architecture at its finest). I left a day earlier than most of my traveling companions. And while I was on a plane headed north, my crew decided to spend the day at the Avenue Pub. Ouch.

Homebrewers Take Note
If you think that you’ve perfected the stout or ale that you produce in your basement, now’s the time to show it off. Until Feb. 2, the Beer Barons of Milwaukee are accepting entries for the fourth annual Midwinter Homebrew Competition.

The competition takes place in conjunction with the Midwinter Brew Fest, held at the Milwaukee Ale House (233 N. Water St.) on Feb. 17. Only 800 entries compete in several categories, and the event is a qualifier for both the Master Championship of Amateur Brewers and the Midwest Home Brewer of the Year. Also, one lucky brown ale entry will be chosen to be brewed by Milwaukee Brewing Company and served at the Milwaukee Ale House, and that’s just cool.

Barley Pop of the Week
Central Waters knows how to barrel age beer. That’s evident once again in the latest installment of the Bourbon Barrel Stout. The brew is sweet, smooth and a little boozy. And the beer now sports a new label that I really like. This barrel aged stout is a gem; pick some up while it’s still on store shelves.

Quick Taps
One thing I learned after tasting a few regional beers in New Orleans is that we’re pretty lucky in Wisconsin to have the wide selection of quality craft breweries that we do.

The annual Bell’s Hopslam hoopla is beginning with release parties in Michigan. The delicious stuff is expected to start shipping to Wisconsin in mid January. Bell’s is saying they made more this year, but Hopslam was pretty easy to find for a few weeks in the Milwaukee area last year.

Events Brewing

Saturday, Jan. 12: A tasting of English style beers at Three Cellars (7133 S. 76th St.) from 1 to 4 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 17: I’m telling you about Midwinter Brew Fest because it's a popular event that tends to sell out. Get your $40 tickets now at the Milwaukee Ale House to ensure that you spend that dreary winter day tasting beer. 

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