The Alibi, NOLA

DSC_0084One of the many quaint little hole-in-the-wall-bars in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the Alibi “New Orleans Best Excuse” may well boast the best burger in the city. It also maintains a wall inscribed with all the beers they have on tap and in the cooler. It’s an impressive list.

The place might have a standing room only capacity of about 60 people, but the night we crawled inside there weren’t even a dozen. We took a seat in the back and shared our space with The Most Interesting Man in the World.

DSC_0082DSC_0081The pub menus are on the table, but you have to order at the bar. There’s also a one drink minimum, which is understandable for such a small place in such a busy tourist spot. The beer came back fast, though the burgers took a while.





I had my usual Bass Pale Ale, and my partner had a Samuel Smith Imperial Stout. If we were only going to have one, they might as well be good ones!


When the burgers arrived, all our reservations melted away. While the base price was $10.50, the monster sandwiches that were laid before us made us grin with delight.

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The flavor lived up to the visual promise as well. The 3/4 pound patties were close to an inch thick, juicy and flavorful, and dripping in cheese, just like we like them.

The top is a medium rare with provolone cheese. The second is also medium rare, but with sharp cheddar. There was no scrimping on the beef or the cheese!

If you are staying in the area, you can skip the one drink minimum by ordering for delivery or calling in a takeout. They deliver food to residences, businesses and a lot of the area hotels.


On the 1-5 scale, the Alibi gets:
Cleanliness – 3 (It’s a pub!)
Service – 3
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3
Overall experience – 3.8

The Alibi
811 Iberville Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

–Ann Cathey

Shiner 106 Birthday Beer

The Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, consistently wows us (at our house) with their flavors and consistency. From their humble beginnings as a microbrewery to their current status as a contender, Shiner beer is still discovering itself and taking us all along for the ride.DSC_0916

This year’s seasonal surprise is the Birthday Beer, brewed to celebrate the Spoetzl Brewery’s 106th birthday. It is a chocolate stout, brewed with chocolate malt and real cocoa. If you want to try it, get it quick! Word is that it will not be repeated.

“This one takes the cake.” Their tag line is directly from the Shiner website, and seems to encompass this particular chocolate stout in one short sentence.

We poured from a glass bottle into a pub pint glass at approximately 60F.

When held up to the light, the liquid is dark and dense, not allowing light to pass through it. At the edges, however, there is a deep burgundy color, reminiscent of a good red wine.

The foamy head was thin for us as it was poured to be thin. Had it been poured for a head, I imagine it would have crested the glass. The flavor was reminiscent of coffee and cream with a tan color. There was a definite Belgian-like lacing on the glass.

The aroma was strikingly sweet and chocolate. It was heavily reminiscent of a chocolate cake and carried vanilla hints.

The flavor was definitely chocolate, without the waxy overtone of ersatz cocoa. There was a little nuttiness complimenting a dark roasted malt. The hoppy bitterness was mild throughout, taking away form a more standard stout experience. The finish was mostly sweet, leaving chocolate cake and coffee in the aftertaste along with the malt and hops on the back of the tongue.

Body is medium, quite unlike most stouts. There is a very smooth, creamy texture overall. The carbonation was somewhat heavy, clinging to the glass from start to finish.

Overall this Shiner Birthday Beer is for anyone with a sweet tooth, or as a dessert beer. It would pair well with smoked or roasted meats rubbed with coffee.

On a scale of 1-5 —
Appearance: 4.5
Scent: 4
Flavor: 4
Texture: 3
Overall: 3.9

“It tastes like chocolate cake… and beer!” said a resident non-beer drinker. He really does not care for beer overall, but is willing to develop his beer palate.

–Ann Cathey & Christopher

Lees and Trub – Waste Not!

Homebrew! Have I grabbed your attention?

Homebrew lime mead (metheglyn).

Homebrew lime mead (metheglyn).

Mead in the process of freeze distillation.

Mead in the process of freeze distillation.

Having a home-brewer sharing my kitchen, I’m finding out all kinds of nifty things. I have come to understand the basics for brewing beer and mead, and there’s an experiment in freezing the water out of mead to make it stronger going on in my fridge.

Bottled lime mead (metheglyn) showing lees settled at the bottom.

Bottled lime mead (metheglyn) showing lees settled at the bottom.

Then there’s learning what to do with the leftovers. A lot of lees and trub (the yeast goop leftover after the bottling process) get washed down the drain by people who don’t understand what they could be good for. It’s all a waste product, right?


When brewing beer with actual grains, the grains are removed and set aside. What could they possibly be used for after they have been leeched of everything the beer requires of them? Plenty of things come to mind.

Spent grains from beer brewing resting in the deep freeze until needed for a baking project.

Spent grains from beer brewing resting in the deep freeze until needed for a baking project.

Remember that these “spent grains” are sometimes treated with hops, which is toxic to dogs. Don’t even think about making doggie biscuits with them. Spent grains are sometimes used as cattle feed supplements, without apparent harm to the cattle. They also make up some tasty recipes. A few samples of spent grain recipes may be found here.

Mead lees and beer trub in the freezer until it's bread-making time.

Mead lees and beer trub in the freezer until it’s bread-making time.

Trub from beer brewing is also great for making breads and muffins, though the products do tend toward the bitter spectrum. The breads I have tried have been well paired with hearty beef dishes, and sliced thin and piled high with corned beef or pastrami and Swiss. The breads made from trub support strong flavors quite well. If you are into the SCA, Civil War, or other historical reenactment groups, trub breads are both historically accurate and make great trenchers.

Lees are another great way to be creative in the kitchen.

I have not yet had a chance to try it, but lees are apparently quite good in a pork based stew. The sweetness of the honey accentuates the pork in a way only honey can. The yeast acts as a thickener from what I have been told.

Bread made from orange mead lees.

Bread made from orange mead lees.

Lees breads are also a great way to use up all that yeast and flavor. I’ve been lucky enough to have a daughter who cooks. She has made lees bread from mead lees, as well as cinnamon, lemon, orange, and whatever other flavors my other half brews up. Both the mead lees and the lees from metheglyns (mead with spices) and melomels (mead with fruit) have consistently turned up delightfully tasty breads and muffins. We haven’t tried a capsicumel, but it promises to be sweet and spicy!

I have not been able to try out any recipes that include the lees from wine, but I would imagine they would also make for some tasty cooking.

If you are home brewing, or know someone who is, try some of these cooking combinations with the cast offs of the brewing process. you will be able to experience a culinary treat that has been in mankind’s collective kitchen for over a thousand years.

Don’t forget – try the brew, too! It was the starting point for this creation process in the first place!

Homebrew mead on ice.

Homebrew mead on ice.

— Ann Cathey
Photos via Christopher’s cell-phone

Beer: Agave Nectar Ale by Blue Moon

While I have neither the money nor the time to review a beer a day, I do have the wherewithal to post when I try something new.

This evening’s taste test was conducted on Blue Moon Brewing Company’s Agave Nectar Ale. While Coors owns Blue Moon, I’m not about to hold that against the product. Not being a fan of most domestic beers, my palate reflects certain prejudices.

Listed as an American Pale Wheat Ale or a Blonde Wheat Ale (depending on who you ask), it lives up to that description. When poured it shines a nice golden honey color. Sadly, it apparently employs artificial agave nectar, too.

When you take your first sniff, there’s a distinct sweetness, almost as of cotton candy — barley and wheat scented cotton candy. I found this attractive in this case.

The first sip is slightly sharp, but has a sweetness that may be enjoyed by those who are not traditionally beer drinkers. The flavors are reminiscent of apples and caramel. It is smooth, light bodied with a thinner texture than I am used to.

Following sips are light, sweet (not cloying) and hinting somewhat of tequila. As it warms up to room temperature, it becomes a bit more bitter, but remains smooth with a crisp finish. The after flavors are not overwhelming, but light and refreshing.

It’s a summer brew, and I feel it is very suited to hot weather, unlike some of it’s darker cousins.

On a scale of 1-5 —
Appearance: 4
Scent: 3.5
Flavor: 3.5
Texture: 3.5
Overall: 3,5

-Ann Cathey