By Joe Darby
“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” — Benjamin Franklin.
“He was a wise man who invented beer.” Plato.
So, who am I to argue with the great American founding father or the greatest of the ancient Greek philosophers? Those were guys who knew what they were talking about.
But the main reason I wanted to write this week’s column is to say that, by gosh, I’m really glad that our fine little town now has its own craft beer company. Yep, I’m talking about Cane River Brewery, which you can visit yourself or buy their products at most of our local restaurants or even at the supermarkets. They brew several types of beer, all of which I’ve tried and like.
Let me mention that this column is not a commercial and neither I nor the Natchitoches Parish Journal have been compensated in any way for these words, which are strictly formed by my own opinion. So I will also mention that CRB is hosting a Beatles and Brews event on Thursday night, Oct. 10, beginning at 6 p.m., to benefit the Natchitoches Parish Council on Aging. Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs as well as other local favorites will be making music. Tickets will be available at the door.
Also, TappedTober is this Saturday, Oct. 12 from 12-10:30 pm on the downtown riverbank. This craft beer and wine festival will feature live music, the LSU game, and you guessed it…beer sampling!
Anyway, since I’ve been sipping beer since I was about 17 (yes, I was underage, but Baton Rouge bars were pretty lenient back in the 1950s), I think I know a little about the subject. I still enjoy the golden brew, although a six pack usually lasts me three or four weeks now.
Long before CRB came to town I had been enjoying other Louisiana beers, including the offerings from Abita and other state breweries. La. 31 and The Boot were among my favorites. I bought our Louisiana beers because of state pride but also because they taste pretty good. If I go to a new bar or restaurant and I feel like a cold brew, I always ask, “Do have Louisiana beers?”
In fact my first beer, back when I went to the Brown Door Lounge near LSU circa 1958, was a Louisiana beer. That would have been Falstaff, a beer brewed in New Orleans. It was a darned good tasting beer, mild enough for a new drinker, but with a good beer flavor that hit the spot. Falstaff was my beer of choice for many years until they finally went out of business, sometime in the 1970s, I think.
The old Falstaff brewery was a New Orleans landmark for many years and they even had a tower that predicted the weather by showing different colored lights. I can’t remember what the colors were, but for example, green would have meant clear and red would have meant a storm was coming.
When Falstaff went under I tried to switch over to yet another Louisiana beer — Dixie. Dixie was very popular in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana for many years, but I must admit I never got used to it. There was something about it that my taste buds didn’t like. Dixie later also failed but I understand it’s been brought back, also as a craft beer. I haven’t tried the new Dixie so I can’t make any comment on it.
After Falstaff died I became a regular consumer of Coors Light. They had some great TV commercials and their beer also tasted pretty good, particularly when it was icy cold. So I stayed with Coors for a long time, until the advent of our local state breweries. The only other brew that I liked consistently was Harp, which I would order whenever I went into an Irish pub in New Orleans.
Have I ever tasted a beer I didn’t like? Sure, there have been a number of brews over the years, (besides Dixie) that I chose not to drink on a regular basis. The only time I never finished a glass was in Nottingham, England when some Brit friends insisted I try a Guiness Stout, which strictly speaking is not a beer.
Anyway, the barman drew a large glass of the thick, brown liquid for me, slid it down the bar (in a several-hundred year-old pub) and I lifted it to my mouth and — whoa. No way am I going to finish the pint of this stuff, I thought. So after taking one or two more sips for simple politeness, I told my friends that I would actually really rather have a beer. And I’ve never tried it again.
Like anything good, beer can certainly be overdone and it must be handled with care, so to speak. But beer has brought pleasure, merriment and good fellowship to millions of people over the ages and I’m glad someone invented it. I started off this column with quotes and I would like to end it with one.
“A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be sure.” — Old Czech saying.