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The Rise of the (Mississippi) Craft Brewery

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The Rise of the (Mississippi) Craft Brewery

One of the most interesting things that has happened to the food and beverage culture in our state recently has been the rise of the craft brewery. In July 2012, the state of Mississippi ended its run as the only state in the country to stand by archaic laws that not only prevented people from selling beer that was over 6.25% alcohol by volume (ABV) but also effectively kept any microbrewery from being able to operate in the state because of this limitation.

In four short years since our laws changed, some incredible breweries have opened up in Mississippi, and they are producing some of the best craft beer being made anywhere in the South.

I love the sense of place each one of them has, but none is more a product of its environment than the Chandeleur Brewing Company in downtown Gulfport. The coast is an interesting place, unlike any other part of the state. It has its own rhythms and culture that have to be experienced to be understood. That’s probably why Chandeleur is making some of the most interesting beer being produced in the state.

As football season gets started, I notice that the flavors I crave are turning from the light fruitiness of the summer months to darker, more substantial beers. Even though the temperature doesn’t reflect the change of seasons yet, other seasonal transitions are here. As such, this week I decided to review two beers from Chandeleur Brewing Company.

chandeleurbrews-curlewscoconutporternervouswaterszinfandelipa

The brewery is named after the Chandeleur Islands located off of the Mississippi coast and each of their brews has an island twist to it. The Curlew’s Coconut Porter is a great example. This almost classic porter is creamy and delicious with loads of chocolate and coffee notes, but it also has a hint of coconut. I love dark beers, like Guinness, and some local porters and stouts come up short because they are too bitter for my taste. That is not a problem with the Curlew’s Coconut Porter.

The second offering that I tried was from Chandeleur Brewing Company’s Nervous Waters collection of interesting beer experiments called Nervous Waters Zinfandel IPA. In this brew, they made an IPA and introduced zinfandel wine grapes into the process. What came out is one of the strangest, and most delicious, beers I’ve ever had. Immediately upon drinking it you are overcome with some pretty extreme bitterness. Then it seems to magically give way to tons of fruit only to have the bitterness reappear after a few seconds on the finish. Another strange thing is that the beer actually smoothed and mellowed out considerably as it warmed up. The brewers recommend drinking the Zinfandel IPA from a snifter, a vessel that allows the heat from your hand to gradually warm the beer – and I’m betting my experience is the reason why.

Photo Credit: eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI on foodspotting.com

Photo Credit: eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI on foodspotting.com

Pairing food with these Chandeleur Brewing beers was easy. I knew almost immediately what I would pair with both of them. The Curlew’s Coconut Porter was begging for the Chocolate Lover’s Flourless Torte at BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar in Highland Village. Porters with chocolate is almost too easy, but it was all I could think about while I drank it.

Once the Nervous Waters Zinfandel IPA warmed up, one thing was crystal clear: I needed some Barbecue stat. Since I was taste testing at Hops & Habanas in Fondren, it only seemed right to head around the corner for some ribs or pulled pork from The Pig and Pint.

Now, for the Beer Geeks:

Curlew’s Coconut Porter

  • ABV: 5.8%
  • IBUs: 30
  • Appearance: Dark Brown, near black with a thick tan head.
  • Smell: Coffee and chocolate.
  • Taste:  More coffee and chocolate with hints of caramel and a touch of coconut. Creamy mouthfeel.
  • Finish:  Slight bitterness, like dark chocolate.

Nervous Waters Zinfandel IPA

  • ABV: 8.1%
  • IBUs: 70
  • Appearance: Dark amber with a 1 to 2 finger white head.
  • Smell: Citrusy hops, spices.
  • Taste: Very bitter, hoppy start, but it immediately gives way to delicious tropical fruits and raspberry notes with black pepper from the zinfandel.
  • Finish: Lingering finish that eventually comes back around to some hoppy bitterness.

>> For more beer reviews and food pairing ideas, read our other beer reviews here.