As New Orleans increases its viability as a craft beer market, more breweries are taking notice. The Bruery from Orange County, Ca. brings an uptick of high-end beer that challenges wine on the dinner table and store shelves and is unique from any other product brewed or distributed in New Orleans.
The Bruery began distribution here in December but several events are planned next week to highlight its beer, including tastings at Avenue Pub and Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits and a special beer-tasting dinner at Boucherie.
“They are a small family-owned business like us,” said Nick Selby, Partner at Uncorked, which handles The Bruery’s distribution in Louisiana. The price of the beer is usually more than common big-bottle beers, but is less than most fine wine, which it shares many features with. “These beers over-deliver for their price,” Selby said.
The Bruery started as a family business when Patrick Rue abandoned being a lawyer to make beer.
“I graduated from law school and didn’t want to get a real job. I thought starting a brewery would be awesome,” Rue said.
He opened The Bruery with his father, Mike Rue, and hired Tyler King as Brewmaster when they opened in 2008. They specialize in small-batch brewing, and about half of their beers are barrel-aged in oak, said Patrick Rue. They use bourbon barrels for beers like their White Oak or Black Tuesday and wine barrels for their sour ales, like Oude Tart and Sour in the Rye.
“I think sour ales are under-represented in the United States. There are a lot of different flavors that you can’t get elsewhere, and they are especially tasty pairing with food, said Patrick Rue. “[Wine barrels] provide a great environment for the wild bacteria and yeast in sours to grow.”
The Bruery also bottle-conditions their beers, allowing a second fermentation process to occur in the bottle and adding carbonation, much like champagne.
“Pretty much anything below ten percent [ABV] we will bottle-condition,” said Patrick Rue. “A lot of our beers are great with age.”
Another quality that sets The Bruery apart is their small-batch approach.
“We’re lucky enough to have a great membership club, and we make a lot of small-batch beers and can be very experimental,” said Patrick Rue. “Every year we release about 80 beers. We don’t have to make a lot of them, and we can tinker around and we can scale them up [in production] if people really like one.”
This approach has led to a wide range of specialty beers, often Belgian-style, sour ales, and other ales that involve complex recipes and ingredients.
The Bruery has been selective about its distribution to urban markets, but Mike and Patrick Rue are eager to have a presence in New Orleans. Mike Rue sits on the board of trustees for Xavier University, and the family travels to New Orleans often.
“There is an amazing food culture here,” said Patrick Rue. “We want to be where some of the leading chefs are; we want them to use our beer with their food.”
Uncorked quickly established The Bruery’s relationship with New Orleans restaurants by helping coordinate a beer dinner at Boucherie on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
“The Bruery sent us eleven different bottles to give us an idea of what they do,” said James Denio, co-owner of Boucherie.
“Our original idea was to do a beer versus wine dinner,” said Patrick Rue. Instead they decided on a different concept.
“After the experience of tasting all their beers, we realized a traditional dinner was going to be limiting,” Denio said. “We experienced some unique beers, and we wanted to showcase this quality of experience in tasting them.”
Instead of a traditional pairing of beer and food for consecutive sit-down courses, Boucherie will set up four stations with two beers at each station paired with food. Participants will get to choose which beer and food pairing they want in any order, said Denio. Later, they can go back and get more of their favorites. This style also allows diners to socialize more. Mike and Patrick Rue will be there to chat with participants. See the menu here.
“These beers are just so well-made,” said Denio. “They are beers that demand contemplation.” The beer-dinner costs $80 to attend, but remaining seats are limited.
The Avenue Pub is hosting a tasting the next day on Thursday, Feb. 6. Selby, Mike Rue, and Patrick Rue will be in attendance from 7 to 9 p.m. Several beers, including some unavailable in stores in New Orleans, will be offered.
“All their beers are exquisite,” said Polly Watts, owner of Avenue Pub.
On Friday there will be a tasting at Cuban Liquors in Baton Rouge, and on Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. Selby will be at Bacchanal for a tasting with owner Chris Rudge and Paul Martin, according to Selby.
Several beer stores have The Bruery beers in stock. Beers currently available include Saison De Lente, Oude Tart, White Oak, Sour in the Rye, Mischief, Heart of Darkness, Rueuze, Saison Rue, and possibly others, according to Patrick Rue.
The presence of The Bruery marks another level in quality craft beer in Louisiana, one that Selby believes will encourage other highly-respected breweries to follow.
“The Bruery is one of the new up and coming craft beer companies in the U.S.,” Selby said. “I hope with it coming to Louisiana that other companies will see them and think they need get in on the market here, too.”