As great as our Western microbrews are, it's nice to see the arrival of standout offerings from further east. Abita Brewing outside New Orleans opened its doors in 1986, making it the oldest craft brewery in the Southeast. The name comes from Abita Springs, which Louisiana citizens have been flocking to since the turn of the 20th century for its pure artesian waters, and the brewery uses that same water for its ales. Here's my take on three new arrivals to the Boise beer scene:
Compared to most Northwest versions, this is on the lighter side of the IPA spectrum. There's a vibrant hoppiness on the nose that's matched by sweet malt and honeyed biscuit. It has a good, lightly bitter hop presence throughout, matched by roasted malt and touches of caramel and citrus. This well-integrated, stylish brew satisfies without overwhelming.
For this small-batch wheat beer, Abita adds fresh raspberry puree to the mix. The result pours a hazy beige with just the faintest hint of lavender. It's a lively combination of soft wheat and sweet raspberry on the nose. Smooth and creamy, it offers bright raspberry flavors up front, backed by grain-laced malt and just the right hint of hops. All in all, a nicely balanced and pleasant quaff.
Presented as a brown ale, it pours more like a stout--an opaque ebony with reddish tints. The aromas are highlighted by chocolate malt, caramel and dark fruit. This nicely textured ale with smooth mocha and toffee flavors, along with lightly sweet malt, is impeccably balanced by a smooth hop bite. A touch of smoke lingers nicely on the finish in this definitely worthy and delicious cult classic.