Some months ago, I wrote lovingly about The Cajun Cafe on the Bayou (see Best Eatery Ever, July 2009). After one of my recent weekly visits, I emailed the Cafe to comment on its new website design (http://www.cajuncafeonthebayou.com) and mentioned that I had slobbered over the restaurant and watering hole in an old blog item. By God, didn't Paul and Rebecca Unwin - the owners with the New Orleans roots, at least on Rebecca's side - didn't they comp me tickets to last weekend's beerfest at the Cafe. Yesss! If I had known that was going to happen, I would have plugged them even more shamelessly.
Anyway, Judy and I beerfested for a couple of hours on Saturday night to a pretty good Cajun brass quartet - tuba, trombone, cornet-looking horn and keyboard. The beer selection was outstanding, as near as I could tell. I am not entirely sure about the breadth of the selections because the headline beer of the fest was a keg of Dogfish Head 120 Minute Ale. This wonderful beer is so malty and hoppy you could eat it with a spoon. And oh, what hops! Not only did the 120 come equipped with outrageous hops in the first place, but towards the end of the keg the kegmeisters began pumping the product through an outrigger hopback, a container jammed with fresh hops designed to supercharge the beer with hop aroma. I am a hop whore, make no mistake, and this was the pinnacle of hop whoredom.
Not incidentally, the 120 is also alcoholic enough that you need to imbibe on your knees if you're at all afraid of falling down. I kept bringing my little 3-ounce cup back to the well, passing by the other 100 or so selections, some of which would have been the stars of any show that the 120 did not attend. It was like serving lobster at a shrimp fest. I was powerless to resist. That's why my sweet, beer-averse spouse attended - to squeegee me back into the car at the end of the night.
But wait! There's more! The Cafe served sample portions of its fabulous jambalaya, red beans & rice, sausage and gator bites. The always-friendly and knowledgeable staff outdid themselves serving a never-ending line of moderately inebriated Cajun foodies. Designated drivers, thankfully, attended for a nominal fee, and there were lots of them in the room, recognizable by their bewildered look, for the most part, as their designated drivees reveled in beer heaven. But don't feel too bad for Judy - I was charged with bringing back something succulent every time I went for something hoppy. Far better than anything my mama - or Judy's mama - used to cook.
I have given short shrift to all the great non-120 beers in attendance, and the truth is that I did taste a bunch of them. Widmer brought an excellent IPA, hoppier than I expected from a house that makes such a wonderful trademark hefeweizen. Sierra Nevada had its spectacular Harvest Ale, among a dozen or so other choices to which I could not begin to do justice. (Sierra Nevada has recently gone into collaboration with the Dogfish Head folks to make a huge 10-percent dark beer they call Life & Limb. O frabjous joy! Unfortunately, not yet available here.) Unibroue brought a big selection of its ass-kicking modern Belgian ales, but I opted for a nice Corsendonk Brown Ale triple from the booth next door to the Belgian powerhouse.
Also notable was Mike's Homebrew. Mike is a friend - and apparently a very devoted and slightly demented friend - of the Unwins who brought along a half-dozen Corny kegs of his prodigious array of homebrews. I drank his Kolsch - close as I could get to a pale ale - and it was right on the mark for this beer, light, hoppy and refreshing - as best I could tell after the 120 ransacked my so-called palate. I have brewed for 20 years and have never considered giving away 30 or 40 gallons of my best. Paul and Rebecca, take good care of this guy!
Well, there were a lot more beers, but they disappeared into the alcoholic haze that characterized the end of the evening, and I can't say much about them. I met the nice folks from the Dunedin Homebrew Club, who claim that it is indeed possible to brew in this heat, and I may attend a meeting soon to see if they tell the truth.
Paul and Rebecca, thanks for the free ride. I would have said all these nice things even if I had to pay to get in.