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Brooklyn Brewery's MASH Celebrates More Than Beer

Gabe Barry discusses how beer intersects with culture in New Orleans

A pioneer of the beer craft industry, Brooklyn Brewery, has been visiting New Orleans and other cities annually with traveling beer circus, the Brooklyn MASH. In the four years that Brooklyn has brought its 4-days of unique beer, food, and cultural events to the city, the beer scene in New Orleans and Louisiana has changed. This reflects changes in the national beer industry. The number of breweries has doubled in the last 5 years. The way the community — brewers and consumers — want to experience beer and beer events has changed. The Brooklyn MASH this year is a reflection of the evolving needs of the beer drinker. Previously, while each year’s schedule of events differed from year to year, it followed a general format with flagship experiences like a beer dinner, food truck roundup, and roundtable discussion of the industry. This year, the weekend is built around two new, ambitious, creative events: the Beer Mansion and the Immersion.

Gabe Barry, Brooklyn's official Beer Educator and Cultural Ambassador, says of the Beer Mansion (held on 11/19 at Mardi Gras World starting at 5 p.m.), "Beer Mansion combines a need for base-level beer education, and re-identifying the concept of how much fun we deserve to have. The beer festival has served its purpose for a while and it still will, depending on your market - there's different needs and different ways to bring the community together. But we all deserve to have more fun, and Beer Mansion is like our manifesto to that [concept]."

The Beer Mansion provide food and music while the beer is divided into different style rooms: the IPA room, the saison/farmhouse room, and the barrel room.

"For challenging ourselves, to think not only about what are these beers," Barry asks, "what do the flavors of these beers physically and metaphorically represent, but also what is the artistic and physical embodiment of these beers in our party?"

The IPA room, she says, has taken on a "playful, nerdy, comics and good times, bitter-punchy-pow!" vibe, while Brooklyn house chef Andrew Gerson focuses on the sensory experience of food and "challenges us to think outside the box of the way we think about flavor."

Beer Mansion will showcase beers from six Louisiana breweries, including Urban South's Rectify coffee porter, Second Line Brewing's blood orange saison, and Mudbug's imperial chocolate King Cake stout aged in Buffalo Trace barrels. Abita, NOLA Brewing and Great Raft are also participating.

"The participation of the breweries, it's been wonderful to see - when you walk into Beer Mansion, it doesn't feel like a Brooklyn Brewery event. It's hard to tell who's really pulling the strings. It just becomes its own entity of itself, it becomes the vibe that creates an homage to the spirit of celebration in the host's town of that evening. So I think New Orleans is going to be a really fun one. I'm really excited for all that to come to the table."

The Barrel Room is Barry's pride and joy, where she shares Brooklyn's rare "ghost beers" which are not widely distributed. One of the barrel beers she's most excited about is Yokai, a Belgian-influenced golden ale aged over sake lees in bourbon barrels. Lees is previously used yeast that has already served the primary purpose of fermentation but can be used to inoculate wild, nontraditional bacteria into a beer.

"It's been kind of a wild ride with the sake lees, because sake, and rice as a grain, has a biological mind of its own. We didn't anticipate they'd sour as quickly as they did. It's bringing out all this incredible, natural, biological terroir of all the experience in that bottle. Tart, sassy, big, in your face, incredibly drinkable."

The second beer she's looking forward to pouring in the barrel room is called Passion of the Mango, a tart-focused sour aged over mango in cognac barrels.

"It looks like next year, the entire tour will kind of become Beer Mansion," Barry says. "We're not sure exactly how yet, but beer mansion has sort of caught us all off guard with how cool it is."

Neighborhood Immersion is another new event in this year's MASH. A roving party hosted in partnership between Brooklyn Brewery and Timberland - two longstanding companies in different industries that want to prove that they can combine tradition with innovation. It will descend on Freret Street on Sunday, November 20 starting at 1 p.m.

The official headquarters of the day is a pop-up bar called the Trailhead where attendees pick up Immersion coupons for food, drink, and discounts at area businesses including Ancora, Midway Pizza, Bar Francis, Crescent City Comic, The Other Bar, and more.

It's a roving adventure through the neighborhood," Barry says. "The Immersion celebrates the entire segment of the MASH as a whole - we're taking all these passions, passionate industries - fashion, comics, music, pizza shops - and we see the through line in that. Beer is kind of the thing that celebrates that, and the Immersion is what brings them all together."

Two other events round out the weekend. On Thursday, November 18, join Chef Andrew at Josephine Estelle for suggested a la carte menu pairings including: snapper crudo, with brown butter, hazelnuts, celery, Meyer lemon, and sunchokes paired with Sorachi Ace; quail, pancetta, Hen of the Woods, frisee, arugula, and goat cheese paired with The Discreet Charm of the Framboisie; Canestri and cacio e pepe paired with Yokai; and Homeplace pasture pork loin chop, apples, turnips, and saba paired with K is for Kriek. No need to sign up, just make a reservation and order what looks good to you.

On Friday, November 19, Brooklyn Brewery and Timberland are sponsoring a free concert at the Joy Theater featuring The Lone Bellow. Although the concert is free, space is limited, so RSVP on the website.

A World of Change

Barry spent two years in New Orleans, rebuilding post-Katrina. The deep impression the city left makes her excited to share events like the Beer Mansion and Immersion here, since the driving concepts behind them are a perfect fit for the unique city she remembers.

The New Orleans beer world of 2005-2007 she remembers was very different than what it's become in the past ten years But it all stems from the city's culture. "That's something I learned in New Orleans, the power and the magic of the bar and the collaboration of every moment. Where you can sit in the corner of the bar and not talk to someone, or you can turn and have a conversation with a stranger that might change your life."

After seven years, she says she knew she had to go check out what was going on in New Orleans, and happened to be there for the NOLA Brewing's 6-year anniversary party

"It's like everything you love about your Vaughan's or your BJ's or your Mimi's, where you walk in and you know everybody there, but it's at a brewery," she recalls. "What also really struck me was that their anniversary brew, a barrel aged sour that was incredibly sessionable, was so New Orleans."

She pauses and adds, "beer is a sense of place, and the people who make that beer are tied into the community, and create this poetry that's an embodiment of the spirit of the place and the people. And that beer was so New Orleans. You could hook it all night long, you could drink it at a second line, you could find it at a bar, but it had flavor and personality, and it took skill. It's not easy to be a New Orleanian. And that was very clear in that moment alone."

Barry notes parallels between European beer markets and the New Orleans brewery scene - although this area may be a few steps behind the rest of the country, it's an organic movement that's ingrained in the culture, the flavors, and the people.

"It's the ability to explain what you're looking for in a beer, or to make a beer that's saying a thousand words in one drop of liquid," she says. "Because New Orleans comes with this embedded culture of flavor."

Barry notes that Brooklyn's Brewmaster Garrett Oliver's definition of a craft beer is that it's a vision, it's a story form, it's something with a beginning, middle, and end.

"It's some sort of greater story, and everything I've seen coming out of the New Orleans beer scene really just drives that point home," she adds. "I'm not trying to tell you about your beer scene, it looks pretty good and I want to learn more, but if there's anything I learned from post-Katrina New Orleans, it's don't try to tell New Orleans about itself."

Ancora Pizzeria

4508 Freret Street, , LA 70115 (504) 324-1636 Visit Website

Josephine Estelle

600 Carondelet Street, , LA 70130 (504) 930-3070 Visit Website

The Midway

4725 Freret Street, New Orleans, LA 70115 504 322 2815 Visit Website

Bar Frances

4525 Freret Street, , LA 70115 (504) 371-5043 Visit Website

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