New Orleans & a Taste of Tales

New Orleans – July 2018

St. Louis Cathedral through Jackson Square

A few months ago, my husband’s company announced that they would be having a work meeting in New Orleans in July. “New Orleans in July?” I said, “that’s going to be awful!” Turns out, I was right – at least in terms of the weather. July in New Orleans is objectively awful to a Northern Gal like me but because of that, it’s also cheap. That makes it appealing to people hosting large meetings and conferences.

One of the conferences held in New Orleans in July happens to be Tales of the Cocktail. This year, it happened to be held the week before Chris’ work trip and happened to be at the same hotel as his company meeting. We happened to put two and two together and fly down late Friday night, to catch the tail of Tales.

I’m not usually a fan of slushies, but when the heat index is 112F, it’s hard to say no.

Despite the fact that I’ve been doing the social media for the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of the USBG for most of two years, most of that as the elected “Social Media Coordinator” and despite the fact that most of the local bartenders consider me “industry,” I still have a strong case of imposter syndrome when navigating this world. My husband, Chris, is the actual cocktail nerd of the family – I can barely make myself an Old Fashioned and am often that dreaded customer who freezes like a deer in the headlights when asked if I want my Manhattan up or on the rocks. My passion for this world comes from a love of the hospitality of a good bar. In other words, I’m in it for the people.

Any fears that I didn’t belong at Tales started to dissipate when, just minutes after dropping our bags in our room at the Hotel Monteleone after our very late arrival, we walked into The Carousel Bar and within ten feet, I was being hugged by Jonathan Schulze, an MSP rep for A. Hardy Spirits who sponsored our last guild meeting. The chance meeting gave me some confidence that I was in the right place, doing the right thing.

I made myself a spreadsheet of the Tasting Rooms schedule but forgot it at home. I literally squealed with delight when I stepped out of an elevator and saw this on the wall – causing the person who created it to squeal in delight at my delight.

With only one day of Tales overlapping with our trip, our tail of Tales was mostly limited to the Tasting Rooms on Saturday and Pig & Punch on Sunday. I went into the Tasting Rooms hoping to a)taste a lot of cool things and b)feel worthy of both my attendance as an enthusiast and the media credentials I was able to get. Despite starting the trip feeling like a total fraud, I finished Saturday feeling like I’d made some contacts of actual value – several of the spirits we tasted are launching in our area soon and they were thrilled to make contact with the local guild.

Oh, and we also learned that if you wander through Tasting Rooms as a couple with him in a seersucker suit and you in a cocktail print dress, you will get a zillion compliments. That didn’t hurt at all.

Said cocktail print
My only shot of Chris in seersucker. And also of random Malort shots on the street.

Our taste of Tales taught us that we want to get back and experience more of the events next year. We learned that we’ll need to pace ourselves, eat well, drink lots of water, and share samples (at sampling events, I’d rather drink half as much of twice as many). For me, personally, I learned that I can bring value to this industry that I love so much. I need to stop doubting my place in this world, stop thinking about myself as an outsider, and start actually putting more words on paper. (Words on screen just sounds so much less dramatic!)

I’ve been discovering that while I want to write about eating, drinking, travelling, and the hospitality industry in general – I don’t want to be a reviewer. Maybe I could get more followers if I gave scathing reviews of bad places or things – but I’d rather be positive and grow organically, if slowly. If I don’t like something or somewhere, I’m just not going to post about it. Maybe that’s too “laissez faire” but I’m okay with it, because it’s me.

Night time on Bourbon Street

New Orleans is a strange city and hard to categorize. Sometimes the city felt like Paris, other times I imagined I was in Cuba. Rarely did it feel like I was in the US. I went into this trip dreading the weather, the strangeness, the insanity of places like Bourbon Street – but I left with a strong desire to go back and find more oddities and hidden gems. Because of the heat and humidity, I didn’t discover as much of the city as I would have liked but I believe the unique personality of New Orleans helped me discover myself, far more than ever expected. So, as they say on the other end of the Mississippi from my home in St. Paul, “laissez les bons temps rouler.”

Google Maps as a travel archive

I am working hard on bringing more of the travel aspect to this blog – one has to get to the right context somehow! As part of that, I’m working to create useful Google Maps for people to reference when they want recommendations in places we’ve been. It’s a fun project and is getting me very excited for our upcoming trips!

Here are a few sneak peeks, there’s still more to add.



San Francisco

Montana Spirits

I have brought home a selection of Montana beers and spirits for the past few years and this article talks about what one of my favorites (Trailhead Spirits​) is doing out there in Billings. The article also highlights much of why I’m passionate about local spirits in the first place. (I mean, besides making tasty drinks!) I’m fortunate to be in another state that is promoting similar farm-to-glass ideals!

Since Trailhead is the only distillery I’ve brought home two years in a row (first the aged gin, then the rye malt whiskey), I’m hoping to actually make it to the cocktail room and meet the makers this year!

The total haul

I kind of failed at blogging my trip. I’ll try to get caught up. Migraines prevented me from getting to as many beer places as I’d have liked, but I still did pretty well.

Here’s what came home with me. It took two suitcases and a lot of luck!

From Ireland:

  • White Gypsy – American Pale Ale – Several people recommended this to us as one of the best craft breweries in Ireland. It took a last minute cab ride across Dublin to the Drink Store to find a bottle, but I got it!
  • Galway Bay Brewery – Bay Ale Irish Red Ale – A half-pint of this was my first beer in Ireland! Mom and I hiked to Oslo in Salthill so that I could get something other than Guinness and I ended up having a great chat with one of the guys who works there.
  • Porterhouse Brewing Company – Celebration Stout – We had lunch at the Porterhouse bar in Dublin and I had a flight of four great beers. I’ve found a couple of their stouts here in Minnesota but this one sounded interesting. It was matured in Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey Casks.
  • Brown Paper Bag Project – Oxman Dark Brown Ale – I know next to nothing about this beer except that the brewery name had popped up a few times in my research.
From England:

  • The Kernel – Biere de Table – The next six are beers from The Kernel, a little brewery in London. I had emailed them to ask if their London Sour was on tap anywhere as I couldn’t make it during their open hours. They were awesome enough to invite me to visit and do a beer swap. If I recall correctly, this was a saison then aged in a wine barrel. I should have taken notes but I was just too excited. Also, it was really hard to find. Thankfully they were brewing that morning so I followed my nose!
  • The Kernel – Table Beer – Haven’t tried yet, one of their commonly found beers.
  • The Kernel – London Sour – This is the beer I hunted them down to try. It was a really light and refreshing sour beer, I can see it converting some people otherwise scared of sours.
  • The Kernel – London Sour White Wine Barrel – They did a series of sours, each aged differently.
  • The Kernel – London Sour Red Wine Barrel – See above. 🙂
  • The Kernel – London Brick Collaboration Red Rye Ale – I’m a sucker for rye so I had to have this!
  • The Wild Beer Company – Scarlet Fever – Again, I don’t know much about this beer. But when a bottle says “Red ale + toffee caramel + citrus hops” I don’t need to know much.
  • Weird Beard Brew Co – Saison 14 – This goes on the list of “beers I bought because the name popped up in my research.” Well, that and “beers I bought because I know someone with a weird beard.”
  • Partizan Brewing – 7 Grain – Another London brewery
From Wales:
  • Brains Craft Brewery – Boilermaker Welsh Whiskey IPA – Brains isn’t really a craft brewery, more a smaller “crafty” branch of the big S.A. Brains operation. But this was an appealing find because Brains makes the mash for Pendaryn Distillery, and this IPA was then matured with Penderyn whisky infused oak chips.
From Spain:
  • Nomada Brewing Company – Gato Negro Black Brett IPA – Wait, Spain?? WTF?! I didn’t go to Spain but when I placed an order for a couple of these bottles to get delivered to my hotel, this popped up on the store’s list of sours and I was intrigued. So one Spanish beer snuck in.
Glassware and Other Booze
You know what would go well with a suitcase FULL of beer?? Some breakable glassware and other booze!!
Left to right:
  • Bunratty Irish Potcheen – Apparently “Irish Moonshine.” Bought in a souvenir shop so I fully expect it to be horrifying. The bottle claims it was banned in 1661 and only recently legal again. Kitsch level is high, expectations are not.
  • Jameson glass from the distillery
  • Guinness 2013 St. James Gate glass – apparently they do a different design each year.
  • Guinness new style pint glass – there are ridges on the side and an embossed harp. Apparently this will be the new standard Guinness glass.
  • Buckingham Palace tot glass
  • Craft Beer Company pint glass
  • Tiny Rebel half pint glass
  • Penderyn whisky nosing glass
  • Penderyn Distillery spirits sampler – Five Vodka, Madeira finished whisky, Brecon Gin, Merlyn Irish Cream Liqueur
  • Penderyn Distillery whisky sampler – Madeira finished (their flagship product), Sherrywood, and Peated