For more features, click here.

Hobby helps hurricane recovery

By Mike White
White Labs

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, lives were disrupted and, in many cases, left in ruins. In the world of beer, hobbyists and professionals encountered some of the greatest challenges of their lives, although these of course were far less significant than other life-and-death matters.

In the wake of the disaster, White Labs supplied yeast to those who for good reason could no longer acquire supplies through local stores.

Peter Caddo of Crescent City Homebrewers was one such homebrewer.

His club met for years at the Deuches Haus on Galves Street, New Orleans. The building took on five feet of water during the storm, and the neighborhood for miles was flooded badly, Caddo told us.

In late December, Caddo, speaking for himself but not for the club, told us, "I know a lot of members were hit real bad. Myself, I did all right and so did my girlfriend. Just lack of services.

"We have yet received any first class mail, magazines and such."

He took solace by delving into the hobby he has appreciated for a long time.

"Iíve been brewing ales with the WLP017 Whitbread Ale Yeast and I love the flavor it gives the beer. A couple of my beers have storm-related names: Blue Roof Bitter, Slash Mark Amber and Sheetrock Stout, and they are yummy."

Given his living conditions, he had to endure more challenges than most homebrewers.

Some of the circumstances he faced actually had unexpected and not altogether unpleasant results, at least from a hobby perspective.

"The WLP833 German Bock Lager Yeast was used to brew two beers, a Doppel bock and Rauch, both beers were aged at 35 degrees Fahrenheit for three months and then the power went off and my refrigerators died and I was away for a month.

The beer aged at 95 degrees Fahrenheit and started another fermentation; the bock got stronger and maltier like the EKU 28 (an eisbock brewed by Kulmbacher Brauerei AG in Germany) and the Smoketoberfest ended up better also. Now I know how to get that more maltier aroma and taste that the Andechs doppelbock has."

In a follow up message in early February, Caddo said he is back working in the restaurant business and that he attended a meeting with the Mystick Krewe of Brew at the Abita Brewpub recently. He reported that many members had damage to their homes due to Katrina.

The Crescent City Homebrewers, he continued, had a X-mas meeting/party in December. Caddo said that he brought some of his beers that were aged during Katrina. As for the lagers he made with WLP833 German Bock Lager Yeast, Caddo said that after he aged the beers at 35 degrees Fahrenheit for three months (with an additional "Katrina" month at 95 degrees Fahrenheit) he purchased a new refrigerator and was able to get them back to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. He is not sure he would try to redo the experiment of turning a doppelbock into an eisbock ó unless Mother Nature interferes again.

Another homebrewer, David Reeder, also of Crescent City Homebrewers, told us, "Please accept my tremendous (although a little late in delivery) thank you for your generous donation of your companyís yeast during this time of transition.

"I personally have been using your strains since I began brewing nearly ten years ago and when Brew Ha Ha announced their closing I was concerned about where I would obtain supplies. Your commitment to brewers in the New Orleans area is appreciated and your partnering with Al Bourg of our group to serve as the local distributor is also a relief for filling our future needs."

White Labs appreciates the kind words, but those who went through the ordeal of the storms know better than most that it took the determination of local homebrewers to keep the hobby alive during difficult times. They deserve tremendous credit for getting their lives and their hobbies back in order. We look forward to hearing more stories of positive change in the region in months to come.

To share your stories, write us.