Lake Charles libations
As the hints of dark chocolate and toffee registered with my palate, I took another sip, only to experience an even more powerful infusion of flavors.
“Pour me another porter,” I requested. During this trip with the guys, we were on a two-day mission to experience the craft brewing and distilling scene in Lake Charles, Louisiana. We wanted a getaway to remember. We had been planning this trip for some months. With me enjoying family life, and my buddy Clark preparing for a move across the country, Miles, the youngest of our trio, was the one who really insisted on making this happen. Truthfully though, it was an easy sell. We knew we wanted quality time with quality beers. We got exactly that, as well as some rum, vodka, and much-appreciated craft coffee to jumpstart our mornings.
Crying Eagle Brewing Company is the home of that perfect porter I kept ordering, brewed with black and caramelized malts. We lingered at its tasting bar for a few rounds before stepping outside to enjoy some live music in the beer garden, where we continued to indulge in signature brews.
“You guys should really try their Louisiana Lager, it’s pretty easy to drink,” Clark proclaimed. He gravitates toward the lighter beers.
“I’ll stick to this,” said Miles, holding up the Belgian-style brew he’d been drinking. “I prefer Ready to Mingle, mostly because I am literally ‘ready to mingle.’ Let’s go outside, I see they have cornhole.”
I switched to the fruity Hop Blooded IPA—with its cocktail of candied pineapple, orange, mango, and stone-fruit. It felt like just the thing for being outdoors at this time of year. We wound up eating dinner at their bistro and then called in a night.
A different kind of brew
We awoke the next day, wandered into the sunshine outside our hotel, and blinked ourselves awake in search of caffeine. We are coffee fiends. We operate on beans. We asked the first person we saw where to find good coffee. From our first moments in Lake Charles, we noticed that the locals were friendly—there were a couple of instances that made it clear, but the point is it was easy approaching people in the street.
The gentleman listed off some nearby coffee shops as he gestured down the street. “Just make sure the coffee you get comes from Acadian Coffee Roasters—they roast only organic coffee, and it’s local,” he said. “They serve it in most coffee shops around here.”
The moment we heard “local organic coffee,” I perked up with anticipation and mentally zeroed in on Acadian.
We took our morning brews to-go for breakfast at The Bekery. Once seated, I allowed the Early Bird Morning Blend to saturate my taste buds, with its underlying nutty, dark chocolate flavors. Clark looked up Acadian coffee online discovered we could order coffee beans from the company’s website. That was definitely happening.
The rum diaries
Over cornhole the day before, we heard about three childhood friends who opened up a rum distillery in nearby Lacassine. We were like, “Three friends? We’re three friends. Rum sounds good. We should probably go.” I know—very scientific.
So we ventured out to Louisiana Spirits, which makes Bayou Rum, for a tasting and tour. Bayou Rum is served all over Lake Charles, but we wanted to learn about distillation, so thought it’d be best to go directly to the source. Also, it provided an excellent reason for us to spend some time with rum at their tasting bar.
During the tour, our guide told us that rum-making in Louisiana began with the Jesuits in the 1700s. We also learned that the cane sugar and molasses the distillery uses come from a Louisiana mill that happens to be the oldest family-owned sugar refinery in the country.
“I had no idea rum could taste like this,” Miles said at the tasting bar afterward, as he sipped a Bayou Select. We all enjoyed good bourbon from time to time, and the Select was made for bourbon drinkers, having been matured in bourbon barrels for up to three years. The result is a rum with oak, maple, cinnamon and apple undertones. And unlike the distillery’s other products, the Bayou Select is available only on-site at Louisiana Spirits.
Afterward, Clark suggested we buy some bottles to take home—and we could drink it only when the three of us were together in one place. I promptly volunteered to store the bottles at my home.
Miles looked at Clark and then responded with, “Um, I think we should each keep a bottle at our own homes, just in case.”
The sugarcane continues
Thanks to our rum distillery education, we knew that other local companies also use cane sugar to distill liquor, including Yellowfin Vodka, a small operation just outside the city limits. The vodka—named after the coveted tuna that is native to the Gulf waters—is distributed throughout the state. So we ventured back to Lake Charles to continue our day with some spicy Cajun food, and then went bar hopping, in search of some great Yellowfin Vodka cocktails.
Not long after we arrived at Sloppy’s Downtown, Clark reminded us that this might be the last trip we’d have like this in a long time. I waved to the bartender.
“Three more drinks please,” I said. As planned, we were enjoying the creamy finish of Yellowfin Vodka on the rocks. A toast put the exclamation point on our adventure.
The trip wasn’t all just drinking and eating, although we did spend a good amount of time indulging. We also felt like we had immersed ourselves in the local culture and scene. Those couple of days, we felt like locals, because that’s how everyone treated us. We left Lake Charles with some great memories—and a few bottles of spirits, with coffee beans in transit to our doors.