The buzz word at yesterday’s press conference revealing the new Ragin’ Cajun Genuine Ale was “accessibility.” We packed in like thirsty sardines, snapping photos of the handsome Ragin’ Cajun Ale logo, proving paraphrased worth to the beer’s en Francais motto “Ca va mieux avec les journalistes.” In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll report that I took home a nifty pint glass, from which I partook of the crisp and delightfully lean rice kolsch developed for UL by Arnaudville’s Bayou Teche Brewing Company. The term “light beer” had become taboo in the corporate man cave that is Schilling Distributing’s Hospitality Room. Bayou Teche Brewing chief Carlos Knott called it “spritzy.” Others stuck with “easy-drinking.” But because no one else seemed to want to say it, I’ll do you the service declaring, unequivocally, that the official beer of the Ragin Cajuns is an ale that drinks like a lager, i.e. a “light” beer.
Whatever that means to you, I ask that you put your craft-brewing pretensions aside. Bayou Teche head brewer Byron Knott explained to me that light brews are actually more laborious to produce, and thus more expensive at the craft level, which perhaps explains its relative lack of popularity among micro brewers like Bayou Teche. Neither Parish Brewing nor the nascent Cajun Brewing Company produce light beers, a state of affairs I had always attributed to snootiness rather than economics. It’s not till you have the coliseum-sized vats you find in Budwesier’s brew factory in St. Louis that it becomes cost-effective to produce something like a Bud Light. Some of this is a concession to time; it takes more time and stable, colder temperatures to mellow the cheaper malts and barleys used in your standard mash. To achieve the neutrality of light beer, the big boys use rice, a grain substitution made here by Bayou Teche as well. In terms of the ingredient list, rice is a more expensive source of crispness, but you make up for the added expense with quicker mellowing times, faster production turnover and cheaper refrigeration bills.
All of this is in service of telling you three things: 1) Ragin Cajun Genuine Ale is a light beer that will be familiar in flavor. 2) It is made with Louisiana rice, satisfying UL’s request of Bayou Teche to make the beer with locally produced ingredients 3) Never underestimate how drunk you can get on light beer in large quantities. Seriously, this isn’t Portland. In Louisiana we have food we actually like to eat which means we don’t want our taste buds obliterated by an IPA so hoppy it could strip paint off hardy board. Furthermore, a milk stout will positively ruin your day when paired with a seven layer dip or a basket of hot wings.
The bottom line is that football beer drinking is about quantity. The thicker the brew, the less room you have to stuff yourself with boudin, cracklin or tofu dogs, should you be a game day vegan. That neutrality of flavor and relative dilution will positively delight the casual beer drinker who’s primary aim is a beverage to accompany tail-gating, or to rehydrate themselves after an embarrassing themselves in parking lot pick up games.
“We didn’t want to go too eccentric with our first beer,” UL Marketing Director Aaron Martin told me. That explains why they declined Byron Knott’s other recipes for a Bernard’s honey beer and an ale made with chamomile. Martin remarked that Genuine Ale may be the first in a line of Ragin Cajun beers. Maybe they’ll get more crafty with future varieties.
The Genuine Ale is the latest in a line of Ragin Cajun branded products, a prolifically popular line of comestibles that includes seasonings, wine, champagne and the voodoo magic of the edible Ragin Cajun’ logo burger at Sonic. Bayou Teche has been licensed to produce Ragin Cajun Ale on an exclusive basis, crafting this particular brew to the specifications of UL’s marketing department. As far as we can tell, UL is the first college in the nation to market its own beer. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but hey, it’s history!
Accessibility is not such a bad thing, when you plan to access something over and over and over again. The Genuine Ale will be able available at Cajun Field starting this weekend with the Cajuns inaugural home game against Northwestern State. Schilling Distributing, which recently signed on as an official sponsor of Ragin Cajun Athletics, will have the beer on tap via sports bar clients like Legends, Deano’s on Bertrand, The Tap Room and Fat Pat’s. You can find a full list of participating vendors via Schilling’s Liquid Finder App.