A taste of New Orleans was in the air on Thursday, December 17th as the Hard Rock Cafe Tampa, located inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa launched their newest event, a monthly Tap Takeover.  This month's featured brews hailed from Louisiana's Abita Brewing Company.  Guests had the opportunity to sample five different Abita beers on draft, mingle with brewery representatives, hear live music by Tampa Bay Acoustic Music Festival headliner Travis Williams and collect some serious swag, all for only $20!

Founded in 1986, the Abita Brewing Company is nestled in the woods just 30 miles north of New Orleans. According to the website, Abita brews over 151,000 barrels of beer and 9,100 barrels of root beer yearly in their state-of-the-art brewing facility.  Their lagers and ales are hand-crafted and brewed in small batches, using only the finest British and North American hops and the pure artesian water of Abita Springs.  Abita Beer has no preservatives, additives or stabilizers and is cold filtered to produce fresh tasting beers. Favorites such as Abita Amber, Purple Haze and Turbodog, have created a loyal following including a host of chefs who use the unique flavors in their recipes. 

I fell in love with Abita while living in New Orleans so I was especially excited to attend this tasting. Bellied up to the bar, the brewery representative guided me through a tasting of five, 12 ounce samples of some of my favorite Abita beers including Wrought Iron I.P.A., Abita Purple Haze, Christmas Ale, Turbo Dog and Andygator.

The tasting began with a new addition to the Abita lineup, the Abita Wrought Iron I.P.A. Hazy, amber-gold in color with a spicy, slightly sweet aroma, this well balanced I.P.A. has hints of grapefruit, caramel and passion fruit.  Usually I'm not a big fan of I.P.A.'s but the blast of grapefruit and the medium hop bitterness turned me into an fan! 

Next up was one of my favorite beers, Abita Purple Haze.  The use of raspberry puree, sourced from Mississippi and Louisiana, gives this wheat beer a subtle purple coloration and a slight cloudy "haze".   Upon pouring, the sweet smell of raspberries instantly reminded me of my days in New Orleans.  The crisp, light finish and the delicate raspberry flavor confirmed this is still one of my all-time favorite beers. 

The tasting continued with one of Abita's seasonal brews, Christmas Ale. Every year, Abita brews a special dark ale for the holiday season. The recipe changes annually but always pairs perfectly with traditional holiday foods such a gingerbread and spiced nuts. This year's Christmas Ale pours a dark red/brown color and has a heavy allspice aroma.  The taste was a bit heavy for me but I enjoyed the strong nutty, sweet malt flavor.

Turbodog began as a specialty ale but quickly gained a loyal following and has become one of Abita's flagship brews. A dark brown ale brewed with caramel, chocolate malts and Willamette hops, Turbodog has a dark mahogany wood color with a sweet chocolate, toffee-like flavor. If you like Turbodog as much as I do, you can find it all year long at the fabulous new Grey Salt restaurant, located inside the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa.

The tasting ended with one of Abita's specialty brews, Andygator.  A high-gravity beer made with pale malt, German lager yeast and German Perle hops, it has a musty gold color with a sweet flavor and subtle fruit aroma.  This beer pairs well with fried foods and just about anything made with crawfish, making it the perfect brew for the upcoming Mardi Gras season.

As my tasting wound down, the music wound up as I enjoyed tunes by local musician Travis Williams.  Williams was discovered at the Hard Rock Cafe's Tampa Bay Acoustic Music Festival this past June and has quickly become a house favorite. Accompanied by Adrienne Richards, this talented duo kept the party rockin with a mix of original and cover songs including Matchbox 20's "Long Day", Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels" and my personal favorite, "Jane Says" by Jane's Addiction.

Many thanks to the Hard Rock Cafe Tampa for this fun evening!

Don't miss the next Tap Takeover on January 21st featuring Ybor City's new Rock Brothers Brewery:

See you on January 21st!