Last Friday afternoon, with the heat wave broken and late-afternoon boozing on the brain, my friends and I were driven to Heavy Woods on Wyckoff Avenue to quench our thirst. Of the bar’s fourteen taps, we must have sampled at least half in search of the perfect summer afternoon brew. There were some strong contenders on draft, but it was Heavy Woods manager and bartender Kiki who hooked us up with the most stellar libation of the afternoon, which came (surprisingly!) from a bottle: the LA-31 Boucanèe by Bayou Teche Brewery.
Kiki admitted she tends to drink Modelo in a can when she opts for beer (normally preferring whiskey and tequila), but we could see why she liked the Boucanèe straight off: as my friend and photographer Dane said, it definitely has the taste of a whiskey about it. Pouring a beautiful deep amber with a light head, the Boucanèe is a smoked wheat ale brewed by the Louisiana-based Bayou Teche Brewery. Wheat beers are a go-to in the summer as they tend to be mild and refreshing – a quintessential example being Blue Moon, which often comes with a sliver of orange wedged in the bottle. But what made this beer our star of the day was the unique, almost BBQ-y smokiness present from first sniff to lingering aftertaste, giving it a lot more oompf then your standard wheat ale.
In last week’s column I focused on the unique hop found in Newburgh’s Ace’s Wild Double Cream Ale, but this week it was another variable in the beer trifecta (hops, malt, and yeast) that made this beer a keeper – the malt. Malt is grains that are allowed to sprout, but are dried as soon as they bust out of their casing. In the brewing process malted grains are hydrated and heated to release sugars which are then boiled with hops and infused yeast to ferment. In fermentation the yeasts, which are living microorganisms, eat the sugars from the malt and essentially poop out two of my all-time favorite bi-products: booze and bubbles, also known as alcohol and carbon dioxide (dad, if you’re reading this, my apologies for my crass unscientific description, everyone else, you get the gist).
Most beers are brewed with malted barley, but wheat beers – yup, you guessed it – also have a hefty dose of wheat malt in the mix. The sugars from the malt that are not eaten by the yeast give a beer its sweetness and body. Since the wheat in the Boucanèe is smoked with cherry-wood, the result is a syrupy, cherry sweetness, a rich body and the deep smokiness in the ale. The malt also determines alcohol content through the amount of sugars that can be turned into alcohol. The Boucanèe is a solid 4.5% alcohol so you can drink it all afternoon and step off your stool with only a slight wobble to your step.
The Bayou Teche Brewery, based out of a railroad car converted into a farmhouse in small-town Louisiana, brews beers celebrating the state’s native ingredients and is brewed to be sipped while nomming on Cajun or Creole food. Yet another reason this is the perfect beer to feature at Heavy Woods; it is also home to Tchoup Shop, which serves Louisiana specialties out to the bar’s kitchen. The Boucanèe would be pretty bomb with most items on the menu – its smokiness complementing the dishes’ heat and spice – but I’m thinking it’ll taste particularly fine with a cup of the Duck and Okra Gumbo followed by the Grilled Louisiana “Hot Link” Sausage. Better hurry over and try it out before our cool spell breaks (and let’s take a moment to appreciate that 80s now feel “cool”). I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Bayou Teche’s LA-31 Boucanèe rounds out at 3/5 stars: 1 for its awesome smoky flavors and aromas, 1 for its beautiful amber color, and 1 for how good it will taste paired with Tchoup Shop’s tasty grub.
Heavy Woods is located at 50 Wyckoff Ave, between Willoughby and Starr, and is open daily from 8am to 4am, with food served Mon – Fri, 5pm – 11pm, and Sat and Sun, 11am – 11pm. The Boucanèe will cost you $5 for a bottle, and if you’re getting the Gumbo or Sausage you’re looking at another $6 or $8 respectively.
Bushwick Brews is a weekly column dedicated to the exploration of Bushwick’s finest beers written and curated by brewista Erin Wicks.