A Not So Brief History of the Crescent City Homebrewers

Adventures and Adversities

by Carol Rice, ad hoc Historian (December 2021)

Crescent City Homebrewers is the oldest brew club in New Orleans, possibly in the whole Gulf region.  After five years of very informal existence, members incorporated CCH with the state of Louisiana in 1983.  The purpose of the club as stated in the By-Laws of the Corporation: “[CCH] Shall be a non-profit, informational organization to promote brewing of beers in the home for personal consumption as an alternative to commercial brews.”

The country’s Bicentennial in 1976 spurred a resurgence of interest in all colonial home crafts including the craft of brewing.  On October 14, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a bill* into law that made home brewing legal and exempt from excise tax, but still subject to state local options.  The law went into went into effect four months later.  Eight guys, Bob Scheiderman, A.E. Breide, John Dauenhauer, Harold Hochhalter, Mike Meisner, Richard Briede, Paul Holtzenthal, Edgar Kirchem, curious about making beer decided to give it a try before that.

The intrepid eight began with Fleischman’s Yeast and Blue Ribbon Malt Extract from the A&P.  “In those days knowledge of brewing was seriously lacking.  The two styles for us were either light or dark,” offered Monk Dauenhauer, ‘91 President.  They bought hops pellets (a delicate light brown color) from Al’s Wine Shop, the homebrew shop on Oleander Street where the club met.  “We started buying mail order because his stuff was not the freshest,” generously stated Harold Hochhalter, ‘85 CCH President.  Until then, “we didn’t know hops were supposed to be green.” said John Dauenhauer, ‘84 President, (no relationship to Monk).  “The first recipes we had included three pounds of corn sugar per batch.  Lots of alcohol, but very little flavor,” said Harold.

They were fearless.  They tried everything, ales and lagers.  Club lore has it that the club’s first lagers were aged in the cooler of a funeral home where two of the members worked. Too bad the names of those beers were lost – Laid Out Lager, St. Peter’s Pils – perhaps.  Eventually, the eight tried all-grain brewing.

In the August 14, 1986 Food Section of The Times-Picayune/The States-Item members of the Crescent City Homebrewers were interviewed for a feature article entitled Brewing Beer at Home.  Then President, Andy Thomas, dissuaded readers of a commonly held idea.  “Many people have the preconceived notion that homemade beer is rotgut beer that you get drunk on.  On the contrary, when home-brewed beer is at its best, we think it is finer than many store-bought beers.”  George Parr, not yet 1989 President, declared, “This is the best hobby, for the simple reason that every penny I put into it, I get out of it.” How can one argue with that logic?

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The Hopline

Our newsletter, the Hopline, has been published continuously since May 1985.  That is the first issue on record.  There may have been some lost before that.  At first, it was typed by the club president, mimeographed, and mailed to the membership.  It was quite entertaining with crossword puzzles (created with a typewriter, boxes and all, by John Dauenhauer), brew-off recipes, topical jokes and quotes, and social notes.  Considering the technology, which now seems so primitive, the Hopline was quite an accomplishment.  They were exuberant testaments to the joys and camaraderie of beer and brewing.  It was not typeset until 1988, probably on an early personal computer.  Now the Hopline editor is appointed by the Board.  They usually appoint whoever has volunteered to do it.  I was editor for a year.  My favorite front page follows.  

                                               My favorite front page when I was editor:

On Monday the 17th of October, 1814, a terrible disaster claimed the lives of at least eight people.  In St Giles, London. A bizarre industrial accident resulted in the release of a beer tsunami onto the streets around Tottenham Court Road.

The Horse Shoe Brewery, run by Meux and Co., was the site of a tragic disaster.  In 1810, they had a 23-foot-high wooden fermentation tank installed on the premises.  It was bound together with massive iron rings and held the equivalent of more 3,500 barrels of brown porter ale.

On the afternoon of the fateful day, one of the iron rings around the tank snapped.  About an hour later the whole tank ruptured, releasing the hot fermenting ale …

The logo was designed in ’94 or ’95. It first appears on the Application for Membership in January of ’95.  This is also the first typeset publication.

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Membership

CCH grew significantly over the years.  Meeting places had to expand as well.  They moved their meetings from the wine shop first to Luigi’s (a pizza place), then to Obermeyer’s Tavern on the I-10 service Road.  After a brief time at a bar on Canal Boulevard where the Bulldog is now, the club meetings moved to Lafreniere Park in 1988 under a free rent agreement crafted by then Vice President George Parr.  That only lasted two years.  Park management decided to charge the club a “small” rental and a security fee due to the alcohol consumption involved.  So, another free rent arrangement was made.  1990 Vice President, Monk Dauenhauer, negotiated the deal for the Heidelberg Hall at the old Deutsches Haus on Galvez Street.  We just had to guarantee $50 in sales at the bar.  (This was not a problem!)  The agreement even included the Haus doing the cleaning.

By the early 90s, membership reached 150, and included several women.  The first female documented as a member was Kathryn O’Brian, who joined in November of 1986.  The following June, Kendra Bruno ‘87, owner of Dixie Brewery, joined the club.  The first female officer was Marci Kraus, ’87, club secretary in ‘88 and ’89.

In the infancy of the club, a Brewmaster at Dixie Brewery, Guy Hagner, was a club member.  Guy was a major contributor of beer.  He and Andy Thomas, 1986 CCH President, creators of Andygator, produced by Abita Brewing Company, were the only members ever given lifetime memberships.

In 1988, Andy and Guy entered a beer in a CCH competition sponsored by Dixie Brewing.  Andy was Guy’s helper there.  Andy had called the beer Alligator.  Friends convinced him to put his own name on it and call it Andygator.  Because professional brewers were not allowed to enter the competition, the collaborative beer was entered under Andy’s name.  It won Best of Show.  “Then,” Andy himself confided, “because of a kind offer from the owners of Abita Brewing, the recipe went to Abita Springs.  We brewed her up again.  It was supposed to be a one-time brew up… The rest is history.”  When Andy’s employer transferred him to Houston, the club awarded him his honorary lifetime membership.

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Brew Offs

“. . . a suggestion was made at a club meeting that the club purchase some equipment and invite new members to participate in a great learning process . . . ,” recalled Monk. Club members built and bought equipment large enough to brew fifty gallons at a time.  They called the events Brew Offs.  Club brews are still called that today.  The equipment has been upgraded several times, but the result is still the same.  Ten brewers go home with five gallons of wort to ferment and finish.  CCH may be the only club in the country to brew in large cooperative batches.  As far as I know, no other club in Louisiana does, nor in the other Gulf states.

We have had Brew Offs at several breweries around town as well.  Forty Arpent, Urban South, the now defunct Wayward Owl, Zony Mash, and NOLA have hosted our events.  CCH has also partnered with local breweries to do even larger Brew Offs with Mystic Krewe of Brew (MKOB), the North Shore club.  Zea Rotisserie and Brewery, Big Easy Beer, and Heiner Brau (now Covington Brew House) have all hosted joint brew-offs.  The club still uses Brew-Offs to introduce new brewers to all-grain brewing.  Brew Offs are also social events.  All members are invited to participate in breakfast and lunch, and on occasion to swim at the Brew in a Bathing Suit events.

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Gatherings

Early on, the men would gather to make sausage.  Steve Clark, loyal member since ‘83, organized the Sausage Fest every year.  One participant always provided “training films” – a club euphemism for porn.  Of course, the all-male event was very successful.  In 2002 or 2003, one of the club wives decided she wanted to go make sausage too.  She had no idea what the entertainment was, and was not about to be deterred.  Thus, endeth the training films.  The Sausage Fest has gone on to be an annual co-ed spring event with sixty or so participants.  A brew off is held at the same time.  Great fun!

Our members were always eager to meet with other brewers for educational and social matters.  The Gulf Coast Competition Circuit grew out of such a gathering – the annual La-Tex Bayou Rendezvous (’91 – ‘00) held in Jennings, Louisiana, the half-way point between Houston and New Orleans.  It was strictly a social event for guys who kept bumping into each other at beer competitions.  Members of Houston’s Foam Rangers and CCH met in Jennings for several years, with their spouses and significant others.  The participants decided to make an annual event out of it.  The New Orleans crew started the day with Irish Coffee in the bus yard, followed by beer, of course, and sandwiches on the bus.  One of our members was the son of the owner of Kahotek, the bus company.  Eventually, La-Tex drew brewers and brew clubs from coast to coast: Boston Wort Processors from Massachusetts to Lee Smith, from Albany, Oregon, to a dozen or so clubs from the Gulf Coast.  New Orleanians were involved, so there was a crawfish boil, catered by C’est Bonne (best ever).  There were also vast quantities of beer.  One year, ten or so kegs were on a little trailer pulled behind the bus from New Orleans.  Similar arrangements were made for the beer from Houston.  The tires on the New Orleans trailer were small and old and dry-rotted.  The weight of the beer was too much.  Both tires popped on I-10.  The trailer was abandoned.  Room had to be made for the beer inside the bus.  It was a tight squeeze, making all of the riders uncomfortable.  But the brew could not be left behind.

The competitions at La-Tex did not involve judging beer.  They involved drinking beer – in sufficient quantities to make the individual attempts and shows of prowess, hilarious.  At least they were hilarious to spectators who had also imbibed similar amounts of beer.  The games (competitions of clumsiness) included grinding grain with a hand mill, tossing kegs, three-person ski racing (on one set of 2” x 4” x 8’ long “skis”), timed chugging, bottle filling, drunken izzy-dizzy bat racing, and whatever other crazy games were suggested.  Grown men and women competed to make complete fools of themselves.  Always, a good time was had by all.  But they were probably not the greatest ambassadors of responsible drinking.

Perhaps the best gathering is the Emerald Coast Beer Festival. It is an annual weekend event to benefit the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northwest Florida that just grows and grows.  CCH has been an eager participant from its early days.  On a Friday night in September, at Seville Quarter in downtown Pensacola, there is a beer tasting of commercial brews and lots of entries from homebrew clubs.  The Escambia Bay Brew Club counted on us to participate with our homebrew every year.  The event started in the street in front of the building.  As new craft breweries cropped up, they were eager to show off their products to an educated audience.  More and more homebrew clubs wanted to participate as well.  The event has grown beyond the street to take up the parking lots that surround the place.

In 2005, Seville Quarter started having sophisticated, and a bit pricey, Beer Pairing Dinners on Thursday night before the Festival, with one craft brewery providing the beers.  The first Beer dinner feature Brooklyn Brewery.  The second was Bells.  The chefs at Seville Quarter produced superb meals with courses to enhance every beer.  It was not unusual for Louisiana to take up half of the tables.  We do know good food when we taste it.  This was well worth the extra day in Pensacola.

Saturday, the left-over beer was moved to the back of the Days Inn on the gulf for the beach party.  There was a gumbo breakfast with spicy Bloody Marys for those who did not need to sleep in.  The beer was put out for self-service.  Oddly enough, the same games as at La-Tex were played after lunch.  Saturday was a lovely relaxing day in the sun and salt air.  I cannot recall a rainy day for the event.  However, in 2004 Governor Jeb Bush announced on TV and radio on Sunday morning, September 12 that all non-residents in the panhandle and northern part of the state had to leave by noon.  Hurricane Ivan was threatening.  Governor Bush wanted to clear the way for evacuees from further south in the Florida peninsula.  I had never been thrown out of a state before!  Damage from that storm was still visible the following year.

Our own Crescent City Competition and Crawfish Boil brought in many visitors from Florida and Texas every year.  We always tried to have the Best of Show judging done before the crawfish started to boil!  It is difficult to judge with Zatarain’s spices up your nose.

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Competitions

Club members held internal competitions right from the start, but were thirsting for more feedback than their friends would give.  So, they went public.  In 1991, CCH hosted its first invitational competition, the Crescent City Coast to Coast Competition (CCCCC).  Doug Lindley, 1993 President, and Wayne Rodrigue, 1994 President, were the first coordinators.  Invitations were sent nationwide.  It grew to be an impressive event.  New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial applauded the effort.  “The Crescent City Competition for ’95 has so many events, the visitors might want to come a day early and stay a day after so they can really see New Orleans.” (January 1995 Crescent City Competition Brochure).  This competition settled down simply as the Crescent City Competition, part of the now defunct Gulf Coast Circuit of Homebrew Competitions.  Clubs from four cities in the gulf region hosted competitions that were amalgamated to name the Gulf Coast Home Brew Club of the Year, and the Gulf Coast Home Brewer of the Year.  The four competitions were: Crescent City Competition in New Orleans, hosted by CCH; Bluebonnet Brew-Off in Dallas, hosted by several clubs including the North Texas Home Brewers Association and Red River Brewers; Dixie Cup Homebrewing Competition in Houston, hosted by the Foam Rangers; and the Sunshine Challenge in Orlando, hosted by the Central Florida Home Brewers.  

The traveling trophy, the C-Cup was designed and “lovingly fashioned with his own hands” from a brassiere that size, (perhaps his wife’s) by Louie Marino, CCH President ’95, a playful and talented member.  The rivalries to take the prize were intense.  Bert ‘n Ernie (Albert Bourg and Ernie Spreen) of CCH were always a challenge to the Sampsons (Nancy and Weston), of Central Florida Home Brewers.  Unfortunately, the large competition became far too expensive for CCH to run alone.  The club lost money every year.  No other Louisiana club would join in. “We aren’t interested in losing money.” Said Jack Schugg, President, MKOB 2003 and 2004.  CCH abandoned the Crescent City Competition after the 2004 event.  That was also the death knell for the Gulf Coast Circuit of Home Brew Competitions.

We tried valiantly to make the 2004 competition a success.  We offered our members, many of whom are not well heeled, a sliding scale for entry fees.  The first entry was included in our dues.  Most brew clubs pay for shipping entries to the competitions.  Our club could not afford that.  Our members could not afford that either.  We wanted to encourage our members to compete at home rather than not compete at all.  We did not keep this arrangement a secret.  Information about it was published in our March Hopline.

Jimmy Paige, Foam Rangers. April 1, 2004: “… I know you want to encourage participation with your club members, and offer an incentive to stir up entries, but how does it look to the rest of us non-members in “rigging” the entry process for your club? … We all want to ensure the viability and reputation the Gulf Coast Homebrew Circuit has come to enjoy over the many years.  But I feel, as do many others, you are making too much of a ‘home field advantage’ for CCC 2004.”

Mr. Paige used other unfortunate phrases in his e-mail: Stacking the deck.  Level playing field.  Biased and unethical. (He sent a terse apology after the May Hopline came out.)

President Richard Rice responded in the April Hopline:

Scandal on the River – No event in New Orleans is without its scandal.

After announcing our sliding scale of entry fees [for the Crescent City Competition] for our members, we received a few e-mails from members of other clubs complaining about the “unlevel playing field” that the fee schedule caused.  After the awards were over, (and we had taken back the C-Cup) one of the attendees came forward to discuss that issue, and our brew-offs at commercial sites.  As a club, we did not enter into either of those things lightly.  We must respond.  There are three different issues.

I. Commercial settings for brew offs.

“The competition is open to all home-produced beers.  Beers that are produced on the premises of commercial breweries are not eligible.”  The intent of the rule quoted above is to keep people from entering commercial beers in the competitions.  Please be assured that none of the entries that might have begun at the Big Easy Brew Off qualify as commercial beers.  During the discussion after the awards ceremony, we were accused of having someone else make beer for us. [Bev did not apologize for that – see below.]

At the Big Easy Brew Off,Members of Crescent City Homebrewers, Mystic Krewe of Brew, and Red Stick Brewers did the work of producing WORT, under the supervision of an employee whose main goal was to protect his equipment from the inexperienced.  Our Brewmaster for the day was a dues paying [CCH] club member who designed the recipe and ordered the supplies.  Club members operated the auger and grist mill, maintained appropriate temperature settings during the mash, monitored the boil, made the hop additions, raked and shoveled the spent grain out of the lauter tun and carried it to the dumpster, pumped the wort through the chiller into our vessels, did the preliminary cleaning of the equipment, and returned the brewery to pre-brew off condition before we left for the day.  Our Brewmaster designed the recipe to be a ready base for alterations to many styles of beer.  Additions of specialty teas, salts, fruits, and extracts; use of different yeasts and fermentation schedules; dry hopping; and lagering were some of the methods used to make each five-gallon share of wort unique.  None of these actions occurred within the brewery.  In fact, foreign yeast was not allowed inside. We left with 78 shares of WORT – a liquid made with water, malt and hops – not a fermented product – not a commercial beer.

Please explain how having such a brew off with a pot that happens to hold thirty barrels is somehow a less valid method of making wort than buying Alexander’s Amber Malt Extract off the shelf.  In that case EVERYTHING IS DONE FOR YOU by a very anonymous commercial entity, save opening the can and adding water.

II. Level Playing Field

A bit of history… Our board voted down 2004 CCC.  Only because a few vociferous members promised to help out for a change, did it occur at all.  In January, the club committed, by a voice vote, to enter 125 beers.  In January or February, the board had a serious discussion regarding the punitive effect of the entry fee on those few avid brewers who entered more than one or two beers.  So, to keep a level playing field for our members, we published the sliding scale of fees.  This culminated in a maximum entry fee of $60 no matter how many beers were entered.  Remember, this is a hobby.  Once again, those who complained made assumptions.  NO, we do not pay shipping for our members to enter away competitions.  We understand that some clubs can afford to and do so.  That certainly makes it an uphill battle for our club and our members to even try for Gulf Coast Club of the Year or Homebrewer of the Year, doesn’t it?  What we can and did do was make it possible for our club members to earn points at home where no shipping costs are involved.

Sunshine has a two-tiered fee schedule.  It is cheaper to register on-line.  We have entrants who pay in cash because they do not have sufficient funds to bother with a checking account.  Do you really think that these folks will have convenient access to the Internet and a credit card to use on it?  What is level about that arrangement?

AHA also has a two-tiered fee schedule. $8 for members and $12 for non-members.  Well, along those lines, if you want to partake of our sliding scale, send over your dues with your registration.

There are clubs who have mini-contests prior to competitions and the winners of the pre-contests have their entries paid for in the competitions.  If you want a level playing field, have the same non-punitive fee schedule Gulf Coast wide. And have your members pay for their own shipping.

III. [dealt with the lack of a governing body for the Gulf Coast Circuit.]

We make no apologies for encouraging brewing and competing by new methods.  We are proud to have returned the C-Cup to CCH fair and square.”

Bev Blackwood, Foam Rangers’ Competition Coordinator, did apologize in the Foam Rangers’ Brewsletter Urquell, May 2004.

“So long New Orleans. Good bye Orlando… While these grim statements haven’t come anywhere near true just yet, I can’t help but wonder if the handwriting isn’t on the wall for the Gulf Coast Circuit.  In some ways we have been the victims of our own success.  Dixie Cup was always big, but it wasn’t over 1000 beers.  Bluebonnet was always big, but has approached that 1K milestone only rarely.  New Orleans was barely 250 beers last year and around 400 this year.  They resorted to incentive programs to get their own members to enter and were still disappointed in the results.  Orlando had always done well and is a great party in a great location, but the same people end up running the show year after year… It wears them down!  Are they on their last legs?  Crescent City is.  We have likely seen the last of the C-Cup.  The Sunshine Challenge is faced with a huge gap in their support with Ed and Rocky Measom bowing out of their leadership roles for that event.

Burnout happens.

It happens when brewers get tired of making beer, or when the same people are called upon to make things happen again and again.  Thankfully, we have not reached that point yet, but the day may come when it is true for us as well.  It’s when the next batch of beer is a chore to keg rather than a pleasure to anticipate or when the next meeting is a deadline rather than a fun evening with your friends.  It’s when there are two volunteer spots left on your sign-up sheet and nobody to fill them, which means extra hours for you.  Worst of all, it’s when you’ve done your best to make an event work and someone complains that it wasn’t good enough or that you did it wrong, or that it was better last year.

I am guilty of that last one and in retrospect, I did a disservice to us all.  We had some concerns about Crescent City’s incentive programs which, in our eagerness to win back the C-Cup we let overpower our common sense.  We lost the battle for the C-Cup, and then in criticizing the way victory was won, we took a chainsaw to the very support that made the event happen.  For that, I am personally very sorry.  I’ve been there.  I’ve done the hard jobs and put in the long hours.  When someone comes back to you with a complaint about the event, it’s a slap in the face.  They may not realize what went into it, but when something is put on with volunteer labor for the enjoyment of others, then only gross misrepresentation or negligence should merit attacking those who gave their time and energy to make it happen.  Whether right or wrong, the New Orleans club was simply trying to save the Crescent City Competition.”

Bev did not send the apology to us.  His ‘letter’ was just published in Brewsletter Urquell.  He was right.  That competition was our last.

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The Runaway

In 1990, the CCH started what was called The Longest Beer Run.  Guy Hagner authored the event.  It was going to be an annual affair.  One hundred raffle tickets were sold for $20 each.  The prize was a trip to Germany.  The obligation of the winner was to return with excellent beer for the club to enjoy.  In those days, $2000 was enough money to cover all the trip expenses and the beer.  The first winner was Charter Member A. E. Breide.  He brought back the beer and all was well.  In 1991, an unremarkable attorney, whose name has been lost to the ages, won the prize.  Treasurer Ray Tell gave him the $2000 kitty.  Of course, he took the money, but he did not bring any of the beer to the club.  The cheapskate weaseled out by saying that the agreement, a verbal contract, did not stipulate when or how the beer was to be obtained.  No wonder attorneys have such a shady reputation.  If we find someone who recalls his name, we need to remind the thief that he still owes the club a few cases of excellent German beer.  Because of his larceny, the raffle was not done again – until 2007.  Sonny Day, owner of Days Brewing, won the raffle and returned from Germany with several suitcases full of fine German beer.  Only three bottles broke on the way home.  Sonny dutifully turned the beer over to the club.

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Hurricane Katrina – 2005

Hurricane Katrina had serious effects on CCH.  The cadre of Tulane University students in the club was washed away by the storm to graduate elsewhere.  No Tulanians have joined since.  Too bad, they were a fun lot.  Many of our members did not return.  They were too busy rebuilding their homes and their lives.  Our meeting place, Deutsches Haus, was inundated (4’ of water over the raised first floor) and closed for more than a year.  Our members stepped up and helped in the recovery and rebuilding process there.

CCH became a band of vagabonds, bouncing from place to place for meetings with mixed results.  We even returned to one of our prior meeting places – by then it was the Bulldog.  We were not allowed to bring our homebrew into any of the bars.  Louisiana law was a bit murky on the issue.  The bar owners did not care to risk their retail licenses for us.  Quite understandable.  At our lowest point, the management of Gordon Biersch told us not to return when an unknown drunk, probably a tourist who stumbled into our open meeting, licked a waitress.  Eeeew!  We had never had such an occurrence before, and have not had any like that since.  President Byron Towles was left with one less venue for our moving target meetings.

When Deutsches Haus reopened, CCH was very happy to return home.  After a few rocky post-Katrina years, membership is back up to and over 100.  Before Katrina, I described the club as “a social club with closet brewers.”  Now, the club is full of serious, excellent brewers who make stunning beers and do not mind sharing and socializing with them one bit.  Our new members are as enthusiastic and energetic as the original intrepid eight.  They are not afraid to experiment.  They think outside the box when building recipes.  The days of being in lockstep with BJCP are long gone.  The results are gorgeous, rich, sumptuous, unique and challenging brews.

Al Bourg, long time treasurer and ’07 President, organized work parties for maintenance, deep cleaning, and repairs to Deutsches Haus over the years. CCH members were always willing participants.  Al always made them fun – always parties.  The work always got done.  Our members particularly enjoyed pressure washing the kitchen and the kitchen equipment.  My job every year was cleaning the deep fryer.  Uck!  We dismantled the huge gas stove, moved it outside, degreased it, pressure washed it, and painted it before moving all the parts back inside for reassembly.  Al was clever.  This work party always occurred before the spring Health Department inspection!  After the Haus reopened, Al orchestrated a fund-raising event to benefit both the Haus and CCH.  He put on a large steak dinner for a ridiculously low price, I think at the Haus.  During the dinner raffle tickets were sold at a minimum price for a large prize.  The proceeds of the raffle were split between the Haus and the club.  That is how our treasury graduated from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand.  Perhaps we should try that again!

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The Move to Moss Lane

Not long after Katrina, when most things had returned to normal, a threat to our meeting place was visited upon us.  The medical complex that was materializing around us on Galvez Street finally won the battle.  The city traded property on Moss Lane for the old Deutsches Haus on Galvez.  The last Oktoberfest on that site was the largest in the history of the Haus.  Galvez Street was closed to traffic.  The party was allowed to spill into the street.  The Haus found a property to lease in Metairie – the American Legion Hall on Ridgeway.  CCH members pitched in and helped with the extensive renovation.  Deutsches Halben Vega (Halfway) Haus was born.  Our meetings moved there with the same sweat equity rental agreement.  We still met our obligation to spend at least $50 at the bar before each meeting.  We met there while the new Haus was being built on Moss Lane.  After the construction was done, many CCH members pitched in with landscaping and construction clean-up.  Since Al Bourg’s passing, there have been no work parties for CCH members to participate in.  We are still willing.  Our meetings still take place at Deutsches Haus.  Our storage container sits on a rental site there.  The rent-free arrangement is gone.

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Beer Classes

Educating brewers in all-grain brewing is part of our Mission Statement.  CCH has a continuous history of teaching members about all aspects of beer.  This began as a series of short articles in the Hopline that started shortly after the club was formed.  The articles about beer morphed over time into year-long beer appreciation courses that cover beer making procedures from shopping to finishing; storing and serving; the sciences involved; history; styles (usually following the Beer Judge Certification Program – BJCP – Style Guidelines); tasting and evaluating; and preparing for judging.  Warren Chigoy, 2000 CCH President and first formal instructor, taught the course for years.  He has been followed by one of his students, me, 2003 – 2005 Secretary/Treasurer and 2007 – 2017 Instructor.  We were both certified by BJCP.

One of my graduates, Sal Mortillaro is truly a success story.  He was a very new brewer when he joined my class in 2011.  He brought in one of his first brews (a kit beer from Brewstock) for the class to evaluate.  He knew something was wrong, but did not know what, or more importantly, why.  He allowed all twenty or so in the class members to sample it.  The class was so lucky!  His vanilla cream stout was, in a word, HORRIBLE!  Sal is slight in build and no more than 5’ 5” high.  As a former Marine, he knows how to stand tall.  After sipping his brew, I put on the best face I could manage and said, “Sal, this is the best [Sal stood a bit straighter.], no, the most perfect [straighter yet, with his chest a bit puffed up], example of this condition.” [Sal was as tall as he could make himself, and very proud.]  “Sal, the class, and I, are so lucky to have this excellent example to taste. [The grin was terrific.]  “Class, this is an outstanding example [Sal was beaming.] of wet cardboard oxidation. [Sal slumped and deflated.]  The only way to teach this is to have you chew on a wet brown paper towel.  Sal, thank you.  And the cause, by the way, is fermentation at too high of a temperature.  This should be easily avoidable.”  Sal was hooked.  He pursued every level of certification that BJCP offered.  Every level.  Eight years later he received their highest certification – Grand Master.  Sal is the first person to reach level of Master in Louisiana, and is one of the only 74 Grand Masters in the world.  That is surely an accomplishment to be proud of.  CCH is certainly proud of him.

No one stepped up to take over as instructor when I retired.  Several members do host sporadic tastings and give occasional lectures.

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The Fire – 2014

For years the club stored the brew off equipment at the CooperDome.  Dave Cooper, ’99 President, bought a few acres or land on the Orleans/Jefferson line that had been a nursery.  On the land, in addition to the house, was a large barn-like and structure that became Dave’s brewhouse, a small shed that was no longer needed for nursery equipment and CCH was allowed to store all of our Brew Off equipment in that little shed.  When Dave and Denise decided to move to Utah, we had to find another place for our gear.  We rented a 5 x 15 locker at one of the now ubiquitous big storage complexes. 

In February a hot breaking story all over the evening news was a about a huge fire by the Huey P. Long Bridge.  A large storage facility was ablaze.  The cause was not yet known.  Thick smoke covered the area.  The bridge was closed because of it.  The middle of a long series of storage spaces was engulfed.  Our locker was among them.  The cause of the fire was never determined.  The forklift used by the management to clear out the damaged goods from the lockers did as much damage as did the fire, if not more.  The few pieces of equipment that we could salvage were in need of substantial repair.  Thanks to Neil Barnett – maritime worker at sea for six months out of the year, and loyal member since ’90 – for making those repairs.  We had no renter’s insurance.  That changed with the next rental contract at the same complex.

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Alcohol and Tobacco Control and 501(c)(3) – 2014

Katrina passed.  We survived that.  We survived losing most of our equipment in the fire.  There was yet another storm on the horizon.  This one was brought on by the state legislature, specifically by former Commissioner of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, Murphy Painter.  He is a charismatic gentleman, of sorts.  He was a lay preacher from north Louisiana before he became a politician.  He held his post as ATC Commissioner for decades.  For most of those years he had turned a blind eye toward the use of donated alcohol in fundraising.  In difficult times, in an effort to increase tax revenues credited to his department, he decided to enforce or modify regulations that he had ignored in the past.  This turned the world of local charities upside down.  Homebrew clubs had not been on his radar.  We were collateral damage.  In his zeal to protect the generous and thirsty public from the demon rum at public events, he wiped out the ability of many organizations, including homebrew clubs, to garner donations from breweries and purveyors without becoming 501(c)(3) certified organizations –registered, sanctioned charities.

How, you ask, did the preacher accomplish such a holy result?  Two steps.

1. Under federal law, 501(c)(3)s can only donate to other 501(c)(3)s.  The distributors and purveyors are 501(c)(3)s.  It is good for business.  Large charitable organizations are all 501(c)(3)s.  It is good for fundraising.

2. The newly revised state regulations required charitable organizations to purchase the liquor from the donor, then receive their donation in the form of a refund.  Donations were prohibited.  Reimbursements were not.  In order to enforce this, ATC inspectors required proof of purchase of the “donated” alcohol at any event in the form of a valid invoice/receipt marked PAID.  That was proof that sales taxes had been paid to the state.  Once that was accomplished, ATC stepped away.  What could have been pure an accounting endeavor, became instead a trip down the primrose path.  CCH could not afford to prepay.  Some distributors reneged on the deals, leaving charities with no funds from their fundraisers and a large hole in their fisc.  Fortunately, that did not happen to us.  It was an ugly time.  The debate within CCH over becoming a 501(c)(3) went on and on.

What goes around comes around.  Commissioner Painter engineered his own ignominious demise.  This was a real and newsworthy scandal.  The lay preacher was accused of sexual harassment by his secretary.  He hired a female attorney – and was accused of sexual harassment by her as well.  He resigned from his position with the state.  I do not know what happened after that.  I do not know the rest of the story.

Mr. Painter’s replacement was Mr. Troy Hebert.  On the surface, he was quite friendly to the affected organizations.  He acknowledged that the enforcement of the rules had changed, but not without reason or notice.  He invited several organizations to a meeting at WYES to discuss the new approach from ATC.  He even called me at home one weekend to alert me that a regulation issue would be ruled on the following week so I could go to the hearing.  Alas, Mr. Hebert’s feeling about the rules and regulations was that he had been appointed to enforce what was on the books, not to change it.  He felt that changes should come through the legislature.  Mr. Painter, author of the rules and regulations, was a bit more flexible in his tenure.  He enforced the regulations in a random manner.  He used some to hurt.  He used some to help.  He ignored (or was not cognizant of) homebrew clubs – until some folks complained that we were getting special (non)treatment, that we were not being inspected.  The phrase “level playing field” came into our conversation for the second time.  The newly enforced regulation that destroyed beer events required donors to pay servers at the fundraising events.  Evidently, the use of volunteer servers gave some donors an advantage.  Huh?  Thus, instead of knowledgeable people like us, or knowledgeable employees, volunteering to serve and discuss the beers with guests, donors had to use paid servers who were usually oblivious to the intricacies of beer and brewing.  What style is this?  “Uh, I donno.”  What was the starting gravity?  “Uh, I donno.”  That requirement made donating costs prohibitive.  That requirement made the events far less informative.

I wrote to Mr. Hebert after the WYES meeting:

March 11, 2014

Dear Mr. Hebert,

Please review this and respond to the questions and concerns herein.  I hope to work on altering the statue during this legislative session and look forward to your input. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Carol L. Rice Crescent City Homebrewers

Issues regarding recent ATC activities involving homebrew events and commercial beer donations

Let me begin by saying that the regulations regarding LA R.S. 26:793(5) do not support the intent of the statute as regulations are supposed to do.  To be blunt, it seems that current regulations are thwarting legislative intent.

I. ‘. . . at no fee.’ Introductory paragraph of LA R.S. 26:793(5)

A.  Despite this requirement of the statute, the regulations promulgated by your office impose a fee, de facto, by requiring notarization of the Special Event Application.  It matters not that the money goes to a private entity.  The expense must be borne by the applicant or the homebrew club.

B. Because no money from club-to-state is involved in regularly scheduled meetings, notarization seems unnecessary and burdensome.

Solution: Please remove the requirement for notarization from the Homebrew Special Event Application.  I believe this can be accomplished without any legislative activity.

II. Regularly scheduled (monthly) meetings should not be classified as Special Events.

A. Because no money from ‘general admission or other type of fee’ is involved in regularly scheduled homebrew club meetings, they should not be classified as special events at all. Special Event Guide, General Information, definition of a special event.

This is discriminatory treatment of homebrew clubs.  Other types of clubs that serve and sell all manner alcohol at their meetings do not have to go through this process at all.  The only differences are that homebrewers make their alcohol, not purchase it; then give it away, not sell it.  We have been functioning this way under the federal statute since 1978. (see Special Event Guide, General Information, bullet point 4)

B. By definition, monthly meetings will take place 12 times per year.  The limitation of 12 Special Event Permits per retailer per year precludes events by the retail establishment and monthly homebrew club meetings.

1. This discourages retailers from allowing homebrew club meetings at their establishments, which defeats the purpose of the statute.

2. Homebrew clubs have been meeting in retail establishments for a quarter of a century without incident. (Crescent City Homebrewers have been meeting at Deutsches Haus since 1988, and Al’s Wine Shop before that.)

Solution: I believe this, too, can be accomplished without any legislative activity.  Segregate regularly scheduled (monthly) homebrew club meetings from the “regular” Special Event Permitting process.  Add an exclusion to the existing application:

> Homebrew: Events where homebrew will be served, exclusive of regularly scheduled meetings

III. Donations of commercial brews to fundraising and social events have been effectively prohibited by requiring event planners to produce a “valid” (definition please) invoice from a distributor or retailer in order to serve alcohol at charity events.

A. This defeats the time-honored practice of soliciting donations in order to benefit the charity.  Manufacturers welcome these opportunities to promote their products and show their support for the community.  I see no reason to deny them this participation.

B. This is Draconian, and damaging to philanthropic activities in the state. It has the potential of being damaging to tourism as well.

C. I cannot find anything in the statute that bans commercial donations to philanthropic activities. Please show me where that prohibition is written.

D. Is this law or regulation enforced across the board?  Has it affected the big money events, or just the small ones?  Has it affected:

Zoo-To-Do Justice For All Ball Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Crescent City Classic Opus Ball Ogden Museum of Southern Art White Linen Night National World War II Museum International Beer Festival at Champion Square . . . on and on?

Solution: I wish I had one.  Our current three-tiered system benefits the wholesalers to the detriment of new businesses and existing out-of-state business who would like to sell their products here.  I would like to see this system dismantled entirely.  I know that is virtually impossible.  The wholesalers are far too powerful for that to ever happen.

[The following comments are my gut level responses to what has been going on.  I know that I am not the only one who is upset.  Rumor has it that the distributors are behind the recent spate of ATC activity.  Are they so bereft of profits that they have to destroy fund raising activities in order to get their mark-up?  Is ATC so anti-alcohol that they are willing to hurt all these worthy organizations and more?  If so, there is outrage.]”

Troy Hebert did not respond.

[Sometime in April, 2014, from WYES. Published in the May Hopline.]

Dear WYES Beer Events Participants,

WYES Beer Tasting Canceled

As we start New Year, we are thankful for all who contributed to the success of WYES.  We especially appreciate your interest and participation that made the WYES International Beer Tasting and Private Beer Sampling some of the most anticipated events of the year.

It is because of your generous support that for over 30 years, WYES has produced the WYES International Beer Tasting and, for over five years, the WYES Private Beer Sampling.  We have enjoyed working with you and your organization on the largest and oldest annual beer event in the State of Louisiana which also spotlighted the craft beer movement in our state.

As we plan for this New Year, we regret to announce that WYES will discontinue the beer events beginning in 2015.  The increased costs of the events coupled with new ATC regulations make it prohibitive to host a quality event for our community which benefits the station.  [WYES emphasis.]

We thank you again for your generous support, hard work and exemplary loyalty to WYES and look forward to creating other opportunities to work together again.

Sincerely,

Sharon Egan Snowdy Events Manager WYES-TV

Thus, WYES International Beer Tasting was gone.  So were many small fundraisers like our Winterfest.  We still had it anyway – without commercial beer.

CCH became a 501(c)(3) in the fall of 2019, after Winterfest.

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INK

Over the years, our club has been featured in the local newspapers many times.  The Intrepid Eight were featured in the States-Item in 1989.  That article has been mounted and laminated.  It hangs on the wall in the office of the storage facility on Moss Lane.  More recently, Neil Barnet was interviewed at a Brew Off at his home for an article in The Picayune-Advocate in 2019.

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