Friday, October 28, 2011

Track 3: You've Got To Give Me Some

Posted by Benson

Track 3 on Tuba Skinny: Live at Friends is a wonderfully sultry song called You've Got To Give Me Some originally recorded by Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues.

Bessie Smith is an interesting character.  She was far and away one of the most popular blues artists of the 1920s and 30s, drawing huge crowds with her rich, powerful, and clear voice.  She is perhaps best remembered for her song, Downhearted Blues, which kicked off her career with Columbia Records in 1923.  

Before signing with Columbia, Bessie primarily performed on the vaudeville circuit.  She was born somewhere between 1894 and 1898 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  She started as a street musician in Chattanooga, but in 1912 she was discovered by the famous Ma Rainey who asked Bessie to join her travelling show as a dancer and a singer.  Bessie stayed with Ma Rainey's travelling show until 1915 when she joined the vaudeville circuit and eventually built up her own following in the south and along the east coast.

Those were the heydays of the classic blues, the times when the stars of the vaudeville began to record - the reportedly first recording of a black American was Crazy Blues by the fabulous Mamie Smith (not related with Bessie Smith) in 1920. Oddly enough, the talent scouts looking for more female singers like Mamie Smith considered the voice of Bessie Smith as 'too rough' to be recorded.

Bessie Smith recorded about 160 songs for Columbia between 1923 and 1931, some of which were her own compositions.  She wrote Back Water Blues after witnessing a flood destroy homes and property; Poor Man's Blues, which lamented the differences between the haves and have-nots in America in the 1920s; and on Mama's Got the Blues she sang about preferring the virility of black men over "brown-skinned" ones.

Toward the end of the 1920s there was a period in which the blues was slipping in popularity and Bessie's career started to lag.  Frank Waller, who recorded and produced all of her recordings with Columbia, thought that singing bawdy material might help to rejuvenate her career.  Thus, in 1929 she recorded You've Got To Give Me Some, a raucously sultry song filled with thinly-veiled sexual references.  In spite of the provocative nature of the You've Got To Give Me Some, as well as another bawdy track called Kitchen Man, Bessie's sales did not immediately improve.  

Nevertheless, in spite of the lagging popularity of the blues, Bessie's powerful voice and electrifying stage presence kept her a star right up until her tragic death in a 1937 automobile accident.  She has remained legendary blues icon ever since.

Although Erica's astounding voice pays apt tribute to the Empress of the Blues, her version of You've Got To Give me Some is much more reserved than the original.  On the CD, Erica sings:

Loving is the thing I crave
For your love I'll be your slave
You gotta give me some, please give me some
Can't you hear me pleading, you gotta give me some

Hear my cryin' on my bended knees
If you wanna put my soul at ease
You gotta give me some, please give me some
You gotta give me some, please give me some
I can’t wait all day you gotta give me some

To the milkman I heard Mary scream
Said she wanted a lots of cream
You gotta give me some, please give me some
I can’t wait all day you gotta give me some

Sweet as candy in a candy shop
Is just your sweet sweet lollypop
You gotta give me some, please give me some
Cant you hear me beggin, you gotta give me some

As provocative as that may be, consider it against Bessie's original lyrics, and keep in mind that the original was recorded 83 years ago:

Loving is the thing I crave
For your love I'll be your slave
You gotta give me some, yes give me some
Can't you hear me pleading, you gotta give me some

Said mister Jones to old butcher Pete,
I want a piece of your good old meat
You gotta give me some, oh give me some
I crave your round steak, you gotta give me some

Sweet as candy in a candy shop
Is just your sweet sweet lollipop
You gotta give me some, please give me some
I love all day suckers, you gotta give me some

To the milkman I heard Mary scream
Said she wanted a lots of cream
You gotta give me some, oh give me some
Catch it when you come sir, you gotta give me some

Hear my cryin' on my bended knees
If you wanna put my soul at ease
You gotta give me some, please give me some
Can't stand it any longer, you gotta give me some

Seeper called to Pele-Mele, sugar lump
Said I'm going crazy about your hump
You've got to give me some, please give me some
I can't wait eight days, you gotta give me some

Jay bird said to the peckerwood,
I like to peck like a pecker should
But give me some, yes give me some
I'm crazy about them worms, you've gotta give me some

Next week we'll defy convention and skip down to Track 9 on the CD, Yellow Dog Blues, another Bessie Smith classic.  It seems fitting to take Erica's tack and remember the Empress of the Blues for her less exploitative work.   

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's a Jockamo Anyway?

Posted by Doug

I'm a fan of Abita Jockamo IPA.  While it isn't my all time favorite beer, it is an excellent and characterful IPA with a spicy aroma, rich hops, and pleasantly sweet malts.  I've recommended this beer several times to folks who aren't native New Orleanians, and it invariably provokes the following question: "What's a Jockamo anyway?"

It's a natural question, especially since the label seems to be decorated with a man in some sort of garish chicken costume.  As the label indicates, Jockamo refers to the so-called 'Mardi Gras Indians' that have been a staple of New Orleans culture for more than 250 years.  To those who don't live in New Orleans, the Mardi Gras is an indelible marker of the city; wildly unique, bizarrely inscrutable, and possessed of a taboo-fueled chic.  For many, this pall of mysterious otherworldliness is a big part of what gives Mardi Gras its charm.  But as you dig deeper into the history of the Mardi Gras, and New Orleans culture, I think you'll find that, far from shattering an illusion, knowing the story behind such befuddling traditions like the Mardi Gras Indians will make them all the more alluring.

With that in mind, I'll do my best to answer that pressing question: "What's a Jockamo anyway?"

Jockamo is a word that is hard to trace linguistically.  In New Orleans culture, it is associated with the Mardi Gras Indians.  The Indians are African-American social groups that parade at Mardi Gras and other times, especially St. Joseph’s Day.  Mardi Gras Indians have been parading in New Orleans at least since the mid-19th century. The tradition was said to have originated from an affinity between Africans and Indians as minorities within the dominant culture, and blacks' circumventing some of the worst racial segregation laws by representing themselves as Indians.  There is also the story that the tradition began as an African American tribute to American Indians who helped runaway slaves. These slaves married into the tribes on occasion.  An appearance in town of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in the 1880s was said to have drawn considerable attention and increased the interest in masking as Indians for Mardi Gras.  When Caribbean communities started to spring up in New Orleans, their culture was incorporated into the suits, dances and music made by the "Indians".

In the late 19th century and early years of the 20th century, the tribes had a reputation for brawling with one another.  This part of Mardi Gras Indian history is immortalized in James Sugar Boy Crawford's song, "Jock O Mo" (better known and often covered as "Iko Iko"), based on their taunting chants.  The story tells of a "spy boy" or "spy dog" (i.e. a lookout for one band of Indians) encountering the "flag boy" or guidon carrier for another band.  He threatens to set the flag on fire.  The song has been covered by dozens of musicians, but the most popular versions around New Orleans is by Dr. John.  The line in the song is “Iko! Iko! Jockamo fe na ne.”  In the Dr. John version, this call is followed by the line, “My spy boy told your spy boy, Gonna set your flag on fire.”

As the 20th century progressed, physical confrontation gave way to assertions of status by having better suits, songs, and dances.  Generations ago when Mardi Gras Indians came through neighborhoods, people used to run away; now people run toward them for the colorful spectacle.  If you have spent any time watching the HBO series, Treme’, you have probably noted that there is still some tension between the Indians and the NOPD – presumably because of the history of altercation and likely also the history of race relations in the City.  The Indians work all year on their suits, painstakingly hand piecing and beading the entire outfit.  The suits are usually worn only once and a particularly well made and attractive suit is called “pretty.” 

Louisiana Creole lingua specialists believe now that the words originated as: Ena! Ena! Akout, Akout an deye Chaque amoor fi nou wa na né Chaque amoor fi na né.  In English, this equates to: Hey now!  Hey now! Listen, listen at the back.  All the love made our king be born.  All the love made it happen.  The “back” would be a reference to the second line. 

In a 2009 Offbeat Magazine article, however, the Ghanaian social linguist Dr. Evershed Amuzu said the chorus was "definitely West African," reflecting West African tonal patterns. The article also notes that the phrase ayeko—often doubled as ayeko, ayeko—is a popular chant meaning 'well done, or congratulations' among the Akan and Ewe people in modern-day Togo, Ghana, and Benin.  Both groups were heavily traded during the slave trade, often to Haiti, which served as a way station for Louisiana. 

At the end of the day, the precise history of New Orleans traditions can often be as elusive to New Orleanians as to those visiting the city.  Even so, what is certain is that traditions such as the Mardi Gras Indians have grown out of a rich tapestry of cross-cultural interaction and exchange.  They owe their origins to the natural cultural diversity of this bustling port city, and they are weighted with the evolution of our common experience; not as New Orleanians, but as Americans.  The location and relative antiquity of New Orleans can often make the city seem strange and unique, even foreign, but New Orleans is a microcosm of the cross-cultural contact and shared experiences upon which we have built, and are continuing to build, our society.  Many of the City's conspicuous events or traditions, then, can serve as entry points into understanding the ways in which we have constructed our lives, and what that means for our future.

That summation is a little on the heavy side, but I think it is a provocative idea and one that we've been thinking about in terms of the upcoming ASTC conference in New Orleans.  Keep an eye on the blog for further and more developed ruminations on this concept.  And don't forget, Chaque amoor fi na né!

A Strange Night at the Opry

Posted by Doug

As Benson indicated in his blog post on Friday, the Abita Springs Opry put on its second show of the Fall season last night.  It was a strange one.  There were many empty seats for no apparent reason.  As for the DGA group, it ended up being just Benson and me.  Lots of us are on the road.  However, we primed ourselves in the traditional manner with dinner at the Abita Brew Pub.  Benson had a Restoration Ale – his favorite and a mighty fine brew at that.  I had a Jackamo IPA – or three. 

Being appropriately primed for the evening, we enjoyed the house band, The Pot Luck String Band.  Van Glynn leads this band on fiddle and occasionally mandolin.  He is a talented musician, but also something of a music historian.  Joining the band last night was a special guest from Nova Scotia and the theme of the set was Acadiana Roots Music.  As most everyone knows, the Cajun of Louisiana were evicted from Nova Scotia following the French and Indians war in the late 18th century.  There was a distinctive Irish note to the music and it was quite enjoyable.  More on that later. 

Well, the next two sets had us wondering whether the house band was going to be the star of the show.  What followed were two country and western cover bands, the latter of which came off as a corny, urban cowboy, bar band, replete with jokes and props.  The only thing missing was the cowboy hats.  When the lead broke out with a cover of Willie Nelson’s, On The Road Again, it was sad and depressing.  And, not in a good way.  But, the ultimate sin was the female vocalist, who was not bad otherwise, covering Patsy Cline’s famous, I Fall to Pieces.  I’m sorry, but that’s like trying to cover Freddie Mercury.  Ain’t gonna happen.  Benson had one comment on both groups – “that was a little weird.” 

Rick seems so innocent here.  His props must be out of the frame.
Alas, the night was saved when a scrub board appeared on the stage.  The final act was Jockey Etienne and the Creole Zydeco Farmers.  They hail from the area north of Lafayette around Opelousas.  That’s Cajun Country for those of you unfamiliar with the state.  It’s in the Atchafalaya basin, but generally high land with nothing but farms.  And, yes, the members of the band are real farmers.   They started the show with the classic, Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot.  But, the R&B and Blues roots of the band quickly came through as Selwyn Cooper on electric guitar picked his way through some very fine rifts. 

Zydeco is a form of uniquely American roots or folk music.  It evolved in southwest Louisiana in the early 19th century from forms of "la la" Creole music. The rural Creoles of southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas still sing in Louisiana Creole French.  Creoles do not consider themselves part of the black culture, but rather a mixture of Haitian, Native American, French, and Spanish known as "Quadronne" or "four-way."

Zydeco combines elements of an even older American musical style, which began in the late 1700s: Cajun music, which comprises French fiddle tunes, Irish Celtic fiddle tunes, German button accordion, Latin rhythms, and Appalachian styles.  Go back up to my earlier discussion of the first band of the night and you will see those Irish influences.  Now, your lesson for the day is that Zyeco and Cajun music are related, but not the same.  The other major influence in Zydeco is another uniquely American music style: blues, and rhythm and blues.  Haitian rhythms were also added, as Haitian natives moved to Louisiana to help harvest the new cash crop - sugarcane.

Zydeco (French, from the phrase: "Les haricots ne sont pas salés", means "the snap beans aren't salty". This phrase has been referred to as meaning "I'm so poor, I can't afford any salt meat for the beans." When spoken in the regional French, it is spoken thus: "leh-zy-dee-co sohn pah salay...")

The first zydeco song was called "Les Zydeco es Pas Salee". Zydeco music pioneer Clifton Chenier, "The King of Zydeco", made Zydeco popular on regional radio stations with his bluesy style and keyboard accordion.

Usually fast tempo and dominated by the button or piano accordion and a form of a washboard known as a "rub-board," "scrub-board," "wash-board," or frottoir, zydeco music was originally created at house dances, where families and friends gathered for socializing.  

The members of the band are, Warren Prejean - Accordion, Wlliam Layssard - Rubboard, Clarence "Jockey" Etienne - Drummer, Charles Goodman - Bass Guitar, and Selwynn Cooper – Guitar.  If you have a taste for good Zydeco, look up these guys.  They got a big standing O from the appreciative audience.

The final show of the Fall 2011 Opry season is November 19th.  The show will feature Wardell Williams, a member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, the Fugitive Poets, a blues band, and the Zion Harmonizers.  Ahh, they save the best for last.  If you are interested in listening to past performances, hit the web site, and click on the link.  If you want to listen live, I have tickets! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Track 2: Careless Love

Posted by Benson

Today we're going to take a look at a bit of the history behind the first song on Tuba Skinny: Live at Friends, Careless Love.

Careless Love is a traditional song of obscure origins, but it was one of the best-known pieces in the repertory of the Buddy Bolden band in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century, and has remained a jazz and blues standard.  

As can be expected with obscure classics like Careless Love, there are numerous versions of the lyrics.  Aside from 'King' Bolden, with whom the song is closely associated, Careless Love has been sung by numerous artists who have performed the song in a wide variety of styles.  Some of the more memorable versions include those by Bessie Smith (who we'll learn more about next week), Marilyn Lee, and Pete Seeger.  It was recorded by Big Joe Turner as well as Fats Domino; and it has been sung by such artists as Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, Janis Joplin, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash.

Let's have a look at the lyrics Erica used in her performance:

Love, oh love, oh careless love,

How you fill my head like wine
You've wrecked the life
Of many a poor girl
And you led me to this life of mine

Love, oh love, oh careless love,
All night long I weep and moan
You brought the wrong man into this life of mine
And until my dying day I’m alone
Love, oh love, oh careless love,
In your clutches of desire
You've filled my heart with those weary old blues
Then you set my very soul on fire

Love, oh love, oh careless love,
Found out where I used to lay
You've made me throw my only friend down
That's why I sing this song of pain

As you can see, even though the exact lyrics tended to vary, the song is most often about abandoned love, heartbreak, and death.  

Here, Erica sings of the capricious nature of love.  The song laments love's ability to inflame passion, which often leads one towards heartbreak.  The singer is left alone, a helpless victim caught in love's destructive path.  We're given a sense that love, as a force of nature, is at once primal, irresistible, and dangerous.  It weaves a path like a hurricane, sweeping up those it passes by and leaving them to wallow in the destruction of it's wake.

More than a couple of the songs on the CD are about love, but not all of them are about heartbreak.  As much as love can bring pain, it can also bring pleasure.  Next week we'll take a look at some of the songs that are most closely associated with Besse Smith, Empress of the Blues, including one of my favorites, You've Got To Give Me Some.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tuba Skinny: Live at Friends is on Its Way!

At long last the live recording of Tuba Skinny that was made at this year’s DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil is on its way!  We’ve put all of them in the mail, so keep an eye out.  If you don’t get one in by the end of next week, let us know and we’ll figure out what went wrong.

The packaging for this CD was hand designed by us and you will also find a special package insert with every CD.  It is VERY IMPORTANT for everyone to read this package insert.  Many of you were not able to attend this year’s crawfish boil and you haven’t been exposed to the full force of a live Tuba Skinny performance.  Make sure to read the instructions carefully and pay special attention to the warnings.  Misuse of the CD could have severe consequences and we don’t want to be held responsible for any injury, property damage, or death.

You’ll also notice that the CD doesn’t come with any lyrics or liner notes.  In order to keep the packaging manageable we weren’t able to include these with the CDs.  However, every Friday over the next several weeks we will be updating our blog with the lyrics and background information for the songs on the CD.  A lot of this is really cool stuff, so check it out.  It’s sometimes hard to make out all of the lyrics when you’re listening to the music, and there’s some really great (and sometimes racy) stuff in there that you don’t want to miss out on.

Without further ado, I’ll kick this whole thing off by telling ya’ll a bit about the band and how we got them involved with the crawfish boil.

Several years ago, while basking in the afterglow of a well run mock trial (drinking in a bar), several good friends (aka clients) from Boston suggested that we host an event celebrating our New Orleans roots.  Thus, the DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil was born. 

As anyone who has ever been to New Orleans well knows, one can’t toss a crawfish head without hitting a talented musician.  As New Orleans is known for good food, it is also known for good music.  The two are quite inseparable, and live performance is particularly important to the culture of the city.  New Orleans Jazz was always designed to be played live, and the style encourages interaction with the audience.  As you’ll see from listening to the CD, the music starts to get more lively and intense as the performance goes on.

We first saw Tuba Skinny perform at the Abita Springs Opry.  We’ve been a proud sponsor and season ticket holder of the Abita Springs Opry for some time now (there’s a show tomorrow night in fact).  The Opry is held at the town hall in Abita Springs and has a mission of preserving and presenting Louisiana "Roots" music. Its music is played primarily acoustically, in its original form.  The majority of the music that’s played there comes out of old-time Country, Bluegrass, and traditional Southern Gospel music, but also includes other forms of traditional Louisiana music such as Cajun, Zydeco, Irish, or other types that reflect the many different groups of people who are part of our diverse culture.  Naturally, Tuba Skinny fits right in at the Opry.

We first heard Tuba Skinny at the Opry in the fall of 2010.  They were introduced as a New Orleans street band and they looked the part - a little rough around the edges, instruments well worn, and homemade CDs for sale. But when the lights went down and the band started to play, the crowd started to pay attention.  Then, Erika, the lead vocalist, started belting out a song and we were all hooked.  There are not many standing ovations at the Opry, but Tuba Skinny got a big one.  We could have listened all night.  Doug decided that night that Tuba Skinny had to play the next DGA crawfish boil.
The members of the band have been playing together since meeting on the streets of New Orleans five years ago, and officially began playing as Tuba Skinny during the spring of 2009.  Like some of the city’s residents, they spend part of their time in New Orleans, and tend to travel abroad during the intense heat of the summer.

But who are these kids?  Although we’ve tried to find out, they don’t talk much about themselves.  Rumor has it that they aren’t all originally from New Orleans.  We think some of them might be from upstate New York, but it doesn’t really matter as their sound is pure New Orleans.

Tuba Skinny features the amazing vocals of Erika Lewis in the style of the late 1920 blues clubs in New Orleans, Chicago and New York.  Many of the songs they perform are, naturally, associated with some of the great female vocalists of the time.  Most of the songs on the CD are classics, played and replayed by many artists over the years as the musical tradition grew and spread around the country.

In the coming weeks we’ll discuss the background of the artists most closely associated with the songs and the lyrics.  We hope you will come away from this with a little better appreciation of our cultural roots as well as a craving for crawfish.  If you weren’t able to attend the boil this year, there’s always next year.  We hope to see you there.

DGA Dining: Great Maple, Newport Beach

Posted by Benson

Along with the rest of the DGA team, I was down in Southern California recently working on a project in the vicinity of Newport Beach.  We’re usually out there a few time per year (you’ve gotta love those Silicon Valley lawsuits), but I’m still learning about the restaurant scene.

After a full ten hour day of mock trial work, all of us were hungry and we wanted a drink (or two…or three).  None of us wanted to think about it much, so we walked over to Fashion Island figuring we could pop into the first place that looked good.  That was the idea…

Steakhouse?  No, not all of us want to eat steak.  Besides, a steakhouse is going to be a whole production; a full sit-down, drawn-out meal.  Five Guys?  No, too much like fast food.  We didn’t want fast food.  Apparently, we wanted something light, but not very light; we wanted to sit down, but not be there long; we wanted alcohol for sure, but not a loud cantina or brewpub.  We spent more than a few minutes bemoaning our situation by the fountain until Bill pointed out a place called the Great Maple.

We had already walked past it once and it didn’t immediately grab our attention, but given our situation it was staring to look more promising.  Although the place was pretty busy with a mix of indoor and outdoor seating, it was a little hard to pin down exactly what sort of restaurant it was.  The menu was outside, but it was cluttered and disorganized, and none of us really felt like scrutinizing it.  Jamie thought it looked like a wine bar.  I figured it for some kind of tapas place.  Matt was tired of standing by the fountain.

Maybe we were dazzled by the elaborate tile

Not wanting to wait for a table, we decided to sit at the bar and make the best of it.  I was immediately struck by our table, which turned out to be made from a huge wooden door.  Then I examined the rest of the décor. 

If I look down at my food, maybe he won't put my photo on the blog

It was a mixture of funky modern and early American brothel.  There were low, simple tables, clean-lined booths, and an attractive, brightly colored bar with an open view of the kitchen.  There were also rough wooden beams, couches, and elaborate red glass chandeliers with a distinctly Victorian flair.

I found this pic on their website, but not before I looked like a weird-O taking pictures of them with my BlackBerry

The Great Maple strives to serve seasonally available produce and sustainable seafood, so the menu often changes.  Even so, the Great Maple seems to specialize in wood oven pizzas, funky burgers (such as free range turkey and Moroccan lamb), and home-style cooking with a twist.  I had a simple dish of baby back ribs and mashed potatoes, but it was executed well.  The ribs were tender, juicy and accompanied by a slightly sweet, citrusy sauce.

Desert, however, was fantastic.  It was not at all what I expected, but I think the folks at the Great Maple like to do things their own way.  We got all three deserts: apple pie, a jumbo red velvet cupcake, and peanut butter banana split.  The apple pie was a small, circular single-serving pie that more closely resembled a cobbler with a flaky crust.  The cupcake was massive; and the banana split was sophisticated, delicately presented and delicious.

Much like its deserts, cocktails at the Great Maple are both quirky and well-crafted.  The list of specialist cocktails is brief, but if the bartenders put as much care into an old fashioned as they do in their raspberry lemondrop, it ought to be a great place for a cocktail.  The wine list was similarly brief, with little that stood out, but it was far more inviting than the so-called “beer list.”

Taken for posterity.  I didn't think anyone would actually believe me.

The Great Maple does several things well, but beer is absolutely not one of them.  Clearly, the restaurant is focusing on cocktails.  That’s fine enough, but when we first sat down, our waitress handed us the list of cocktails, the wine list, and a “beer list” that was literally 20% non-alcoholic.  Yes, the “list” was composed of five beers: Bass Ale, Beck’s Non-Alcoholic, Bud Light, Dos Equis XX Amber, and Stella Artois.  Somehow, the Great Mable felt that this necessitated a separate sheet of paper.  The best thing I can say about this list is that it was alphabetized. 

It seems to me that if your restaurant is relegating its beer selection to a few six packs in the cooler in case someone’s grumpy uncle refuses to drink anything other than a Budwiser, it isn’t something you want to advertise.  The phrase “beer list” connotes a selection broad enough to require perusal and consideration.  It was like providing a wine list that was composed of Yellow Tail, Arbor Mist, Sutter Home, Franzia, and sparkling grape juice. 

Ooooo, look honey, a wine list.  How fancy.

All in all, The Great Maple is a decent place to eat.  Its best features are the cocktails and deserts, but the food won’t scare you away either.  Just don’t go there expecting to get a decent beer. 

Abita Brewing Company's 25th Anniversary

Posted by Benson

This year is the Abita Brewing Company’s 25th Anniversary.  As you probably already know, the Abita Brewery is one of my favorite local microbreweries.  This is perhaps because I live in Abita Springs, Louisiana, but I might have moved to Abita due to a subconscious desire to be closer to the brewery (the brewery does offer a free beer-filled “tour” three days a week).

In honor of the 25th anniversary, the Abita Brewing Company released a new beer: Vanilla Double Dog.  I’ve recently had the opportunity to sample this new brew and I have a few thoughts about it.
According to the bottle, Abita Turbodog was the inspiration for Vanilla Double Dog.  Sadly, Turbodog is my least favorite Abita beer.  In fact, I never drink it.  Turbodog is a dark brown ale brewed with a combination of pale, crystal, and chocolate malts.  Supposedly, this gives Turbodog a rich body and toffee-like flavor.  To my palate, Turbodog is dark, bitter, and thick, but not in a pleasing way.  It has strong notes of char and an undercurrent of overcooked chocolate.  No offense to Abita brewing, but the malt tastes as if it was burned. 

Turbodog, along with Purple Haze, was the one of the first beers that Abita distributed widely.  The pair could be found around college campuses all over the country, and for me, apart from the overly toasted flavor, Turbodog has always had the stigma of being popular with drunken frat boys who thought they had a taste for decent beer because they sucked down a chocolate beer between cases of Bud Light.

I was therefore somewhat disappointed to discover that the Abita Brewing Company decided to honor its 25th anniversary with a beer inspired by Turbodog.  Even so, I decided to give the Abita Brewing Company the benefit of the doubt. 

Although Vanilla Double Dog is far better than Turbodog, it still leaves much to be desired, and won’t be the first beer I’ll be reaching for.  Although the beer is in many ways subtly different from Turbodog, the most striking alteration is that whole vanilla beans are added during the aging process.  This does impart an identifiable vanilla note to the beer, which serves to push the flavor from charred malt to something closer to toffee-like.

She looks happy about Turbodog, but then she also licks her crotch

Without a doubt, Vanilla Double Dog is a rich, dark beer with a slightly creamy finish and a hint of vanilla.  It is a bit on the bitter side and has a strong, roasted flavor.  Overall, Vanilla Double Dog manages to shed many of the shortcomings of Turbodog.  It is an interesting beer, but I would have liked to see something better for Abita’s 25th anniversary.