The second I laid eyes on a bottle of Left Coast Voo Doo American Stout (produced by Left Coast Brewing Co., the brewing operation from which most of the beers of the Oggi’s brewpub and pizzeria chain are crafted), I knew the perfect place to consume it. Adorned with a skeleton wearing a top hat and brandishing a skull-topped walking stick, it reminded me of images I’d seen in great plentitude in perhaps my favorite place on the face of the Earth — New Orleans, Louisiana. As fate would have it, I was headed to NOLA the following week, providing an opportunity to sample this dark beer named after a dark art deeply rooted in that city’s heritage.
That all sounds very romantic, but it wasn’t really the allure of drinking a beer called Voo Doo in the land of voodoo and its legendary practitioner, Marie Laveau, that had me so excited. I was just glad to have a tasty, high octane craft beer along with me in the Crescent City. While there are a handful of venues serving good beer in New Orleans (most notably The Avenue Pub), artisanal beer has yet to really gain much traction there. Slowly but surely, however, bars and restaurants are starting to feature local lagers and ales (in that order). Thing is, they just don’t stand up to the quality of Southern California’s rightfully renowned brews, making a bomber snugly tucked between layers of clothing in a checked bag a necessity for a beer nut like me.
It was worth carrying the extra 22 ounces. Coming in at 8.5% alcohol-by-volume — a rather modest ABV for an imperial stout, actually — the Voo Doo is well balanced and not the least bit sweet. Many versions of this style produced throughout the country veer toward the syrupy end of the sweetness scale as brewers seek to boost alcohol into the double digits. Because of its savory nature, it’s easy to pick out a coffee-like roastiness and cola nuttiness along with touches of earthy herbal tea, black peppercorn skins, and even a bit of sarsaparilla. The seasonal beer recently made its way into the local market along with a new, barrel-aged version stored in bourbon- and rye-soaked oak for nine months. Aptly enough, that one registers at 10% ABV thanks to the spirits.