The Bayou, established September 2002, is the best place in town for beer and Cajun food. It is widely understood that Utah would be a dimmer place for beer drinkers if the Bayou’s 30 drafts and 239 bottled beers were unavailable. Lately, they’ve been making things much brighter, with a new mixed-beer menu that expands on ideas like the classic Black and Tan (Guinness and lager). Contemporary beer blends, with names like “Chocolate Covered Cherry” and “Hummingbird Water,” have been sharing menu space with mixed brews like “Dirty Hoe” since January of this year. Mark Alston, owner and co-creator of the Bayou, says the trick is finding the appropriate ratio of perfect beers that complement each other. “When we were screwing around with working out ‘Port in a Storm,’ we tried with a few imperial stouts, with some of the others—the hoppy imperial stout with the port sweetness … was not good. In our experiments to get good, we ran into some bad things.”
Alston tells us it has mostly been great though. 19 concoctions make up the exhaustive list of beer blends recommended for those who aren’t boring. The Bayou’s widest brew variety in town offers some hidden weapons to mix and match to exclusive perfection. Though some may experience anxiety, hyperventilation, feelings of being “overwhelmed,” sweaty palms and extreme thirst when looking at the huge beer menu at the Bayou—Alston sees inspiration. With so many beers about, he decided he might as well start combining them. 19 blends later, the crowd response has been nothing but positive, Alston says. He recommends brews like the “Dirty Hoe,” a starter blend for those interested in really tasting how amazing two beers combined together can be for your first time. Layering together the amazing citrus powers of the Belgian Hoegaarden and the traditionally brewed Framboise (Raspberry) Lambic, creates something I would rather call the “Amazing, Gentle-Souled Ho.” This isn’t a Bayou original so we can’t start changing this name without protest, but we can offer up a Bayou creation for critique.
“PB&J”, which tastes like the sandwich it is named after, is one of the tastiest beer blends at the Bayou. Bayou bartender Danni Nutter created this simply concocted brew. Watching a 651 mml bottle (really is there any better size for a beer to be?) of Hazelnut Rogue Ale impregnate a tiny glass of pink Lambic is great for those who like their brew kicks voyeuristic and subsequently tasty. Alston agrees that it is partly the look of this brew that makes it so enjoyable to drink, “So much of what you feel is by what it looks like—it tastes better. A lot of the blends that layer well, like a black and tan, it adds a visual element to it,” says Alston. You can also mix the Hazelnut Rogue with another fruit-infused style of Lambic—try a Peach, for instance, and don’t be frightened by a drink named after a sandwich.
When asked about his own favorite beer blend, Alston smiles big and answers “ ‘Lost in the Orchard Again.’ It’s Anchor Foghorn, which is a large barley wine and Pyramid Apricot beer.” The mix is amazing and has a robust malt combined with apricot that makes it delectable—as tasty as the Fried Twinkies the Bayou serves for desert. Actually, Alston recommends pairing any of the fruit-infused beer blends with that dessert. Something about fried, cream-filled cake, raspberry sauce and an earthy/apricot beer make for an unbelievable taste explosion. “The Pyramid isn’t really a beer I would drink by itself ever,” Alston says, “but when you combine them [in “Lost In the Orchard”] it’s just earthy, apricot, malty taste. It’s incredible.”
The transition from recreational beer drinker to beer taster may be a bit scary, but Alston sagely reminds us, “Don’t be scared of the beer.” Explore beer mixing a little. And if beer drinking itself is daunting or conflicts with your code of ethics, remember something an old-school revolutionary said: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” —Benjamin Franklin. That’s true because it’s printed in The Bayou’s menu. Look inside it for other “heretical” concepts, like blending beer and try sipping a “PB&J” while doing so. The Bayou is located at 645 South State Street in SLC, Utah.