Abita Brewing’s Andygator is a perennial favorite in the Pine Belt region. It's a beer that has had multiple iterations, but it settled into its current Helles Doppelbock mode after Hurricane Katrina. The first time I tasted this beer it was still an American-style barleywine, and the Abita Springs brewery was where Abita Brewing was headquartered. Helles means bright, and Doppelbock means two bocks, so imagine a pale version of Shiner Bock with twice the alcohol, and you'll have less than half the story. There's no truth to the rumor that Abita is putting this into tallboys and calling it Handygator, but I wish they would.
We have a sort of blind spot when it comes to craft beer in Mississippi, thinking that before 2012 there was none in the state. We forget how important Abita Andygator was when the ABV limit was raised. Instantly there was an 8 percent regional craft beer that people had heard of, had had before, and could relate to. In many ways, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Andygator that is only equaled by the debt owed to Lazy Magnolia’s Timber Beast.
Andygator is much more than just a craft beer for getting drunk. It's a complex, spicy high-gravity beer with notes of cardamom and black pepper. Head retention is excellent as you'd expect from a beer with a substantial amount of pilsner malts. The beer is clear, with a beautiful haystack gold shade to it. Best of all it goes down incredibly smooth. As you slowly sip this exemplar of German beer excellence, you will get flavors of rich grains married with earthy spice notes, like a fine coffee cake. I guess that makes Andygator a breakfast beer.
This beer reminds me of winter nights spent with family on the lakeshore of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sauerkraut, kielbasa, intensely spiced cookies, and a little bit of white German brandy that made your eyes water. This beer will warm you up if you're cold, and cool you down if you're hot. But don't mistake ease of consumption for low alcohol. This beer has all of its 8 percent, but you'd never know it. So please, don't operate heavy machinery while drinking Andygator. Drink this after a day of operating heavy machinery.
This beer is great for winter, because it pairs equally well with stews and seafood. This beer is also great for any other time of the year, because, let's face it, who doesn't like a cold beer after a hard day's work? Andygator is a southeastern regional classic, a favorite shirt-tail relative come back around to visit. It's time for us to remember why we love it.
Alex Ignatiev is the proprietor of Hub City Beers and Fine Cigars in Hattiesburg. Wishing Butch Bailey a happy retirement, Ignatiev salutes the Original Timber Beast and Stokes Distributing who provides promotional consideration for his piece.