New Orleans is working on reclaiming its pre-Prohibition title of “Brewing Capital of the South” one brewery, brewpub, and beer bar at a time. Combine the ever-growing number of breweries open in and near Orleans Parish with the fact that they are now allowed to sell their beer on their premises, then add the rich and ever-evolving food culture and the presence of more beer-savvy tourists: it all adds up to a diverse collection of places where great beer can be found.
Where to Find (Good) Beer in New Orleans
For 25 years, Crescent City Brewhouse has been the only source of fresh, hand-crafted beer in the entire city. Brewmaster Wolfram Koehler decided to open the brewpub on Decatur Street after emigrating here from Germany. There weren’t any small, neighborhood breweries over here like there were in Europe, so the certified brewmaster opened his brewery and restaurant right in the middle of the bustling, historic French Quarter. It’s a place for people to commune around food, beer, art, and live music — the quality of the experience is as important as the quality of the beer.
At Crescent City Brewhouse, the quality of the experience is as important as the quality of the beer.
In 2004, the brewpub chain Gordon Biersch opened its New Orleans location. Although Gordon Biersch is a franchise operation with locations across the United States, all beer is developed and brewed on the premises. Brewers are allowed to experiment with new styles and improve upon the traditional German flagships. Its convenient location on Fulton Alley makes it a quick stop from the Convention Center, Riverwalk, and Harrah’s Casino.
Between 2005 and 2008, there weren’t any production (non-brewpub) breweries in New Orleans. NOLA Brewing changed all that when they sold their first beers — NOLA Blonde and NOLA Brown — in 2009. 2015 brought the opening of its large and comfortable tap room, which has been an important stop for all visiting beer lovers.
NOLA Brewing remained the only production brewery in the city until 2015 when Second Line Brewing opened in Mid-City, right of the Canal St. streetcar line. In 2016, Urban South Brewing opened on Tchoupitoulas Street between the Convention Center and Wal-Mart.
Courtyard Brewery in the Lower Garden District opened in 2014, but since its beers aren’t distributed to other bars or restaurants, it’s not technically a production brewery. It’s pretty amazing though — the house beers are brewed in very small batches, which enables brewer Scott Wood to experiment with different styles, techniques, and ingredients. Roughly half of the beer available at Courtyard are from “guest” breweries, which makes it a hybrid between a brewery and beer bar.
The Avenue Pub is the epicenter of the New Orleans and Louisiana beer experience and is conveniently located right on St. Charles Avenue between two streetcar stops. Cooter Brown’s has transitioned from old school “import” beer bar to modern craft beer bar, with an astonishing selection and beer events in the back bar. Ale on Oak Street and the Ole Saint in the French Quarter both have impressive beer selections and well trained staff, as do Mid City’s Bayou Beer Garden and Junction in the Bywater.
The Bulldog family of beer bars has local outposts Uptown/Irish Channel, in Mid-City, and Lager’s International Ale House in Metairie. They also sponsor one of the city’s biggest and best beer festivals, NOLA On Tap, a fundraiser for the LASPCA, usually held in late September in City Park.
There are an increasing number of neighborhood bars that have quietly improved the quality of its beer without making a fuss about it: In the Bywater, check out Bud Rip and J&J’s Sports Lounge. The Marigny has the R Bar, while Black Penny draws regulars and visitors alike in the French Quarter, and Sidney’s Saloon in the Seventh Ward keeps it real.
Uptown has several neighborhood bars with good beer lists. Check out Parasol’s in the Irish Channel, The Balcony Bar in the Garden District, Fat Harry’s on St. Charles Avenue just past Napoleon Avenue, and the Prytania Bar in Touro. Mid-City has a wealth of neighborhood joints like Finn McCool’s and Mid-City Yacht Club that boast better-than-average tap lists. Even out in Old Metairie, Winston’s Pub is there to serve suburban suds.
Music meets beer
Since the flavors of beer are becoming increasingly complex, it only makes sense that chefs gravitate toward beer that complements their food. Even the ultra-traditional Creole grand dame restaurant, Commander’s Palace, has increased the number and quality of its beer offerings.
Other restaurants that have great beer include Boucherie in the Riverbend, Pizza Delicious in Bywater, Borgne in the CBD, Grand Isle in the Warehouse District, and Angeline in the French Quarter. Freret Street has several restaurants with a great beer menu — Ancora, Midway Pizza, and Company Burger. (Check out Company Burger’s new location in the South Market as well — it has an even more expansive tap list.) Make sure to check out Wayfare while you’re in the area – they have the most beers on taps on the Freret stretch, and offer an ever-changing seasonal lineup of beer flights to try.
Around Tchoupitoulas Street in the Warehouse District, the density of restaurants slinging quality suds is significant: Cochon Butcher, World of Beer, Tchoupitoulas Beer Garden (TBG), Cochon Restaurant, Barcadia, and Wood Pizza Bistro and Taphouse.
When looking to get beer to drink at home or on the go, check out Stein’s Market and Deli in the Garden District on Magazine Street, 504 Craft Beer Reserve in Mid-City on Tulane Avenue, and Pearl Wine Company on Orleans Avenue in Mid-City.
Most neighborhoods will have at least one selection for those seeking a better beer experience — sometimes in places that may surprise you.
Local Seasonal Offerings
If you’re in town for the first time, make sure to try Abita Beer, a local favorite brewed right across Lake Pontchartrain. Besides carrying beloved classics like Abita Amber and Purple Haze, this craft brewery cranks out seasonal offerings to toast any time of year. You can grab a Mardi Gras Bock during Carnival season, or dabble in their harvest brews if you’re interested in something a little fruitier. The traditional Strawberry Lager is always a good choice, and the recent addition of Blueberry Wheat and Peach Lager are sure to tempt your taste buds as well. Grab a six pack from a local grocer to enjoy on a quiet night, or hit one of the aforementioned neighborhood spots for a pint on tap.
All Together Now: Beer by Neighborhood
- Barcadia (restaurant)
- Borgne (restaurant)
- Cochon Butcher (restaurant)
- Cochon Restaurant (restaurant)
- Company Burger, South Market District location (restaurant)
- Gordon Biersch (brewpub)
- Grand Isle (restaurant)
- Tchoupitoulas Beer Garden (restaurant)
- Wood Bistro and Taphouse (restaurant)
- World of Beer, Warehouse District location (restaurant/beer bar)
- Angeline (restaurant)
- Black Penny (neighborhood bar)
- Crescent City Brewhouse (brewpub)
- Ole Saint (beer bar)
- d.b.a (music club)
- R Bar (neighborhood bar
- Bud Rip (neighborhood bar)
- J&J’s Sports Lounge (neighborhood bar)
- Junction (beer bar)
- Pizza Delicious (restaurant)
- Sidney’s Saloon (neighborhood bar)
Lower Garden District
- Avenue Pub (beer bar)
- Courtyard (brewery/beer bar)
- Urban South (brewery)
Irish Channel/Garden District
- Bulldog Uptown (beer bar)
- Commander’s Palace (restaurant)
- NOLA Brewing (brewery)
- Parasol’s (neighborhood bar)
- Stein’s Market and Deli (bottle shop)
- The Balcony Bar (neighborhood bar)
- Ancora (restaurant)
- Company Burger, Uptown location (restaurant)
- Midway Pizza (restaurant)
- Wayfare (restaurant)
- Fat Harry’s (neighborhood bar)
- Prytania Bar (neighborhood bar)
- Ale (beer bar)
- Boucherie (restaurant)
- Cooter Brown’s (beer bar)
- Maple Leaf (music club)
- 504 Craft Beer Reserve (bottle shop)
- Bayou Beer Garden (beer bar)
- Bulldog Mid City (beer bar)
- Finn McCool’s (neighborhood bar)
- Mid-City Yacht Club (neighborhood bar)
- Pearl Wine Company (bottle shop)
- Second Line Brewing (brewery)
- Lager’s International Ale House (beer bar)
- Winston’s Pub (neighborhood bar)
- World of Beer, Metairie location (restaurant/beer bar)