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Food & Drink

Local Breweries Bring Holiday Cheer, er, Beer

Flavors of chocolate, cherries, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg bring holiday cheer to these standout beers, all made locally or regionally.

40 Arpent brewery is ready for the holidays. (Photo: Nora McGunnigle)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — when breweries dig into their bag of tricks and come up with darker, boozier, and sometimes spicier beers to help warm us in the cooler temperatures and longer nights of winter.

Louisiana breweries have a tradition of releasing special beers for the holiday season: some this year continue previous years’ traditions, and some are brand new. Here’s what to look for.

New Orleans’ Local Holiday Beers

Bayou Teche

Biere Noel from Bayou Teche. (Photo: Nora McGunnigle)

Bayou Teche is always releasing some crazy something or other in a bomber bottle, but holiday time seems to give the brewers extra inspiration. Biere Noel Christmas porter, aged on chocolate and cherries, in bourbon barrels is an annual release, and two others join the celebration this year. Papa Charley is a peanut butter, banana, and chocolate porter named for a beer-loving monkey that the Knott Brothers’ great-grandfather owned once upon a time.

According to owner Karlos Knott, “the beer is named after our great-grandfather, who had a bar in Arnaudville that featured a monkey that would drink a beer if you tipped the bartender enough.” He adds that the release party for the beer will take place at the brewery on Black Friday, “as a way of enticing y’all to not go shopping — we will roast a pig with all Cajun side dishes.”

Parish Brewing

Grand Reserve from Parish Brewing. (Photo: Nora McGunnigle)

Parish Brewing’s Grand Reserve release party has already happened (pro tip: keep it on your radar for next year — it’s a great event, and it always sells out) but everyone can enjoy the beer in question. Grand Reserve is a barleywine which releases vintages every November in time for the holidays. Last year, Parish founder Andrew Godley upped his game by simultaneously releasing Imperial Reserve imperial stout, and this year, rare bottles of Four Roses bourbon barrel-aged 2014 vintage Grand Reserve might be spotted in the wild, if one knows where to look.

NOLA Brewing

NOLA Brewing is also releasing a porter as its winter seasonal. The brewery’s Imperial Porter is a warming 8.8% ABV. And although not seasonal beers per se, definitely check out their two special release beers that are collaborations with breweries Fulton Brewing in Minneapolis (Messipi) and 7th Sun from the Tampa Bay, Florida area (House of the Rising, to be released at the Avenue Pub on Dec. 11.)

Gnarly Barley

Gnarly Barley’s first Gnar Series beer, Imperial Korova Porter, is out in the market on draft as well as in bottles — a first for Gnarly Barley. This beefed-up imperial version of the brewery’s popular Korova Milk Porter clocks in at an equally beefy 9% ABV. Keep an eye out for future releases in the Gnar Series, which will showcase small batches of higher-alcohol beers.

Covington Brewhouse

Electric Porter from Covington Brewhouse. (Photo: Nora McGunnigle)

Covington Brewhouse is continuing its quiet tradition of releasing a single batch of its 10% ABV Winter Warmer, a spiced doppelbock beer. Only available in large-format bottles in previous years, this year, the beer will be offered in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles starting on December 5.

Covington has also released its regular winter seasonal, Electric Porter, for the second year, which consists of five malts, two hops, and coffee roasted by neighboring Campbell’s Coffee located in downtown Covington.

Great Raft Brewing

Great Raft Brewing up in Shreveport will be releasing its winter seasonal Awkward Uncle, a Belgian dark strong ale with sweet cherries, cinnamon, and ginger. Brewery co-founder Andrew Nations says of this year’s version, “we increased the amount of cherries to over fourteen pounds per barrel. Big and boozy, just like the best and worst family gatherings.”

Other Notable Brews

  • Abita Brewing’s December beer selections include its Christmas Ale, the winter Harvest Series Grapefruit IPA, Shem-Wet Ancient Ale in the Select series, and Bourbon Street Series Coffee Stout.
  • Also keep an eye out for Smiling Ivan Russian imperial stout, Tin Roof’s winter seasonal, bottled in bombers.
  • New Orleans’ French Quarter brewpub Crescent City Brewhouse will be tapping its Holiday Bock very soon, which is a traditional German style.

Party On

Courtyard Brewery will host a Dark Hours party full of hearty, holiday brews. (Photo: Nora McGunnigle)

Beer releases are all well and good, but what every holiday season needs is a kickass party.

40 Arpent aims to please with its family-friendly Second Annual Christmas Bash, which will have live music, food trucks, and beer for purchase at the Arabi brewery on Saturday, Dec. 12. More information (including how to buy a $5 ticket for entry) can be found here.

In addition, the Courtyard Brewery will be hosting its second annual Dark Days event on Dec. 18-22, during which brewer Scott Wood unveils a beer menu of big, dark, boozy beers to keep everyone warm and happy during the longest nights of the winter solstice.

Nora McGunnigle is a freelance beer and food writer in New Orleans, where she focuses on the unique food and beer culture of Louisiana and the Gulf region. Her work can be found in publications like Beer Advocate, Thrillist, and Eater NOLA. You can often find her holding important meetings at the Avenue Pub. Follow her on Twitter at @noradeirdre and keep up with her work at

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