New Orleans was once a brewing capital of the South. Breweries could be found in all areas of town and in all sizes from the massive Jax, Fallstaff and Dixie breweries to significantly smaller “mom and pop” breweries. The city was swimming in locally made beer. Unfortunately, this would not last forever as Prohibition was enacted and the decline of the local beer scene began in earnest. Between prohibition, acquisition and other factors, by the 1950s only four mammoth breweries survived and the New Orleans beer scene was looking a little bleak.
Fortunately, this would also not last forever! In recent years, there has been an explosion in breweries across the Greater New Orleans area. The New Orleans beer scene is coming back and it shows in more places than just the number of breweries we have. Beer-centric bars and restaurants are opening all over town and established places are upgrading their beer selections to accommodate the growing interest in craft and exotic beers. Things have gotten so great around the city and across the state that today, Sept. 22, kicks off the second annual Louisiana Craft Brewers Week, which runs through Sept. 28. I’m going to kick off the GoNOLA celebration of this fabulous week by giving a nod to three of the area’s breweries. (If you want to know more about the history of beer and brewing in New Orleans, check out the GoNOLA post about it here.)
1. NOLA Brewing:The New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Company, as it is officially known, was founded in 2008 and heralded the return of great beer and the brewing tradition to New Orleans. NOLA offers a number of beers throughout the year, such as their Brown, Blonde or Hopitoulas, which are complemented by fantastic seasonal beers, including Flambeau Red, Smoky Mary and Hurricane Saison. While these beers are great, the true beer lover is going to have to track down the beers that truly show off the expertise and creativity of the NOLA staff, their one-offs and collaborations. You’ll typically only find these in serious beer bars around town (I’ll have more on those later this week) and at the NOLA Brewing tap room. The on-site tap room is open seven days a week and offers a full range of options of sample size tastes to flights to full glasses, so you can taste them all or settling in with a pint of your favorite. Want to learn more about brewing beer at NOLA? Be sure to swing by for a free tour any Friday at 2 p.m.
2. Abita: Abita is the old dog in local craft brewing circles, having been open since 1986. However, contrary to the saying, this old dog can definitely learn some new tricks. From just a handful of brews, Abita now features twenty different full-time and seasonal beers — oh yeah, and a root beer. This extensive and widely-diverse selection of beers doesn’t include the Abita Select beers. The Select series beers are an ever-changing, draft only collection of beers. So far there have been 16 Select series beers which almost doubles the number of beer styles Abita has offered. If you’re looking to get up close and personal with some Abita beers, I highly recommend making the trip across the lake for one of their tours and a visit to the tasting room. Tours are available Wednesday through Saturday.
3. Tin Roof Brewing Co.: Like most great ideas, Tin Roof was an idea spawned by a couple of friends over a few beers on the weekend. After years of hard work, the dream was realized and Tin Roof was born in late 2010. Under the direction of their brew master with more than 20 years of experience, Tin Roof has rapidly made a name for itself in the Crescent City. Located in Baton Rouge, Tin Roof’s southward invasion has been led by its stable of familiar beer style including its Perfect Tin Amber Ale and Juke Joint IPA. But don’t think Tin Roof always plays by the rules, because their seasonal beers — like the watermelon wheat brew — show they definitely don’t.
That’s three South Louisiana craft breweries to watch, but don’t let that stop you from looking in on some of our other favorites like Bayou Teche, Covington Brewhouse, Gnarley Barley, 40 Arpent or Parish Brewing. Now I’ll leave you with some great news. As part of Louisiana Craft Brewers Week, the Irish House is hosting the Louisiana Brewers Bash featuring specialty brews and casks from each of these awesome Louisiana breweries. The Brewers Bash is Wednesday Sept. 24 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are available here.