You can call this one where’ya drink. And if you're a beer lover in New Orleans, these days the answer is a lot more likely to be this: local.
The names of Louisiana beers now line restaurant menus. Their tap handles sprout from the draft clusters at dives and fancy lounges alike. And these local beers flow from the breweries’ own tap rooms, where they’re available to sip on site, right there at the brewery.
In a moment, I’ll give you a little sample pour of four new breweries that each debuted in New Orleans just this spring. These breweries come in different sizes and formats and with different brewers at the helm, and, naturally, this affects the type of beer now pouring from their taps and waiting in that fridge or the ice chest. So we don’t just have more breweries, we have greater variety across the board and we’re seeing different ways to navigate a new business sector for the city.
Most New Orleans beer makers are production breweries. This means they make beer destined for restaurants, bars and stores, just like the more established players. They need to make flagship beers that can carry their brands into the marketplace so that when you see it, you know it and you order it.
Port Orleans Brewing is one newcomer that fits this model. It opened in May along a stretch of Tchoupitoulas Street that’s become a bit of a new brewing district. Urban South brewery and NOLA Brewing are just down the street. At Port Orleans, you’ll find mellow, easy-drinking beers like Slack Water brown ale and Riverfront lager, and there’s a kitchen cooking up a menu specifically paired to their beers.
Royal Brewery debuted the same month across town in New Orleans East, and it feels like a real find tucked within a cluster of warehouses by the Industrial Canal. Planes headed to the Lakefront Airport zoom above, but the real buzz here comes from a beer named for the mosquito – the Culicidae pale ale, with a robust hoppy flavor and deep amber color.
Right around the time Port Orleans and Royal Brewing arrived, we also saw a whole different type of brewery grow. Brieux Carre in the Marigny and Parleaux Beer Lab in the Bywater are breweries that only serve their beer in their own tap rooms. It’s the same model followed by the slightly older Courtyard Brewing Uptown. They all have zero outside distribution, and that’s by design. Instead of flagship beers, they make small batch brews that don’t last long and change all the time. They can be hyper seasonal, one-offs, even experiments.
The idea is to lure beer lovers with something new and different every time. At Parleaux, I’ve had funky farmhouse saisons and quenchers brewed with lemongrass or South African tea. At Brieux Carre, I’ve sampled extra potent double India pale ales and German wheat beers and a dark, aromatic brew with smoked hickory chips.
This spring’s crop of new breweries joins many more that are expanding the idea of local beer. It’s a lot to keep up with, but then a Louisiana summer will always keep us thirsty for more.
2115 Decatur St., 504-304-4242
4224 Royal St., 504-702-8433
4124 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-266-2332
7366 Townsend Place, Building B, 504-415-8444