NOLA Brewing Irish Channel Stout

February 2, 2011

A while back, I mentioned being at NOLA Brewing in New Orleans and while I was there I was fortunate enough to try a home-brewed version of their soon-to-be-released stout. The real deal is now ready and it’s a beauty.

NOLA is situated just outside the lower end of the Irish Channel, a Garden District neighborhood that was once populated by, you probably guessed, a large contingency of Irish settlers working in the shipyards. If you’re ever out that way, don’t pass up a visit to Parasol’s for a pint and a roast beef sandwich. Just make sure it’s not on St. Patrick’s Day. Ever been near McGuire’s for their marathon? Pack the same number of people onto a residential neighborhood street and you’re close to an idea of Parasol’s on Paddy’s Day.

Fun fact about the Irish Channel: at a whopping seven feet of elevation, it’s one of the city’s tallest locations. A veritable mountain. No wonder it escaped the terrible flooding that ruined much of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Much has changed since the Irish Channel’s heyday of the late 1800s. The factories and multi-floor businesses have all but disappeared. Ghostly brick giants of buildings sit forgotten while mega Wal-marts arrive despite the neighborhood protests. And down on Jackson Avenue one can still make out the faint, 10-foot-tall lettering announcing the location of the old New Orleans Brewery.

The Irish Channel’s western boundary, technically, is 2nd Street. So NOLA is located at 7th and Tchoupitoulas, big deal. Close enough. The point is I was there when this beer was being born… so to speak. I feel like an uncle or, at least, a really close friend of the family who shows up to see the baby through the window at the hospital’s nursery. It’s an outer-space-black stout with a head that, darn it, just doesn’t ever fully disappear. My beer was done and there was still foam at the bottom of the glass. It smells of bitter dark chocolate and roasted grains. The flavors are big and rich with espresso, milk chocolate and a hint of caramel with a nice, faint hop bitterness showing up at the finish. It’s silky smooth and hiding its 6.8% abv very well. Overall, a dynamite beer that’s perfect for a cold day. For now, it’s listed as a seasonal. I hope NOLA changes its mind and makes this one a year-round selection.