Christmas is coming and a part of me yearns for a December stroll through downtown New Orleans. If you’ve never been, you really must experience it at least once.
During my time there, Abita had supplanted Dixie as the local brew. Many a winter shiver was warded off by a three-finger of Jameson and either an Abita Turbodog or Amber as the chaser. Sip one, then the other, enjoy the evening. Inexpensive, ubiquitous and satisfactory.
The combination of big city moxie and old-world charm gives off a cozy atmosphere in the winter there. Once the day goes down the homey glow of holiday lights gleams out of every window. Frigid air off of Pontchartrain and the Mississippi catches on the tall buildings and funnels straight down upon you. I used to pull my scarf tight into my thick, wool pea coat and tour the French Quarter marveling at the quiet beauty of a cold New Orleans night.
Especially captivating is the display of lights and decoration in the lobby of The Roosevelt Hotel. The lavish arrangement of Christmas trees, sculpture and merry gold bulbs positively suffuses your vision. Be sure to wander on in and sip a Sazerac in its namesake bar. Shake off the chilly night for a minute.
What you can go ahead and skip is Bourbon Street. My apologies to the Louisiana Tourism Board, but come on. There are plenty of historic sights to see not involving overpriced beer, tacky neon affronts to the senses, tourist traps promising ill repute and modern dance music with the volume turned up to “tinnitus.” By all means, go and give it a gander just to get it out of the way, but eschew much of that nonsense and instead hit up Erin Rose on Conti or travel up to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop which is reputed to be the oldest bar in the U.S.
Well, Abita has done some growing up since then. I can only wish that their Bourbon Street Coffee Stout was available when I was living there. How much more magically those nights would’ve glowed… in more ways than one!
Abita has a barrel-aged series of dark beers that are perfect for this time of year. This current offering is a coffee stout that, according to ratebeer.com, was aged for 8 weeks in Pappy Van Winkle barrels. Its roasted malt base includes oats to boost the natural sweetness and provide balance to the bitter coffee. The result is this chestnut brown ale that smells like a fresh cup of French roast with underlying notes of baker’s chocolate, dulce de leche and butterscotch. While not quite as rich-bodied as I’d hoped, the flavors are excellent; toasty grain and Pappy’s signature Bourbon hits you up front with the coffee, caramel and leather coming next. Slightly burnt, slightly sweet, very indulgent.
You should definitely go visit, but come see us for the only taste of Bourbon Street you’ll ever need.