Over the summer I wrote about the NOLA Hopitoulas IPA and how nice it would be to visit New Orleans to partake of the food and beverage opportunities that city provides. A couple of weeks ago some friends and I decided to do just that. While a concert at UNO Lakefront Arena was the main impetus for the trip, a special bonus awaited us: touring the New Orleans Lager & Ale Co.
As it turns out, New Orleans is a beer-lover’s diamond in the rough. The city’s commercial beer history goes back to the early 1900s with National Brewery. It became the popular Falstaff after acquisition by the St. Louis-based company in 1937. Note to country music fans: Hank Williams was drinking Falstaff the night he died. Nowhere to send hate mail to, sorry to say. The brewery is now condo. Dixie Brewery, nice segue, is probably the city’s answer to Chicago’s Old Style. They’ve been offline since Hurricane Katrina and have contracted their production to Heiner Brau in Covington, LA, who makes traditional German beer under the conditions of the Reinheitsgebot. Jax Beer closed in the 70s and is now a shopping center on Decatur St. And, of course, there’s Abita Beer.
Then there’re three stand-outs for bars and restaurants. The Bulldog on Magazine St. sports 50 beers on tap and another 100 in bottle. Drink a Duvel while tackling the Crawfish Bandito. A beautiful courtyard boasts a 10-foot wall with beer taps functioning as a water fountain. The Avenue Pub on St. Charles has dynamite food (seared duck with blue cheese and apple sandwich anyone?) to go with their amazing array of taps and bottles. Stone Sublimely Self-righteous Ale, Northcoast Brother Thelonius and Rochefort Trappist 8 stood out of the pack. Rounding out the selection is Crescent City Brewhouse on Decatur. We sat next to brewmaster Wolfram Koehler while drinking his fall seasonal, the Saint’s Ambrosia. I recommend the bratwurst, of course.
On to NOLA Brewing. President Kirk Coco met us in his office and simply asked, “So, who wants a beer?” We tried everything, including an experimental batch of their soon-to-be-released Irish Channel Stout, but the first one of the day was their flagship Brown Ale. Chestnut brown with a generous head of foam, it carries wonderful scents of toasted grains, nutshells and molasses. This brown packs loads of wheat bread, toffee and some coffee with hints of nuts. Finish is clean yet memorable. A beautiful way to end a terrific trip.