Ah, New Orleans. The Crescent City. A warm weather destination filled with sprawling patios, debauchery, rich history — and loose liquor laws. Before Prohibition washed through the U.S. in 1920, NOLA was the busiest brewing hub in the South; and today, the city is more alive than ever with the sights and smells of beer. In the past year alone, five new craft breweries have opened up their doors in New Orleans, pushing the total number of breweries in the city past ten and inspiring a new generation of beer-inspired entrepreneurs looking to put NOLA on the craft beer map. So skip the Hurricanes and the Sazeracs, and head out to explore The Big Easy’s booming craft beer scene this year.
Go Here, Drink This
Like most good stories, it’s best to start at the beginning, and in the case of the New Orleans craft beer scene, that means starting at NOLA Brewing Company — the brewery that really put the city on the modern day craft beer map. The opening of NOLA (New Orleans Lager and Ale) Brewery came at time when the city needed beer. The year was 2008, just three years after Hurricane Katrina spread devastation and havoc throughout the city, forcing the only brewery in town at the time to move production outside of New Orleans. That lapse in locally-made beer inspired founder Kirk Coco to bring beer back to New Orleans — which he did when he began brewing and pouring beer in a quirky little joint in the Irish Channel neighborhood. The brewery has since expanded its taproom, teamed up with a local BBQ restaurant, and added a game room and plenty of TVs to catch the Saints play. For the most part, you can’t go wrong here. From the easy-drinking Brown Ale to anything in the brewery’s popular Funk Series of tasty wild ales, there’s a great variety of styles to choose from — each one worthy of seeking out a taste of. Now that you have an idea of what started it all, head over to the Parleaux Beer Lab to see how far the local craft beer industry has come. Located in a converted auto garage in the Bywater community, Parleaux’s namesake is a play on the words ‘by’ and ‘water’ and this new brewery local craft beer scene is creating some funky beers that mirror the creative and exciting spirit of the city. At Parleaux, beer drinkers can try everything from a big-bodied Rye IPA, to a “Grassy Kölsch” made with lemongrass plucked from the brewery’s garden. Choose from plenty of low-ABV, refreshing beers to quench your thirst while you soak up the hot Louisiana sun on the brewery’s bright and spacious patio. From there, follow the Mississippi River as it snakes south for stops at Brieux Carré Brewing Co., the Courtyard Brewery and Urban South Brewery. All three are earning high praise from the New Orleans craft beer community. At Brieux, though small and just barely on the heels of celebrating one year in business, the brewery has already become a destination for craft beer drinkers — thanks to a menu of clean and tasty beers that run the gamut. On tap, you’ll find a few selections of saisons, a healthy offering of hopped-up styles and a handful of darker brews. But if IPAs are your jam, this is the place for you. Brieux is making some big, bold hoppy beers, and craft beer drinkers can’t get enough of them. Down the road at the Courtyard Brewery, you’ll find a rustic taproom full of color and a wide selection of draft beer. Choose from 30 different rotating taps featuring a pretty even mix of house-made brews as well as guest taps from some of the best breweries in the country. Finally, make your way to Urban South — a fast-growing brewery specializing in lagers and IPAs. The draft list here is composed of every kind of beer that you crave when it’s blazing hot outside. Order up a pint and post up in the sprawling dog and kid-friendly warehouse-style taproom complete with arcade games and food trucks. But before your craft beer journey is over, be sure to save time for a visit to Mid-City to check out Second Line Brewing. Aside from killer beers on tap, Second Line has all kind of fun energy and events going on throughout the week, like live jazz music and N’awlins style crawfish boils in the taproom.
Getting Around Town
With a big boom in craft breweries taking place in New Orleans, so too has the growth in beer tourism. Craft beer drinkers can book a ride with The NOLA Brew Bus, which offers a handful of public and private tours on an eccentric party bus that includes stops at multiple breweries throughout the city. A ticket to ride on the 3+ hour public tour will run you $65 and includes stops at three locations and a total of six beers. Tours are available seven days a week. Or reserve your spot on the New Orleans Brews Cruise — a similar operation with stops at three different NOLA breweries. Tickets are $60 per person and include multiple tasters at each stop, snacks and water for the ride, and cold storage for any beer purchases that you’ll inevitably want to make as you explore delicious and exciting craft beer taking over the city of New Orleans.