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Drinking in the Big Easy

By March 9, 2012Beer Travel
NOLA Brewery New Orleans
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Mardi Gras has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean New Orleans stops drinking. In fact New Orleans always to seems to be in a constant state of celebration from Mardi Gras to Jazz fest to hosting BCS bowl games to the Final Four this year.

The sign at Cooter Browns Tavern and Oyster Bar

After spending a week just outside the city we finally rolled our RV into the Big Easy and got to work on seeking out it’s beer spots. In typical TRP fashion we first sought out a good beer bar to watch a Kansas Basketball game and discovered Cooter Brown’s Tavern, Grill & Oyster Bar in uptown New Orleans.

$12/dozen oysters!

Despite the funny name this place was well stocked with beer. Cooter Brown’s has over 400 beers that includes a great import selection. On top of that they have 60 tap handles (40 in the front bar and 20 in the back bar) that feature plenty of local brews including Abita, NOLA, Tin Roof and the recently renamed Pelican Brewery, now known as Chafunkta Brewery. The beer isn’t the only thing local’s rave about with this place. The food is equally delish… serving up all the po boy’s and oysters your heart desires. At only $12/dozen oysters, you really can’t go wrong!

Pour me something mistah Stone NOLA collaborationOne of the more unique beers we sampled was the “Pour Me Somethin, Mistah!” collaboration between NOLA and Stone Brewing. This Imperial Porter was brewed with dried satsuma peel, a local variety of orange, that luckily did not add an overpowering fruit flavor. I liked it but as we learned with most draft beers down here you have to let it warm up because every place we went likes to serve their beers really COLD.

With a sampling of the local brews under way we wanted to dig deeper into the brewing scene and headed to NOLA brewing for it’s weekly Friday afternoon open house (2:00 – 3:00ish). Upon arriving we noticed a line out the door… Were we back in California, the land of waiting in line for beer? Nope, similar to Texas breweries in Louisiana are prohibited from selling beer on premise, so this line was for FREE beer. A concept Maria and I can fully embrace.

NOLA Brewing was founded in 2008 by Kirk Coco & Peter Caddoo (former Dixie Brewing brewmaster) with a goal of bringing a once proud brewing tradition back to New Orleans. They have four flagship beers, NOLA Blonde, NOLA Brown Ale, Hopitoulas, their IPA, and 7th Street Wheat, but are currently canning just two of them, the Blonde and the Brown.

 

The crowd at the weekly open house at NOLA Brewing

The crowd imbibes while the workers keep brewing. Click photo for a larger image

After securing a Stout and Brown (both quite good, but Maria LOVED to brown) we gathered around an informal tour that was partially drowned out by the actual brewing process. You see, this event is literally just an opened garage door and open taps. So all the employees were still working away making beer while about 200 beer lovers wandered about.

We were able to talk to some members of the local home brewers group and learned that they actually all work together for one large brew that gets distributed out among the members. Everyone rotates their role, with the brew master choosing the recipe and they turn it into an all day brewfest. Everyone chips in financially and of course, since your in the south, they have plenty of food to keep the brew day going strong. They also told us of the festivities for St. Patrick’s Day. One may think the parades end with Mardi Gras, but in fact, they continue to go strong, with a practice day for the St. Patty’s Day parade two weeks prior. The fun thing about this parade? Instead of throwing beads, the floats throw cabbage, potatoes, onions, practically everything you need to cook yourself up a nice meal. We’re told people bring laundry baskets to catch the food! Let’s just hope they don’t chuck the food out of the floats the way they do those beads!!

The Bulldog

Crescent City Brewhouse New Orleans

Crescent City Brewhouse

Crescent City Red Ale

Crescent City Red Ale

Beer-to-go door at Crescent City Brewhouse

Legally you can walk around all of New Orleans with an adult beverage... and no, it doesn't have to be in a paper bag!

After our time at NOLA we learned of the other good beer bars in town. Frenchman street is not to be missed with d.b.a. selling some good beers as well as Avenue Pub and The Bulldog being two of the more notable beer bars. We made our way to The Bulldog, but regrettably missed getting over to the Avenue Pub. We did take time to make our way over to the Crescent City Brewhouse, located just to the side of the French Quarter. Unfortunately, I must say, that brewhouse felt more like a tourist trap, we didn’t sample the food and were pretty turned off by $7-$8 pints!! Maria had a Red Ale and I sampled the Imperial Pilsner, which were both good, but let’s be honest here, we are afterall, ballers on a budget and I can think of much better ways to spend $8 in New Orleans, like on Po Boy’s or Gumbo or Jambalaya for example. Yes we love beer, but when it gets right down to it, nothing beats down home, good ol’ Southern cuisine!

Speaking of good ol' Southern cuisine! Brian's cousin's, John, Hopper & Jim, treated us to our very 1st crawfish boil!

Abita is probably the most well known brewery in Louisiana. They are actually located about 45 minutes north of New Orleans, across Lake Pontchartrain in Abita Springs. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the time to make it up there, as we had a can’t miss opportunity to visit Lazy Magnolia, Mississippi’s first brewery! We will leave that story for next week’s post, but for now, we will finish with some artsy photo’s Maria took while in the Big Easy. Even though we missed a few key spots, like most cities, we aren’t too worried, and especially know with this one… we will be back!!

Streetcars in New Orleans have been an integral part of the city's public transportation network since the first half of the 19th century. The longest of New Orleans' streetcar lines, the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world!

Mardi Gras floats remain on the street days after the celebration. Across the street is Jacques-Imo's Cafe, famous for their "Real Nawlin' Food. The Yelp reviews did NOT steer us wrong on this spot! It is all the way on the other side of town, or Uptown, as they call it. If you're on Canal Street near the French Quarter, take the St. Charles Street Car all the way to the end, walk down Carrollton Ave to Oak Street and take a left.

Statue of Jesus behind Saint Louis Cathedral on Royal Street, casting ominous shadows at night.

New Orleans The Bulldog

Beautiful tap handle fountain at The Bulldog in New Orleans. Don't worry folks, it's just pre-beer.

Famous Horse Heads in the French Quarter

Famous Horse Heads in the French Quarter

Mona's Mediterranean Cafe on Frenchman

Mona's Mediterranean Cafe on Frenchman

Ladder chairs for the Mardi Gras parades

Ladder chairs for the Mardi Gras parades

Lundi Gras - pre-parade

Lundi Gras - pre-parade

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