Bad news. During our move out east, I somehow either misplaced or forgot my notes from the Milwaukee Brewfest. I was planning on writing an article on the event, but without my notes I feel it would be incredibly lackluster. Because of this, I will just be continuing my Brewery Travels series featuring my visit to New Orleans. I managed to hit four breweries on my brief stay there after my wife and I returned from a cruise, each one providing a unique experience. While the French Quarter and the mighty Mississippi may be the most popular destinations, the craft brewery scene is certainly ticking upwards down south.
- NOLA Brewing
- Urban South Brewery
- Crescent City Brewhouse
- Courtyard Brewery
New Orleans Lager & Ale (NOLA) Brewing is probably the best-known brewery in the city. Founded in 2008, they now have an impressive facility located just off the banks of the Mississippi. The taproom is pretty straightforward as far as they go, with a medium-sized U-shaped bar the focal point. A BBQ kitchen is located on the left side of the bar, which certainly ups the cool factor. Opposite this is a merchandise wall, with plenty of high top seating throughout the space. Barrels are used for the tables, which is a nice touch. Another detail to look at when you visit are the cool tap handles that many NOLA beers sport.
There are so many options at NOLA. They also have 20+ beers on taps, with plenty of unique rotating offerings. As a sour fan, I have to mention Humid Nature and Passion Pit. Humid Nature is a collaboration with Modern Times from San Diego, and is a wild ale with LA Citrus. One of the most intense sours I’ve had is Passion Pit, which is barrel-aged with passion fruit and naranjilla. One of the more unique beers is Boil Advisory, a blonde ale brewed with crab boil seasoning, which gives it an interesting spice kick. The final beer I sampled was French Vanilla Coffee Brown, whose coffee notes were delicious. There were other unique options as well, such as a blonde ale with beet & ginger called Drop Tha Beet.
NOLA lives up to the high expectations I had set. They are clearly not sacrificing quality or experimentation despite a growing distribution. You could visit this brewery over and over and still have new brews to sample.
Just over a mile down the road from NOLA is Urban South Brewery. I loved this place, but warning to those who go in summer, they do not have A/C, only several large fans. However, it is worth dealing with the heat. A huge open warehouse, the taproom utilizes the space well. The exposed brick walls and sheet metal roof give this building an ‘original’ feel. A long bar takes up space in one corner, and there is a plethora of bar games (pool, bags, foos ball) for patrons. Of course there is plenty of seating, and you can view all the brewing equipment to the left of the bar. To the right, pallets of cans are stacked up, providing an impressive backdrop.
If you’ve read my previous articles, you know IPAs are generally not my favorite, but their Grapefruit IPA nearly took top prize. Grapefruit notes bounced back and forth with the hoppiness, making for an interesting drink. Coop’d Up was a delightful tart Farmhouse Ale, but the tartness did overpower the farmhouse qualities (not saying that’s a bad thing). Choconut surprised me, as normally beers with coconut are not for me. This was probably because the chocolate was more present on the nose and taste. I was honestly kind of disappointed by the Charming Wit, as it seemed pretty bland. While I did not sample it, I’ve heard good things about their IPA Holy Roller, brewed with several hop varieties.
Urban South is a place I would want to go with a group of friends to hang out. There is plenty to do, and the beer is great. Plus, it has a great location, just a short walk to downtown and the French Quarter.
Speaking of location, Crescent City has the best location of the breweries. Being the only one located in the French Quarter, it is right smack in the action. Having been around since 1991, it is also unique among this patch of breweries in that as a brewhouse, it serves as a full restaurant. I would even say the restaurant portion comes first. This is a 2-story establishment, with the 2nd floor looking down onto the bar. There are some awesome jellyfish lanterns hanging above bar, with several mirrors hanging opposite of it. Through windows behind the bar you can see the brewing equipment, which is labeled. Lots of wood and exposed brick gives the place an older feel (as it should, the building is originally from the mid 1700s and then was rebuilt after a fire in 1794).
Six beers are on tap at Crescent City, with five regulars and one seasonal. They are true to style, nothing fancy, which is what you would expect from a brewhouse. Their flagship is a Vienna-style red ale called Red Stallion. As with the others, it is what you would expect. Malts provide a nice body, and overall it’s very drinkable. Black Forest was another top pick of mine, with rich and roasty notes. For those dropping by to chat with friends and toss a few beers back, their Pilsner is light and crisp, a perfect representation. Finally, I sampled Weiss Beer, which had your typical clove notes with limited banana on the back.
For those visiting New Orleans, this is the most convenient place for brewery hunters to visit. And while I myself did not dine there, it appeared they offered an extensive menu.
Courtyard Brewery was my last stop in New Orleans. Just a bit north of Urban South in the Lower Garden District, Courtyard’s taproom is focused around (Surprise!) an outdoor area, or ‘courtyard’ if you will. Large wooden cable spools are used as tables on the large brick patio. Palm trees give it a tropical atmosphere. Going inside the taproom is, shall we say, interesting? It’s smallish and somewhat awkward, with random and jumbled seating. A compact, simple bar is stationed towards the back, and for some reason part of the floor is covered in artificial turf.
IPAs are the name of the game at Courtyard, as in 7 of the 10 beers on tap were of this variety. How To Live In Style was my favorite. This oddly named brew is a NE IPA with a tropical nose which follows through on the tongue. A slightly more quaffable option is the session IPA Baby. This laid back brew was fruity as far as IPAs go, with hints of grapefruit. Her Symphony and Song was the sole non-IPA I had. The saison was simple and true to style, a nice option for those who do not care for hoppy beers. Note: they do not offer flights, but will do half pours, which is what I did.
This is a must-stop for hopheads. As I mentioned, they pretty much specialize in IPAs, and besides the large variety of this style, the names are awesome too. Like: Sonic Youth In 1983, Preach!, or the stout named No Sexual Connection Between The Political Parties.
New Orleans may not be considered the craft beer hotbed of the country, but they have a solid variety of options, and the industry is certainly growing. Unique beers and interesting taprooms highlighted my visit, and I would thoroughly enjoy a return trip.
During our move from Milwaukee to New Hampshire for my wife’s first assignment as a travel nurse, I was able to visit six breweries with stops in Cincinnati, Rochester, and Vermont. I will select my four favorites for the next edition of Brewery Travels!
Current Brewery Count
97 breweries across 50 cities in 14 states. These numbers are accurate as of August 31, 2017. For an up-to-date count, please follow my travels on Twitter: @brewerytravels