We are happy to welcome a new contributor to Hoperatives. Chris Marshall took Carla’s Introduction to Craft Beer class this past spring as well as Cincinnati State’s Sensory Evaluation of Beer course. He’s new to the Cincinnati area and provides a fresh eye to the local scene. However, his first post is on a part of the country that is important to him.
My fiancée Jennifer and I visited New Orleans twice over the past three weeks. That alone would cause some to go green with envy, and I’m not complaining. The first trip was to attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where Jenn and I were introduced last year. Over four days, we were drenched, flooded out, generally left footsore and tired— and saw some incredible performances. If you haven’t been, please go. During our festival visit, we decided to get married in New Orleans, so trip number two was to scout wedding venues. While we weren’t there for the beer, we wanted to sample the craft offerings as much as possible. New Orleans was once home to dozens of breweries, but consolidation and Hurricane Katrina conspired to halt large-scale brewing in the city after 2005, when Dixie licensed production to a Wisconsin brewery. Since 2008, New Orleanians have slowly but surely started producing and embracing craft beer.
Aside from a single tap featuring the excellent Abita Amber, Jazz Fest doesn’t offer much for the craft beer lover. I got in touch with Nora McGunnigle, a local beer and food writer who authors the Nola Beer Blog, for help. Thanks to her, I made it to The Avenue Pub, with 38 beers on tap, a great bottle selection, and a huge array of Bourbon, rye and whiskey. They are also rightfully proud of their commitment to proper gas mixtures and draft line maintenance. You know you’re getting a great, fresh beer here every time! It was the only craft venue I visited on the first trip and it’s a great one.
To cool off during our second visit, we stopped into NOLA Brewing’s taproom for a flight. NOLA Brewing opened its doors in 2008 to fill the local beer void I mentioned above. It boasts a friendly and inviting taproom with knowledgeable staff. While sipping my flight, and snacking on tacos from the pop-up food vendor onsite, I got a glimpse into a brewery where the brewers are fearless about trying new things while respecting the craft, and improving the city. We’re hoping to have our rehearsal dinner there next year.
On our last night, we didn’t want to venture far beyond our French Quarter hotel. Thankfully, Wolf Koehler, a Bavarian brewmaster, opened the Crescent City Brewhouse on Decatur St. in 1991, and continues to brew and serve excellent beer in the German tradition. The beers here don’t have exotic names. There’s a Pilsner, Red Stallion Vienna Lager, Weiss Bier, and Black Forest Munich style dunkel, plus a special monthly offering. That’s it. Koehler lets the beer speak for itself and there’s something perfect about that that befits the French Quarter location and the German beer-making ethos. I’m looking forward to more visits to The Big Easy, and to my wedding next year when I can sample a few more craft beers. These two short trips gave me great memories and left me with more to explore.