An Awesome Year for Louisiana Beer Lovers
By: Matt Marsiglia, NOLA Brew Bus Founder
January 1, 2018
As I reflect upon 2017, it was one helluva year for our beer scene. Finally, Louisiana, a state who ranks near last in every category you want to be first has a niche we can be proud to call home: craft beer. With just one brewery open in early 2014, we now boast 9 across the city.
Although still lacking in terms of total beer produced, the quality of our beer has been phenomenal. With so many great brews to talk about, where to even start?
In no particular order, here are some of our highlights of Louisiana’s breakout year for craft beer.
Year of the Hops
Ghost in the Machine, Jucifer, Preach!, Grace & Grit, Holy Roller, Envie, Atticus Atlas, Finial, Foggy Glasses, Alryte Alryte Alryte, Hoppyright Infringement, Commotion, Brightside, Sonic Youth in 1983, Techeticles.
And, too many more to list.
As a Louisiana beer lover, you have probably heard of all of these. All amazing beers loaded with hops. Well done Louisiana!
For more hop goodness, head over to our extensive IPA blog highlighting many of the goodies: Louisiana Hops Among Nation’s Finest
6 New Breweries Open in New Orleans
Brieux Carre, Parleaux Beer Lab, Port Orleans, Royal Brewing, Wayward Owl (technically December 2016) and Broad St. Cider and Ale all opened their doors while 40 Arpent right outside of New Orleans in Arabi, LA unfortunately closed.
All the new breweries are doing really great things individually. Brieux Carre & Parleaux filled the much needed gap in the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods.
Brieux Carre has been making some really nice Imperial Stouts including Santa’s Pants & Spignot’s Breakfast Stout. They name all their beers before they brew ’em, thus resulting in some creative beers like “Trust Me, It’s Worth the Parking.”
Parleaux Beer Lab services the hipsters in the Bywater with a lot of experimental beers such as Berliner Weisse, Gose (“gose-uh”), and Sour IPAs.
Wayward Owl is Central City’s only brewery and open less than a year; they have already expanded distribution to multiple southern Louisiana cities. Broad St. Cider & Ale brewing ciders close by while Royal Brewing is helping revitalize the Lakefront Arena area of New Orleans. Multiple construction projects are on the way including Tipitina’s new entertainment destination set to open in 2019.
If it were not for these breweries opening in 2017, our beer scene would not have garnered the attention it did nationally.
Urban South’s Meteoric Rise in Popularity
Although this was Urban South Brewing’s first full year in production, you would never know it based on the quality of beers being released.
On any given day, you may see kids playing in a spacewalk on a Saturday afternoon, bachelor parties aggressively playing cornhole, or Galaga arcade quietly playing in the background.
There’s also basketball, pool, public brewery tours, a creative gift shop, local sports on the big screens, crawfish boils every Thursday (springtime while in season) and multiple picnic tables. Don’t forget to bring man’s best friend too as Urban South is dog-friendly: 19 Dog-Friendly Bars & Breweries in New Orleans
Throughout the year, Urban South released multiple pilot brews: Citralicious, Coffee IPA, Wet Hop IPA, Spruce Tip IPA, Sour Cherry Stout, Vietnamese Coffee Stout, and the list goes on…
The one pilot that may have stood out most was the Cucumber Lime Gose. Look for this absolute perfect pool beer to be in regular rotation this summer.
Urban South’s Architect Series also stood out amongst crowd favorites. The second batch of Finial Double IPA is being hyped as one of the best beers in Louisiana. Notice I said the second batch. Urban South strives to constantly tweak recipes until they think it’s a homerun. Oh, did I already mention they always use natural ingredients?
Case in point: Charming Wit & Holy Roller. Both recipes tweaked to perfection. Holy Roller, now one of the most distributed IPAs on tap in New Orleans, is better than ever. This juicy, hazy flagship is a staple in the #brewbus fridge while Charming Wit changed up the yeast to make it more crushable than ever.
You may also notice that the Taproom changes everytime you step foot into the old warehouse–changes that always upgrade the brewery. Our customers tell us it’s one of the coolest taprooms they have seen in the country.
No matter why you visit though, bottomline, the beer is fantastic and look for even bigger things out of Urban South in 2018. Karlos Knott, Founder of Bayou Teche, a fantastic brewery out of Arnaudville, LA, agrees, and he also wrote a great article on his visit to Urban South.
Brewery Owners Workout Issues with ATC Regulations
Of course, it would not have been 2017 without politics getting involved in our beer scene, but the ATC decided to flex its muscle this year amid a few complaints from local restaurants regarding food sales, private events, as well as how they market and advertise their business.
Louisiana craft breweries frustrated with ATC regulations and Louisiana breweries fearing closures after regulations, clash with state officials are two good articles to catch-up on the situation. The initial regulations would have put places like McClure’s BBQ and Stokehold Restaurant out of business, two brick and mortars conveniently located inside of NOLA & Port Orleans Brewery.
After a few meetings with the Louisiana Craft Beer Guild, who officially hired a new Director Cary Koch to be the singular voice for all Louisiana Brewery owners, the ATC relaxed a little bit allowing craft brewers more autonomy in their decision-making process. At a time when our state is already lagging behind the rest of the country, these new regulations created a stressful time for Louisiana Brewery owners in 2017.
The industry still needs changes though: Brewery Regulations Must Change in Louisiana!
Parish Brewing’s Epic Grand Reserve Month
A perfect example of how the ATC changed the landscape of one event is Parish Brewing’s Annual Grand Reserve Day. Instead of having one day of shenanigans, specialty beer casks, outside serving stations, live bands and just one big-ass party, the state’s best Brewery decided to create a Grand Reserve Month. None of the bells and whistles of a big party which the ATC frowned upon with grainy regulations that could be interpreted differently depending on your perspective.
Regardless, it all worked out phenomenally for Parish as the month-long event culminated with the most hyped release in Louisiana beer history: the Double Dry Hopped Ghost in the Machine. In addition, Parish also released bombers of Maple Shade, an Imperial Reserve stout aged for a year in Four Roses bourbon barrels and refermented on maple syrup and further aged on Rêve coffee.
The previous 3 weekends were no slouches either as Parish released Pure Tropics, Atticus Atlas, and Blood Orange Envie. All 3 beers were outstanding, and without these ATC issues, we don’t think Parish would have creatively changed an already huge event. In the end, Parish hit a homerun and the consumers loved it as well.
Parish also recently announced they will be contract brewing 3 flagship beers (Envie, South Coast, & Canebrake). Doing this will allow more special releases like the epic GR month, and it will likely determine how soon Parish opens a new multi-million dollar facility as hinted by Founder Andrew Godley.
Courtyard Brewery’s 420 HopFest
Courtyard put together maybe the best hop draft list that Louisiana has seen under one roof during their annual block party on April 20th. This coupled with consistent high-quality small batch IPAs has bolted Courtyard into any beer geek’s bucket list when visiting NOLA. These guys brew just a few hundred barrels a year in their 3-barrel taproom, but the quality is as good as it gets. The guest taps are also known as some of the best in the city.
Here’s one of Courtyard’s newest IPAs, Clouds of Hope, sitting side-by-side with the much hyped Jucifer from Gnarly Barley.
NOLA Brewing’s Funk Series team dominating the local Sour scene
Tucked away in the back of the old World War II aircraft manufacturing plant sits NOLA’s funk series room. With multiple bottle releases over the past few months, no one in the Gulf Coast is putting out better sours than NOLA Brewing.
At any given moment, NOLA will have at least 4 to 6 sours on tap seven days a week. They are all worth a try.
Saints owner Tom Benson purchasing Dixie Beer
Dixie Beer is a nostalgic New Orleans brand. At one point in the 50s, Dixie controlled 30% of the local beer market. This reason alone is why Dixie has created quite the controversy among Louisiana Brewers. Mostly, the marketing tactics have been controversial as Dixie attempts to brand the beer as a local product albeit brewed in Memphis, TN.
The marketing worked though. At Cooter Brown’s, Dixie is a now a top 5 beer on draft. It’s also taking up valuable shelf space at your local grocer. The beer is flooded with advertisements all over the Superdome along with draft lines flowing freeingly.
“It seems to me it just happened because Tom Benson owned the Saints,” said Lindsey Nations at Great Raft brewing out of Shreveport. “I’m not sure they earned that placement.”
Kirk Coco, founder of NOLA Brewing and president of the Louisiana Brewers Guild. “That even though there may not be anything wrong, it makes it look like something is going on, and that can be bad enough for our industry. If they’re carrying Dixie (in the Superdome), which is a Memphis-made beer that has ties to New Orleans, you’d think they’d be carrying other New Orleans beers…. It’s definitely a little off putting.”
Benson has already footed millions into this new project which he hopes to launch nationally one day. Dixie is branding itself as a “local craft beer” when in essence, they are simply another replacement for Budweiser and the mega InBev corp.
Popular beer blogger Good Beer Hunting was able to show the perspective from both parties with their long blog on the issue.
Parish Brewing’s Summer of Ghost Promotion
We have already touched on Parish once, but Summer of Ghost was a big deal this year and certainly worthy of a 2017 headline.
Prior to the Summer of Ghost release, Parish sold out immediately in Brewery Only releases of the hard to find elite double IPA. Beer geeks everywhere were buying up the company’s inventory and using it as “trade bait” in order to receive exclusive hard to find beers in other parts of the country. Beer trading is huge in America, this type of experience is not uncommon.
Parish started to realize that your everyday local was unable to secure any of the beer. All the grocery stores held 4-packs behind the counter. You had to call ahead and put your name on the list, or simply show up at the right time.
Unless you kept your eye out on social media, actually finding the beer to drink was very difficult. Parish changed that by taking a brewery only sellout release and producing thousands of cases distributed for the first time all across Louisiana. It was a beautiful sight, and it really allowed your average craft beer fan to dive into a beer he or she may have never tried.
Multiple Universities collab with Local Breweries
Bayou Teche’s beer Ragin Cajun was the first ever beer in America to be licensed by a local university–University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
A USA Today article summed it perfect: College football fans love beer, and now universities want to cash in
Amid protests from a lone Shreveport Congressman, Louisiana voted in something right for a change: the ability of local brewer’s to create special beers strictly licensed to local universities. Louisiana now leads the nation in the number of universities with a local beer:
- Gnarly Barley Brewing in Hammond brews Lion Up for SLU Lions
- Wayward Owl brews Privateer Pale Ale for the UNO Privateers
- NOLA’s Angry Wave brews for Tulane
- Tin Roof brews Bayou Bengal for LSU
- Bayou Teche brews Ragin Cajun for University of Louisiana at Lafayette
What’s up for 2018?
That sums up an exciting 2017 for New Orleans and Louisiana craft beer. So, what’s in store for 2018? A few bold and not so bold projections (old news) for 2018:
- Miel Brewery set to open in 2018 just two blocks from NOLA
- Courtyard Brewery to expand to a second unknown location (this year or next?)
- Parish Brewing to announce a new location at the end of the year?
- With the new tax cuts, local breweries now only pay $3.50 per barrel instead of $7, a net result of hundreds of millions of savings in the industry; we expect more breweries to start the planning process
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