Gayle Benson’s Multi-Million Dollar Brewery Hopes to Transform New Orleans East
by NOLA Brew Bus STAFF
Dixie Beer for almost a century was a loved local New Orleans brewed beer. Local natives have their nostalgic memories drinking Dixie Beer on long hot summer nights.
But, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina knocked out the city’s infrastructure. Upon returning to the scene, Dixie management learned that looters stole all their equipment forcing the brewery to contract out the brewing process outside the state, after 97 years in New Orleans.
Fast forward to 2017, Dixie Beer once again hit the craft beer market in the Big Easy. New Orleans craft beer lovers felt a tad slighted with Dixie Beer’s strong marketing efforts, portraying themselves as a New Orleans local beer when actually brewed in Memphis, TN.
However, New Orleans Saints’ Owner and Philanthropist, Gayle Benson, squashed the haters and announced in August 2018 she and her team will transform the former 97-year old New Orleans brewery into a brand new multi-million dollar facility in New Orleans East.
Expectations are set to revitalize the area. Local Dixie management and New Orleans City Officials are already in the works to help with mowing high grass areas and cleaning up the acreage located around the brewery and off the interstate 10.
When NOLA Brew Bus e-mailed Dixie Beer GM, Jim Birch, for a site visit, we were excited to learn they anticipated an earlier Grand Opening.
Dixie Set to Open Late 2019/Early 202
18 months to 24 months was the initial forecast projecting a 2020 opening, but Dixie is ready to start brewing beer this Fall, a few months ahead of schedule.
As far as the exact opening date, Jim says, “We are likely to take about two months of quality assurance and flavor matching before beginning to brew beer for onsite consumption and distribution in New Orleans…(we plan to open) closer to late 2019, early 2020.”
We had a chance to explore the brewery, view the construction and listen to local management’s vision about what’s in store for this diamond of a brewery.
What to Expect
For starters, Dixie is brewing close to 10,000 barrels annually via its current distribution network. So, right off the bat, Dixie becomes one of the largest breweries in New Orleans.
Secondly, this will now become a new destination for New Orleans East for both locals and tourists alike. The outside lawn and biergarden will include space for families and larger groups to congregate and relax.
The inside tasting room, snack bar, and Dixie history exhibits will have ample space for private events, brewmaster curated tastings other pre-programmed events.
The brewery will occupy over 85,000 square feet of the old McFrugal warehouse – with another 180,000 square feet available for lease immediately next to Dixie.
Expect a full kitchen with more than 50 employees on staff for the Grand Opening.
As far as the fermenters are concerned, they are starting strong, full steam ahead with 20 200-barrel fermenters purchased from a recently closed Red Hook Brewing facility. For those not familiar, stainless steel brewing equipment has an extremely long service life.
Dixie also has the option to install 5 800-Barrel fermenters as production ramps up. In addition to the fermenters, Jim says, “We will have three Mueller serving tanks that will allow us to serve beer without ever kegging it.”
Will Dixie Brew Craft Beer?
Craft beer is an evolving market when trends are concerned. Just consider how flagships are a dying demand compared to brewing more weird, one-off unique beers.
Dixie brews 3 beers currently: Dixie, Dixie Light, and Dixie Blackened Voodoo, beers that locals correlated with the domestic industry and not necessarily as premier craft beers.
NOLA Brew Bus’ biggest question was: Will they alchemize local craft beer to compete with our Big Easy taproom culture?
With the new facility marks new territory though, and Dixie is building a small batch 15-barrel innovative brewhouse with dedicated craft beer taps. Did we mention they will have 17 taps? That’s right…this will allow them to brew unique styles that New Orleans beer fans have come to love.
Brieux Carre in the Marigny has a 7-barrel brewhouse, and they were able to churn out 40 weird beers for their 2nd-year Anniversary including a few mixed fermentation beers, mushroom oyster stouts, and more.
Time will tell how creative Dixie gets with their craft beer, but as Jim notes, “the 15-barrel system is designed to let us experiment and take some risks that we can’t do on the 100-barrel brewhouse.”
The Dixie team is fired up to be slightly ahead of schedule for the Grand Opening. We’re also excited to see the manifestation of more jobs in our booming beer industry, and we are ready to Brew more Tourism!
We will be stopping by between now and the Grand Opening so stay tuned to NOLA Brew Bus on social media for the scoop!