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American Craft Beer Week returns to New Orleans May 15-21 

New beers and events at local breweries and more

click to enlarge Owner Polly Watts focuses on craft beer at The Avenue Pub

Photo by Nora McGunnigle

Owner Polly Watts focuses on craft beer at The Avenue Pub

New Orleans' beer scene has changed a lot in one year. When last year's American Craft Beer Week began, Urban South Brewery had just opened (March 2016), making it the third production brewery and sixth brewery (including brewpubs Crescent City Brewhouse and Gordon Biersch and microbrewery Courtyard Brewery) in the city.

  Since then, five breweries opened in Orleans Parish. Wayward Owl Brewing Company started brewing in November 2016, and four others were licensed to brew in March 2017: Brieux Carre Brewing Company in Faubourg Marigny, Parleaux Beer Lab in Bywater, Royal Brewery New Orleans in New Orleans East and Port Orleans Brewing Company on Tchoupitoulas Street near Napoleon Avenue.

  Wayward Owl began canning its flagship beers Family Tree Kristallweisen and Clean Slate IPA soon after opening. The roster of regular beers also includes Tawny Twit ESB (Extra Special Bitter), Scops Scotch Ale and The Grind, a coffee-infused brown ale.

  Brieux Carre has a relatively large brewhouse system (seven barrels) for its small space, but it offers an ever-changing selection of beer just steps from the cluster of music spots on Frenchmen Street.

  In Bywater, Parleaux Beer Lab co-founder and head brewer Eric Jensen creates unique twists on classic styles, such as a kolsch with lemon grass and an altbier with rooibos.

  Royal Brewery is busy brewing its first flagship, Culicidae Ale, an American-British pale ale hybrid.

  Port Orleans opened its tasting room May 9, offering Slack Water Brown Ale, Storyville IPA and Riverfront Lager. It has a restaurant and a patio overlooking Tchoupitoulas Street.

  Meanwhile, the city's existing breweries are expanding.

  NOLA Brewing Company recently celebrated its eighth anniversary. It grew from a warehouse space that sold beer by the keg to three warehouses on Tchoupitoulas Street with taprooms on two floors, outdoor seating and an event space. The brewery also has a sour beer program.

  Second Line Brewing hired former Bayou Teche brewer Gar Hatcher as its head brewer, and he has expanded the beer styles offered and increased its capacity.

  In less than a year, Urban South is brewing enough beer to distribute outside New Orleans, and its brews are now available on the Northshore and in Baton Rouge. The brewery doubled its production and capacity seven months after opening.

  Courtyard Brewery doubled its space when it opened one side of its warehouse as an art gallery. It continues to brew a variety of styles and has collabo-rated with nearby businesses including Stein's Market & Deli, District Donuts.Sliders.Brew and Coquette.

  In Arabi, 40 Arpent Brewing Company opened its taproom on the levee.

  Across Lake Pontchartrain, Chafunkta Brewing Company has expanded the hours of its tasting room, and Abita Brewing Company doubled the number of taps in its taproom. Gnarly Barley Brewing Company in Hammond reformulated its flagship Radical Rye P.A. and has a beer available year-round, Jucifer IPA, and issued a limited release of Brightside IPA.

  The craft beer scene has filled out with beer-focused restaurants, bottle shops, events and more.

  In November, Freret Beer Room became the city's first beer-focused restaurant. It has 16 taps, and owner Eli Gay has a seasonally changing menu of food designed to pair with beer.

  Retail beer specialty store 504 Craft Beer Reserve has a diverse selection of beer and tap lines for filling growlers to go. The shop has partnered with breweries to present tastings and offers classes in beer styles.

  Three tour companies focusing on beer began operations in the past year. New Orleans Original Brewery Tour, NOLA Brew Bus and New Orleans Brews Cruise all offer tours to select breweries. NOLA Brew Bus and New Orleans Brews Cruise also go to the Northshore to Abita Brewing and for special events.

  Annual beer events include the Louisiana SPCA fundraiser NOLA On Tap and Nuit Belge, and Courtyard Brewery hosted the inaugural Louisiana Hop Festival in April. Nuit Belge features Belgian and Belgian-style beers and food from local restaurants. Courtyard Brewery donates proceeds from the Louisiana Hop Fest to the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild. Courtyard owner Scott Wood says the event will need to move to a new location to accommodate the crowd.

  In 2012, New Orleans had one production brewery and two brewpubs, and there were eight breweries in the state. Louisiana now has 34 breweries (including brewpubs). There's plenty to celebrate during American Craft Beer Week, and given the expansion, plenty of new beer to drink.


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