By Bobby Bush
It has been several years since my last foray to New Orleans. Though not known as a
great beer city, the licentious activities of Bourbon Street and the many fine (and
expensive) restaurants more than make up for a dearth of beer ambiance. Regional
brewery Dixie Beer is still functional, but at roughly 10% of its heyday volume. Jax
Brewery is long out of business. Its brick walls now host a shopping mall.
Not to say that New Orleans is completely lacking in beer. Crescent City
Brewhouse on Decatur Street, not too far from the outdoor flea market called the French
Market, has been open since 1991. Famed as one of the better seafood restaurants in
town, this two-story brewpub offers raw oysters, gumbo, tuna steaks and a variety of
delicacies from the ocean blue. They also brew German style beers.
As we settled into our table, brewer Wolfram Kohler was hard at work in his
brewhouse, situated behind the downstairs bar where everyone could watch. Food
ordered, we started into the Crescent City sampler tray. Pilsner was light, satisfying as
only pils can with faint malt flavor chased by rooty hop taste and aftertaste. All in all, a
nice rendition of the classic Czech style. Moderately cloudy, Weiss was medium bodied
with big banana flavor. Again, very traditional. Vienna-style Red Stallion was light
copper in hue and not quite medium in mouthfeel. Alcohol notes punctuated its malty
flavor, which ended with a tinge of sourness. From its cloudy orange tone, seasonal
Oktoberfest offered hints of caramel and coffee from within its malty glory. Flavor
intensified with increased consumption as each swallow ended with tingly sweetness.
Coca-Cola in color, the “traditional Munich style” Black Forest was decked with thick tan
foam. This rich brew caressed the tongue with malted barley flavor, offering smooth
contrast to many of the spicy Cajun dishes on Crescent City’s menu.
Over in New Orlean’s college district, Acadian Brewery was on its second life. A Saturday afternoon live trivia contest was in session as we
walked into this library-quiet barroom. Only three house beers on tap - that’s all they
normally offer. Helles Bock was golden, malty with dry hop finish. Done Vienna style,
Amber was malty and unremarkable, while Pilsner was light, golden and brightly hopped.
The best of the litter. Other than bagged snacks, no food was available. Acadian is really
a microbrewery designed to sell kegs to local bars and restaurants. The bar, an
afterthought at best, is a hangout for locals.
Over on the northwest side of Nawlins in the suburd of Metarie, we paid our first
visit to Zea Rotisserie & Brewery. Open since February 2000, Lijah Foregger is the
brewer for this shopping center, upscale restaurant-cum-brewpub. From a long, fancy bar
we lit into a sampler tray of five house-brewed beers. Thin and lowly hopped, Fat City
Light and Viennese style Big Easy Lager were the requisite beginners beers, although the
lager was particularly nice. Clearwater N2 Pale Ale was smooth and hoppy. With each
tilt of the glass, Belgian lace painted a filmy pattern on the inside glass surface. Almost
medium in body, this beer foretold promise for the entire Zea (pronounced Z-ahh) roster.
Jeff Parish Porter released chocolate and light roasted malt goodness from within its dark
mocha foundation. Seasonal 21st Century Oktoberfest was perfectly balanced. Opulent
malty taste met hoppy bitterness in a rush of flavor.
Though we sampled only the duck empanades appetizer, which was tantalizingly
delicious, Zea’s menu looked extremely enticing. Lunch entrees include red beans & rice,
southern fried catfish, pesto crusted trout, rotisseried chicken and rib platters. Dinner
centers around roasted garlic & herb glazed chicken, twice cooked crispy duck, grilled
salmon with balsamic glaze, wood grilled rainbow trout and braised veal roast. And the
best part? It all gets washed down with great Zea beer.
Not really a beer town, but a fun town, New Orleans has a lot to offer in
entertainment, culture and cuisine. Good beer? You have to search for it. Seek and ye
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush