New Orleans crawl
By Gregg Smith
Crawfish, cool jazz, gumbo, oysters, etoufee, trolley cars, jambalaya, hot peppers, over
head fans, high heat and humidity; ask most folks what New Orleans is and the answers
are usually contained in that list. Ask them to name good beer towns and the "Big Easy"
never seems to make the cut. At first glance putting together a New Orleans beer pub crawl
seemed hopeless as separating the delta from Spanish Moss hanging in Cypress trees.
How pleasant to find perception flawed. In New Orleans you can have it all.
Throughout this pub crawl you'll have opportunity to see, hear and taste the best the city
has to offer. To do it you'll start without a beer. Relax, it's part of getting into the city's easy
going pace. Start at Canal Street. Have one of the friendly locals direct you to a St.Charles
street car stop and have a dollar ready to pay your fare. Stepping on board you're about to
take the least expensive and most scenic tour of the city, directly through the heart of the
garden district. What you'll see is some of the best examples of gracious living the south
has to offer. Push the window up, sit back and enjoy the ride past well kept homes, Loyola
and Tulane Universities, and Audubon park. As you go you'll notice the tracks are ever
gradually turning, the route parallels the river and the arc is how "Crescent City" got its
name. After a relaxing ride of twenty minutes or so the trolley makes a hard right turn on
Carrollton. This is where you begin to look sharp because within about eight blocks, at
Willow Street, it's your turn to pull the signal cord; and, like a native, walk to the back of
the car to exit (you have to push on the door to get it to open).
When you step off the trolley at Willow street face the same direction the trolley is moving
then turn left. Walk down Willow about fifty yards and on the left side you'll see an
unassuming green building at 8140 named "Carrollton Station", nearly across the street
from a transit station. Stepping inside it strikes a person as a bit dark; this is characteristic
of most New Orleans bars where limited window space makes it easier to keep places
cool. The interior of deep wood planking is somewhat brightened with prints and photo's
of sailing, a easy topic for engaging the owner in conversation. As you move to the taps the
low light and dark walls may result in overlooking the back bar, but take a moment to
admire the fine old wood work.
But chances are the details of the interior will be noticed later. What you really want to
focus on are the dozen taps and a beer list of more than 50 bottles. Among the selections
are the "local" micro breweries of Abita Springs and Rickenjacks. If available, give the
chewy scotch ale from Rickenjacks a try. To accompany the beer there's live music most
evenings; in fact, Carrollton Station is self-described as a "Bar and Music Club". Ask the
barkeep for a description of the acts which are posted on a nearby board.
The toughest part of leaving Carrollton Station, aside from the taps, is stepping outside and
readjusting to the sunshine. It makes you feel like one of the mole people. While re-
calibrating your vision head back to Carrollton Avenue, cross the street, and take a right.
This sends you back toward St.Charles which you will cross. After the intersection begin
looking for "Cooter Browns" at 509 South Carrollton. It's about 70 yards down on the
Although the interior of Cooters is dark and foreboding from the door, be adventurous and
boldly step inside. The decor is probably best described as rough wood, southern cowboy
or semi-rundown frontier style. A stereo plays music from a several hundred CD
collection, usually cued up to the college bands of the late sixties and seventies. (like the
Eagles and Creedance). However, beer is the reason to visit, and you won't be disappointed
With over forty taps and more than 200 bottles, there is something refreshing in "the land
of cotton" about hearing a southern accent requesting a Corsendonk. The beers are listed on
a menu by country, which includes more than 24 Belgians. At the end of the bar is a
shucking table where you can order up ice cold oysters, with a choice of several stouts to
wash the mollusk down. Should stout be a little too big for your taste the barkeeps will also
pull a respectable Black and Tan. These folks are knowledgeable about beer and the only
thing they're reluctant to draw is a request from Larry the owner for a Coors Light. As he
tells it, the reason to have so many beers is to ensure everyone gets what they like, and he
likes Coors Light.
When you finally pull yourself out of Cooter Browns it's once again time to get on the
Trolley. Walk back up to St.Charles and get on one heading back downtown. Travel down
to Eighth Street where you get off, turn right, and walk down Eighth. After about nine
short blocks you'll hit Magazine Street, turn right again and on the left side at 3236
Magazine you'll find "The Bulldog".
With a name drawing inference to a British namesake The Bulldog is the newcomer to the
New Orleans beer scene. It also may have the biggest selection in town, 50 taps and 200+
bottles await you. Unsure of ordering a particular beer? No problem. The bar does its
imitation of an ice cream shop by supplying small shot sized taste samples.
Decorated in British green with prints and bar towels from famous English pubs and
breweries the bar has a pleasing feature of allowing patrons to take beers out to the
sidewalk where they thoughtfully provide patio chairs. The Bulldog permits smoking but
has a rather innovative means of discouraging it; the cigarette machine is located in the
ladies room. Another unique aspect of The Bulldog is pitchers of your favorite tap, and
aside from Celis Grand Cru it is also one of the few places which will allow you to buy
Old Foghorn in that quantity.
It may be all you can do to remove yourself from the Bulldog, but if you manage, walk
back over to Eighth and up to St. Charles again. Hop back on the trolley and head
downtown where you'll get off at Canal and start walking down the left side of Decatur. At
331 you'll find "The Kerry" an Irish Pub serving up what many feel is the best pint of
Guinness in town.Though the beer selection is limited there always seems to be a friendly
crowd. If you're wandering around the French Quarter The Kerry is a quiet daytime retreat
from the garish bedlam of Bourbon Street.
A final recommendation is out the front door of The Kerry, left, and straight on to "The
Crescent City Brewhouse" at 527 Decatur. Operating as New Orleans' only Brewpub, the
brewmaster Wolfram Koehler offers four fresh brewed beers including a Pilsner, Vienna,
Dunkel and a rotating special - often a wheat beer in the summer months. The pub sits in a
restored building across the street from the old JAX's brewery. JAX is long gone but
Koehler has rushed in to fill the void and he ensures a relaxing place to enjoy the beer by
supplying live jazz from many notables including members of the talented Marsalis
By this point you've achieved a state of tranquility and are ready to work back toward the
French Quarter. Although the taps there are more sparse there's great music and many of
the places are now serving up beers from southern micro's. Have fun in the Big Easy and
don't worry about being able to find good beer; it's there.
© Gregg Smith