New Orleans was once the brewing capital of the South. From the time the first brewery opened in 1852, founded by Swiss immigrant Louis Fasnacht where the Cotton Mill apartments now stand until 1890, the number of breweries grew to 30, mostly fueled by German immigrants seeing a taste of home. Beers like Falstaff, Dixie, Jax and Regal - made popular by its jingle, “Red beans and rice and Regal on ice" - dominated the local market. Mirroring what happened in other cities around the country, including Philly and St. Louis, breweries closed as conglomerates dominated the market. The old Jax Brewery on Decatur Street was turned into a shopping and dining complex in the 1980s. The Dixie facility flooded during Katrina, and is now made in Wisconsin.
But just as craft cocktails are dominating the scene, craft small batch beer, made locally and regionally as well as across America, is back in the spotlight. Beer brewing has returned to south Louisiana through microbrewers like Abita, NOLA Brewing and Heiner Brau. And there are plenty of pubs that showcase the best of the best, often along with elevated pub grub and a strong helping of neighborhood cheer. Try one, or all of these pubs for great brews and good times.
It may not look like much from the outside, situated in a typical ramshackle shotgun house, But inside, there's a nice bar, a window to order food and then – wait for it – a door to a multi-level patio that is one of the best places to watch the game, hang with friends and nibble on some very good grub. There are fans and heaters - in use depending on the weather, and live music is often featured outside. Besides the usual burgers and wraps, there's something called disco fries, fresh fried potatoes covered in gracy and roast beef debris, which must be experienced.
Siberia is an alt music venue that rises to the top of the dive bar heap in a city that may just have invented the genre. Like most things New Orleans, Siberia has multiple personalities. It's live rock and roll music venue, well not really it's a Goth heavy metal venue. Ok forget that, you can catch a Cajun band for sure. Or if you're lucky, a somber Balkans folk trio that inspires what looks like Greek dancing. There's a convivial live and let live attitude here that is one of the best things about this town when it really comes together.
Tracey's was the original bar in the Irish Channel, opened in 1949 with new fangled comforts like air conditioning - a rarity back in the day. Also the first in the 'hood with color TV, Tracey's having opened in 1949. Its current location is on Magazine Street, and although it had been shuttered for some time, Jeffery Carreras reopened in 2010, bringing his famous recipe for roast beef po'boys to the bar along with a great beer list. Great drink specials and 20 TVs to watch the game makes Tracey's a top stop for visitors to catch their home team while on the road for business or pleasure.
You can't miss The Bulldog, what with their giant beer tap fountain facing Magazine Street passersby. The Garden District watering hole is a favorite among beer enthusiasts, with more than 50 beers on tap and 100 different bottled selections. The Bulldog also does bar food extremely well, with their burgers receiving high praise. Have your dog with you? The Bulldog is pet friendly, so bring Sparky along and grab your favorite pint of beer that you've likely never heard of. If you know you're going to be in town on your birthday, register online to become a Bulldog member online and receive a free beer on your special day.
Gordon Biersch is a large restaurant/sports bar on Poydras Street in the heart of the New Orleans CBD. Sit indoors or out, with TVs tuned to the game offering a hubbub of activity and a sporty soundtrack. Enjoy up close views of the brewery where the beer making goes down. You can really make a day out of Biersch's by planning a brewery tour for before or after the sporting event you plan to watch. The place can accommodate a crowd of up to 375, so it's also a top spot for convention groups, with private dining available. The food is a cut above the usual pub, with dishes like veggie sliders, goat cheese and spinach salad and gruyere flatbread on the menu.
Cooter Brown's is without a doubt the place to go for sports in Uptown New Orleans, and could be the number one spot for those who like to get a little rowdy when watching their team play. Stop number 43 on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, Cooter Brown's is loaded with flatscreens, offering views of the game from all vantage points. The Snooty Cooter is a new craft beer bar located at the back baroffering 46 unique drafts in addition to the 38 drafts up front (84 taps total). In the middle of the bar is picnic style seating for eating freshlyl shucked oysters, fried seafood and "Philly style" steaks.
The only microbrewery in the French Quarter, Crescent City Brewhouse sits on historic ground. Once the site of a two-story 14 room house dating to the 1700s, the building was razed by fire and rebuilt as a fine French Quarter home in the early 1800s. Later home to a fur processing plant, the building was vacant until it was renovated and opened as the Brewhouse in 1991, the first brewery to open in the state in more than 72 years. Enjoy a beer sample of the house brew along with the likes of fresh oysters, crabcakes, boudin balls and alligator bites.
This railroad-themed pub is yet another in the crop of eateries popping up like mushrooms along St. Claude Avenue. From the Molly's at the Market folks, the place is spare and casual, with the emphasis on grass-fed beef burgers with interesting toppings - like the spicy New Mexico Rail Runner burger is topped with green chiles, cheddar and a four-alarm chipotle aioli. Other pub fare includes chicken wings, pickled eggs and even a few salads. Beer lovers will high five over the 40 draft beers on tap, which span Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere around the United States. There is usually an Irish import on draft as well as an impressive number of craft bottles and cans.
Rub elbows with the natives at this diminuitive joint, where funk, blues and rock bands showcase regional talent every night. For a real good deal, come on Monday for free red beans and rice or hit the complimentary oyster bar at 10pm on Thursdays. Every Sunday is spaghetti Western night, with complimentary Italian eats, classic Italian westerns on the tube and live music by the likes of Ron Hotstream & The F-Holes - don't let the name fool you, these guys are pure country. There's no better way to dig into the local scene and you won't ever have to pay a cover.
Finn McCool's is a Mid City sports bar that embodies fan culture. There are six screens for viewing, including a 50" HD plasma and an 8' projector screen showing primarily soccer and rugby matches. At the forefront of the sports bar scene since 2002, Finn's is a familiar winner of accolades like "Best Neighborhood Bar" and "Best Bartender." Competition isn't just on the screen at this popular neighborhood spot. At Finn's you can play against fellow patrons in trivia, billiards, darts or even Scrabble depending on the night of the week. The place is even open for breakfast - try the breakfast burrito with a bloody Mary, delish.