Happy Mardi GrasAbita and Dixie beer are part of the fabric of The Big Easy
February 23, 2017
By Jeff Gredlein | The Beer Snob
It’s Mardi Gras time in New Orleans. Revelers enjoy hurricanes, jambalaya, beads, and boobs. Well, some of them anyway. This is a great time of year to honor the variety of beers brewed in that classic old southern port city. So, steam up some crawfish, slice the king cake, and grab a cold NOLA brew.
While several new smaller breweries and brewpubs have sprung up in New Orleans since I last visited a decade ago, I’ve not sampled any, nor are they available outside of the city. But Nola’s big two breweries can be found across the southeast.
Dixie Brewing Company is the oldest brewery in the city of New Orleans. Founded in 1907, the brewery began production that same year. Dixie has faced many tests over the last century, but none was more challenging than a real hurricane, Katrina. At the time, Dixie lost their bottling line and a huge amount of bottled beer. However, Dixie is back and going strong.
The brewery’s flagship beer, Dixie, is an American macro lager that’s a step up from the offerings of Bud, Miller or Coors. Grainy, slightly sweet, and golden, this is pretty standard stuff, but it does what it’s supposed to do when served ice cold. Which is, wash down spicy food like red beans and rice.
Dixie also offers Blackened Voodoo, a dark lager brewed in the Munich style. The bottle offers a spooky bayou scene, and the beer is an average toasty, caramel malt and dark fruit Schwarzbier; a bit on the thin side, but extremely easy to drink.
New Orleans’ most famous brewery is actually located north of the city. Abita Brewing Company in Abita Springs also sustained some damage from the big hurricane, but is back to its brewing ways. The brewery began in 1986, but today brews over 151,000 barrels of beer and 9,000 barrels of root beer a year.
Abita makes nearly 30 beers all told, including those available year round (like Amber, Turbodog, Andygator and Purple Haze) along with several seasonal offerings, harvest, select, and Bourbon Street series. Their January to March seasonal, Mardi Gras Bock is out right now, and goes hand in hand with the festivities.
Abita’s bock is actually a Maibock, a lighter colored, hoppier version of a traditional German bock. Although Maibocks are typically released in early spring, especially the month of May, Abita’s version works well in that bayou weather. It’s worth a shot if for no other reason than the lack of Maibocks on the market.
Purple Haze, at one time brewed as an American style wheat beer, is now a fruit lager brewed with raspberries. I recall enjoying and often drinking this beer around 2001, although it often gave me some nasty heartburn. Now, I really can’t tolerate this beer, and would suggest avoiding it.
One beer I do recommend is a great late winter/early spring option. An American version of an English brown ale, Abita Brewery’s Turbodog offers coffee/toffee in the nose, with a touch of something more earthy. Sweet malt hits the tongue, with a coffee taste in the middle of the mouth and a tang in the back. A mild chocolate flavor is experienced as well, with just a touch of hop to keep the beer from becoming too sweet. A great balance of taste. As the beer warms, a nutty bread taste shows up, which is quite nice. Although the beer appears dark and smells strong, it is actually an easy drinking brew, and you could easily have more than a few, and it does work well on Fat Tuesday. Enjoy the brews … Cheers.
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