NOLA Brewing Shows Us Their Cans

By Alex Gearhart

Tchoupitoulas. What? That’s right, Tchoupitoulas Street (chop-i-too-lass), or as the locals say “Chop.” This famous street along the Mississippi River runs through Uptown New Orleans and is home to New Orleans Lagers and Ales Brewery (NOLA Brewing).

As the levees broke during hurricane Katrina, Kirk Coco, a Surface Warfare Navy Officer based in Seattle, vowed then and there to return to his hometown and start a business to help restore hurricane-struck New Orleans. Upon returning home, Kirk realized that New Orleans lacked a local craft beer offering; Kirk’s reinvestment in the city would be beer: NOLA Brewing was born.

Incorporated in October of 2008 and pumping out beer in March of 2009, NOLA was in business. In less then three years of operation, NOLA has grown from three to 10 employees and 1,200 barrels of production to a predicted 7,000 barrels of beer in 2012. Since adding a four-head canning line in October of 2011 to distribute their Blonde Ale, NOLA will be taking over the building next door to add an additional 10,000 square feet to their growing operation.

The cans have been a hit, as well as the Blonde Ale inside of them. The Crescent City’s open container law regarding alcoholic beverages has provided a unique marketing opportunity that most other cities in the U.S. could only dream of. Yes, you can roam the streets of New Orleans openly drinking alcohol as long as it’s not in glass. The Blonde Ale cans are sure to make plenty of appearances during the Mardi Gras season.

Being located in New Orleans makes the marketplace completely different than what most breweries are used to. Instead of the common peak demand being in the summer, NOLA’s peak demand is during Mardi Gras. NOLA makes a point of celebrating the Mardi Gras season “their own way,” said cellerman Will Thompson.”We like to show people how to have good Louisiana time with crawfish boils and events focusing on local charities.”

NOLA is able to use local New Orleans culture to create a memorable craft beer experience. Hosting a pub crawl in any other city wouldn’t end with viewing a parade from a French Quarter balcony. Currently in preparation for Mardi Gras, NOLA is busy canning their Blonde Ale as well as brewing their Flambeaux Red Mardi Gras beer.

Aside from the excitement related to the Blonde Ale cans, the NOLA crowd is stoked about the collaboration brew they just completed with Stone Brewing Company of Escondido, Calif. The collaboration, an Imperial Porter called Pour Me Something Mistah, encapsulates New Orleans’ gastro culture with local molasses and Satsuma orange peel. It is the first collaboration beer ever to be brewed in Louisiana; appropriately christened with a southern name. In addition to their collaboration with Stone, look out for their Double IPA Mecha Hopzilla, as well as the Brown Ale can release in the near future.

For those of you who make it down to Nawlins’ for Mardi Gras this February 21, be sure to drop down to Chop Street and say hello to the krewe that’s making New Orleans’ very own beer. And don’t forget, you won’t need to be throwing beads to see NOLA’s cans.

Alex GearhartAlex Gearhart, current Craft Beer Program intern at the Brewers Association, is a worshipper of the sun and cottonwoods, he can be found homebrewing when not exploring the Colorado Plateau. After completing his BA in Spanish for Business from the University of Colorado at Boulder in May, he plans to take his knowledge from the Napa Valley of Beer to Brazil to start his own brewpub.