Summer Brew Tour

00:00 May 25, 2014
By: Nora McGunnigle

The Northshore is where the wealthy used to escape the summer heat and increased likelihood of death by yellow fever. Its cool breezes off Lake Pontchartrain and easy access from New Orleans still make the Covington-Mandeville-Abita Springs area a great place for a getaway.

In the old lakeside resort area of Mandeville, The Old Rail Brewing Company brewpub has partnered up with neighboring nanobrewery Chafunkta Brewing to produce the first all-Louisiana collaboration beer. Called "Off The Tracks" referencing the Old Rail's location on the old railroad, it's a boysenberry-infused Belgian Blonde Ale. It was released during May's American Craft Beer Week, but you may still be able to find some on tap at the brewpub. Stay for lunch and try their refreshing Hobo Helles Lager or Echo Sierra Bravo ESB as well.

While in the neighborhood, go to the lake shore and enjoy a beer at the Barley Oak Draught House, which has an amazing selection of beer as well as a dog friendly front deck to enjoy a pint while taking in a great view. One such beer that will be available is Chafunkta's brand new release, Kingfish Ale, a crisp and light cream ale perfect for summertime.

If it's a Friday night, you can check out Chafunkta's weekly evening tour. It starts at 6 p.m., and while the tour is short due to the small size of the brewery, samples will be offered and meeting and talking with founders Josh and Jamie Erickson is always a treat in and of itself.

On Saturday mornings at 10 a.m., 10:45 a.m., and 11:30 a.m., Covington Brewhouse offers tours of its facility located on the Covington Trailhead. Their Ponchartrain Pilsner and Strawberry Ale are perfect for summer, while those who crave a little more adventure in their beer can sample their new flagship Anonymous IPA.

Abita's brand new summer seasonal, Seersucker Summer Pils is perfect for the hot and steamy summers in Louisiana. The release party is on Friday, June 4, at 4 p.m. at Deuce McAllister's Ole Saint restaurant and bar located in the French Quarter on Royal Street, just off of Canal Street The Ole Saint is a great place to find local craft beer while wandering the Quarter, as is Evangeline's on Decatur Street, which carries only Gulf Coast craft beer on tap. Both are great spots to duck into while wandering downtown and have a pick-me-up pint.

Abita will also have in the market its Harvest Summer Seasonal, the Lemon Wheat, just introduced last year. While up on the Northshore, the Abita tour is well worth a go; tours are at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Saturday tours at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., and 2 p.m.

Gnarly Barley in Hammond is newly opened; they don't have a tap room yet, but will be offering tours (email [email protected] for more details.) According to Gnarly Barley's co-founder and creative director Cari Caramonta, "The Catahoula Common will be a perfect beer for summer! It's crisp, refreshing and mixes well with fun in the sun. It's sessionable and pairs well with Louisiana food." Their other initial release, the Radical Rye PA, will combine spicy rye malt with loads of hops to create a bold and flavorful rye IPA.

Travelling further afield, a trip to Cajun Country is great for stocking up on andouille, boudin, and hogshead cheese. Now that Bayou Teche is fully moved into to its new Arnaudville brewery, it's also on the must-see list when in the area. Brewery tours are from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday, and from noon - 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

The brewery and tap room were created to be a place to hang out, kick back, drink beer, and listen to music, so often the brewery offers pig roasts, crawfish boils, and Cajun music on tap along with their beers. They have many experimental and one-off beers in the tap room; and while they don't have a dedicated summer seasonal beer, sales director Derek Domingue says that he thinks they brewery's LA-31 Passionné is perfect for summer drinking. It's a light wheat beer with a touch of sweet and tart tropical fruit flavor, and was created, according to Bayou Teche's website, "to quench Acadiana's warm weather thirsts."

Nearby in Broussard, Parish Brewing will be directing all its resources to keeping up with the explosive demand that summer places on its flagship Canebrake wheat beer. Founder and brewer Andrew Godley says that "during March through October, we have to stop producing any special beers so that we can maximize Canebrake production. This is the time of year when sales of Canebrake go through the roof."

Head out to Parish Brewing on Saturday afternoon for their tours at noon, 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. They also have a tap room which is open starting at noon on Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Heading East along the Gulf Coast, both Mississippi and Alabama have some fun breweries to check out just off I-10. In Gulfport, the Mississippi Brewing Company serves their beer right on the dock overlooking the water. It's a great place to relax and drink some fresh craft beer. A little further up in Ocean Springs is Crooked Letter Brewing, which has tours on Tuesday nights at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m., as well as on Saturday afternoons at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. Tours are $5.

Fairhope is a lovely, sleepy vacation spot which has livened up considerably with the opening of Fairhope Brewing, the first (and so far, only) brewery in lower Alabama. Try the Everyday Blonde Ale or the Section Street Wheat for summer refreshment.

Back home in New Orleans, NOLA Brewing will be releasing its summer seasonal, Hurricane Saison on June 1 to coincide with the start of hurricane season. There may be a slight retooling of the hops used in this year's batch based on feedback the brewers have received directly from beer drinkers in their tap room. NOLA's tap room is open every day except Tuesday, starting at 2 p.m. during the week and 11 a.m. during the weekends. They are still running their wildly popular Friday afternoon tours, which offers free beer and a tour of the facility from 2 - 3 p.m.

Keep an eye out for Courtyard Brewing to open up on Erato Street just off of Magazine. They are still in the buildout and application process, but they have been steadily making progress and hope to open this summer.

Last but not least, the longest-running beer festival in New Orleans, the WYES International Beer Tasting, will be held on Friday, June 13, 7 - 10 p.m., and Saturday, June 14, 6 - 9 p.m., at Mardi Gras World. Hundreds of beers from around the world will be available to sample, as well as beers from homebrewers and breweries in planning.

Sign Up!