Story by Emma Janzen. Photos by Rush Jagoe.
The Crescent City's beer scene is booming, so we caught up with beer maven Polly Watts of Avenue Pub (our 2015 Beer Person of the Year) to get the scoop on the best places to check out. Watts says local beer is spreading throughout the French Quarter and new makers continually popping up with quality brews. "If you want a local IPA, pale ale or amber, they are much more ubiquitous than they were even a year ago," she says. Since it’s sweltering in the Crescent City this summer, people are sipping on cooling sours and sessions at an unprecedented rate at the Pub, but if you’re just in town visiting, Watts recommends trying the wide range of styles local breweries are making as well. Here are Polly Watts’ suggestions for the best local taprooms and bars and click here to also read about some of her favorite local beers.
As one of the staples of the local craft beer scene since opening in 2008, NOLA Brewing’s beer sits on tap at both dives and craft beer hubs around the city, but Watts suggests drinking from the source, as the new taproom is bigger and better than ever after an impressive expansion last summer. The best-selling flagship Blonde Ale is always on tap, but if you find the summer seasonal, a Hurricane Saison, don’t hesitate to jump on that bandwagon. 3001 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-896-9996, nolabrewing.com
This buzzy new brewery has been cranking out two flagship beers—the Holy Roller IPA and Charming Wit, a Belgian-style witbier—with great fervor since opening in March. Founder Jacob Landry aims to offer American beers brewed in a European tradition—what he calls "beer that we want to drink and that fits well with our season and place. Right now, in the New Orleans summer, that means light, crisp, flavorful beers that go well with the summertime." 1645 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-517-4677, urbansouthbrewery.com
Quite possibly the smallest (and coziest) beer outfit in NOLA, Courtyard was the state’s 12th production brewery to open when it debuted in 2014. Despite its size, the brewpub has held its own in the booming beer town, with about eight rotating house beers on tap, supplemented by national craft brews, such as Green Flash, Lagunitas and New Belgium. 1020 Erato St., courtyardbrewing.com
We probably don’t need to tell you that this Lower Garden District hub is a must-visit—but "The Pub" is a bastion of fine ales sourced from around the world that’s the perfect spot for people looking for a break from cocktails. The 40+ taps feature a sometimes wild and weird assortment of brews, including a well-curated local set, and the best part: it’s open 24/7 and serves food late, so it’s a godsend for folks in town for special events looking for a cold pint at the end of a long day. 1732 St. Charles Ave., 504-586-9243, theavenuepub.com
Barrel Proof (pictured)
Known primarily for their extensive whiskey selection, this Magazine St. haunt is also notable for its "very small beer list," Watts says. "It’s all local. Very cool." Six local beers grace the taps, with a seventh reserved for the bar’s staple Rolling Rock and Old Grandad special. In bottles, an interesting selection of imports is also available. "Most of the non-American produced beers are quintessential representations of the style, so Weihenstephaner Hefe, Saison Dupont, Chimay Cinq Cents, etc.," says owner Liam Deegan. The crowd is mostly locals and bartenders, making it a great low-key spot to check out away from the Quarter fray. 1201 Magazine St., 504-299-1888, barrelproofnola.com
The Bulldog Uptown
Nestled in the heart of the Garden District on Magazine St., the Bulldog is a welcoming neighborhood joint with a tree-covered patio and plenty of great beer options. Forty-eight taps and over 100 bottles are almost all craft beers, with a strong local presence and wide diversity of styles. If you’re a fan, the management also recently opened a new cocktail bar in an old church in Mid-City called Vessel. 3236 Magazine St., 504-891-1516, bulldog.draftfreak.com
Ale on Oak
July marks this laid-back bar’s two-year anniversary. The menu of 30 beers on tap and 60 in bottles and cans spans a range of local and national styles. It’s a cab ride from the Quarter but worth the effort, as one of the best parts of Ale is its location. "Oak St. is a great part of New Orleans that many tourists don’t get to see," says owner Patrick Winters. "The street itself has a small-town vibe to it. Everyone knows everyone, and we’ve created a special welcoming feel for customers." 8124 Oak St., 504-324-6558, aleonoak.com
Want to check out Polly Watts' favorite local beers? Head here for a roundup. Also find out where to get the best coffee in New Orleans, take a tour of Stumptown New Orleans, read about the culture of day drinking in New Orleans and explore the city's tradition of frozen Irish coffee.