Beer and Beer Culture in New Orleans
By Marcella Escarfuller
Click aqui para español- >Cerveza -y la cultura cervecera de Nueva Orleans
Who doesn’t like an ice-cold beer? I will concede the point that there is a small percentage of individuals who refer to it as “hick juice” (and that’s one of the more elegant terms I’ve heard), but the overwhelming majority of people have a generous appreciation for the occasional ale or lager.
So, who do we have to thank for the gift of liquid gold? No one knows for sure, but it is one of the oldest drinks produced in human history – it was recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt dating back to the fifth millennium BC.
Given that beer is one of humanity’s oldest traditions, the birth of its annual festival was inevitable. Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, is a 16-18-day event, held annually from September through October in Munich, Germany. The festival has formed a significant part of Bavarian culture since 1810 and has inspired similar festivals in over 20 countries world-wide. The Germanic tradition lives on in New Orleans as well.
Now, we all know that this city loves any excuse to party. Locals look forward to October every year for the perfect weather it brings along with Oktoberfest. Kicking things off is the NOLA on Tap Beer Fest, which celebrated its 10th year on September 21st at City Park. Then, of course, is Oktoberfest at Deutsches Haus, a three-week celebration that includes live music, food, Dachshund races, an historic exhibit – and lots and lots of beer.
It cannot be denied that New Orleans is home to a deep-seated beer culture, especially with past Oktoberfest attendance records breaking the 25,000 mark. Past years have also seen an increase in local breweries; at last count, we’re up to 15 breweries within a 30-mile radius of New Orleans. Abita Beer, the oldest local brewery currently operating, first opened in 1986.
Since then, the local brew culture has grown to include many local brands and microbreweries. New Orleans is all about community, and its breweries share the same philosophy. “Within six or seven years [after opening NOLA Brewing], we started seeing more breweries popping up in the city, and this has been great for our industry as a whole,” says NOLA Brewing COO Dylan Lintern. “It is also very cool to see how people’s palates and curiosity have changed over the last decade. This city has come a long way in terms of beer culture.”
Craft brewing has truly weaved its way into the fabric of New Orleans culture. There is a veritable appreciation for freshly brewed, uniquely crafted beer that only continues to grow. Oktoberfest is only a small part of it, but a wonderful representation of one of our city’s passions. The next time you go out, raise a frosty, frothy glass to New Orleans, the beautiful city that embraces culture, evolution, and new experiences.