By Madeline Broccoli
Craft breweries have only started to pop up in New Orleans during the last ten years; the craft-beer scene, like everything else in this city, is moving on New Orleans time.
Port Orleans Brewing Company opened its doors in May of 2017 and is one of the newest breweries to join the growing market. Last Sunday, Port Orleans invited disappointed Saints fans and their furry friends to watch the Puppy Bowl. Patrons played with adoptable pets while sipping an “Interference on a Pass Attempt” IPA. A dollar of every pint sold went to Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO).
I walked into Port Orleans and was greeted by a dog sitting at a table with his owner. The dog was, of course, sporting a Drew Brees jersey. The front porch was open to the taproom by a giant, glass garage door. The taproom itself was expansive, with high ceilings and exposed brick on the walls. Behind the bar, large windows revealed the brewery’s impressive 30-barrel system. The brewery’s in-house restaurant, Stokehold, pumped out indulgent dishes, and, in true New Orleans spirit, James Booker played on the speakers.
Port Orleans’ success in a burgeoning brewery market reflects the experience of those at the operation’s helm. The brewery’s owners include Richard Thomas, owner of Blue Runner Foods, Zack Strief, a former Saints offensive tackle, and Brian Allen, an experienced head brewer. The partners are a group of friends with a passion for beer; they are also locals with a strong understanding of what it takes to create a New Orleans brand.
In recent years, consumers have begun to demand fresh and local food from their restaurants and grocery stores. This trend has infiltrated the beer industry. The large, domestic breweries that use to dominate the market cannot accommodate this demand. Aside from local ingredients, many consumers are looking for an experience only local breweries can provide, a taproom experience. Breweries like Port Orleans recognize that beer drinkers want a place to hang out with friends and family as much as they want a tasty beer. To create the best taproom environment and flavorful brews, brewers must know their local market.
Port Orleans is successful because its creators know what New Orleanians want. I spoke with Chase Guillory, director of marketing and communications, to find out what makes Port Orleans a New Orleans brewery.
“New Orleans itself is known for not just having one or two drinks, it’s known for having a good time,” Guillory said. “We shoot for three-pint sessions at least. That way it’s beer you won’t get too full on; [beer] you will be able to enjoy all day long.”
In cities in the Northwest and New England breweries are focusing on high ABV (alcohol by volume) beers, like double IPAs. Port Orleans takes a different approach, creating beers best enjoyed with friends and family on a hot New Orleans day.
“Another reason we’re sessionable and easy to drink,” Guillory said, “is because we’re trying to get those people who just want to drink beer, and hopefully convert them over to drinking local.”
Every aspect of the Port Orleans brand is connected to its location, even the brewery’s name, which pays homage to the New Orleans port. With the city’s most celebrated season approaching, I had to ask how Port Orleans was preparing for Mardi Gras. Port Orleans, like all good breweries, creates seasonal beers. But unlike most breweries, Port Orleans does not stick to a spring, summer, fall, and winter brew.
“We have seasonals and we don’t even follow the regular seasons,” said Guillory. “We have a Mardi Gras seasonal, which is our RoyalTea, an Earl Grey tea, pale ale. Then we have a crawfish seasonal, and we have a summer seasonal, and a fall seasonal.”
Port Orleans is located on Tchoupitoulas. With NOLA Brewing and Urban South Brewing on the same street, the area has become a craft-beer community that attracts tourists and locals alike. The Port Orleans team is not deterred by the local competition; in fact, Guillory believes it has helped them grow.
“I think being on Tchoup has helped us,” Guillory said. “We have a few brewery tour buses in town, and us being right down that line has helped them make business as well. I think it only helps, breweries being closer together. We’re all sharing. It’s not like I’m going to take their customer. If you like craft-beer, you’re going to want to try them all.”
We live in a country where a few mammoth companies control almost every economic sector. For years, the brewing industry was controlled by brands like MillerCoors, Heineken, and Pabst Brewing. In the last few years, however, the brewing industry has transformed, thanks to the craft-beer revolution. The expanding brewing scene in New Orleans has created a collaborative community of people who simply want to make good beer. New Orleans breweries thrive in this competitive market. New Orleans itself is a friendly and relaxed city, a city that values community. It only makes sense that the craft brewing industry is flourishing here.
“We’re really not chasing trends as a brewery. We’re actually trying to convert the domestic drinker to the craft drinker,” said Guillory.
Take a picture with your can of Royaltea and use #DrinkLikeRoyaltea in your social media post for a chance to win a parade watch party for you and 10 of your friends on the Brewery Patio Friday, March 1st