Beer pairs well with virtually every occasion – right? But as the weather heats up, even more opportunities (and/or excuses) for a cold one abound.
New Orleans is becoming a great place to sample many of the region’s burgeoning craft brews. These beers make for great springtime sippin’, are largely local, and represent some of the smaller breweries (sorry, Abita). Craft beers may never be your cheapest option, but you pay a slight premium to enjoy a beer made with select ingredients and brewed with passion. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a few recommendations from one beer lover to another.
Bayou Teche LA 31 Brewery
Saison D’Ecrevisses [Image via The Ale Runner]
It’s crawfish season, y’all: this beer is a light-colored pilsner and wheat Belgian-style beer that pairs best with spicy food. I imagine it tastes like a fancy Miller Lite would if brewed in a small batch with some personal care. It’s only available until June (when crawfish season ends), so if you can find it, make sure to scoop one up.
Acadie (Biere de Garde) [Image via Bayou Teche Brewery]
“Beer for Keeping” is how this beer translates to English. This is a dark-colored Farmhouse Ale with a subtle sweetness and thick head. The beer has a dry finish and lends itself to a slow, thoughtful drink. Clearly, someone put serious thought and care into this complex beer. In fact, I drank it so slowly that it actually started to get warm – but not because I thought for one second it wasn’t worth finishing. Full disclosure: this was probably my favorite beer on this list.
LA 31 Passioné [Image via Bayou Teche Brewery]
Intended for the hot days of a Louisiana summer, this beer is a passion fruit infused wheat ale. The fruit grows wild on the farms near the Bayou Teche Brewery and they infuse it in near-perfect proportion to create a slightly sweet, tart beer that still tastes like a beer (not fruit juice).
Parish Brewing Company
South Coast [Image via Parish Brewing Co.]
This is a Session Amber Ale. I enjoy the faint hints of caramel and well-balanced malts and hops of most amber ales, but what distinguishes this amber ale from others is its smoothness – and when I say smooth, there aren’t enough “ooooo’s” in smooth to describe it properly. You will be hard-pressed to have just one.
Envie [Image via Parish Brewing Co.]
This is an American Pale Ale loaded with citrus and hops to create a fresh and lively beer. Generally, I am not the biggest fan of pale ales – but even though I think the recent IPA hype has led to a hops overload, Envie balances hops and citrus for a unique, refreshing taste. Best served icy cold.
Canebrake [Image via the Gambit]
One of Parish Brewery’s most prevalent beers in local bars, Canebrake is a wheat-style beer that differs from others in that it is brewed with a Louisiana-based sugarcane syrup. The sweetness doesn’t overpower the wheat flavor, and a slice of orange (or even lemon) brings out a latent spiciness that might otherwise be overlooked.
Pontchartrain Pilsner [Image via Louisiana Travel]
This pilsner combines premium German and Czech hops to create a truly European-tasting pilsner beer. Light in color and easy to drink with nearly any food, this beer instantly reminded me of being in Europe with little money for sampling beers in bars. I’d instead find a grocery store and use whatever spare Euros I had to buy an unknown, hard-to-pronounce, cheap canned German pilsner beer. Without fail, these pilsners turned out to be delicious. For me, Pontchartrain Pilsners invoke this sentiment upon first taste.
Anonymous IPA [Image via Southern Beverage Distributors]
This is a much darker than average IPA. Covington Brewhouse combines six different types of malts and six different types of hops to form a balanced IPA that is about far more than just hops. A chocolate flavor that comes from seemingly nowhere gives this beer a surprisingly cheerful touch.
Tin Roof Brewing Co.
Blonde Ale [Image via Tin Roof Brewing Co.]
This light-bodied and light-colored ale is refreshing when served icy cold. It reminds me of a blank canvas. Nothing in particular will jump out at you, but sometimes simplicity is exactly the right call for the occasion. This beer tastes just as good in a can as it does in a pint glass, which is good because it is only sold in cans at the store.
Turnrow Harvest Ale [Image via Tin Roof Brewing Co.]
Coriander is an interesting spice regardless of where and how it’s used. Here, the brewers at Tin Roof added it to an ale beer to create a worthwhile drink. There’s hardly any bitterness to this beer and it’s different (in a good way) from other traditional ales.
Lazy Magnolia Brewery
Southern Pecan [Image via the Beer Advocate]
Made with whole roasted pecans, this brown ale has depth for days. Apparently, brewing beer with nut flavors is an incredibly difficult undertaking because nuts have oils that complicate the brewing process – but somehow this dark-colored ale is still light on the palate. I let this beer sit for a while in a pint glass and found that it actually tasted better when not served icy cold.
Southern Hops’pitality [Image via the Bayou Beer Society]
This is a citrus-flavored IPA that the Lazy Magnolia Brewers call a session IPA. A light-colored and surprisingly smooth IPA, it doesn’t take the hops flavor to the point of excess. I don’t always choose an IPA for a six pack, but when I do I definitely choose this one over most other IPAs.
Jefferson Stout [Image via Bayou Beer Society]
Dark, smooth and complex are some of the first characteristics I noticed with this beer. It’s brewed with sweet potatoes and lactose (milk sugar) to create a creamy texture that’s the perfect backdrop for the unique flavor palate. The beer is filling, so prepare to loosen your belt if you have more than one.
Chafunkta Brewing Company
Old 504 [Image via Chafunkta Brewing Co.]
This dark, handsome beer is a robust porter beer with strong flavors of coffee and vanilla bean. I actually found myself wondering how well this would taste with a cup of coffee in my other hand. I didn’t get to try my hot coffee and Old 504 experiment, but for those who enjoy dark beers this one won’t disappoint.
Great Raft Brewery
Southern Drawl [Image via Oh Beautiful Beer]
This lager has just the right amount of hops and citrus to make it enjoyably complex, but eminently drinkable. Great Raft Brewery successfully combines the easy-going drinkability of a German pilsner style beer with an added layer of flavors that’ll keep you guessing just what makes it so delicious.