Craft breweries develop tourist following in La. - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Craft breweries develop tourist following in La.

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ABITA SPRINGS, LA (WVUE) -

It's called the 'Louisiana Brewery Trail' and it's getting especially busy in the New Orleans area.

Craft breweries are popping up from Chalmette to Covington, and the tourism industry is taking notice.

Abita Brewery is no longer the little brewery in the woods.

"Right now, we're going through a major expansion to make more beer," said owner David Blossman.

In the last 28-years, Abita Brewery has grown 100-fold and has just tripled in size as it introduces a new variety, Seersucker.

"It's a material we wear, light and cool, but it's crisp too," said Blossman.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Abita should be tickled pink.

Just down the road, a husband and wife team nurtures a tiny new craft brewery called Chafunkta, featuring brews like 'Old 504' and 'Kingfish Cream Ale.'

"Hopefully, we'll move out of this area and build our own brewery soon," said co-owner Jamie Erickson.

The small breweries follow the Abita model, giving out free samples during specified tasting times. It's a marketing technique that appears to develop customer loyalty, though few have visitor centers like Abita's which is currently about to double in size.

"It's like a flavor revolution. People want more out of their beer," said Blossman.

The craft brewing family is fairly tight-knit with brewers helping out other brewers as they grow. Parish Brewing sold equipment to Chafunkta, which grew out of it.

The local craft beer explosion is part of a national trend. While beer sales were flat last year, the brewers association says craft beer sales rose by a whopping 17 percent.

Mandeville's 'Old Rail' brews up to seven beers, from dark ales to light pilsners, and sells them only on site.

"This craft beer push started in the 80s, and it's just now getting to Louisiana," said Old Rail owner Nick Bowers.

There are now 11 craft breweries in Louisiana, most in Southeast Louisiana, which have established the Louisiana craft brewery trail. They include 40 Arpent in Arabi, Covington Brewery and NOLA brewing on Tchoupitoulas. Tourists are taking notice.

"We've had people from Connecticut show, not here for Jazz Fest or anything else," said Erickson.

Though distribution and federal licensing can be tricky, brewers persevere.

"I love what I'm doing. I'm living the dream," said Blossman.

Americans love craft beer. In a state known for taste, there's enough variety to quench any thirst.

While craft breweries are popping up across the northshore, the southshore hasn't been left out. NOLA Brewing and Crescent City Brewhouse have been operating in New Orleans for years.

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