Locally Brewed: Taproom culture

How bustling taprooms have given rise to beer, food, and a sense of community
Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 9:30 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The local breweries in Southeast Louisiana have seen a major boost in recent years that many attribute to the often-bustling taprooms.

Offering outdoor settings, tasty meals, welcoming families and pets, a drink out with friends looks a lot different these days.

“It’s a sense of pride, but it’s also a great destination where you don’t have the stereotypical husband sneaking out to go to the bar. Now the whole family can go to the brewery,” Patrick Brown, owner of 504 Craft Beer Reserve, said.

That’s a big selling point for families looking to enjoy a crisp brew, taprooms at breweries offer something you just won’t find in any bar.

“They feel like they’re just coming home, and you know all of our beer-tenders are personality-wise awesome and make sure they’re engaged with all the people here. So, we just have a great time. We don’t look at it as work,” Jamie Erickson, who owns Chafunkta Brewing Company with her husband, said.

It’s an inviting atmosphere that keeps visitors coming back and the people who live nearby calling the brewery home.

“That’s how it used to be in Europe,” Alex Flores, the head brewer at Urban South Brewery, said. “Each neighborhood had its own brewery, and they had their own beer and that’s where you went.”

These days the taprooms are more than just a neighborhood watering hole, in fact, you could call them a gallery of beer with dozens of taps, often painted with new experimental flavors.

“That is the excitement as a brewer,” David Blossman, the president at Abita Brewing Company, said, “wanting a new canvas to paint on. We’re artists, right, you need to exercise your artistic ability by doing something different.”

The taprooms from Abita to Urban South and Faubourg to Zony Mash give that variety while nestling in other craveable amenities.

“Our goal was really to make it a comfortable place, whether you’re coming here to drink beer or eat food or listen to music or whatever, just to hang out,” Mitch Grittman, the brewer at Zony Mash Beer Project, said.

The comfort and ability to bring out the family has created an entire industry buzzing off of breweries.

“We bring the food, he brings the crowd and the beer and the beautiful ambiance and that’s the relationship for us we love it,” Zander White, owner of Zee’s Pizzeria, said.

White knows without a spot like Zony Mash, his business wouldn’t likely be cooking the way it does, with beer by its side.

“Pop-ups would be hard without this environment,” White said. “Breweries supply such a large environment and obviously a family environment here with beer and people love to come here. I mean add food and it’s a no-brainer for us. If we didn’t have say a Zony or a Second Line or brewery like that, where would we do this? We’d be on the street corner.”

Now brewery tours are hitting a handful of spaces with groups of people eager to taste the New Orleans beer scene as it begins to compete with other brewing towns across the country.

“Houston has a tour for every quadrant of the city and of course there are places like Asheville where it’s nothing but breweries. So, people know about brewery tours, what they didn’t know when we first started is that New Orleans is now a brewing town,” Patrick Healey, from New Orleans Brewery Tours, said.

The taprooms are quickly becoming a hub, not just for drinking and eating, but growing the community.

“We’re more than just a manufacturer of an alcoholic beverage,” Zac Caramonta, the owner of Gnarly Barley Brewing Co., said. “We do a lot of fundraisers. Last week we did two separate fundraisers for non-profits. We’re able to use our space and use our community to do better things.”

It’s an outpouring of support, paired up with some local suds, that makes operations like Gnarly Barley’s a shot in the arm.

“That’s really fulfilling, to be able to take my business and do something good with it and have the love in the community that we do have from our colleagues and our customers,” Caramonta said.

With food, fundraising, and friends always on tap, the local brewers are committed to putting smiles on faces, even if beer isn’t your favorite.

“We can find a beer that you like and when someone has that moment of, ‘Oh! That’s why you like this stuff,’ that’s the most interesting part for me, that’s the most fun,” Scott Wood, the owner of The Courtyard Brewery, said.

You can find the breweries near you on the map below:

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