Updated: Apr 20, 2019
Saturday morning we slept in late, had a great leisurely breakfast, and then it was basically time to head to NOLA Brewing, as our gig started at 3pm.
NOLA's huge brewery and taproom property is a few minutes outside of the French Quarter, right in the heart of the parade route (not far from the staging area, actually). When we originally booked this gig we knew it was going to be right in the peak of the French Quarter Festival, which meant one of two things: if the weather was good, the brewery might be a little slow... but if it rained, the brewery would get slammed HARD. Heading towards the brewery the weather was overcast, windy (with a dangerous winds advisory), and a 90% chance of storms during showtime... so it sounded like we were in for a big crowd.
NOLA Brewing Company - New Orleans, LA
Wide variety of beers available at the taproom in cans, bottles, growlers, and obviously draft. Distribution is wide within the Gulf Coast region, as well as in North Carolina, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (and growing rapidly).
Upon arriving at the brewery, main man CJ showed us a few options.... we could play outside on the balcony, where we'd have a smaller crowd as long as the weather stayed good, or we could play downstairs in the big back room, where the sound would carry through the balcony anyway, and they'd put a lot of people when the rain came. Everyone agreed option B made the most sense, so we set up in the big room downstairs.
CJ is a great guy, he had played in bands himself, so he understood what we needed and how best to accommodate. He is also very knowledgeable about NOLA and has been there off-and-on since the beginning, so he could share a lot about the operation, and he gave a great private tour of the entire operation.
NOLA has been around for about 10 years, having opened when Katrina left New Orleans without a native brewery. They've been in the same location the whole time, but the operation and footprint continues to grow, to the point that they now distribute most of their lineup throughout the Gulf region, in the Carolinas, and most recently in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Locally you can find their brews on tap virtually everywhere, and I had already sampled two of them Friday in the Quarter.
Usually with these shows I play 2 sets over three hours, with a 15 minute break to refresh beers, etc. I don't have a strict formula for how long my sets are or when I take breaks, I prefer to read the crowd and just go with the flow (you never want to walk away from from a high energy crowd and risk losing them for the night), and sometimes I just play through without taking a break at all. On this night for whatever reason we played straight through, which means I didn't get to taste as many beers as I usually do, which is extra disappointing because NOLA has a pretty wide selection and variety of styles. That said, we had some fantastic beers, some of which I couldn't wait to tell you about...
The first one, which admittedly looks quite odd on paper is the Boil Advisory (5%), which is a blonde ale with (get this) crab boil seasoning. That's right... crab boil seasoning... like Old Bay, etc. My first thought was “why the hell would you want to do that?”, but I have to say, we both loved it. CJ described it to us as “savory”, and I couldn't imagine a better word... it was a savory beer. The blonde ale was a great foundation, freshing, crisp, light... everything you like in a blonde ale... but then you get this light cover of boil seasoning (just the seasoning, no seafood flavor), not too much, just enough to make you lick your chops. When you think about it, it actually does make sense. What better, when eating a crab or shrimp or crayfish boil, to serve your thirst than a nice crisp beer? So imagine perhaps licking that salty, peppery boil seasoning off your fingers, or having that light burning sensation still on your lips when you take that sip of beer.... THAT is how it tastes. It was really quite fantastic, and we anticipated being tired of the flavor by the end of the beer, but we weren't! Could have easily enjoyed a second. So that, my friends, alone made it worth the visit.
Brad quite enjoyed the Apricot Lowerline (3.9%) sour. As I mentioned in the last blog, he wasn't terribly familiar with sours before this trip, and this was the second time he had an apricot sour that really pleased him. Not too fruity, not obnoxiously sour, just well balanced, refreshing, and thirst quenching.
I tried one of their IPAs as well as their double IPA, one at the brewery, and other the day before with my dinner in the Quarter. No Strings Attached (7.3%) was indeed a double IPA, extremely hoppy, and to my palate a little heavy on the pine overtones. The piney attributes, both aroma and flavors, smacked me in the face as soon as I tried it, and I never really got used to it. Hopitoulus (6.5%) is the one I had with dinner, and I quite enjoyed it. Dinner was etouffee and fried oysters with a very spicy dipping sauce, and Hopitoulus was bold enough to hold its own against all those powerful flavors. IT was more floral than the double, and better balanced.
NOLA has a wide selection of fruit-infused beers, and we tried several of them, and loved them all. Rather than repeat myself with each one, I think I can sum them all up by saying they were all very thirst quenching and refreshing, without being too fruity (which neither of us enjoy). Mulberry Blonde (5%) was quite tasty, and was also delicious when blended with the Pineapple Blonde (5%), which was also great on it's own, and one of Brad's favorites (in fact I think we might have each had two of those). Brad also enjoyed the Pomegranate Blueberry Wheat (4.5%), which was based on an American pale wheat ale. I don't think I tried that one, but Brad quite liked it.
There were several beers that looked great on the menu but sadly we just didn't get around to... the one I most regret not getting to was the Toasted Almond Irish Channel Stout (6.8%) which sounded fantastic not only because of the toasted almond, but also it being stout that actually packed a bit of a punch at 6.8%, as opposed to like Guinness which everyone thinks is strong but is really like 4.3%. I WILL return to NOLA to taste this one, or maybe if I get lucky I'll find it canned somewhere.
As for the gig, well, the rain never came, so despite all the fanfare and anticipation, the crowd was a bit thin at this gig. That's the way it goes, especially when you're gambling on a huge festival either stealing or delivering the crowd. I would note, though, that later that night massive storms blew through the area, and we weathered them in the van, not knowing that just miles away tornadoes were touching down and taking lives.
Regardless, NOLA was a tremendous venue and brewery, CJ and his staff were awesome, and I'd come back here in a flash to play again and sample the rest of the menu!
Next stop: Sunday afternoon playing outside at Big Beach Brewery in Gulf Shores....
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