Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Crescent City Brewhouse

New Orleans has been a regional beer capital of the U.S. since the 1900’s, home to such names as Falstaff, Jax, Regal, & Dixie.  Prior to Katrina, Dixie was the only remaining major brewer in the city.  However, Dixie flooded during Katrina and after the floodwaters receded, the facility was heavily looted, with much of the machinery being stolen.  After a brief hiatus, Dixie contracted a brewer in Wisconsin to brew & bottle their well known beverages (original Dixie lager &  Blackened Voodoo).  There was much talk for a long time of bringing the operations back to the city; however, the city recently purchased the blighted building and has plans of restoring portions of the original structure (and demolition of the less well-constructed add-ons) to use as a VA hospital.


However, there’s no shortage of other craft brews in the area. Abita on the Northshore, Tin Roof in Baton Rouge, NOLA Brewing in the Irish Channel, Covington Brewing in, well…Covington, duh… LA-31 out in the Bayou Teche area….  But we’ll discuss each of those at another time.  Today, we’re talking about the Crescent City Brewhouse, in the French Quarter.


Established in 1991, the brewery celebrated their 20th anniversary of brewing last year.  It’s easy to find, right on Decatur Street near the riverfront in the Quarter.  The bar & restaurant is situated in a classically gorgeous old building, constructed in the late 1700’s (after the original residence was destroyed in the fire of 1794).  It was used as a residence until 1916, when it housed a fur processing facility.  The property has been beautifully maintained & gleams with the rich woods and bright copper brewing kettles nestled behind the bar.


The bar & restaurant areas have plenty of seating, and the cheerful hostess seated us right away.  Our equally cheerful server discussed each of the microbrews with us & was very patient as we tried to decide what appetizer to munch on. (We settled on the Cajun Meat Pies, and were not disappointed.)

We ordered the 5-brew sampler, which provides a roughly 5-oz portion of each of their regular brews and their seasonal (right now, it’s their Cajun Alt Ale).  The beers are German in style, created by the brewery’s founder & German Brewmaster Wolfram Koehler:

PILSNER: A light, crisp and traditionally hoppy beer with a soft palate and flowery bouquet. Light, both in color and taste. "Classic" Old World beer that will be most familiar to the individual who prefers domestic beers.

RED STALLION: A malty, aromatic and hoppy mixture. Copper colored, this beer is medium bodied and full of flavor. Vienna Style.

BLACK FOREST: A full-bodied dark mahogany beer, with a rich malty texture. It is sparsely hopped, in the traditional Munich style.

WEISS BEER: Golden unfiltered "wheat" beer. Smooth quality with hints of banana and cloves with a spicy finish.

You can’t get a tour here, because there’s not much to tour.  The brewing vats are there behind the bar and the inner workings are upstairs.  They don’t bottle their beers—everything is brewed & sold in-house.  But the little placemat that comes with the beer sampler ($8.50 to sample all 5 beers) gives a description of each brew and a run-down of the brewing process.



(Our sampler: starting at the top & going clockwise—Black Forest, Cajun Alt, Weiss, Red Stallion, Pilsner)

Now, if you’re an IPA-head hop fiend, you are likely to be somewhat disappointed at this establishment.  Brews here are very traditional and on the mild side.  But they are all wonderfully drinkable.  The pilsner has “big” flavor (for a pilsner, mind you) and they’re not joking about the “flowery bouquet”.  It’s there.  I taste the flowers.  And I can’t say I normally want to drink flowers—but with this beer, I’d drink them all day.

The Cajun Alt was supposed to be a bit smoky with chocolate undertones…and left me wanting.  I gets no chocolate.

I also gets no “banana” from the Weiss, but I’m happy about that, as I really don’t care for bananas nor do I want them anywhere near my beer (sorry to all those fans of Well’s Banana Bread Beer).  I’m a big fan of unfiltered wheats and while this one doesn’t top my list of faves, it’s still very pleasant & easy to drink.

The Red Stallion…meh.  Abita makes a Red Ale that I love, and this one just can’t compete.

The Black Forest is a rather tasty dark beer—but it’s not a stout, so you have to know that going in.  Anticipate a porter style, and you’ll be better prepared.  

I’ve eaten at this establishment many a time, so while we weren’t eating much this go-round, I can recommend their tuna steak salad, the steamed mussels (steamed in some of the in-house brews), the raw oysters, or the gumbo.  I’ve also heard great things about the savory seafood cheesecake.  If weather permits, ask for a table upstairs to enjoy a view of the Mighty Mississippi from their patio.

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