The city’s premier drinking locations
by Katie Block
Forgive me for not wanting to talk about hops, barley or malt. I’m not a beer brewer, but I’ll toss back a few now and then without much care as to what’s in it. However, I understand that one man’s beer is another man’s water, and the way beer is brewed and its ingredients are essential to the taste. When it comes to a beer’s flavor, my mantra is “less filling,” while others prefer “tastes great.” So, with all beer drinkers in mind, I put my beer-hopping goggles on and found some bars that offer a distinct selection of beer. While I offer reviews of only a small portion of all the places to drink beer in our city, many more are worth mentioning. Don’t expect to learn the chemistry behind the beers here. What you will find is a clanking together of mugs in honor of beer’s diversity and all the places there are in the city for us to enjoy it.
CRESCENT CITY BREWHOUSE
Beers on tap: 6; bottled beers: none
What makes Crescent City Brewhouse different from the other brewpubs in New Orleans is that they “exercise four focal points everyday: beer, food, music and art,” says General Manager Philip Gilberti. All their beer brewing is done in-house – they always have six different kinds on tap, and they can brew 500 gallons at one time. The food on the menu is real New Orleans fare. “It’s not your typical chain restaurant food; everything is made from scratch,” Gilberti adds. As for the live music: Different musicians perform every night of the week, but sometimes musicians just drop by to play a few sets with their friends. “There are a lot of impromptu jam sessions,” Gilberti says. And every month Crescent City has revolving art shows, which means the decor is constantly changing with every new exhibit.
You can enjoy your brew in a small (15 ounces), medium (20 ounces) or tall (24 ounces) glass on the balcony overlooking the hustle and bustle of Decatur Street, on the first or second floor inside, or in the relaxing courtyard in back. In any case, you’ll be sipping in a beautiful, historic French Quarter building enjoying some of the best things New Orleans has to offer: beer, food, music and art.
Beers on tap: 50; bottled beers: more than 75
The Bulldog describes itself as an international beer tavern, but the masses tend to radiate there for its neighborhood appeal. Driving down Magazine Street in the Garden District, you can’t help but notice its patrons lounging and hanging out on the benches outside with a cold, frosty brew in hand and accompanying bar snacks in mouth. At the Bulldog’s second and newest location in Mid-City, patrons love the lush, outdoor patio out back. It truly makes you feel like you’re in a beer garden.
Stacy Gandolfi, a bartender at the Uptown location, says, “People come for the friendly atmosphere. It’s a neighborhood bar with really good specials.” Monday through Friday it’s always happy hour until 7 p.m. Monday is $9 import pitchers; Tuesday is $2 off import pints; Wednesday is free pint night; and Thursday has $2 off microbrewery pitchers.
However, along with The Bulldog’s homey feel, it has a wilder side. Its annual Christmas party “gets crazy,” Gandolfi says. To make sure you’re on The Bulldog’s nice list, she explains, “We have flyers we put on tables. You fill out your name, e-mail and address and you get updated on what’s happening at The Bulldog.”
Another incentive to go to The Bulldog: “We have a key chain where if you drink all 50 beers – not in one sitting – you’ll get a T-shirt and an e-mail on your birthday telling you to come in for a free pint,” she says.
GORDON BIERSCH BREWING COMPANY
Beers on tap: 6; bottled beers: none
Gordon Biersch is one of the more refined beer-guzzling and dining establishments in the city. According to its Web site, Gordon Biersch’s core business objective is “to produce world-class authentic lager beers to be enjoyed in a fun, energetic and creative environment.”
The beer is world-class for sure. They are brewed according to Germany’s 500-year-old purity law called Reinheitsgebot, which dictates that beer is made with only four of the finest ingredients available, with no preservatives or additives. Using this process, they make six beers, which are always on tap, with some rotating seasonally.
While a good German beer can be heaven for some, others can be scared away by the foreign names and thick, dark appearances. With those patrons in mind especially, hostess Brooke Jackson says they offer a lighter, “girly beer.”
But for the more advantageous types, there’s a complimentary beer sampler, where you’re served a 1-ounce glass of each beer so you can find your fancy. Once you find it, you can join the Gordon Biersch beer club. Actually, you have to be nominated by two people to join – usually by your bartender and server. With their nominations, you receive your own stein mug with your name on it. The advantage to the stein mug is every time you buy a small-size beer, you’ll receive a larger size in your mug for the same price. Jackson adds, “Most people use their nicknames [on the mug], like ‘Suds’ and ‘Monk’ – they’re here every day. They’re great guys.”
That statement alone shows the friendliness factor of Gordon Biersch. “People like us for our personal service. A lot of people come in. We know their names and they know us,” Jackson explains.
Beers on tap: 75; bottled beers: over 100
Lager’s might be located on Greater New Orleans’ version of Anywhere, U.S.A. – Veterans Boulevard – but their beer-pouring philosophy is anything but generic. Because of their painstaking pumping practices, the draft at Lager’s never takes one breath of oxygen – and no air means better flavor. The beer pumps are cleaned every two weeks. And when the joint shuts down for the night, the glasses don’t sit in some dirty sink. They’re washed in a $5,000 dishwasher loaded with special detergent made just for pint glasses. It’s hard to notice the cleanliness of their beer-serving philosophy because of the dark atmosphere, but it’s nice to know anyway.
When you’re at Lager’s, expect to find your new favorite beer, as well as your old standbys. “I think we have the most beers on tap in the Gulf South,” says manager Scott Dickinson. To enhance the personal experience, you can choose to order a beer in a frozen or room-temperature pint glass, according to your liking, though beer drinking pros agree the latter is best.
Lager’s celebrates sports in a big way. You can watch games on one of their 14 televisions or on the big-screen television they use for special occasions. Order from the extensive menu of surprisingly good bar fare and relax in the “comfy, cozy pub atmosphere.” •