For a city known around the world for culinary excellence, New Orleans has sadly, up to now, not been able to muster much impact when it comes to fermentation. That’s winemaking and brewing, in case the connection was too obscure.

The brewing part is coming along, with a number of new craft facilities getting ready to gear up. Several are noted below.

As for wine, our lone entry, Pontchartrain Vineyards on the Northshore, has recently been hard at work to improve quality at every step of the process. We are now seeing the success of that dedication in the market.

Also lately, our area has actually been making significant inroads with national and international recognition for our distillation skills and products. That’s spirit-making, again in case … well, never mind.

Atelier Vie

Located in the most unlikely spot for a distillery in the nation, under the Broad Street overpass alongside the Pontchartrain Expressway, Atelier Vie (actual moniker) is sending their products to market with amazing quality.

The American Distilling Institute’s 8th Annual Awards Competition, the oldest and most prestigious such competition dedicated to craft distilled spirits in the nation, recognized what is going on here in a big way. They handed out four major awards to this local, practically brand-new (only since 2011) operation.

A Gold Medal and Best of Category designation was given to Euphrosine Gin No. 9. This award follows another Gold Medal, bestowed in March, by the American Craft Distillers Association for this product. Named for the street within a field goal’s distance from the Dome, No. 9 is making its mark in the market and deservedly so. A little heavier and with more forward aromatics than other usual gins, Euphrosine will put new punch in your G&T with lime.

Even more impressive is the fact that the spirit has only been on the shelves for four months. And with two major recognitions at the national level, Atelier Vie has a lot to be proud of.

The ADI also awarded Gold Medals to both of the absinthe products, Toulouse Red (Rouge) and Toulouse Green (Verte), a previous winner last year in the competition. We are seeing here that the owners of Atelier Vie love New Orleans street names. We are also experiencing and enjoying their devotion to their craft, which is defined as small-batch distilling.

Not to be left out, a new entry (okay, so they all are), Riz, a clear whiskey made from rice, took a Bronze Medal. That’s all the more amazing in that this whiskey is really quite young and new, likely the baby-est of all the entries in the ADI competition.

Louisiana Spirits

Another newer-than-new distillery is producing Bayou Rum, which in the aforementioned American Distilling Institute competition scored a Gold Medal in the Special Rum category.

This operation is located in southwest Louisiana, Lacassine to be exact, and is literally on I-10 at exit 48, less than one hour west of Lafayette, which is about two hours from here, depending on the truck traffic going over the Atchafalaya Basin. There is a large visitor’s facility where you can view every step of the rum-making process, even including a demonstration stand of sugar cane.

Cajun Fire

Let’s switch gears to a malt and hops beverage: beer. I’ve never had Cajun Fire but maybe it won’t be long before we all will be able to see what the fuss is about.

During the recently concluded Entrepreneur Week, which has become a very big deal for people anxious to start their own company, Cajun Fire Brewery won the Big Idea award of $50,000 to get their project off the ground. Speaking of Big, a Big note of thanks to Idea Village, the local group that has done so much for start-up businesses in our town and who hatched the plan, then put it into action, for Entrepreneur Week.

Entrepreneur Week has been praised by Forbes: “Of all the entrepreneurship conferences and events around the world, I (Forbes writer Nick Acharya) found that New Orleans Entrepreneur Week has the most energy and is probably the most fun.

“It speaks to the opportunity that entrepreneurship gives a city to build upon its strengths, but also to redefine itself for a brighter future.”

Now you tell me if that is not cool. To make it even cooler, Cajun Brewery took the top award with founders Jon Renthrope and Paul Taylor now making plans, and beer in small batches, to get their Lower Garden District Brewery up and running, next door to the recently approved by the City Planning Commission, Courtyard Brewing.

Which is in addition to the just opened in Arabi, 40 Arpent Brewing Co. And that’s what we’re talking about when we say the craft brewing industry is alive and kicking in New Orleans.

I really hate to end this column with a preachy, Reader’s Digest kind of “what have we learned here today” comment. But I don’t think I can help myself. Sorry.

New Orleans is receiving all kinds of national and international accolades for being a place that has taken advantage of its brain power, or for being an entrepreneur’s destination, or for building an environment that engenders creativity and inventiveness. That’s a pretty recent development as we never were that sort of a community. At least not lately and not generally.

But we are now. People who are here, or those creative souls who come here to be unique in a unique place, are embraced. The we-can-do-it spirit is once again a part of who we all are. The folks who put together the equipment and pursued their dream of making rum or gin or absinthe or beer, or whatever, are bringing recognition to us that money cannot buy. No amount of advertising or PR is going to tell a story as effectively as people pursuing their dream and succeeding while being recognized by their peer group and their community.

It’s a thrilling time to be here, and some of the reasons are contained in this story today. Thank you all for sharing something very special with the people of New Orleans and beyond.