“The beer scene in New Orleans is about to blow up,” says Parleaux Beer Lab’s Eric Jensen, summing up the mood of brewers I talked to, all of whom are planning to open breweries in the city within the next few months.
Some recent legal changes are to thank for the boom. Updates to the city’s zoning ordinance in 2015 made it easier for breweries to open in non-industrial areas; Jensen calls it a “game-changer.” Prior to the zoning updates, most breweries were limited to industrial and warehouse-type spaces that weren’t a part of residential neighborhoods.
Also within the past two years, the state of Louisiana amended its law requiring that a brewery sell 90 percent of its beer through a distributor, with only 10 percent allowed for taproom sales. Under the updated regulations, the limit on the number of barrels that are sold out of the taproom is either 250 barrels per month or 10 percent of the brewery’s production, whichever is greater. In other words, for any brewery that produces less than 2,500 barrels in a given month, the limit is 250 barrels a month, and for any brewery that produces more than 2,500 barrels in a given month, the limit is 10 percent of their production, a relief for smaller-sized breweries.
“Prior to the state law change, it was a little unclear to breweries what they could and couldn’t do inside their taprooms,” Jensen says. “So brewery taproom options [in New Orleans] were limited. If you want to cross the lake, there were a couple others like Abita. But inside of the city of New Orleans, it was essentially NOLA Brewing’s taproom and Crescent City Brewhouse [which had a bar license] and Gordon Biersch.”
That’s all changing now that laws have been updated. Five breweries, including Jensen’s Parleaux Beer Lab, plan to open with taprooms in the coming months. Alors, laissez les bons temps rouler.
Brieux Carré Brewing Company: You’ll have to leave the actual French Quarter to visit this coming-soon brewery, but you won’t have to go far; it’s located at 2115 Decatur St. in the Faubourg Marigny area, just off Frenchman Street. (Its name is a play on the spelling of Vieux Carré, a district in the city that comprises the French Quarter.) The brewery is the work of two homebrewers, Robert Bostick and Taylor Pellerin, both of whom bring engineering backgrounds (which they say translates to strict quality standards) to the brewhouse. Bostick says the legal change to allow more taproom sales is a boon to Brieux Carré, which hopes to be experimental, creative and eschew flagships in favor of innovation. The interior of the brewery building comprises only 1,100 square feet with only 400 square feet dedicated to the brewing area; still, the team managed—probably through that engineering background—to squeeze a 7-barrel brewhouse into the space. Once Brieux Carré opens mid-March, look for a taproom (no food) as well as a rear 650-square-foot beer garden.
Parleaux Beer Lab: Parleaux’s name is a nod to its Bywater neighborhood location; par l’eau means “by water” in French, and in New Orleans, “you add an ‘x’ to the end of everything,” says owner/brewer Eric Jensen. The eclectic neighborhood was a draw for Jensen, who fell in love with Parleaux’s property because it houses a small grove of trees bearing grapefruit, kumquats, figs, pecans and more, all in a dense urban neighborhood. Jensen will use a 10-barrel system to brew “flavorful,” rotating beers loosely based on European styles, but with surprising ingredients; one of the first he plans to tap is an altbier brewed with fruity rooibos tea. “My favorite beers to make are wild and mixed fermentation beers, so we’ll be working into that eventually,” Jensen says. “The ability to use ingredients that were grown on the land where the brewery is to do some mixed fermentation beers was very cool to us, being able to potentially harvest some wild cultures from our backyard.” The taproom will occupy about 2,000 square feet of a 4,000 square-foot warehouse in view of the brewing tanks; a large beer garden with seating set among the fruit trees is accessible through a sliding barn door. Pending final inspections, Parleaux hopes to be open before the end of April.
Miel Brewery & Taproom: The French language theme continues at Miel, whose name translates to “honey.” Cofounder Alex Peyroux brewed at Abita and then Harpoon before returning to New Orleans with his cofounder and partner Janice Montoya to open the brewery in the Irish Channel neighborhood. “Miel Brewery we came upon because Alex’s ancestry is French and my family ancestry is Latin American/Honduran, so we were trying to find a way to bring these cultures together. Miel means honey in both French and Spanish so we thought it was a good combo of both of us,” says Montoya. “It also worked out perfectly because Alex’s dad is now retired and in his spare time has picked up beekeeping.” That honey will become a key ingredient in some Miel beers including braggots and barrel-aged releases, but Peyroux and Montoya stress that it won’t be an all-honey-beer brewery; they plan to run the taproom like a “test kitchen” where you can try something new each visit, from barrel-aged sours to hazy IPAs to traditional German styles. To create a family-friendly vibe, the pair also plans to offer nitro coffee, soda and non-alcoholic drinks. They’re shooting for an opening in winter 2017.
Royal Brewery New Orleans: This coming-soon New Orleans East brewery is the only brewery to focus specifically on distribution out of the gate, though it won’t package in bottles or cans (yet). Royal Brewery is the work of cofounders Mandy and Raymond Pumilia; Raymond was an avid homebrewer with decades of experience who finally decided to go pro with a 30-barrel brewhouse in a 10,000 square-foot metal building not far from New Orleans Lakefront Airport. Royal Brewery will debut with an American pale ale called Culicidae, based on a recipe Raymond’s refined through his homebrewing years, as well as Termite Lager. Royal Brewery seemed a natural fit for a name, according to the Pumilias, who lived on Royal Street when Raymond began homebrewing; when they looked over the brewery building’s original plans, the builder, years ago, had apparently wanted its street to be named Royal. The pair shoots for a mid-April opening; look for special events and tours (with tastings) sometime after that.
Port Orleans Brewing Co.: Port Orleans shoots for a late April opening at 4124 Tchoupitoulas Street, with 16 taps and a kitchen. The brewery’s focus will be sessionable, easy-drinking beers; the first three to debut will be a helles lager, an IPA and a brown ale.