There are thousands of reasons to visit (or move to) New Orleans: music, food, festivals, go-cups, Audubon Park, City Park, architecture, smells, potholes, Sno-Bliz, on and on. A recent addition: breweries! At least five have opened in the last year, and there are more than ten breweries operating just in Orleans Parish.
Before Hurricane Katrina, beer nerds had The Bulldog, Cooter Brown’s, The Balcony Bar, and Stein’s Deli, but there were only a couple breweries in town (Crescent City Brewhouse in the French Quarter and a Gordon Biersch outpost in the CBD). That changed three-plus years after the storm when NOLA Brewing opened down on Tchoupitoulas in 2009. Courtyard Brewery, on Erato in the Lower Garden District, opened next and started serving their IPAs and other beers to the thirsty, sweaty, music-and-go-cup-loving masses in 2014.
COURTYARD BREWERY’s Minimum Effort, as you can sorta see above in the lousy picture taken around sunset the evening of the summer solstice, is a hazy/New England/East Coast/juicy IPA. So, um, is “turgid” an inoffensive adjective to describe a beer?
[Side note: sure, it’s certainly not clever to bring the snark into a discussion about how NEIPAs look (they’re HAZY, lazy beer writer guy!) but perhaps it’s just not even relevant to discuss? Oysters and tasso don’t look particularly appetizing either, but they are delicious…just like Minimum Effort… so who cares!]
Anyhoo, perhaps it was the earlier thunderstorm, but the first smell brought me back to tropical aromas of standing in a banana tree on Willow Street, Uptown, just after a rain (Plausible Deniablilty, a second Courtyard IPA sniffed for comparison at the same time, brought on no such déjà vu1). The more traditional aromas of orange blossom, citrus peel, and passionfruit were right there, too–and they were crazy crisp and clear, completely at odds with the visuals. Minimum Effort was listed as containing Mosaic and Galaxy hops, so add those to your mental list of hops to seek out if these aromas are up your alley.
Once my Phase Ten hand was organized (and after a little assistance to the six-year old to fan out his cards), the tough work of tasting began. Minimum Effort tasted like a blend of freshly-squeezed pineapple and pink grapefruit with no perceptible bitterness at first. At first! As Phase Ten slowly progressed around the table on the longest day of the year, though, a lemon-peel bitterness enveloped the mouthfeel aspect of the beer. The bittersweet aftertaste/mouthfeel was like summiting a gorgeous mountain after drinking in all of the lovely views on the way up.
This is the beer where I finally grasped the appeal of the NEIPA style… in the tropical portion of the central time zone… in one of the greatest cities on earth that could also arguably be deemed the most vibrant, exciting brewery scene currently in the US and A2. Maybe one of the new New Orleans breweries can craft a new IPA style focused on satsuma aroma! NOIPA? Iko Iko IPA? Right Place Right Time IPA?! Just remember where you heard it first. —B.S.
1Courtyard brews a LOT of different beers, as you can see from their Beer Advocate profile. In fact, they might never brew the same beer twice! It doesn’t matter to you, though, Dear Reader, because you’ll get to try one or two or three delicious beers there–sour, porter, West or East Coast IPA, maybe more if you make friends with the large, friendly group of locals or maybe even Kiwis at the next wood cable spool table-I guarantee it!
2Heading to New Orleans? Oh, you should! Before you go, follow Nora McGunnigle (@noradeirdre), Mark Burlet (@DrunkIntellect), and Ian McNulty (@IanMcNultyNOLA) on Twitter for both excellent beer writing and up-to-date New Orleans beer happenings.