Standing in the Place d'Armes, NOLA Beer Tours (www.nolabeertours.com) guide Eric Stockwell recited New Orleans' Regal Brewery's catchphrase from its heyday in the mid-1900s: "Red beans and rice, and Regal on ice."
He paused, then said, "That stuff sold like crack, you guys."
NOLA Beer Tours was founded in 2013 and aims to combine the history of beer in New Orleans with a tour of the French Quarter and highlighting local beers at a variety of bars. Stockwell says that for the most part, the tours are made up of people with a genuine interest in craft beer. My tour group had a diverse mix of folks from Slidell, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Texas and Oklahoma.
The tour I went on earlier this month met at Tujague's for the first stop. Although I was initially skeptical of the location, the restaurant's historic significance combined with two iconic Louisiana beers on tap — NOLA Blonde and Abita Amber — and a snack of its house specialty brisket changed my mind.
Stockwell reviewed the history of both NOLA Brewing and Abita as we sipped beer. Then the group moved to Jackson Square before heading to Crescent City Brewhouse. Guided by Stockwell, we tried several of the house-brewed offerings there. After that, it was off to Evangeline on Decatur Street, where we were permitted to sample two local beers from the many the bar has on tap.
Heading up to Bourbon Street, I couldn't imagine any place there that would be worthy of a beer tour. However, we went to Beer Fest, which is under new management and has a nice selection of beer and a bartender who seems to know her stuff. I enjoyed my LA-31 Biere Noire and Tin Roof's Perfect Tin while drinking in the excitement of my fellow beer tourists. They loved learning about beer in the context of New Orleans' history, and I did too.