A Visit to the Abita Brewery

Abita Flagship Brews

My friends and I took a trip out to Abita Springs, Louisiana this past weekend for a tour of the Abita Brewery. Abita Springs is only about an hour’s drive from New Orleans, crossing over the massive Lake Pontchartrain by way of one of the world’s longest bridges, the Causeway. The town is built on the site of a Choctaw Indian settlement, and takes its name from the nearby medicinal springs. The town’s water source was once known for its healing properties and is still known for its great taste, so I guess it makes sense they’d want to use the spring water to create beer!

A group of five of us drove out to the brewery for an hour-long tour of the facility and the chance to try a selection of their beers. In New Orleans, Abita Amber is a staple at pretty much every bar. The brewery’s website describes Amber as a Munich-style lager with a smooth, malty, caramel flavor and a rich amber coloring. Along with Newcastle, Abita Amber tends to be my go-to beer choice when I’m out on the town. The brewery makes seven so-called “flagship” beers that they brew year-round, as well as a number of seasonal and varietal beers and their own root beer, made with Louisiana cane sugar.

The tour was pretty good, definitely enhanced by being free. When we arrived, we were given a plastic Abita cup. Those of us with open-toed shoes were handed plastic booties to don before entering the working brewery. The group was then shepherded into The Tasting Room, a large, bland bar room setting with lots of tables and chairs and a huge bar with only Abita beers on tap. We formed a line to go behind the bar and choose any beer that we liked to fill our cup, entering the bar area from one set of hip-high swinging doors, and exiting on the other side through another set of swinging doors. There were probably around 100 people getting beers, and the tour guide made announcements on a microphone during this time. We were shown a couple of short videos (click through to watch) about Abita Brewery’s history and how they’re going green by using recycled glass, etc.

After everyone had gotten a beer and had a minute to see the videos, we were led into The Cellar, the larger part of the brewery that had all of the equipment. It was much more industrial than I had thought it would be, with these incredible metal aging tanks that hold 600 kegs of beer. The tour was interesting, but the best part for me was getting to drink an incredibly fresh Abita Amber. The flavor of this beer was noticeably different at the source than when you order it at a bar. Part of that might have been that their lines were crystal clear, or maybe it was due to being a much younger batch than what makes it out to other places in the region. All I know is that it was definitely worth the drive to have a sip of a proper Abita Amber.

Malts

We were allowed to choose whatever beer we liked, and there were multiple returns to the bar for those who drank fast enough.

A lovely cup of Abita Amber.

Plastic booties

The incredibly dashing plastic booties! I felt like I was in a forensics show…

Abita Brewery Cellar

Entering the working brewery. Those tanks are massive!

Abita Brewery Tour

The tour guide explains the brewing process from her perch on the stairs.

Tanks

A better view of some of the fermenting tanks at the brewery. Each of these holds up to 600 kegs-worth of beer at a time.

Really Lame Update

I had big plans for this post, but they’re obviously not going to work out. I’m a little tipsy and very tired, so just a basic update, and I’ll post photos and more tomorrow or the next day. Today was a really fun day. I missed my 8am yoga class, then got up around 9:45, got ready, and drove an hour to Abita, Louisiana with friends to visit the Abita Brewery. It’s a local brewery of considerable renown, and I pretty much live on Abita Amber as my drink of choice when going out. My friend Katy had a couple of friends in from Austin and El Paso, and this was one of the things they decided to do to find out more about New Orleans flavor. Even though I’ve been here since 1999, I’ve never managed to make out to the Abita Brewery, so today seemed like the perfect time to tag along.

We did an hour long brewery tour (mixed feelings about the actual “tour” part of the tour, but drinking makes up for boredom, I find), then went to this incredibly awesome little roadside museum called the Abita Mystery House and UCM Museum. We saw lots of weird shit, with the #1 “exhibit” being this alligator snapping turtle named Tina (my friend Alex fed her a hot dog, and I’ll be posting pictures soon). Then we went to the local Goodwill store, where I lucked into picking up a copy of Escape from Warsaw, a favorite book as a child, as well as a copy of Better Homes and Garden’s 1963 edition of Snacks and Refreshments. I was mystified by how many recipes involved braunschweiger. Weird, right?

After our eventful day in the ‘burbs, my friends and I made it back to the city. I napped until 7:30pm, and then got ready to meet an extended group at this cute little restaurant called Boucherie. After a lovely dinner (duck confit to start, followed by applewood smoked sea scallops), the group drove to a different part of town to see two drastically different bands play. After the initial band, The Lost Bayou Ramblers, made its moves with a sweet Zydeco-meets-Led-Zeppelin sound, Quintron & Ms. Pussycat took the stage.

I had seen Quintron years ago, and that particular show wasn’t at all my cup of tea. However, I thought maybe my tastes had changed. After the first few songs, I realized I wasn’t all that different and that the sound still wasn’t my deal, so I went outside to hang out with some of the other people from my group, a police woman and her husband who were in town from Bristol, England and weren’t really feeling the band, either. We had talked a bit at dinner, and got into conversation again now outside of the bar. It was awesome! I didn’t want to be a complete dork, but as a huge fan of British cop shows, I was having a “moment” – especially as we spoke for longer and realized our outlooks on the basic human condition were similar. We talked a bit about the police system over there, which I’d like to talk about more tomorrow, since I’m really too tired to go into it tonight. In short, it was awesome getting to talk to her and hear a bit more about how very different it is to be a cop in Great Britain than it is to be one here in New Orleans.

Tomorrow the entire group is going on a swamp tour, so I’ll get to hang out with the couple again, as well as the people from Austin, and others.

Right now I’ve got to go, though – time to catch some shut-eye and then drive across the lake to Slidell tomorrow to hang out with The Man’s parents before heading out to the swamp. I’ll catch up with you guys soon!

XO,

A