Craft beer has followed the trajectory of tech gadgets – once the exclusive domain of early adopters and trendsetters, it has now seeped into the wider community where you can find the bitterest IPA’s at stadiums and even gas stations. Big Beer had their icy cold grip on the festivals and rodeos and Disneylands of the world, where one distributor simplified things and organizers were more concerned with operations than a broad selection of brews. But the people have spoken, and as distributors add craft labels to their portfolios, they can give the people what they want, even at vast fairs and carnivals.
Tourist traps fall into this category, and unless you get off the beaten path, despite its unique culture, even a city like New Orleans feels like a Disneyland, especially the French Quarter. Vendors are more interested in cajoling you into dropping your hard-earned tourist dollars on Blue Dog tchotchkes by feeding you hurricanes intravenously. Ask a bartender what’s on tap and you’ll get a shrug, “the usual.”
But there’s one redoubtable craft beer stronghold in New Orleans that seems to be a scratched record on the craft beer Twitter-feed turntables. It’s an outpost for Cantillon’s Zwanze Day releases, an artisanal mecca for anyone heading to the Big Easy: the Avenue Pub, and outside the Disneyesque French Quarter. Two stories of craft brew wonderland open 24/7/365 with more than 40 taps, a simple kitchen churning out pub classics, and antebellum balconies proferring unobstructed views of parades along St.Charles Ave. I stopped in after a quick work trip and focused on local beers I couldn’t get back home in Houston, like those from Gnarly Barley Brewing in nearby Hammond, on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. The Radical RyePA was an excellent hoppy IPA with a touch of rye pepperiness, and a strong enough malt backbone that even the hop averse would appreciate. Their Insidious Monk collaboration with Mandeville’s Old Rail Brewing was an inviting Belgian Tripel with bubblegum notes and a Belgian candi sweetness. A well-balanced Envie Pale Ale from Broussard’s Parish Brewing led into at least one (if memory was still reliable) Louisiana import, the Atlantis Gose collaboration between Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Germany’s Freigeist Bierkultur.
Today’s etymology lesson: most people know the Greek root λεγω for “word,” as in lexicon, or logos, or logorrhea, but the root lego also alternatively means “to choose,” with the prefix εχ or εκ meaning “out” to form eclectic, which has now come to mean a variegated array of individual pieces chosen out of larger categories. Roundabout way to get a punny headline and say that choosy drinkers escape the Disney New Orleans pith and head to the Avenue Pub.