Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oktoberfest on the North Shore

New Orleans once boasted a number of large breweries, and was well known around the region for its beer. Falstaff, Jax, Dixie and Regal were the best known brands. But beermaking in New Orleans went the way of beermaking in most cities, and only Dixie survived, holding on as a local sentimental favorite.

Beer-making in earnest returned to the area in the 1990's, in the form of Abita Brewing Co., which started as a brew pub in the 80's and is now something of a regional powerhouse. Abita Springs (where Abita is located) is north of Lake Pontchartrain, an area known locally as "the north shore." During the 90's and the first part of this decade, other small breweries sprung up around New Orleans and the north shore, and beermaking looked to be on the verge of a comeback.

Map from Google Maps

Hurricane Katrina sealed the fates of most of the new breweries, and the fate of the north shore in a different way. The 50 miles or so between the I-12 junction with I-55 and its eastern junction with I-10/59 has been growing fairly rapidly for at least 20 years, but the population of the area has exploded since the hurricane. I know a lot of people who evacuated from the New Orleans area to one of the communities there and never went back, and more who returned to New Orleans and then relocated to the north shore a year or two later.

Image from here

One of the breweries that opened without much fanfare around the turn of the millennium was Heiner Brau in Covington. Started by a German brew master named Henryk "Heiner" Orlik, the brewery has supplemented its own brands by brewing "store brand" beers for some well known area restaurants. They even brewed some Dixie beer in the aftermath of the hurricane. Over the last few years, the brand has really started to take off, and is available in a large number of local groceries and watering holes.

Being German, Heiner probably feels compelled to put on an Oktoberfest celebration, if for no other reason so that he and his family can attend one. The Wife first learned of the brewery because of the involvement of the brother of her BFF from childhood, so the BFF often comes down from the midwest and we roll over there for the party.

Image from here

This year's celebration is this coming Saturday. Munich it's not, but fun it definitely is. There is a 5K in the morning (no thank you), some family and shopping time in the middle of the day, and around 2 pm the oompah band starts up in the big tent, and the beer and brats start to flow. That's usually when we show up. The crowd's not too big, and the beer's not too expensive, and it's the only Oktoberfest for hundreds of miles that I know of. And if you hang around and look interested, you might get a tour of the brewery. It's small, but it's spunky. Oh, and did I mention the beer is excellent?

So if you find yourself within 100 miles of Covington, LA this Saturday and you feel like a polka*, you should drop by. Maybe we'll see you there.
*That's what she said.


  1. Hoist one for me! I am not well, so will confine my drinking to hot toddies (scotch, natcH)...Monty Python marathon on IFC Sunday --Mad Men is mandatory (sorry) but other than that, we will be watching.....

  2. I used to live on the northshore, for a couple of years. It was long before Katrina and it was a quiet community. I moved back to the southshore before Katrina.. now the northshore is a booming place, but the traffic is worse than Metairie!

    That said.... Saturday - no plans so far and if that's the case, you might just find me at the fest!!! But Sunday - I'm going to Angola for the Rodeo!