I blog primarily over at "geosciblog" (http://geosciblog.blogspot.com), I am doing this one for fun. It is inspired by 30+ years of beer can collecting and having tried more than 3,000 different American beers during that time. “. . . And beer was drunk with reverence, as it ought to be.” — G. K. Chesterton

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Little Diversion...A Brief Look at Recent New Orleans Brewing History

Beer is one of the reasons that lots of folks like New Orleans. Collectors like the beer and the cans, too.

In the early 1970s, when the Beer Can Collectors of America (now the Brewery Collectibles Club of America) was founded, there were three breweries in New Orleans producing beer in cans; Falstaff, Jackson, and Dixie. Jackson Brewing Co., adjacent to Jackson Square, closed about 1972 and Falstaff closed about 1978, leaving only Dixie to face the "beer wars" of the 1980s and 1990s, and ultimately hurricane Katrina.

Aside from there being three breweries producing cans, Louisiana law was favorable to grocery store chains having their own "house brand" of beer, resulting in more can varieties that were good for trading with collectors in other parts of the country. The nearby Texas market also added some additional brand names. Also, in Mississippi and Louisiana they had unusual can sizes, 10 and 14 ounces in addition to the traditional 12 and 16 ounce cans. The odd size cans were ostensibly to address loopholes in state tax laws on the 12 & 16 oz. cans.

Jackson Brewing Co. at various times had Jax, Jax Draft, Fabacher Brau, Tex, and Kassel beer, the last being brewed for Handy Andy stores in San Antonio, TX. Jax sizes were 10, 12, and 16 oz., Fabacher Brau sizes were 10, 12 oz., while the others were only 12 oz.. When Jackson closed, Pearl Brewing Co. of San Antonio, TX picked up the Jax and Kassel brands.

Falstaff at various times had Falstaff (10, 12, 14, and 16 oz.), Falstaff Draft and several store brands. The store brands included Time Saver (a chain of convenience stores), Krewes (for National Canal - Villere grocery stores), and Fischer's (for Winn Dixie stores).

Dixie Brewing Co. at various times had Dixie, Dixie Lager, Dixie Light, Dixie Amber Light, Coy, and various store brands. Dixie and Dixie Light were sold in 10 and 12 oz. sizes. The store brands were sold under the Royal Brewing Co. marketing name and they included Fischer's, Krewes, Golden Brau (for a grocery store chain near Lafayette, LA), K & B (for K & B Drug Stores) and Schwegmann's (for the Schwegmann Brothers Giant Supermarkets).

Another interesting aspect of New Orleans culture was that in some Schwegmann stores, when you entered the store, you could pick up a cup of fresh Dixie beer on draft or a can of Schwegmann beer to enjoy while you shopped. A friend of mine told me that in that store, people were on the honor system. He had seen people in the checkout line twirling an empty six pack holder and the cashier would ask "OK, what was it?" and then would add the price of the already consumed six pack to the grocery checkout receipt.

Most, if not all of Dixie's production now is in bottles, including Dixie Voodoo Dark, Dixie Crimson Voodoo, and the chocolate-flavored Dixie White Moose. Dixie Beer has a slightly distinctive flavor, as it is aged in cypress-lined tanks. For a variety of reasons, Dixie has been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy for years. I don't know how long it will be before we know if there is any future for Dixie.

There have been a few brewpubs in New Orleans, the most durable is the original, the Crescent City Brewhouse. As most of the French Quarter is above sea level (being on the old natural levee of the Mississippi River), Crescent City might be OK. I noticed some newsreel of what looked like Jackson Square being dry and cleaning up taking place.

North of Lake Ponchartrain is the Abita Brewing Co., one of the original southern microbreweries, opening in 1986. It survived the hurricane, being largely out of service because of the loss of electricity and scattered employees unable to reach work.

There were some older breweries in New Orleans that closed before the 1970s, including the American Brewing Co., brewers of Regal Beer.
We have an intact six pack of Dixie Beer Fighting Wildcats pull tab beer cans. Still has plastic 6-pack ring. Worth anything?
Read with interest you quick history of N.O. brewing. What do you know about Mr. Thrifty Beer by Royal Brewing Co.?
Mr. Thrifty Beer was sold through Mr. Thrifty Liquor Stores. It is not a rare can, though the crimped steel cans were short-run production, from about 1982 or so, and might be worth $2 ea.. I haven't seen an aluminum can.
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