Grin and beer it: Crafty tour companies are cashing in on the fast-expanding Crescent City craft brew movement. (©Shawn Fink)
New Orleans has a lot more breweries now than it did a year ago. To help visitors and locals get to several safely at one time, three beer-focused bus tours have popped up in recent months. They’re all high quality and priced about the same, but each company has its own specialty. Check their websites and reviews to find the best fit for you.
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When Urban South Brewery opened in March 2016, Premium Tours and Transportation founders Patrick Healy and Peter Van Dusen decided the time was right for a proper brewery bus tour in the Uptown area.
Their New Orleans Brewery Tour takes place every day at 4 pm, and always hits Courtyard Brewing, Urban South and NOLA Brewing. The tour includes two beers at each stop and an up-close look at the breweries’ inner workings, the only one of the three companies to do so.
Healy says friendships are often facilitated between tour attendees.
“We once had two recently married couples on the tour,” he recalls. “They loved craft beer, were staying at the same hotel, got married on the same day and didn't know each other until they got on the bus. Three hours later they had dinner plans together for the next two nights.”
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Matt Marsiglia’s NOLA Brew Bus is a customized party mobile, on which he and business partner Jesse Barry conduct three weekly brewery tours.
On Friday afternoons they cross Lake Pontchartrain to tour the Abita Brewing Company; on Saturdays and Sundays, the Brew Bus hits three of the eight in-town breweries, switching routes every month. Participants get a tour at one of the three stops, two beers at each and some history about the city and its rich brewing history in-between.
NOLA Brew Bus also offers a Saturday afternoon “To-Go Cup” walking beer tour, which focuses on one of the city’s newest breweries, Brieux Carré, just off of Frenchmen Street, along with a couple of French Quarter bars where they can sample local brews. Private tours are also available for groups and parties.
“We promote not just craft beer in New Orleans, but our city in general,” Marsiglia said. “As a licensed tour guide company in the Big Easy, we really pride ourselves being the liaison between tourists, breweries, new locals finding their groove and small businesses.”
Best for the Beer Explorer
New Orleans Brews Cruise is Amber and Brad Gunn’s tribute to Louisiana beer and the people who love it. New Orleans tours are offered three times a week: Fridays and Saturdays at 6 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, and include a rotating three out of 10 local breweries with samples at each stop and a tour of one.
The Brews Cruise also makes monthly brewery tours to the Northshore to visit Abita, Old Rail and either Covington or Chafunkta; in Baton Rouge they head to Gnarly Barley, Southern Craft and Tin Roof; and in Lafayette it's Bayou Teche, Cajun Brewing and Parish that get the call.
“The majority of our customers seem to be craft beer fans who are interested in learning more about what New Orleans has to offer,” said Amber. “They are also looking for someone who is knowledgeable and can bring them to places the locals would go to."