In New Orleans, imbibing quality and local booze is important to residents and visitors alike. The past few years have seen Atelier Vie and Cajun Spirits join Celebration Distillation, the makers of Old New Orleans Rum, join the city's distilling scene. Four more distilleries plan to open within the next year or so.
Local breweries have also boomed - NOLA Brewing was the first to open in 2009. In the past year Second Line Brewing and Urban South opened. The slow start will quicken soon, with five more breweries on the immediate horizon.
Although all nine companies are in various stages of planning and operations, here's an overview of what's coming down the pipeline for 2016-17 and beyond. Remember, there's so much red tape for building and licensing breweries and distilleries, anticipated timelines are projections and will probably change.
Background: Brewer and co-founder Justin Boswell has worked for a year and a half to renovate the historic Gem Theater which sits on the border of the Central City and Broadmoor neighborhoods. The 15-barrel brewhouse and attached tap room will have many touches of the building's former life, like a row of theater seats dividing the brewing space from the retail space. Boswell, who returned to his native Louisiana from brewing in the Seattle area to open the brewery, looks forward to working with his neighbors to brew beer the whole community will enjoy.
Status: The brewhouse and tanks are installed, plumbing and HVAC is up and running, and power now flows to the historic theater for the first time since Katrina. The taproom bar is being built, the Gem Theater neon letters are restored, and finishing touches like a shuffleboard court are being added.
Address: 3940 Thalia Street, New Orleans.
Background: Founder Robert Bostick's five-barrel nanobrewery steps off of Frenchmen Street has moved along at a steady pace since he announced his location on lower Decatur Street in January. In order to make the most of his budget, Bostick's depended on what he calls "quite possibly the greatest group of friends anyone could ask for" to do most of the renovation work. He's hired award-winning homebrewer Taylor Pellerin to assist with brewing. Pellerin will also use his background in chemical engineering for water chemistry analysis and quality control.
Status: According to Bostick, "all of the structural work in the building is complete, including the massive underground drainage project we desperately needed. All of the interior framing is complete, the walk in cooler is set, and the new roll-up door is installed in the rear of the building Once we have our floors polished and finished with an epoxy coating, we will start installing the equipment. Construction should be complete within the next 4-5 weeks." Bostick hopes to open by Mardi Gras.
Address: 2115 Decatur Street
Background: Married co-founders Eric and Leah Jensen hope that this Bywater brewery will become a family friendly neighborhood spot, using their ten-barrel brewhouse and imagination to create innovative beer. The beer garden's 17 fruit trees will also provide inspiration as well as a relaxing space to enjoy beer with friends and family.
Status: Construction on the space has been in progress since the end of July, and their brewhouse and tanks have been delivered and installed.
Address: 4224 Royal St
Background: Although Raymond and Mandy Pumilia's brewery name sounds like a downtown brewery, it's in an New Orleans East industrial park near the intersection of Morrison and Downman roads. The name comes from the couple's home address, where Raymond served his homebrew to friends for years before launching into the brewery biz.
Status: Brewhouse and tanks installed, cooler acquired, and electricity and plumbing are being finished up. The Pumilias hope to open by the end of the year.
Address: 7366 Townsend Place
Background/status: details are vague right now, but the owners of Port Orleans have acquired a building near the Port of New Orleans and have shared logos and an artist's rendering of the building on their Facebook page. Update requests have gone unanswered. Hopefully more news will come soon.
Address: 4124 Tchoupitoulas
Background: In 2015, NOLA Brewing CEO Kirk Coco announced plans to open a distillery down the street from his brewery. Since then, he and the distillery's COO Andy Kutcher have worked to install two stills (one large and one small) and construct a tasting room. The first product will be vodka distilled from local sweet potatoes, followed by a pepper vodka, gin, and coffee liqueur made with French Truck coffee.
Status: According to Kutcher, "we are currently in our first product runs but still not quite there yet and not yet open to the public." However, stills are up and running and a master distiller is on board.
Address: 3715 Tchoupitoulas
Background: Formerly known as Bootleg Spirits, the company rebranded itself in July, making the announcement during Tales of the Cocktail. Scotsman (and former brewer) Gordon Stewart hopes Porchjam will stimulate local business creation and development. "We want to put our mark on the city and do it right." The company's national distribution model will hopefully help in the adjacent Tulane Avenue corridor development.
Status: "We are completing install in the next 2 months and awaiting our permits," says Joshua Goldstein, Porchjam's Chief Marketing Officer.
Address: 3916 Gravier Street
Background: This restaurant and distillery is the brainchild of owner/chef Jess Bourgeois and will be part of the Prytania Park Hotel Development in the Lower Garden District. Bourgeois, an alum of Commander's Palace and the CIA, will serve rustic Louisiana food to complement the small batch spirits made in house. Construction is well underway with the construction team building out the distillery as well as the private dining spaces, and the hiring process has begun.
Status: Marketing and special events manager Erin Bourgeois reports that the distillery's CARL copper still arrived from Germany a few weeks ago, but is not assembled yet. "We are currently ordering promotional items that will be sold alongside our bottles of vodka, rum and gin in the distillery. Guests enjoying their evening in Lula's main dining space will be able to purchase our spirits and t-shirts etc. directly from the distillery." The target opening date is mid-November.
Address: 1532 St. Charles Avenue
Background: Sal and Eileen Bivalacqua have been working for the past two years to get their distillery up and running. The name comes from New Orleans' 73 neighborhoods, which have inspired recipes for spirits like Irish Channel Whiskey, Gentilly Gin, Black Pearl Rum, Bywater Bourbon, St. Roch Rum, and Marigny Moonshine. Seven Three is working with local farmers to source corn and wheat in Erwinville for bourbon, cane from Labadieville for rum, rice from Opelousas for rice whiskey, and gin botanicals from local New Orleans farmers. Their "spirits with a sense of place" motto also applies to the future visitor center, which will spotlight the overall history of alcohol in New Orleans and Louisiana.
Status: Still early days yet, but the still has been delivered from Germany, and the bottles have been designed.
Address: 301 N. Claiborne Avenue