Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the surrounding area, leaving thousands homeless while permanently destroying many businesses. One of those businesses was Dixie Brewing Company, as it’s original Tulane Avenue location suffered irreversible flooding damage and was later the victim of looting after the storm. It appeared as though the brewery was doomed and would never reopen but almost a decade later it began to contract brew out-of-state and now it’s set to make its local public return this week, after a 14-year hiatus.
The new location of Dixie Brewing, on the edge of the city’s Pines Village section, was selected because of its proximity to the French Quarter – an eight minute trip – and because the facility is capable of brewing and packaging upwards of 100,000 barrels annually. The 85,000 square foot facility will officially open on Saturday, Jan. 25 and is part of a multimillion-dollar project along the Industrial Canal in New Orleans East that directly impacts job growth and could entice additional private investment.
Founded in 1907 by Valentine Merz, Dixie spent close to a century in its original building and even modified itself to “Dixie Beverage Company” to survive the Prohibition. It went through a couple of different ownership groups and grew to a beer that was synonymous with the region. After it’s demise at the hands of one of the worst storms in United States history, it was forced out-of-state before being purchased by Tom and Gayle Benson, owners of the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints and the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Pelicans.
“Our goal was to take advantage of this opportunity zone and create a business that would serve as a catalyst for tourism and local jobs, so that this area can once again become a thriving community,” said Owner Gayle Benson in a statement. “This project is a long-term investment in an area that traditionally has not benefited to the same extent as others. We have worked diligently with city leaders, specifically Mayor Cantrell and Councilwoman Nguyen on the economic development of the surrounding community to attract, retain and grow business in New Orleans East.”
The new Dixie Brewing facility, which will once again feature its distinct white dome, is child and canine friendly and offers guests guided and self-guided tours, a museum, a taproom, beer tastings, an outdoor beer garden, bocce ball courts, a walking path and a full-service kitchen, which will be in collaboration with Louisiana award-winning chef Micah Martello. Drinkers can also book private events. Upon opening, the brewery will boast six new beers in addition to the flagship Dixie, Dixie Light and Blackened Voodoo brands, including three new IPAs, a coffee and chicory stout and a raspberry white ale.
To see this brewery, an important piece of the city’s rich cultural history, once again call New Orleans home is incredible. It’s a testament to the rebirth still happening and a symbol that while Hurricane Katrina might’ve hurt the city, it’s only made it stronger in the years since.