Out of all of America’s great drinking cities, New Orleans has lagged behind in one obvious way: beer. Make no mistake, though—New Orleans does have a history of breweries. Abita is one of the longer-running craft brewers in the country, and Dixie Beer is a larger Southern equivalent to other beloved regional beers like Yuengling, Narragansett, and Natty Boh. But after Hurricane Katrina, Dixie Beer’s New Orleans facilities took on so much damage that it never came back.
Today’s New Orleans beer landscape is stronger than ever before, with nearly a dozen brewers operating in the city and plenty of Louisiana brewers filling taps there, too. That has a lot to do with NOLA Brewing Company. Back in 2008, it aimed to reestablish the city’s local beer legacy. As NOLA Brewing’s beer list keeps expanding, some of its original offerings have remained—and its Irish Channel Stout is a perfect example of why they’ve endured.
In a pint glass, Irish Channel Stout has just the slightest tinge of brown. It wouldn’t be #000000 on your computer’s RGB color picker, but it’s close. Add to that a smaller (maybe one-third of an inch) chocolate-pudding color head, and this beer has cup appeal.
Its aroma proves to be quite a bit lighter by comparison. The strongest scent is malt, with slight chocolate tones arriving in the background. But what hits your nose with Irish Channel Stout accurately hints at the type of stout that will momentarily hit your mouth.
The beer immediately delivers some distinct flavors—espresso, chocolate—without the slightest bit of milkiness.”
Maybe simply hearing the words “Irish” and “stout” will immediately bring to mind Guinness for many, but that’s not what NOLA Brewing aims for here. A fresh Guinness has a creaminess to it and a fairly full mouthfeel; Irish Channel Stout takes the opposite tack. The beer immediately delivers some distinct flavors—espresso, chocolate—without the slightest bit of milkiness. And for a stout especially, this brew has a remarkably clean and light impact on your tongue. Irish Channel Stout registers on the lower side of any bitterness scale, and only the espresso tones linger on the tongue for any length of time.
Are session stouts a thing? Given the clean sips and relatively low ABV (6.8%) for the style, NOLA Brewing has created another entry for this subcategory in Irish Channel Stout. The approach makes perfect sense when you consider this beer’s natural environment—New Orleans faces far more days months above 90 degrees than it does below 45, so any local stout needs to be flexible enough for consideration at either extreme. And perhaps most importantly for any beer in the city—where 2019 Mardi Gras season is already underway—this comes in cans. Rule number one of go-cups in Louisiana? No glass. Rule number two? No one has to settle for the nearest amber ale anymore.