Abita Brewing Company was founded in 1986 and has been a steady favorite of brave southern beer drinkers. There is a special place in my heart (& belly) for this brewery "nestled in the piney woods 30 miles north of New Orleans." While living on the Gulf Coast, I started beer hunting 10 years ago, and Abita was the first brewery tour I ever took. Despite the sweltering heat, strolling through their brewhouse and learning about zymurgy was a thrilling experience. Abita Springs water is renowned for its purity, and I'm sure this contributes to the quality of their beer. Abita's line-up includes their Amber, hearty Bock, sweet AndyGator Doppelbock (8%), crisp Golden, hoppy Jockamo IPA, malty Red Ale, Fall Fest, Christmas Ale, and dark Turbodog. Abita also excels at crafting flavored beers such as Strawberry Lager, Satsuma Harvest, Pecan Harvest, and their famous raspberry Purple Haze (love it!). Since my last visit to the brewery several years ago, and I hear they have a new hospitality taproom - I can't wait to visit again! Also, their brewpub restaurant is just up the road and has excellent food.
Abita's tasting room was very impressive looking. The bar was made of highly polished heavy wood. The stools at the bar were niced padded and upolstered in leather. The brass footrail was also a nice touch. There were also tall bar tables and chairs throughout the bar area. Additional seating on the patio.
Behind the bar was done up in stainless steel, marble and mirrors. Overall it felt like a well appointed private club. Classic rock on the sound system.
There were two HD TVs that were used for the video portion of the tour.
It was alright there. I enjoyed myself for the most part but the free beer did tend to bring in quite a number of non-beer folks. This was fairly obvious by their rapid pour, taste and dumping beer down the sinks.
This really is a class setup. There is also a 'gift shop' next to the bar area. All the Abita swag you could possibly want. Keep in mind they only take debit or credit here and do not sell any beer. Its all free!
In the last ten years they've built this swank and spacious "visitor center" which is open everyday from 10am to 2pm. Tours are on Wednesdays through Fridays at 2 pm. They do three tours on Saturday, 11 am, 12 pm, and 1 pm, but don't knock yourself out to get there for a tour. Tours consist of a verbal description of the brewing process and a quick in and out walk through their new brewing cathedral containing a dozen or more 300 barrel tanks and a behemoth automated brewing system that appears to have reduced the role of the brewer to that of a computer programmer. Not much to see unless you like to look at massive stainless steel tanks.
I sampled some of their beers. My favorite (by far) was the Andygator which used to be a barley wine, but has morphed into something different under the new regime. I'm guessing they have changed the recipe to make it an "imperial" pilsner. It's light colored, decently dry, and a touch hoppy (think subtle). It comes across like a restrained Belgian strong golden.
Their new flagship beer is the Restoration Pale Ale brewed to aid reconstruction after Katrina. They donate a dollar per six pack to a rebuilding fund. I confess that I don't care for this beer in the bottle, but at the brewery it was just okay on tap.
They have a new IPA, Jockamo IPA, which is descent on draft. It's probably not hoppy enough for the west coasters.
Don't skip the Abita Brewpub, it's just back up the road (in fact you probably passed it trying to find the brewery).