The Greatest Holiday
When people ask me what my favorite holiday is – my response, without hesitation or thought – is and always will be, Mardi Gras. While the rest of the country recovers from the holidays, those raucous residents of New Orleans, to include myself, wait until Twelfth Night (that is, January 6th) to take down our Christmas trees and replace them with all things purple, green and gold. Marching bands converge on every street and King Cake becomes a staple at nearly every meal. For weeks, krewes of Mardi Gras parade down the avenues of New Orleans, engulfing the city in an overwhelming sense of excitement. As Fat Tuesday approaches, the music gets loader, floats get bigger, and parade goers get a little drunker.
New Orleans, for many reasons, is one of the greatest cities in the country – and is in my opinion the greatest drinking city. Why? It is legal to walk anywhere in the city with a drink. On any day, at any time, you can walk with a beer, wine, or cocktail in hand (just no glass). Don’t be surprised if the bar tender hands you a “go-cup” on your way out. Thank them and walk your happy self to the next bar, brewery, or restaurant. During the Mardi Gras season there is nothing better than cracking open your favorite beer, sticking an extra in your pocket, and heading down to the parade route to join in the shenanigans.
My Favorite Beers for Mardi Gras
Below are a few of my favorite Mardi Gras beers and when you should drink them, check it out!
You know it's Mardi Gras season when you see bottles of Abita's seasonal Mardi Gras Bock hit the shelves. As far as day drinking beers go, this one is definitely on the heavier side. It's malty backbone holds up great on cooler days or nights and the crystal clear amber color really catches your eye. Great for slow sipping on some of the longer parades since it still holds up if it goes a little flat. Definitely pour this beer in a go-cup so you get all the malty aromas.
ABV – 6.5%
Style – Similar to a German Maibock
When to drink – First thing in the morning with some beignets and a meat pie - and then later in the evening when the temperature drops for night parades. Perfect for watching Zulu at 8am on Fat Tuesday. Keep your non-drinking hand free to catch a coconut!
Louisiana is home to Ponchatoula – a small town known for its amazing strawberries. With Abita being only a half hour from Ponchatoula, the brewery keeps Strawberry Lager on tap and on shelves all year around. This is my go-to parade beer. At 4.2%, it’s light enough to drink all day and still be ready to tackle the next day of parades. But what I love about this beer is how Abita keeps the fresh strawberry flavor while balancing it out with a good wheaty background.
ABV – 4.2%
Style – Fruit Lager
Mardi Gras is perhaps the only time of year you'd be thrilled to have someone throw a shoe at you. The Krewe of Muses, an all female krewe, rolls down the Uptown route in the evening, throwing (or usually carefully handing) their most treasured throws...hand decorated shoes. Consider yourself lucky to receive one as they are rare and sought after Mardi Gras memorabilia. NOLA Brewing cranks out a stellar season beer dedicated to this great organization. Muses is an easy drinking, crisp, and flavorful session beer perfect for the long haul.
ABV – 5%
Style – Belgian Style Pale Ale
When to drink – Start drinking two hours before Muses starts rolling through Uptown and keep drinking until you catch a shoe. Pairs great with a bag of Zapps.
Southern Prohibition Typical Tuesday
I picked up a six pack of this beer when it hit our local stores on Twelfth Night and instantly added it to my Mardi Gras beer lineup. The brewers at SPB made this beer with day drinking in mind. It's light, crisp, refreshing, everything you need in a beer you may be drinking for two weeks straight. When I brought a six-pack of this home, I stuck one of the room-temp cans in the freezer to chill and put the rest in the fridge. Well, of course my tiny brain got distracted and it was some time before I remembered the can in the freezer. No explosions, thankfully, and cold enough to just be forming ice crystal. The point of this story is - drink this beer ice cold! Because that can of freezer beer was amazing! Plus the artwork on the can is awesome.
ABV – 4.3%
Style – American Pilsner
When to drink – At the first crawfish boil of the year. They'll be small, but dammit, who cares - we've been waiting 9 months for this!
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
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