In the 19th and early 20th century, beer gardens dotted the landscape of most American cities, including New Orleans. These venues, sometimes a hall, sometimes an outdoor park, were filled every Sunday with families.
Bands played waltzes and polkas for dancing, old men played dominoes and cards and children scampered around. Unlike saloons, which were patronized only by men, beer gardens were open to everyone. These spots were a center for the community.
Steve Hindy, owner of Brooklyn Brewery, is coming to New Orleans with his version of a beer garden. At the Brooklyn Brewery Mash, New Orleanians can enjoy good food, beer, music and culture, all with a 21st-century twist.
Hindy and his team are in town for a weeklong cultural extravaganza. The idea for the festival grew out of the presence his brewery has in its Brooklyn home.
When the brewery opened in 1996, their neighborhood was a run down row of vacant buildings on the waterfront. Hindy remembers that when they started hosting Friday night tastings, not many people came, but those who did come were artists living in the then-cheap neighborhood. Couples met at the brewery, dated at the brewery, married at the brewery, eventually had children and would bring their kids to the brewery.
“It drove the staff crazy.” Hindy said. “The kids ran amuck and they wanted to ban kids, but I insisted we keep doors open to these families.”
Hindy also allowed the building to be used for public meetings, art exhibits, music events, beer and food events. The brewery became a fixture in the community.
“When we thought about how to connect with people outside of Brooklyn, we decided to create a festival to make the same kind of connections that we made here in New York,” he said. Thus was born Brooklyn Brewery Mash, linking beer with creative communities across the country.
There is something for everyone at the Mash. Food-centered events include a seven-course Hogs for the Cause dinner overseen by Brooklyn Brewery Chef Andrew Gerson, featuring lots of pig and beer. There is also a takeover of Bywater favorite Pizza Delicious planned.
I am anticipating the final supper from Brooklyn Beefsteak where attendees will get to recreate another 19th century tradition: consuming all the steak and beer their hands can hold. No utensils allowed.
At The State of Craft Beer discussion, Hindy joins folks from Abita Beer, NOLA Beer and the Louisiana Craft Brewer’s Guild to discuss the craft beer industry in Louisiana as well as the country.
The Found Footage Festival is a collection of oddball video clips, compiled and hosted by Joe Pickett (The Onion) and Nick Prueher (Late Night With David Letterman). At the Animation Block Party, visitors can see an assortment of animated features and shorts.
Comedian Chris Gethard will host his own mash-up of a talk show, featuring local celebrities and comedians.
Finally if you just want to drink Brooklyn Brewery beer, including rare and seasonal varieties, there are a myriad of tap takeovers popping up across the city during the week.
Hindy hails from Ohio and was born into a family of non-drinkers. His grandmother was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, one of the driving forces behind the creation of the 18th Amendment and Prohibition. His first visit to New York was as a boy, when he and his family rode the train from Ohio to hear Billy Graham preach.
While there, he saw the very last Brooklyn Dodgers game and fell in love with the city. Forty years later, he opened his brewery. His mother wryly notes that the trip to New York didn’t exactly turn out as planned.
Hindy is looking forward to his week in New Orleans, a city that knows a little something about mixing drinking with other cultural activities.
The full calendar of New Orleans Brooklyn Brewery Mash events can be found at brooklynbrewerymash.com/new-orleans.