Anyone who has watched a fair share of Emeril on the Food Network knows the man is a fan of Abita beer. He keeps a supply in the fridge at all times. You know, to cook with.
Emeril Lagasse isn't the only beer fan to discover the joys of Abita's brews. The brewery located right here on the Northshore has experienced huge growth in the past few years, growing from a local specialty to a regional brand, and well beyond, available now in 48 states and counted among the top 15 craft brewers in the country.
Established in 1986 and based on the area's pure spring waters, Abita Brewing Company offers tours daily in the recently expanded tasting room. Self-guided tours are free, while the guided tours are $5 and include tastings. Check Abita's website for tour schedule.
Or, head for nearby Abita Brew Pub, where a sampler of seven beers, including the popular Turbodog and Purple Haze, is always on the menu. The pub, the original home of the brewery, is adjacent to the Tammany Trace in Abita Springs, and serves Louisiana pub food to go with the beer.
Abita isn't the only brewery on the Northshore beer scene. Covington Brewhouse produces a number of popular brews in its little brewery in the heart of downtown Covington. Tours are held on Saturdays and offer tastes of its Old World style brews and two brewed to pair with Louisiana flavors. All are available at a number of area supermarkets, bars and restaurants.
Tiny Chafunkta Brewery has added its beers to the mix, brewing since 2011 in Mandeville. The nanobrewery only offers tours on Friday from 6-7pm but its beers, including Voo Ka Ray IPA, Kingfish Ale, Old 504 and Bayou Blaze are available commercially in select bars, pubs, and supermarkets throughout Louisiana and into Mississippi.
Old Rail Brewing Company pub opened the summer of 2013 and features its own in-house brewmaster turning out a number of beers available only at its location adjacent to the Mandeville Trailhead.
The Northshore breweries are all part of Louisiana's Brewery Trail.
Wine aficionados will not feel left out on the Northshore. St. Tammany Parish is home to Pontchartrain Vineyards, an award-winning producer of wines in the classic French tradition. Chat with owner Lincoln Case and sample Pontchartrain's Rouge Militaire, Zydeco Rosato, the cleverly named Port of New Orleans in the winery's Old World tasting room. Just a short ride north of Covington, Pontchartrain Vineyards is a lovely setting for outdoor evening jazz concerts in spring and fall. Concertgoers spread out picnics, clink wine glasses and hear regional talent like the Pfister Sisters, Charmaine Neville and Don Vappie & the Creole Jazz Serenaders. All under the star-studded Northshore sky.
Nearby Pontchartrain Vineyards, LA Serendipity Vineyards is newest on the scene. The small winery is growing grapes and producing wine on site, including the crisp, slightly sweet and citrusy Blanc Du Bois. Call ahead, The Tasting Room is open 11am-6pm most weekends.