Newell: Reborn Dixie Brewery bringing excitement, investment to New Orleans East

Newell Normand
January 16, 2020 - 3:30 pm

We knew it was back - but now it’s really back! We’re talking about Dixie Beer, an iconic and historic New Orleans brand that is on the verge of an exciting renaissance. Dixie has a new brewery opening up, and Newell invited Dixie Beer General Manager Jim Birch onto the program Thursday morning to talk about what we should expect from their huge new complex in New Orleans East.

“This has been a while in the making, Jim,” Newell began. “I know y’all have been working towards this crescendo - the facility is finally going to be opening, and this will be much more than just a brewing facility, right?”

“It’s really tremendous!” Birch agreed. “It’s been a two year process for us, and over the past year, there’s been a lot of progress over at the brewery in the East… we have a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility out there, 85,000 square feet, high-speed packaging lines, we’ve been hiring employees for the last four or five months, all local employees. We are very excited to open up on Saturday the 25th!”

“There’s been a huge trend across the country with craft beers,” Newell said. “What I like about this project is that this is an iconic brewery that has a history in this city. I remember as a young boy listening to my Dad and his friends in the early 60’s, arguing about what was better - Dixie, Jax or Falstaff? You told me off the air that in the 60’s those three brands had a 90% market share in the city of New Orleans!”

“New Orleans is so unique, and the beer scene is too,” Birch answered. “We have actually acquired a museum that has collectibles artifacts from each of those three breweries. So when you come visit us, you can go upstairs and take a tour of New Orleans beer culture over the last 100-150 years.”

Like so many other irreplaceable institutions, Dixie was a casualty of Hurricane Katrina. How did the brand bounce back from that?

“We had over ten feet of water in the old brewery down on Tulane Ave,” Birch said. “We did manage to salvage some items from there, which you’ll see in the new property. One of the neatest things is the old letters from the Dixie dome, which we’ve re-lit, and put them in the brewhouse, in the fermentation area. But right after Katrina, what Kendra and Joseph Bruno did was contract with an out-of-state manufacturer to keep the Dixie brand alive, albeit not produced in New Orleans. That was the situation for about thirteen years until Mr and Mrs Benson purchased the brewery - from that point forward, we wanted to bring manufacturing home.”

“Let’s talk about this facility - 85,000 square feet - to me, that seems big for a brewery,” Newell said.

“It is big!” Birch agreed. “It’s broken up into some sections, right up front as you walk in you’ll see our retail tasting room, we have two tap towers in our Innovation Brewhouse right behind the bar, so anyone coming into Dixie is immediately going to see and smell beer being brewed. In the back, we have a 100-barrel, five-vessel brewhouse - that’s huge for what we’re doing, and we have an enormous cellar, 21 200-barrel fermenters, and then high-speed packaging lines for cans and bottles. There’s a little bit of everything in there!”

“Well, we’re really excited about this,” Newell concluded. “There’s so many things that, as Benny Grunch said, ‘ain’t dere no more,’ and it’s good to have something that’s finally back! Congratulations to you and the Benson family… it should be a huge success!”

Listen to the entire interview in the audio player below.

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