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The abandoned Dixie Brewing Company: One of the largest iconic landmarks in New Orleans

David Goran

The Dixie Brewing Company’s history traces back to 1907, when Valentine Merz, once the president of the Jackson Brewing Co., opened the brewery in New Orleans, Louisiana. Its beer, currently contract-brewed, was brewed at what had been the only remaining large volume brewery within the city of New Orleans, prior to the city’s 2005 levee failures.

 

 

This iconic red brick brewery was designed by architect Louis Lehle in German Romanesque style with arched windows and a distinctive silver dome. During Prohibition, the name of the company was briefly changed to the Dixie Beverage Company, which it managed to survive by producing other drinks like sodas and ‘near-beers’.

 

 

In 1989, its owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, emerging reorganized in 1992 with a new line of speciality beers, including: Jazz Amber Light (introduced in 1993), Blackened Voodoo (a dark ale), and Crimson Voodoo (a red ale) when the company became a viable, growing business once again.

 

 

Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans in 2005, wiping out almost everything on the first floors of the brewery, including the modern bottling line, 10,000 cases of beer, and anything that wasn’t made of stainless steel. After the area was de-watered the brewery complex was looted with much of the equipment stolen, like copper, precious metals from the tanks and wiring and nearly everything else of value at the site.

 

 

 

Despite early claims that the brewery would be restored, it remains offline as of December 2010 and the future of the facilities is uncertain. The brand remains in business, brewed under contract by breweries elsewhere.

 

 

The building sits in the footprint of the new Department of Veterans Affairs hospital under construction in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood. “Right now, what we’re doing is stabilizing the structure that we’re going to maintain, which is that iconic tower with the Dixie Brewery on there,” said Liz Failla, project coordinator for the VA. The design preserves and repairs the six- and four-story sections of the old brewery. Failla said a modern brick and glass structure will rise from behind the historic facade.

 

Dixie is currently contract-brewed, though there are efforts to encourage local government support for the return of the Dixie Brewery.