When one thinks about American craft beer cities, we can probably all agree that New Orleans is not the first town that comes to mind. The city was once home to world famous beers such as Falstaff, Regal, Union, Dixie, Jax, and New Orleans Brewing – but not anymore – and Kirk Coco was determined to change that. In spite of Abita’s presence in the region, Kirk felt his city needed and deserved a much richer beer culture. So in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when many were abandoning the city, Kirk began what is now NOLA Brewing – the only craft brewery that’s actually based in the city of New Orleans.
NOLA Brewing is now a very big deal and Mr. Coco as its CEO, a very busy man. Still, he generously agreed to sit down with us – and we repaid his kindness by wasting his time with…5 STUPID QUESTIONS.
1. In a few short years, NOLA Brewing has established itself as a “player” in the industry and a respected craft beer leader in the Southeast and Central Gulf Coast regions. And as its founder and CEO, you could be talking with any number of “credible” journalists right now. Why would you ever agree to waste your time with us? What were you thinking?
KC: Well Tom, I’ve been a Saints fan since I was a kid, so I am always a fan of the underdog. And frankly, I’ll talk to anybody as long as there is a free beer involved.
2. You served 11 years as a Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy and were even deployed in the Arabian Gulf. How do you go from a naval officer to a brewery head…Did you get into some sort of trouble over there… or had you always wanted to get into the brewing biz? Be honest.
KC: Well, I found that the most enjoyable part of my time in the Navy was hitting foreign ports and going on three-day benders. I figured, why do all of this other work? So I decided to get into a business where being on a three-day bender is a positive attribute.
3. Give us your take on NOLA. What’s your brewing and business philosophy? And what’s the end-game – world domination?
KC:We have always considered beer quality our number one objective. Our mission statement is four words, setting the priority and decision matrix for our company:
Besides, the track record for World Domination has gone poorly and tends to create grumpy people (see Napoleon, Hitler, etc.).
4. What kind of volume is NOLA doing currently and are you able to keep up with demand? And why don’t you tell us about your distribution while you’re at it.
KC: We were at 8500 BBLs last year and not meeting demand. That was for LA, MISS, AL, and FL. We will hopefully one day distribute throughout the Southeast, but not a larger footprint as we do not pasteurize and have limited distance for distribution because of quality concerns.
5. How many year-round and seasonal beers do you presently brew? And what’s your take on collaborations and special releases?
KC: Six year-round packaged beers and seven seasonal beers with a sour line and barrel-aging product line coming out this summer. We love collaborations as it is a chance to socialize while brewing, and share our love of beer with other breweries. Special releases are a further chance to stretch our imagination and make one-off beers that we would like to drink ourselves. Look for more soon, and come visit more often!!
Everyone has a “house beer” – a beer that’s a staple at home – What’s yours?
KC: My house beer is Bell’s Two Hearted, with our NOLA Brown Ale running a close second.