Port Orleans Brewing Co.
New Orleans, LA
Few cities in the world carry a more wild and debaucherous reputation than New Orleans and at the heart of it all was once a place named Storyville, the city’s most popular red-light district. Storyville was an area where prostitution and drugs were intentionally allowed to exist in the hope that those vices would then stay out of the rest of the city but “The District”, as it was originally known, turned into far more than just a place to have a good time.
Much to his dismay, Sidney Story, the city council member who wrote out the new regulations, soon found the new red-light district named after himself. Storyville was established in 1897, covered 38 city blocks and was located just north of the French Quarter. The idea came from Dutch and German ports that had already established districts where prostitution was legalized, closely monitored and regulated by local governments. By 1900, Storyville was the most profitable district in New Orleans.
“Blue books” were created and sold to prospective customers in the Storyville district. These books explained the locations, prices and services offered at different brothels, and would often feature advertisements from local taxi companies, saloons, barber shops, railroad stations and other businesses. The guides gave an alphabetical list (and sometimes pictures) of all the available prostitutes and identified them as white, colored or “octoroon”, a label that technically meant someone was one-eighth black but was more commonly used to describe anyone of mixed-race.
As Storyville grew, so did its clientele and the brothels had to differentiate themselves in order to stand out among the competition. Many of them did this by offering unique themes, elegance and, of course, beautiful women but quite a few brothels also employed musicians to help provide an upbeat and lively atmosphere inside the building. This opportunity to make music in such a free-form environment attracted many talented musicians and is now credited as one of the major influences in the birth of jazz music. Pianists poured in from around the country both to make money and to experiment with the new type of music. Even the legendary early jazz pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton is known to have worked in some of the brothels. Morton is often credited with arranging music that allowed him to showcase his masterful improvisational techniques, a trend that would be copied by countless jazz musicians to follow. Morton is considered by many to be the first person to ever arrange jazz music, which he did long before the genre even existed. The first jazz record, the Original Dixieland Jass Band’s “Livery Stable Blues” and “Dixie Jass One-Step”, was released in 1917, the same year Storyville came to an end.
Prostitution was made illegal (and actually enforced) in New Orleans in 1917, mostly because the U.S. military found that the troops stationed in New Orleans were being distracted from their duties. Storyville attempted to transition into an entertainment-focused district but the amount of tourism dropped dramatically and most of the businesses went bankrupt. The area was demolished in the 1930s, partly in an attempt to forget about the past, and turned into a housing development. Only a handful of Storyville’s original buildings still stand today.
A short drive to the southwest from Storyville’s former borders will take beer lovers to Port Orleans Brewing Company which resides on the banks of the Mississippi River. Port Orleans Brewing Company’s Storyville IPA, along with many of their other brews, ensures that although some parts of New Orleans’ history are long gone, they will never be forgotten.
From the Brewer: Because of the way the “Storyville District” blended people together from all walks of life, it sparked creativity in musicians, writers, poets, and now brewers. Our lighter-bodied IPA blends a slight malt character with a bright finish of hops that pleasantly lingers. It’s copper in color slight citrus aroma drawn from lemons and grapefruit. Create your own story with a Storyville in your hand. ABV 6%, IBU 45
Zach Strief - Co-Owner, Managing Partner & Former Saints Player; Don Noel - Co-Owner & Managing Partner; Ricky Thomas, Thomas Discon, Charlie Barnett, Mike Tilly and Dean Lacey - Co-Owners
A Storyville girl, c. 1912