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First Draughts: How To Drink New Orleans In With Your Ears And Mouth

Backed by a soulful guitar, bright brass, and amazing backup singers, Hugh Laurie makes old, sometimes forgotten, blues songs jump out of your speakers. Abita Brewing pairs perfectly.


I’m a music lover with an incredibly varied taste. I love The Beatles, old-school Garth Brooks, My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire, George Gershwin, John Williams, and Hugh Laurie. Hugh Laurie, you ask? Yep, the award-winning actor who played Dr. Gregory House for eight seasons on “House, MD,” and was part of the legendary comedy duo Fry and Laurie, also sings, and he’s damn good!

If you watched “House” as much as I did, you saw Laurie’s character playing piano, guitar, and even organ all the time. Laurie’s love of music was embedded throughout the show, and now that “House” is over, the actor has decided to make music a primary focus of his career.

A longtime fan of New Orleans-style blues and jazz, Laurie has recorded two albums, “Let Them Talk” in 2011, and “Didn’t It Rain” in 2013. He has an excellent group of backing musicians, The Copper Bottom Band, and proves that even a Brit can sing the blues.

On his first album, Laurie is joined by music luminaries Tom Jones, Irma Thomas, and even Laurie’s musical idol, Dr. John. His mastery of the blues is evident in every bar on his albums. He understands how a good piano part can drive a blues song. Backed by a soulful guitar, bright brass, and amazing backup singers, Laurie makes old, sometimes forgotten, blues songs jump out of your speakers.

I firmly believe live music is the best music. Living in Austin, Texas, “the live music capital of the world,” you can’t help but find a great live act playing nightly in nearly every bar, restaurant, theater, and park in town. I’ve seen Laurie live twice, once at the legendary Buckhead Theater in Atlanta, and once here in Austin, and each show has been amazing.

When I listen to Laurie’s take on classics like “Tipitina” or “St. James Infirmary,” there’s nothing better to accompany this great music than a good New Orleans beer. Of course I speak of Abita.

Abita Brewing Company is located just north of New Orleans and puts out more than 150,000 barrels of beer each year. Ranging from their classic Amber to several IPAs and even some fine root beer, Abita is a label for your tastebuds to explore.

They’re also a brewery that gives back. After Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and the surrounding areas in 2005, Abita released Restoration Pale Ale. One dollar of each six-pack sale went to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation. Sales of Restoration have raised more than a million dollars to help the Bayou State rebound from Katrina’s devastation. Their Save Our Shore Pilsner raises funds for Gulf Coast environmental recovery efforts in wake the of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Both of those are good beers and worth trying.

Their Amber is a Munich-style lager with a rich maltiness that makes it a great beer to enjoy while you’re listening to blues or jazz and picking through a big pot of boiled crawfish. Their Big Easy IPA, which is a “session IPA,” meaning it still has the characteristics of a traditional IPA but has a lower alcohol content so you can enjoy a couple of them without it knocking your socks off, is also a good beer to try.

They even make some fantastic root beer that is absolutely perfect for a root beer float. Try it with half vanilla, half cinnamon ice cream for a twist on the typical float.

So when you have a free moment this weekend and need a break, grab some Abita and one of Hugh Laurie’s albums (CD/Vinyl, iTunes) to take a virtual trip to The Big Easy. It’s always a good time.