Whistling Dixie

imageMy grandfather chased his bourbon with it, my father stocked his fraternity house with it, and it was my first stolen sip of beer as a kid. I can still remember the green and white label looking up at me from the bottom of an ice chest at a barbecue when I was twelve—magnified by a foot of water and the lure of the forbidden, promising Southern manhood by the ounce. Even at twelve, I’d heard the name enough to know that Dixie beer had a cultural significance in Louisiana on par with LSU football, gumbo, and humidity. Even Walker Percy gave it due reverence when he wrote that one can “eat crawfish and drink Dixie beer and feel as good as it is possible to feel in this awfully interesting century.” Dixie beer has been washing down Gulf oysters and boiled crawfish since 1907, but has been on a hurricane hiatus for the past two years since the brewery was flooded by Katrina and then dismantled by looters.

But thanks to the durable passion of its owners, that old familiar Dixie bottle is now perching on tailgates, sweating on pool tables, and rattling around in truck beds again. Joe and Kendra Bruno—Dixie’s husband and wife owners since 1986—are as undaunted by their golden years as they were by the hurricane, and new varieties and renovation plans for the old brewery are well underway. But mixed with their enthusiasm for what Dixie can become is a duty to preserve what it’s always been. “Dixie is the people’s beer,” says Kendra Bruno. “We’re just the caretakers.” —Stinson Carter

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