Couple Vows to Get Beer Flowing Again in 'Dixie'

Joe and Kendra Bruno i i

Joe and Kendra Bruno own The Dixie Brewery, which makes Louisiana’s signature beer. Peter Breslow, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Peter Breslow, NPR
Joe and Kendra Bruno

Joe and Kendra Bruno own The Dixie Brewery, which makes Louisiana’s signature beer.

Peter Breslow, NPR
Dixie's signature brew

Dixie's signature brew has a taste similar to Pabst Blue Ribbon or Schlitz. Peter Breslow, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Peter Breslow, NPR
Labels from Dixie's brews: Dixie, Blackend Voodoo and Jazz Amber light. i i

Labels from Dixie's brews: Blackened Voodoo, Dixie and Jazz Amber Light. hide caption

itoggle caption
Labels from Dixie's brews: Dixie, Blackend Voodoo and Jazz Amber light.

Labels from Dixie's brews: Blackened Voodoo, Dixie and Jazz Amber Light.

The Dixie Brewery is a red brick behemoth just a mile or two from New Orleans' French Quarter.

Joe Bruno and his wife, Kendra, bought the local icon in 1985 as it was going bankrupt. Problems with a 1975 batch of beer had put the future of the familiar green-and-gold label in peril.

Yet until Hurricane Katrina hit, the Bruno's mom-and-pop operation was still churning out up to 50,000 barrels of beer each year. Now the factory, flooded by the storm, remains in darkness, smells of must and has become the target of an extensive looting operation.

The thieves have set up shop, built wooden ramps and brought in wheelbarrows to cart away pipes and pieces of equipment from the nearly 100-year-old brewery.

Though they've both reached retirement age, the Brunos are still committed to seeing that Dixie survives. The brewery's renowned cypress tanks are the last of their kind.

Dixie, the signature brew of Louisiana, is a bit thin, similar to Pabst or Schlitz.

In the 10 years, the Brunos have introduced award-winning brews such as Blackened Voodoo, Crimson Voodoo and Jazz Amber Light, which have deeper, more sophisticated flavors that are able to compete with popular micro-brews. There's even a dessert beer, White Moose, that is meant to taste of white chocolate.

But the business must modernize — and cut half its staff — to survive. Joe Bruno estimates that it will cost several million dollars before the beer flows again. In the meantime, the couple is negotiating with regional brewers in other parts of the country to produce Dixie. They hope to be up and running again for their centennial in October 2007.

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