Open the cabinet of most New Orleanians under thirty and you will probably see a pint glass from the Bulldog. No, it’s not stolen. On Wednesdays at the Bulldog, your pint glass is free with purchase. For millennials who would rather spend their meager earnings on beer instead of glassware, it’s the perfect way to stock your cabinets. This dog-friendly spot is beloved by beer fans, who come to enjoy the lively courtyard with a back wall that sports a “beer taps fountain” unfortunately, it only pours water. Inside, the bar has almost fifty taps and more than one hundred bottles of local, regional, and national beers, and the Bulldog is regularly near the top of New Orleanians’ list of favorite beer bars. The courtyard and rather small bar both fill up quickly, especially during football season. Fans of teams not in the SEC might want to steer clear on Saturdays, when the several TVs are tuned solely to games south of the Mason-Dixon line. The atmosphere then can feel a little “bro-ey,” but on weeknights the crowd is more varied, as folks stop in for an after-work beer. Though this bar may seem casual, it takes its beer very seriously, regularly cleaning out its lines and changing beers often. They take the same pride in their food, which is one of the better bets for late-night fare. The Bulldog is one of the few bars in town that sells growlers, and if you are staying nearby, it’s a good place to fill up a jug with a craft brew to enjoy if the place is too full.
Polly Watts may not have always planned to run a bar. But when she took over the Avenue Pub in 2006, she decided not only to make it a great, 24-hour neighborhood bar, but also to make it one of the premier beer bars in the region. The Avenue Pub belonged to Polly’s father from 1987 to 2006, when he passed away. She envisioned the bar as a hub for craft beer and quality whiskey, neither of which was really present in New Orleans at that time.
For the first two years of her tenure, she had difficulty sourcing the beers she wanted for her menu. Once, in order to get a distributor to give her one keg of a particular Imperial IPA, she had to agree to take a whole pallet, ten kegs. This was more beer than she would ever normally have purchased of such a specialized style, but Polly decided to take a risk in order to create the kind of beer bar that fit her vision. She told the distributor, “OK, I’ll take them all.” And then she sold them all.
Polly continued to hit barriers in trying to build her bar, but she kept finding ways to move closer to her vision. “I don’t take the word no’ very well,” she admits. She credits the strong relationships she has formed as vital to the development of her bar. “The craft beer community is great for sharing advice. A brewery can be your supplier or they can be your community. I made a lot of friends. That helped.” Watts also credits other New Orleans bars that were pouring quality brews before she did as helping to pave her way. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Cooter Brown’s, DBA, and The Bulldog. They laid the groundwork.” The Avenue Pub now has several different reputations: beer bar, whiskey bar, neighborhood bar. And it is, after all, still a 24-hour bar, with all that entails. When Watts pauses to look back on the last ten years, she says, “Damn, I really did do a lot.” Grateful beer lovers across the city agree.