I’ve been drinking at Cooter Brown’s since 1995, but it took writing a blog about the bars of the city to prompt me to wonder, “Who the hell is Cooter Brown?” Depending on your point of view, Cooter Brown was a wastrel or a genius. He lived on the boundary of the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. This position made him eligible for draft by both camps. According to legend, he either had family on each side (or didn’t want to pick in case he chose the wrong position), so he decided to get drunk and stay drunk in order to be declared “unfit for military service.” The plan worked, and “drunk as Cooter Brown” has remained a benchmark for intoxication since.
If you are a beer fan, it is not hard not to follow the fellow’s lead at his namesake bar. Cooter Brown’s has more than forty rotating taps and four hundred bottles, serving regional, national and international brews. It was one of the first bars in New Orleans to make its beer list a feature, and it has remained in the vanguard of beer bars since.
Just three of the many clever celebrity and beer sculptures at Cooter Brown’s
Cooter Brown’s also features some of my favorite bar decor in the city: The Celebrity Hall of Foam and Beersoleum Lined up along the tops of the walls are one hundred caricature statues of dead celebrities (about eighteen inches tall), each clutching a beer bottle that bears some relationship to his or her fame. Richard Nixon brandishes a Tsing Tao, Louis Armstrong offers a bottle of Dixie, Bob Marley grips a Red Stripe, and Alfred Hitchcock presents a Dead Guy. All were crafted by artist Scott Conary, who once worked in the Cooter Brown’s kitchen.
COOTER BROWN’S NEW ORLEANS Photo Gallery
Cooter Brown’s is also a sports bar; twenty televisions line the walls. On game days, pockets of fans crowd around the TV showing their team. The steady cacophony of the matches is punctuated from all corners by whoops of delight or groans of despair as different teams score or falter throughout the day.
Cooter Brown’s recently changed hands and is now under the direction of the same folks who operate the Rusty Nail. In a recent interview, they promised to keep Cooter Brown’s exactly as it is, a friendly, neighborhood sports bar with one of the best beer lists in town. They did admit, though, that they might dust the statues once in awhile.