Zony Mash Beer Project
Adam Ritter, co-founder of New Orleans-based brewery Zony Mash Beer Project, has a simple and straightforward philosophy one how a brewery should be run: As a place for every kind of beer lover.
If you want something more traditional and less hoppy to go along with your burger, they've got it. And if you want something a little more adventurous, Ritter says, "Yeah we've got that, too."
Just look at the ingredients on Zony Mash's beer menu. King of Carrot Flowers, true to its name, is a sour with a rich and refreshing flavor, made with actual carrots and tangerines. Other sours on the menu incorporate flavors of passion fruit and guava (Buggin' Out) and pineapple (Dandy Candy). At the other end of the spectrum, you'll find Pillow Talk, a more traditional IPA, and Tiny Bubbles, a smooth Australian sparkling ale. There are many more beers on Zony Mash's menu, too, ranging from milkshake IPAs to Kölsch to stouts.
Ritter, a longtime home brewer, has owned and operated restaurants and bars since 2005, so he's learned a few things along the way about what customers want. Beginning his career in Philadelphia, Ritter bought a building that housed what he called "a beer-and-a-shot bar." He found success with both his real estate and bar ventures, and eventually bought other similar properties in Philly.
After a while the businesses became more successful than Ritter was comfortable handling ("we were like,'This is too big, it's too much'" he says) so in 2017 he sold the operations part of his businesses and moved to New Orleans, a city he'd fallen in love with years before while taking classes at Tulane University.
Fast forward to 2018, when Ritter bought what he describes as a "makers studio" next door to the historical Art Deco-era Gem Theater. Another brewery was operating there at the time, but soon after Ritter moved into the studio, it went out of business.
He recognized a new opportunity. "For me, I saw the theater as a big art project. The blueprint was already there: it had the space, and the nostalgia ... all the bits and pieces to make for an insteresting experience, but it had to be brought together in a sense."
Walk into Zony Mash and you'll see what Ritter means. Tastefully decorated, with an expansive bar, fermentation tanks and room for a stage, the taproom has a fun and eclectic vibe. Ritter and his team (including co-founder Mitch Grittman) host a variety of food trucks, plus live concerts and comedy performances, yoga and open-air markets.
Impressive as the venue is, the beer remains the most important aspect of Zony Mash's undertakings. Ritter admits that seeing dozens of beer on Zony Mash's menu, many with uncommon ingredients and flavors, may seem intimidating to some drinkers. "We can't be pretentious about this, though," he says. "We have to ask the customers the right questions, to get to know what they really like. You have to remember that beer culture is still very young here."
True, many breweries have opened within the past few years throughout New Orleans, but the scene still hasn't reached the level of hops havens like Denver, Portland or Asheville. With high-quality brews like you'll find at Zony Mash, however, the Crescent City is continuing to attract attention as one of the nation's new craft beer meccas.