The Beer and Indians of Mardi Gras
Many people connect Carnival and beer. People who know Carnival well, connect it with the Mardi Gras Indians. But some may not complete that triangulation and connect the Indians and beer.
That connection has hit the spotlight – and a new Carnival tradition potentially been started – this season with a partnership between Faubourg Brewing and the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council.
The first highlight of the collaboration is a special-edition Faubourg lager twelve pack, with eye-catching package design featuring a pair of Indians in full Mardi Gras regalia. These are available at beer purveyors throughout the Greater New Orleans area during Carnival season.
The other piece is a limited-edition Mardi Gras Indian poster, which is available for sale from the Faubourg website. The posters are digital prints on a silk-finish cover paper, and display a Big Chief fully suited and holding a feathered staff. Proceeds from both items will benefit the Council.
While this is the first time the partnership has hit the spotlight, it is not new. “Ever since the name transition [from Dixie], we have been looking for ways we can support local culture bearers, and we have been working with the Mardi Gras Indian Council for a while,” explained Jason Daniel, vice-president of Marketing at Faubourg. “Supporting neighborhood culture is part of what we do, along with making fantastic local beer. Without the Mardi Gras Indians, neighborhood Carnival almost wouldn’t be there.”
“We came together to discuss how they could assist us,” recalled Big Chief Tyron Casby, Chief of the Mohawk Hunters and a member of the Council. “The first benefit is the exposure. This ties us into a lot of individuals who can assist us.”
The council was founded in 1986 and currently consists of chiefs from more than twelve tribes, a number that Casby hopes will grow in the near future. Funds generated by the initiative will be used for everything from supporting the next generation of Indians to expanding the Council’s Central City campus.
That campus, which presently is open by appointment only, is a place “where people can see the work of the Mardi Gras Indians, and get the history directly from some of the chiefs,” in Casby’s words.
“We have such a strong local arts and crafts scene, and people want to meet the people behind it,” echoed Daniel. “It’s an incredibly unique local story.”
Faubourg Brewing is also a story with a long local history. After years of being one of the “big three” of local brewing, along with the late, lamented Jax and Falstaff, the former Dixie is reimagining itself in the craft beer tradition. And while it may be a larger operation than other local craft brewers, Daniel sees Faubourg as a partner with these brands as well.
“Craft beer accounts for 10 – 12% of the market nationally, but only 3% in Louisiana,” he noted. “We have to work together to push aside the national brands, to keep our jobs, our values and dollars here.”
In this vein, Faubourg has backed organizations working to support local hospitality industry workers struggling through the pandemic. The large outdoor lawn at the brewery is home to frequent concerts featuring local musicians, providing these cultural creators with gigs and offering safe (and free) music to the community.
Given these contexts, the partnership between Faubourg and the Indians is a natural. The designs for the twelve-pack packaging and the poster were done in tandem, and both sides anticipate continuing their collaboration well into the future.
“We are planning to expand our outreach to local students,” said Casby. “We want to expand the campus, have a community garden there. We want to provide grants to the tribes, help them with their regalia. The idea is to preserve what we have and enhance it. Others are welcome to come on board to help make this all happen.”
“They are doing important preservation work, protecting their culture for future generations,” agreed Daniel. “As a local brand, how privileged could we be to help keep that alive?”
More information about the Mardi Gras Indian Council can be found at www.mardigrasindiancouncil.com