Saints owner rebranding brew away from Dixie Beer name

New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson announced Friday the name of a fabled New Orleans beer will change. It will no longer be called Dixie Beer — and all Dixie branded products will be changed.

Her husband, the late Tom Benson, purchased the brewing company in 2017, which had been shuttered since Hurricane Katrina. Its product had been brewed out of state since the storm. Gayle Benson said they always intended to return production to the city and did so in January.

In a statement, Benson said she wants to make sure the brand represents the entire community. After research and reaching out to community leaders, she said they felt the Dixie brand would be a sign of rebuilding following the storm.

“Since opening, the brewery has been extraordinarily successful in attracting thousands of people to visit New Orleans East and enjoy good food, great beer and good company in a beautiful setting. We have been gratified to see the diversity of our customers who visit from all corners of New Orleans, our region and from around the country,” Benson said.

“We recognize, however, that our nation and community are currently engaged in critical conversations about racism and systemic social issues that have caused immeasurable pain and oppression of our black and brown communities.”

A bit of the history of the brew: Dixie Brewery got its start in 1907, flowing from what would become a landmark facility rising over Tulane Avenue. Surviving Prohibition, it was eventually the last brewery based in New Orleans. The company itself had fallen on hard times before Hurricane Katrina hit, devastating its brewery with flood waters from levee breaches.

The Dixie beer name has long been part of the city’s restaurant and bar culture, lettered into weathered signs around the city and laced into the kind of stories that circulate in bars. Since the Benson acquisition three years ago, followed by a major relaunch, that name has been applied anew everywhere from grocery aisles to billboard-style ads around the Superdome.

One Nola.columnist, Will Sutton chipped in with an interesting anecdote if you want to understand how significant the decision is:

Wendell Pierce, one of the owners of Equity Media, which owns WBOK-1230AM and is a media partner with the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, was so excited that he interrupted regular station programming to share the good news. He read Benson’s statement and said, “This is major. First, I have to applaud Gayle Benson. This is a demonstration of an evolved, intelligent, respectful woman who is actually showing her grace. This is grace personified.” He said she came to realize that the brand name is offensive.

This marks another move in an interesting direction for a franchise that was jolted by the controversy created by quarterback Drew Brees’ “disrespecting the flag” comments.

Well played, Mrs. Benson

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