Brian “Bruiser” Broussard has had a foot in both the beer and music worlds since he was a teenager. He began brewing at Abita on his 19th birthday, and went on to brew at Covington Brewhouse, NOLA Brewing and then back at Covington Brewhouse as a co-owner.
While working by day at Abita, he’d drive to New Orleans and hang around the music scene, at one point setting up Abita sponsorships for several local bands. In 2001 he joined the roots rock band Dash Rip Rock and played bass with Bill Davis and company until 2007. He’s also played with several other bands before signing on with Cowboy Mouth in 2014.
Except for the six years he toured with Dash Rip Rock, Broussard has “balanced” his brewing and musical careers by throwing himself fully into both.
“I don’t settle,” Broussard reflects. “I do what I want to do. I like making beer and I like playing music, so I do both. I’ve luckily worked myself into a situation where I draw a salary from both. It was a lot of hard work that got me here.”
Broussard reminisces about his days of couch surfing and musician-style poverty with a grin. “I don’t regret a second of it,” he says wistfully. But after six years, he felt it was time to have a slightly more anchored lifestyle. Coming home to the Northshore, he sought employment at Covington Brewhouse—then called Heiner Brau—which he helped build between tour dates in his Dash Rip Rock days.
At that time, Broussard was the only brewer; he and one other employee did all the production work. By the time he left in 2012 to live in New Orleans and work at NOLA Brewing for a year, Covington Brewhouse had grown significantly.
Of course, during all this time he was still playing music—often with more than one band. He played with hard rock band Supagroup while fronting his own group, Bruiser’s House of Surf, and playing and recording with Christian Serpas & Ghost Town. In 2011, he recalls, he played with Cowboy Mouth’s Fred LeBlanc in Jello Biafra & the New Orleans Raunch & Soul All-Stars: “The idea for the whole show was to get musicians from a bunch of different New Orleans bands. We had the horn section from Egg Yolk Jubilee, we had Mojo Nixon’s piano player. We had Pepper Keenan from Down and Corrosion of Conformity. It was this massive mixture of people that just don’t go together.”
When Broussard returned to Covington Brewhouse and a change in ownership happened shortly afterward, he became a part owner of the brewery. Of course, that’s when Fred LeBlanc called him with an offer to play with Cowboy Mouth.
For the past two years, Broussard has divided his time between running a brewery and touring all over the country with Cowboy Mouth.
“I’m always working for the brewery, whether I’m here or not,” he says emphatically. “I’m on the road with my laptop, making production schedules, making calls, ordering ingredients, paying attention to what’s going on.”
Even with that constant connection, he admits it’s nice to get away and lose himself in the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.
“The thing I like about traveling with Cowboy Mouth is there’s zero stress level with that job. It’s really easy, we have a crew that sets everything up for us, and I just have to fly there and play. It’s nice to have that release.”
Cowboy Mouth plays approximately 5–8 gigs a month. Broussard points to an app called Master Tour, which tells him everything he needs to know, like when load-in is, when sound check is, what hotel they’re staying at, and who he’s rooming with (spoiler alert: it’s Fred). The app is necessary because he can’t focus on our minutia while he’s running the brewery.
“The Delta curbside guys know me, so when I drive up, they tell me where I’m going half the time, because I didn’t even look at the app, I just know I need to go to the airport. The plane’s going to take me where I’m going.”
You’d think Cowboy Mouth would be swimming in Covington Brewhouse beer, but Broussard can’t fly with it since his luggage is stuffed with merchandise to sell at the shows. On his way home, however, he can bring brews from wherever he plays—if he’s sold enough T-shirts.
Exploring the beer culture where he plays is important to the point that his piece of the band’s rider requires local craft beer to be stocked backstage. He drinks what he can, and brings the rest home.
He’s noticed a certain commonality between his beer and the beer he drinks on tour, saying that the beers he’s been exposed to reflect the portfolio of many other small breweries, including his own.
“I think we’re in this business because we have the same mindset, and I notice a lot of smaller breweries like us just fighting to keep our head above water.”
Walking into the Brewhouse’s taproom, a custom-wrapped Peavey guitar hangs on a maroon wall, and music is always playing, mostly classic rock and occasionally disco, which Broussard is a fan of. “’Disco Inferno’ is one of the greatest songs ever made,” he says, without hesitation.
The taproom is managed by Broussard’s wife, Erin Brennan Broussard. She’s put out the welcome mat to the community to join Covington Brewhouse’s rock ’n’ roll family. Yoga classes meet one Sunday a month and the class fee includes two post-yoga beers. It’s the same deal for the weekly aerobics classes on Saturday mornings. If it’s too early for “beer for breakfast,” Kombucha Girl Living Beverages is also brewed at the Brewhouse and served on tap.
The brewery’s summer seasonal beer, Rock & Roll Summer Farmhouse Ale, depicts the outline of a musician playing a guitar. It’s easy to imagine that Broussard served as inspiration for the design. For the always-on-the-go brewer/bassist, he’s happy to keep a tight grip on the neck of his bass, as well as a beer bottle.