In my recent research of breweries in the state, I came across two I hadn't heard much (or, indeed, anything) about - Cajun Fire in New Orleans and Great Raft in Shreveport. I had the pleasure of talking to the brains behind both these operations this week.
Cajun Fire (warning: music playing upon loading) joins Courtyard Brewing as another Orleans Parish brewery hopeful for a 2013 opening. I spoke to Jon Renthrope, the guy who started it all in October 2011. He's a New Orleans native (as are all the other Cajun Fire folks) who fell in love with beer when off at college and moved back home to try to pursue his dream of opening a brewery. Right now, Jon's brewing a barrel at a time in a rented commercial kitchen space while Cajun Fire makes plans. They are in the process of looking for a space, and are hoping to find something in the New Orleans East area. The plan is to start with a nanobrewery model (a 3 bbl system) and see where it goes. They want to keep the batches small and the styles seasonal. They were able to take their beers to the people during the most recent WYES Private Tasting and the last New Orleans on Tap event and Jon tells me the beers were well received. Cajun Fire is also positioned as an "eco-friendly" nanobrewery, which I'm not sure what that means... but I'm interested in finding out! Jon's bio describes him as a thrill seeking environmentalist, so... intriguing, yes?
When I spoke to Andrew and Lindsay Nations, founders of Great Raft Brewing in Shreveport, I learned that Great Raft will not only be the lone brewery in Shreveport, but also in the immediate 150 mile radius. Zowie. But Andrew and Lindsay are determined to bring craft beer culture to their home, after having relocated for several years in the Washington DC area. They moved back to Shreveport about 4 months ago, business plan in hand, and have been moving swiftly to find a space, equipment, investors, and a head brewer. Jim Patton, a founding partner of Abita Brewing, had signed on to be Great Raft's brewing consultant and brewmaster, and provided incredibly valuable advice as well as joining them in Shreveport to look at potential brewery spaces and meet with potential investors. Sadly, as many of you in the beer community know, Patton passed away this past October, leaving Great Raft in need of a new strategy and new brewmaster. They've had interest from all over the country, though Andrew admits that relocating a beer professional to Shreveport will certainly be a challenge. Bringing a new brewery into an area that has none has necessitated some creative thinking for exposing the local consumer to new craft beer. They've done a lot through food pairings with local restaurants with good results and feedback - if you're in Shreveport next week, check out their food and beer pairing event at Twine on Tuesday, January 29.
Lindsay gave me an interesting statistic on Louisiana and beer: Apparently, Louisiana is 5th highest beer drinking state in the country (per capita) but the 47th of 50 in terms of number of breweries. I have to go find a source for that, but if that's the case, that's bananas!
I enjoyed my conversations with Jon, Andrew, and Lindsay. All three are incredibly energetic and determined to not only succeed in their business ventures, but to make their communities stronger by bringing craft beer into it. Check out their websites, follow them on social media, and all of that. I look forward to trying their beers and hearing more for them as they progress down the long and winding road to opening a commercial brewery in Louisiana.