ARNAUDVILLE — What started years ago as a love of brewing beer and sharing it with friends and family has blossomed into a profitable multistate beer business for a family in St. Martin Parish.
The Knott brothers of Arnaudville, Karlos, Byron and Dorsey, and their families on Monday officially welcomed visitors to Bayou Teche Brewing’s new facility.
The facility can brew 4,000 barrels of beer a year, and if demand keeps growing, the Knotts will install equipment to ramp up to 10,000 barrels annually. The family also plans to bottle the beer soon at the Arnaudville facility.
As the new brewery ramps up production, LA 31 beer that is being made at the Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. in Kiln, Miss., will be scaled back, Dorsey Knott said.
At the opening, Karlos Knott introduced a Cajun twist on the tradition of ribbon-cutting to mark the opening of a new facility. He cut the “ceremonial link of boudin.”
In a little over three years, the company’s territory has expanded. Its products, LA 31 Biere Pale, LA 31 Boucanee, LA 31 Piere Noire and several seasonal beers, are sold in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, the panhandle of Florida and in New York City.
Dorsey Knott said visitors to the state, such as those working in movie production crews in New Orleans, where the beer sells well, have carried the word about LA 31 beer far and wide.
What started as an experiment, brewing beer at home and letting others imbibe, years ago is a now family endeavor with parents, sons and wives helping the Knott brothers. Some family members are even paid now. The company lists four employees.
Karlos Knott said he was a U.S. Army soldier in Germany, where stout beer is brewed locally as a way of life. He said he and his wife moved to Seattle, which was “the epicenter in the ’90s” where the country’s love of micro-breweries started.
“They’d have free beer tours (in Seattle) and we hit them all,” Karlos Knott said.
He returned home to Arnaudville — La. 31 is the state highway that runs through town — and the brothers eventually embarked on a quest to pair a beer with Cajun cuisine — gumbo; oysters, raw and fried; bisque, jambalaya, rice and gravy; fried fish; and boudin.
Dorsey Knott said, “Finally, we found one that hit all the notes,” a Belgian-style pale ale.
With the recipe in hand, there still were many obstacles: State and federal permits, approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, crafting a business plan and finding financing, the brothers said.
The brothers put together a small brewery inside a railroad car, constructed a shelter around it and started brewing. In a few months, they were making plans to enlarge Bayou Teche Brewing.
The brothers also had to find a distributor, as Louisiana does not allow brewers to ship their products straight to retailers. Anheuser-Busch distributors ship LA 31 to bars and other retailers, the brothers said.
Karlos Knott said the brewery, which has a website and a Facebook page, is getting its share of foreign visitors who embark on “beer tours.”
“We call them beer fans,” he said. “They come from all over the world.”