Louisianians not only know how to recognize good beer, they also know how to craft it.
During the second annual Louisiana Craft Brewers Week running Monday-Saturday, Sept. 28, the state’s 11 breweries will work with their distributors and retailers to host events, debut specialty beers and allow the public to meet the owners and brewers.
Last year, the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild and the Beer Industry League of Louisiana persuaded the Legislature to pass a resolution establishing an official Louisiana Craft Brewers Week in September.
“It was created in appreciation of craft brewers and to draw attention to their work,” said Conrad Rolling, of New Orleans, executive director of the guild.
Since the inaugural event last September, four new breweries have sprouted — 40 Arpent Brewing in Arabi, Gnarly Barley Brewing in Hammond and both Great Raft Brewing and Red River Brewing in Shreveport — bringing the state total to 11.
Because most breweries are concentrated in southern Louisiana, Rolling said, the two Shreveport breweries are the first to appear in the northern half of the state.
“It’s such an expanding industry and an industry that a lot of people aren’t particularly aware of. In the last few years, we’ve seen a ton of growth in Louisiana, and it has been extraordinarily successful.”
Craft brewing in Louisiana began in 1986 with the opening of Abita Brewing in Abita Springs.
It took nearly two decades before others popped up — Covington Brewing in 2005, New Orleans-based NOLA Brewing in 2008, Broussard-based Parish Brewing in 2009, Arnaudville-based Bayou Teche Brewing in 2009, Baton Rouge-based Tin Roof Brewing in 2010 and Mandeville-based Chafunkta Brewing in 2011.
The seven veteran breweries, along with the new Gnarly Barley and 40 Arpent Brewing, will appear at the Louisiana Brewers Bash, a first-time event for Louisiana Craft Brewers Week, hosted by Bite and Booze at The Irish House in New Orleans from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Brewers Bash will feature specialty beers from the nine breweries, Irish pub food and a chance for guests to meet brewery owners and staff.
According to the national Beer Institute in 2012, Louisiana ranked 11th in beer consumption per capita, but the national Brewers Association states that Louisiana ranks second to last in breweries per capita.
“We’re high in production, statistically, but the number and variety of breweries is still quite low,” Rolling said.
Great Raft Brewing president Andrew Nations, who opened his company in October 2013, said brewing in Shreveport was challenging but ultimately successful.
“This last year has been hectic, crazy busy, but our hometown here in Shreveport has been unbelievably supportive. We’re expanding a lot faster than we thought.”
Events that Great Raft has planned for Louisiana Craft Brewers Week include Husk, Hull and Rind: a beer, wine and cheese tasting event, which will be held at the brewery Tuesday and again at Nonna restaurant in Monroe on Wednesday.
The brewery will also launch a new India Pale Lager — At Arm’s Length — Wednesday at Twisted Root in Shreveport and Thursday at Great Raft Brewing.
“(Craft Brewers Week) is a great opportunity for brewers around the state,” Nations said. “We’re growing and making a name for our state.”
The state’s breweries also have individual events scheduled to celebrate Louisiana Craft Brewers Week.
NOLA Brewing, for instance, has events planned at restaurants in Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Covington and New Orleans. At the end of the week, NOLA wraps up with a tour and “Pour Decisions” on Friday, Sept. 26, at the NOLA Tap Room, where the taps will be swapped for 18 new specialty beers.
Meanwhile, in Acadiana, Bayou Teche Brewing will introduce two specialty beers, Teche Hombres and Mango Albino, at the Greenroom in downtown Lafayette on Tuesday.
The brewing company also will host “Live at Bayou Teche Coup de Main” on Saturday, Sept. 27, at its taproom. A mix of Cajun music, specialty brews and food trucks is planned for noon to 4 p.m.
“We’re in Louisiana, and we’re brewing beer for people in Louisiana,” said Stephanie Knott of Bayou Teche Brewing. “Craft Brewers Week gets people excited about our breweries here. This year is even better then last. Even our distributors are getting involved. The entire week is a Louisiana craft beer takeover.”