Alex Peyroux and Janice Montoya quietly opened Miel Brewery & Taproom (405 Sixth St., 504-372-4260; www.mielbrewery.com) in October 2018. After a few years in Boston, where Peyroux worked for Harpoon Brewery and Montoya worked for an advertising agency, they returned to Louisiana to open their microbrewery. Louisiana honey inspired its name, and Miel serves several styles of beer highlighting local ingredients in the taproom on the edge of the Irish Channel.
Gambit: How did honey inspire your brewery?
Janice Montoya: Alex’s dad is a retired veterinarian. He took up beekeeping. He was sending us all of this raw local honey. We were researching what to do with it.
Alex Peyroux: In fermentation, having a little bit of sugar is beneficial for a ton of different reasons. Honey has a unique flavor. But the word “miel” means a lot to us. It’s the same word in French and Spanish. Janice’s family is from Honduras. My family came here from France in the 1720s. So, having this French and Spanish influence is kind of fun.
JM: Our goal is to always have one beer on tap that uses honey from Alex’s dad.
AP: At the moment, that’s our Nox. It’s a Belgian dark strong ale. It’s brewed with Kentwood honey. It’s appropriate to that style to add extra sugar, but instead of using Belgian candy sugar, we substitute honey.
Gambit: What experience do you have brewing beer?
AP: I have brewed on much bigger scales. I brewed pilot batches for Abita. I worked at a really small brewpub out in the middle of Alaska. That was a five-barrel system — here, we’re working on a 10-barrel system. I ended up at Harpoon in Boston, which is bigger than Abita. I have worked in a lot of different sized environments. This is much more manageable for a couple of people. We know this market because we grew up here.
JM: And the laws had changed.
AP: You can sell beer directly to the public. Self-distribution was allowed in Boston. We could see that was spurring growth.
JM: About August 2016 was when we quit our jobs. We moved here in September 2016. By November, we had rented this building. We thought of the name in Boston. We bought the (internet) domain and snagged the Instagram handle. We wrote a business plan. We hit the ground running when we got here.
AP: We have enough space for 11 or 12 beers. We’re going to aim for 10 with a wide variety. Today we have seven on tap.
JM: We opened with three and worked our way up to the seven we have now.
AP: We will change what we have. Today, we have a New England IPA, which is a popular style. We always try to keep something hoppy and something light. We have a brewed pale ale for the light beer. We also have a coffee stout.
JM: We also use local ingredients for a Norwegian farmhouse saison. We use turmeric from Paradigm Gardens in Central City for Glyden.
AP: It has a mild ginger flavor. Part of our philosophy is to use what we have. Use the local ingredients. We’re trying to get interesting local ingredients like muscadines and stuff that is common in Louisiana but not anyplace else.
Our light beer is our best-seller, and after that, it’s anything with hops in it. We opened with what I thought were pretty common styles: a Hefeweizen and a Belgian double ale. A lot of people said, “I haven’t seen these styles in a long time.” I don’t think I’ve done anything exotic yet — like using a crazy fruit or a blend of styles. I have played it traditional. But when opportunities come up, we can shift quickly and brew quickly. like a test kitchen.
Gambit: What’s your perception of the local beer palate?
AP: Right now, with the internet and sharing and globalization of ingredients, we’re seeing big fads pop up in ways that you wouldn’t have seen in the ’90s. Right now, hazy IPAs, the New England-style IPA, is taking over everywhere. It used to be fruit lagers and light beers. Now, a lot of people who normally drink Miller are looking for IPAs. I think people are feeling more adventurous. With the options out there and (brewers) coming up with twists, you’re better rewarded for trying different beers.
With it being made fresh — I think of beer as being like bread. If you have to ship a loaf of bread across the country, it doesn’t taste as fresh. Back when microbrewers were first sending fancy beers down here, people didn’t like them. They tasted kind of old, but people didn’t know that. Now we’re making the same styles, but they’re fresh. You can get them where they’re made.