Sunday, April 30, 2017

Craft Beer Catching on in Shreveport

The craft beer industry is on the rise across the nation and in the past few years the Shreveport-Bossier area has been the beneficiary of that. We now have three craft breweries in our area and within a slightly larger radius many, many more. In Texas, craft beer is a huge industry and you can plan an entire vacation travelling around the state to sample craft beer in cities from Nacogdoches to Austin, to Houston, San Antonio, McKinney, Dallas, and Fort Worth. There are over 100 microbreweries in Texas alone.

According to the Brewer’s Association, small and independent breweries grew by eight percent in 2016, and in 2015 the craft beer market was $22.3 billion dollars which is 21% of the market. That is getting into pretty big money. There are over 4,000 breweries in the United States. Bars are getting in on the wave too; The Round Bar in Shreveport has 60 taps serving craft beer. In Des Moines, El Bait Shop, has over 200 craft beers on tap. Shreveport-Bossier is a little behind the curve in embracing craft beer but now that it’s finally here the public is supporting it in a big way.

The first craft brewery to open a tasting room in Shreveport was Great Raft Brewing in October 2013. Bossier City’s first craft brewery, Flying Heart, opened in Spring 2015. Our third brewery, Red River Brewing, licensed the day before Great Raft in 2013 but opened their tasting room in
The patio at Flying Heart
2016 just on the edge of downtown Shreveport.

Each of our three breweries have a distinct personality and ambiance. There are no beer snobs here: everyone who patronizes one of these establishments is a lover of craft beer – period. While the brew houses hope to make a profit, and a perhaps a living, each supports and encourages visitors from out of town to visit the other breweries.

This is the craft brew culture: of course there is competitiveness, but there is also support. In the eyes of a local brew master, “it’s us against the big guys like Anheuser-Busch.” It’s clear that Big Beer would like for the independents to go away. Sales of brands like Miller Lite and Budweiser are down and Big Beer is responding by buying out small breweries. Consider that in 2015 Time Magazine reported that Big Beer’s plans to quash the rising challenge from microbreweries included buyouts, and now in 2017 craft beer sales have declined slightly because of these buyouts:

“The [Brewers Association] reports that, in 2016, craft brewers produced 24.6 million barrels of beer, or 1.4 million more than the previous year. However, the craft beer industry also lost out on 1.2 million barrels that would have been considered ‘craft beer’ had their breweries not been acquired by larger corporations prior to the start of the year.” 

How is a little brewery to compete with Big Beer and why should we want them to? Craft beer is popular because each blend is unique. To qualify as a craft beer, according to the Brewer’s Association, a brewery must produce “less than 6 million barrels per year; not be more than 25 percent owned or controlled by a non-craft brewer; and brew beer using only ‘traditional or innovative’ ingredients.”

Strawberry Shandy with fresh watermelon
 For example, Flying Heart produces several delicious seasonal Shandy style beers which are very popular: the Strawberry Candy Shandy and the Blackberry Shandy they produced in the summer of 2016 were extremely well received. While  not always embraced by some craft brewers, the Shandy beers are often favorites because of their versatility and light alcohol content. On a hot, humid summer day in Louisiana, a Flying Heart Strawberry Candy Shandy with a chunk of cold watermelon floating in it can’t be beat. For the consumer who wants a heavier, stronger beer, Flying Heart’s Barrel 52, a robust porter with a whiskey finish, is the way to go.  That’s the beauty of craft beer – it’s not mass produced one size fits all anymore.

Red River Brewing has their own specialty beers with a strong line of rich porters, a popular wheat ale named Hay Ryed, and a German style lager, Heliopolis, which is very popular.

Great Raft’s popular Southern Drawl and their pale ale, Commotion are found pretty much everywhere in town: their taproom, restaurants, grocery stores, bars. As the only local brewery of the three to be distributed by Eagle Distributing, Great Raft is closer to the Big Beer model than the other two breweries. Eagle distributes Abita, Budweiser, Corona, Michelob, etc., as well at the Great Raft beers.
Red River Brewing Hay Ryed
 Against the big beer names like Budweiser and Miller Lite, the craft breweries work a little harder to get their beer, and their name, out there. All three breweries host events such as game nights, cornhole tournaments, local history seminars, and book clubs to help draw in customers. Food trucks are a huge part of the craft brew game: the two cottage industries often piggyback on each other.

With summer in the South upon us, take advantage of Shreveport’s growing craft industry and check out each brewery. Don’t feel obligated to pick a favorite: each offers a unique contribution to the craft industry and we certainly need to support local business. Take advantage of Flying Heart’s large patio from where you will soon be right in the heart of the very exciting Downtown Bossier expansion which is nearing completion. Visit Great Raft’s huge warehouse, play a game of cornhole, or sit inside their tasting room. At Red River, their large, brightly lit interior provides space for a medieval sticks game and cornhole as well as gallery space for local artists. They also have a patio in the shadows of I20 near downtown Shreveport. All three offer tours of their brewery.

Encourage your favorite restaurant to carry options from all three local breweries. If you don’t see the brew you want, ask for it. The craft beer industry has arrived and brings new and exciting things with it. We should all support that.

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