Shreveport area tapped to see breweries return

SHREVEPORT — It’s been more than a century since a local brewery operated in Shreveport.

But that could soon change. A few homebrewers and a local couple plan to open separate breweries in and near downtown this year. And upcoming changes to commercial zoning laws in certain areas of the city could open the door for more to follow.

Red River Brewing is set to open first — at Marshall Street and Fairfield Avenue — this summer followed by Great Raft Brewing tentatively planned to open at Dalzell and Samford streets in the fall. The two breweries are part of a nationwide trend of growth in the craft beer industry that is now popping up in Louisiana.

“The industry has been ripe for capitalizing here in the South just like it’s been growing everywhere else,” Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild President Andrew Godley said. “ ... It just took a couple of people sticking their toe in the water to push the proverbial boulder off the cliff, and it’s now picking up speed as it rolls downhill.”

That growth could mean a huge economic benefit to the state, said Godley, who opened Parish Brewing Co. in Broussard in 2009. Craft beer sales in 2012 were estimated at $10.2 billion, up from $8.7 billion the prior year, according to Brewers Association.

“People in Louisiana drink a lot of beer,” he said. “And just think about where that beer is coming from right now, and where all that money spent on that beer goes. Most of it leaves our state and a lot of it leaves the country. That is not good for anyone in Louisiana.”

The growth of breweries creates not only direct jobs and tax revenue but also generates revenue and job growth for the shipping company that brings the ingredients or the trucking company that ships the beer to a distributor, he said. Craft brewers provide an estimated 108,440 jobs, including serving staff in brewpubs, throughout the country.

“All of that money you would normally be sending out of state for the beer is all staying in the state now when you buy a locally produced beer,” Godley said.

In addition, when a popular new business moves into a neighborhood, it drives more foot and vehicle traffic to the area, said Dara Sanders, Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission master plan administrator. This often results in other businesses looking at the area, which can result in its revitalization.

Microbreweries are relatively small, low-impact industrial operations and typically locate in a downtown or commercial area with other supporting or complementary businesses, Sanders said.

It’s customary for them to have a tasting room or restaurant for the business, both of which are not allowed in the industrial zoning district where breweries can go, she said.

The commission voted unanimously to direct staff to forward a measure that would allow alcoholic beverage manufacturing in B-3 and B-4 commercial areas of town to the City Council. If given the green light by the council, the zoning change would go into effect seven days after being signed by Mayor Cedric Glover.

Great Raft Brewing recently received a special exception from the zoning appeals board to move forward with plans for a tasting room at its brewery. But proposed changes to zoning law could help more breweries open in Shreveport.

Great Raft Brewing would be the larger of the two facilities at nearly 36,000 square feet. Roughly 27,000 of that would be the warehouse, while the rest would include a tasting room with a clear view of the production area, as well as areas for retail and beer education activities.

Red River Brewing’s facility will be 1,300 square feet and solely serve in a production capacity.

Great Raft’s brewhouse would allow it to brew up to 80 barrels or 160 kegs of beer a day. Red River Brewing will have a five-barrel system that would produce a 150 gallons at a time.

It plans to brew a total of 600 gallons of beer a month as a part-time operation, according to co-founder Jared Beville.

He and Robert McGuire and Beau Raines — who’ve homebrewed beer for several years — plan to initially brew twice a day every other Saturday. Beville, who works in the health care industry; McGuire, a teacher; and Raines, an environmental consultant, plan to maintain their day jobs.

The trio said they’ve noticed breweries becoming more popular in the South but did not find anything in Louisiana above Interstate 10.

“We kind of looked at it as a hobby that could be a market niche business in the area,” Beville said.

They are in the process of obtaining state licenses and will move into their facility behind Thrash Construction Services in a couple weeks. They plan to start off as a production brewery selling to a distributor but could expand to offer a small amount of direct sales in the future.

Several blocks away, Great Raft Brewing is on its way to a fall opening.

Andrew and Lindsay Nations returned to Shreveport six months ago from Washington, D.C., for the purpose of opening a brewery. Both are originally from the area and graduated from C.E. Byrd High School. Each worked in the technology industry in Washington. But while Lindsay retains her position with Cisco Systems, Andrew now focuses full time on the brewery.

“We wanted to bring something we’re passionate about to our hometown and to be part of this city’s continued growth,” Lindsay Nations said. “... Beer is what we love to do and this gives us the opportunity to do that.”

Lindsay Nations did not disclose specifics on start-up costs but said they were significant and took the couple a year to raise. She said they looked for a downtown location but many buildings required significant renovations. So they found a warehouse building not too far away that also is visible from Interstate 49.

One of the pluses of the location is its close proximity to the former Shreveport Ice and Brewing Company near the intersection of I-49 and Interstate 20, she said. The brewery was one of the largest beer-producing operations at the turn of the 20th century, according to Eric Brock’s “Shreveport.”

It was put out of business — along with all the other breweries — in 1908, when the city went dry, according to Brock’s book.

“There hasn’t been anybody who’s tried to make beer here since,” Lindsay Nations said.

Neither brewery is worried about competing against the other — both believe the city can support each craft beer operation.

A Budweiser drinker who tries a craft beer at Great Raft Brewing is more likely to try a Red River Brewing beer because he is becoming more familiar with craft beer, Beville said.

“When you have more choices, you have more educated customers,” he said.

Similarly, Andrew Nations said Shreveport is ready for locally made craft beer and “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Both companies say they want to utilize locally made products and services when possible.

Red River Brewing named its beers off local lore, such as the Louisiana Hayryed — a wheat beer made with rye and named for the famous local radio program Louisiana Hayride. The brewery also hired a local artist to design its tap handles and hopes to eventually incorporate local fruit and hops into its brew.

Similarly, Great Raft Brewing started to make an untitled German Kolsch with Hummer & Son honey, and owners Andrew and Lindsay say they want to find more local ingredients that can be used in other beers.

There is a lot of excitement about craft beer right now, Andrew Nations said.

“This market is ready,” he said.

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