A lot of Louisiana’s small businesses are family operations. Consequently, it should be no surprise that many of state’s newest breweries are operated by families, too.
A great example is Chafunkta Brewing Company in Mandeville. Founded by the husband and wife team of Josh and Jamie Erickson, Chafunkta is a Nanobrewery (the smallest size of production brewery) that opened in June of 2011.
Josh still has his day job as a software development manager, and Jamie is a stay at home mom. Josh’s position at the brewery is listed as founder and brewmaster, and Jamie is co-owner and manager, which means Jamie really does all of the work that isn’t fun. Josh and Jamie told me it is quite a challenge juggling the demands of having a full-time job, operating a business, raising four kids, and still having a bit of time left over for each other. It’s a tale you’ll hear repeated by most of Louisiana’s brewery owners.
Chafunkta Brewing Company was born from the Erickson’s shared obsession for brewing great craft beer. They started Chafunkta with the desire of doing something for a living that they both truly loved and enjoyed. They also firmly believe in increasing craft beer market awareness in Louisiana by creating and delivering great tasting beers.
What’s with that crazy name you ask?
Well, the word “Chafunkta,” or “Tchefuncte,” was an early Indian settlement located in what is now the city of Mandeville. There also is a river named the Tchefuncte in the Mandeville area. And while they may be one of the smallest breweries in Louisiana, they still want to give all of their fans a chance to see where their beers are created. Tours are from 6-7 p.m. Fridays. Josh and Jamie will share their story and show guests around. In addition, there are samples of Chafunkta brews to try!
New this year is their Dew Drop series of small batch beers. Once a quarter they release a unique, limited edition of a beer. This year’s first quarter beer is a chocolate raspberry stout called The Sky’s the Limit. Chafunkta’s new series of beers is named after a groovy social hall in Mandeville dating to May 5, 1885. That year, a group of civic-minded African-American residents, led by Olivia Eunio, created the Dew Drop Social and Benevolent Association. The hall still is still a vibrant jazz music venue.
Chafunkta Brewing currently offers four of its beers year round on draft and in bottles. The distribution is pretty much statewide. Look for a six-pack — buying one will help support one of the small, independent and family-owned and operated breweries in Louisiana.
Four of my favorite Chafunkta Ales:
Voo Ka Ray IPA
Style: imperial IPA | 7.5% ABV
Voo Ka Ray, or “Vieux Carré” (“French Quarter”), is a malt forward yet hop-centric Imperial IPA that avoids the extra bitterness found in many other IPAs with similar hop levels by using a “late hopping” brewing technique. This allows for the flavor and aroma of the hops to shine without overpowering your palate with extreme bitterness.
Style: robust porter | 6% ABV
Old 504 is a coffee and vanilla-infused robust porter that uses real coffee and Madagascar bourbon Vanilla beans, both imported by two local companies in the “new” 504, Orleans Coffee Exchange & Ronald Reginald’s Vanillas. Named after the original “old” Louisiana statewide area code, unlike many other Porters, Old 504 is a dark, yet light bodied Porter full of flavor that is enjoyable year round.
Style: American cream ale | 5% ABV
Kingfish Ale is a light colored American cream ale with minimal hop flavor and a hint of lingering sweetness. It’s crisp and refreshing like a lager, with the flavor and complexity of an ale. Named after Louisiana legend Huey P. Long, the brewers proudly say, “Every Can A King!!”
Style: Irish red | 5.5% ABV
An easy drinking true-to-style traditional Irish red, this beer provides your palate not only with caramel malt and slight roast flavors, but also has little to no bitterness and and a clean dry finish. Named not only for its red color/hue, Bayou Blaze was also named in homage to Blaze Starr, an American Burlesque dancer in New Orleans, who happened to have a well-known affair with Earl Long, Huey P. Long’s (The Kingfish!) brother and then Louisiana governor!