Ten years ago Shreveport-Bossier City was unknown to local craft breweries.
But much has changed in just a few years for beer lovers and it’s impacting the future of northwest Louisiana.
In September, Red River Brewing owners Jared Beville and Beau Raines cut the ribbon at what will be the company’s first taproom at 1200 Marshall St. in downtown Shreveport. After a full renovation of the empty warehouse, it’s expected to open by the end of this year or early 2016.
Red River Brewing opened in 2013, but customers wanting a Hay Ryed American wheat ale or a River Monster pale malt have only been able to get a taste at local bars and restaurants.
The opening of the taproom will allow customers to come directly to the source to experience the brews. Also, it will raise the bar for Red River Brewing to compete with other local breweries, Great Raft Brewing and Flying Heart Brewing that opened their taprooms within the past two years.
It’s not just a good business plan for the company – it also benefits the region.
“In the last 10 years, (the craft beer community) has really grown,” said Jeff Pieper, River Cities Brew Krewe member. “We’re way behind a lot of areas in the United States.”
Like Pieper, Beville and Raines were home brewers and began making beer as a hobby from their garage. And just a couple of years later they have become a leader in the craft beer industry in the region as mass producer and public distributor.
It’s not only another step toward making Shreveport-Bossier City a craft beer destination but also in developing the culture in downtown Shreveport.
The taproom will move into a warehouse on Marshall Street in the outskirts of downtown Shreveport. It’s the ideal location for company, the city and the customers, Beville said.
The total space is 23,000 square feet with about 6,500 square feet for public space and about 17,000 designated for production.
The amount of space is the main reason Red River Brewing owners chose the building. To operate, the brewery needed space for brewing and for the public — and ideally room to grow in the future. Options available in downtown fitting the requirements were limited.
“We’re going to have a four-vessel 20 barrel brew house, which gives us a lot of capacity,” Beville said. “In brewing, a barrel of beer is 31.5 gallons, so right now we’re brewing about five barrels at a time. We’re going to go from five barrels to 20 barrels.”
The new additions will allow for more beer making and cut down production time. It’ll be a significant improvement on what the brewers have had for the last several years.
“The number of vessels we have really kind of limits your capacity of how much you can brew in a day,” Beville said. “Right now we have a 2-vessel brew house so we can do two brews in about a 16-hour day. We should be able to chop that down to a 12- or 13-hour day. As we grow we can move a lot more product through the facility.”
Patrons will have free access to an 85-space parking lot. And a glass roll-up door will be installed to give customers a prime view of downtown.
A portion of the taproom will be partitioned to create a smaller space for private events.
“Having them in that area is going to be paramount to bringing more people into downtown Shreveport,” said Kelly LaGrone, librarian for Malt Munching Mash Monsters homebrew club. “With the whole downtown development thing that’s going on, this is going to be absolutely fantastic for this area.”
The brewery will bring the customers behind the scenes of brewing in action.
Visitors will see where all the magic happens through a large glass window separating the taproom from the brew room.
It’s a process intriguing to the growing community of craft beer lovers, and the addition of more local brewers breeds education opportunities for outsiders. People begin to take note of a movement.
“The craft beer community has grown so much it’s not about dividing it up and splitting the pie, but more (about) education and more people going to sample this and find there’s a whole bunch of craft beer out there, especially all through Louisiana,” Pieper said.
The craft beer community has rapidly grown across the country, with many cities such as Dallas, Portland and Austin becoming known for their multitude of breweries. Shreveport-Bossier City in considerably behind in this aspect, but the craft community is hopeful of making the cities a beer destination for locals and tourists. It’s also a place for local and outside brewers to consider starting.
“When people see the audience craft brew gets here and they see the potential here, it’s going to be a lot of local people, of course, but there will be a lot of people from other places that want to have a niche in an up-and-coming, growing environment,” LaGrone said.
While craft brew companies are few in the area, the number of home brewers who do it for recreation has grown exponentially in the past decade. Having the craft breweries open is a celebratory feat for the beer lovers.
Many want to see it continue to grow with the addition of new craft breweries. Business is competitive no matter the industry, but there’s room enough for all three brewers to co-exist.
Bossier City resident and beer connoisseur Lewis Hughes believes in the case of craft breweries — the more the merrier.
“Those businesses don’t need to see each other as competition, but work together. When I visit Denver and other areas where the craft beer scene is, a lot of the breweries work together and collaborate on lots projects because whenever you can get more people involved in craft beer you’re going to have more business for all around, for everyone involved.”
Red River Brewing’s opening is one part of a grand master plan to revitalize the area.
The brewery is at the line that divides downtown and Highland in an area where many industrial companies are rooted, but also across the street from Central Station lounge and about a block’s distance from the row of businesses that include Agora Borealis art gallery, Good Granoly, iArchitecture and Bayou Some Junque Cafe and Antiques.
A few months ago, Agora Borealis, Good Granoly and iArchitecture celebrated the two-year anniversary of opening on Lake Street.
Since then, Shreveport Downtown Development Authority executive director Liz Swaine said foot traffic has increased in the area and predicts more to come with the opening of Red River Brewing and additional business development expected.
“What we’re going to see happen is a bit of organic development around there,” Swaine said. “As the taproom opens and starts bringing hundreds of people per day other property owners around there will see there are options for them. Already one building owner is talking about redoing his space for food trucks.”
Having more customer-centric shops has increased foot traffic in the area, Swaine said, and more is expected with the opening of the brewery.
Many bars exist downtown — most on Texas Street leading into Red River District — and of course there are the bars, lounges and restaurants inside the casinos.
“(A brewery) expands your market and gives you the opportunity to bring people in who are very much interested in the whole craft beer movement. It’s a different sort of atmosphere between a taproom and a bar,” Swaine said. It helps grow the market all together.”
There aren’t many chain businesses in downtown, so when tourists and locals come to the area they’ll definitely experience Shreveport flavor.
And by stopping at Red River Brewing, tourists and locals alike will be able to sit back and watch history in the making as the new developments bring Shreveport more into the spotlight.
“Red River is the next step of putting Shreveport-Bossier City on the map in the national beer spotlight,” LaGrone said. “It’s going to be absolutely great for those guys and the sky’s the limit for them.”
If you go:
What: Red River Brewing
Where: 1200 Marshall St., downtown Shreveport (opening late 2015)
What: Great Raft Brewing
Where: 1251 Dalzell St., Shreveport