1 of 4
Andrew Nations, co-founder and president of Great Raft Brewing, and Harvey Kenney, chief brewer. (Jennifer Robison Photography)
2 of 4
Chief Brewer Harvey Kenny inspects his creation at Great Raft Brewing. (Jennifer Robison Photography)
3 of 4
Great Raft Brewing in Shreveport. (Jennifer Robison Photography)
4 of 4
The history of breweries in America.
It wasn't long ago that Budweiser, Miller Lite, and Michelob dominated the U.S. brewing scene. Most beer-drinkers have consumed one (or all) of these macro-brewed beers, but an increasing number are trading in mass-produced lagers for fuller flavored craft beers.
Craft breweries are defined as small, traditional and independent. Small, in the quantity of beer produced (less than 6 million barrels of beer a year); using traditional ingredients such as malted barley, sometimes adding non-traditional ingredients only to enhance the flavor; and independent meaning they are not more than 25 percent owned by a non-craft brewing entity.
For the past two decades, U.S. microbreweries have been creating flavorful craft beers, injecting some much needed creativity into the U.S. brewing scene. The rise of craft breweries can be attributed to many factors. Arguably some of the leading factors are a desire for variety, more flavor and a higher quality product.
If you want variety, you are in luck. According to the Brewers Association – a trade group and organization representing American beer manufacturers – there are more than 2,500 American breweries today. That’s more than at any time since the late 1800s, and more than any other nation in the world. More than 2,300 of those breweries are craft breweries, with nearly 1,600 more in planning phases. What this means to the consumer is hand-crafted beer, new creative beer styles, and more variety in more bars near you.
Louisiana is home to nine breweries, ranking 50th in the number of breweries per capita. However, we’re starting to see more craft brewing activity in the state with new breweries opening last year and several more in planning and due to open in 2014. Most beer drinkers think “Abita” when asked to identify a Louisiana brewery, and forget that there are now eight more breweries that call Louisiana home – two of which are right here in Shreveport. Louisiana Culinary Trails has put together a Louisiana Brewery Trail website which serves as a guide to each brewery’s product offerings, location, history and information about when and how to visit. To learn more, visit the Louisiana Brewery Trails website at http://breweries.louisianatravel.com/.
The next time you go to a bar or restaurant, consider requesting a locally crafted beer. Challenge yourself to try something new. Despite the unprecedented growth of craft breweries, craft beer represents less than 10 percent of the total beer consumed in the U.S. Drink craft beer and support the underdog – America’s small, independent craft brewers.
By Lindsay Nations is the co-founder and vice president of Great Raft Brewing in Shreveport, La.