The first microbrewery in the Lafayette city limits is opening soon, and another one could be on its way.
Cajun Brewing is only a permit and few days away from operating as a legal brewery while Hub City Beerworks is still at least a year away.
“Getting the opportunity to be involved in something like this on the ground floor is huge,” said James Lutgring of Cajun Brewing. “I think we have an amazing chance to do something and be a big part of the community.”
Craft beer is hot right now.
There were 3,464 craft breweries in America in 2014, according to the Brewers Association. That’s the highest number since 1873.
Louisiana is a bit behind on the trend, ranking 49th in the nation for craft breweries per capita, according to the association’s stats.
Acadiana currently has two craft breweries, Parish Brewing in Broussard and Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville. There are currently 15 craft breweries in the state, but another 13 breweries are planning to open soon.
Cajun Brewing was born out of friendships formed in the local beer group, Dead Yeast Society.
Oilfield engineer Zeke Bossley led the effort, surprising his friends in 2010 when he purchased an auto shop at 206 Rayburn St. to house the brewery business he’d talked about opening for years.
The brewery has been more than 10 years in the making, which involved everything from perfecting 100 home-brewed recipes to building out a space suitable for brewing.
Located near the intersection of Congress Street and Bertrand Drive, Cajun Brewing has 10,000 square feet with a brewing warehouse, lab, taproom and office space.
Now that the building is taking shape and the brewery is almost up and running, the friends speak with pride about opening something new for Lafayette.
“It’s important for Lafayette to have its own brewery because it gives the beer drinkers here an identity,” said Chad Legé, who handles marketing for Cajun Brewing. “I hope that one day, when people hear ‘Cajun’ outside of Louisiana that they’ll think of crawfish, zydeco and Cajun Brewing.”
Although craft beer can sometimes challenge the palate, many brews are approachable for any taste. Cajun Brewing will offer easy-to-drink options as well as more complex beers.
“A lot of people have this misconception on what craft beer is,” Legé said. “They think it’s this crazy-tasting beer, but that’s not necessarily true.”
Cajun Brewing’s focus for the rest of the year will be brewing three flagship beers to serve on tap at a few Acadiana restaurants and bars.
Those three beers include:
•Cajun Wit — a cloudy Belgian wit beer with notes of orange peel, chamomile, coriander and spice.
•Ragin’ Red — a red ale that’s easy to drink when tailgating in the hot Louisiana sun
•Brown ale — a brew that still needs a name, this malty, hoppy brown ale has a lot of body
Early- to mid-2016, the brewery will begin offering Wednesday and Saturday tours and tastings.
As demand grows, the brewery will begin bottling and selling their products on store shelves.
“If enough people tell us they need it in the grocery stores, that’s when we’ll begin bottling,” said Aaron Breaux, an assistant brewer. “We don’t want it sitting on the shelves, especially since the bottling equipment is such a big investment.”
Hub City Beerworks is in its infancy compared to Cajun Brewing.
Home brewers Hunter Hebert and Daniel Amire have designed a logo, created a Facebook page and purchased a website for their business, but they do not have a dedicated business location and are still perfecting their beer recipes.
Hebert and Amire hope to open their brewery near downtown or Freetown by the end of 2016.
“We have pretty limited resources and space right now,” Hebert said. “But I feel like the product we put out is going to be far superior than the space it’s made in.”
The two are crafting many brews — from lawnmower and Scottish ales to black and double India pale ales — to see what works and what doesn’t.
“We can go in any direction right now. That’s the exciting part,” Hebert said. “We haven’t decided what we can’t do yet.”
Although Hub City Beerworks might still be several months from becoming a reality, Cajun Brewing is just several days away.
And with the growing popularity of craft beer in Louisiana and America, those two might be just the beginning for Lafayette.
“It just seems like the time is right for Lafayette to have its own set of breweries,” Amire said. “Lafayette needs breweries. It’s time.”