January 30, 2014
Several local craft breweries set to open this spring, more on tap for later this year
Laura McKnight
Craft-beer fans should soon enjoy a rush of new local options, as several South Louisiana breweries plan to start moving out beer this spring.

Two breweries, Gnarly Barley in the Hammond area and 40 Arpent in Old Arabi, expect to begin distributing their first brews by March, according to their founders.

"We're really close to being able to start brewing," said Zac Caramonta, who owns Gnarly Barley with his wife, Cari. "We've got the equipment installed and we should start making beer in a few weeks."

Gnarly Barley Brewing plans to launch in March with three beers, available on draft only: the Catahoula Common, a medium-bodied lager with a bite; the Radical Rye P.A., an I.P.A. with a peppery taste of rye; and the Korova Milk Porter, a Baltic porter with a sweet coffee and chocolate flavor.

The brews will debut in the New Orleans area, including the north shore, and then move into Baton Rouge, Zac Caramonta said. Exactly where, he isn't sure, but said the brewery hopes to distribute beer at more than 50 spots in New Orleans, south of Lake Pontchartrain.

"We've been contacted by a lot of restaurants and bars," Caramonta said.

For the curious, tours of Gnarly Barley, with tastings, could start as early as February.

40 Arpent Brewing, right on the Mississippi River in Arabi, hopes to open in February, or March at the latest, said founder Michael Naquin.

The brewery planned to open by Mardi Gras, but has struggled with delays due to construction issues and permitting.

"I'm at the mercy of permits," Naquin said.

But by March, 40 Arpent plans to kick off with two beers: a milk stout with a café au lait flavor, and possibly either Red Bean Ale, a red ale made with red beans, or the Delacroix, a Belgian strong pale ale.

The Red Bean Ale requires special government approval due to the uncommon ingredient of kidney beans, which could make that brew a later release, Naquin said.

"I'm not the first person to ever use beans, but I may be the first to use red beans," Naquin said.

40 Arpent's brews will initially be available on draft only, starting with about 20 spots in the New Orleans area as well as several bars in Houma and several on the Northshore, he said.

To find 40 Arpent, check bars known for having a large selection of beers on tap.

'I'm not the first person to ever use beans, but I may be the first to use red beans.' -- Michael Naquin, 40 Arpent Brewing

The brewery also plans to start offering tours with tastings about a month after opening and hopes to add a tap room by the end of the year, Naquin said.

In the meantime, New Orleans residents can check out the offerings of Mandeville-based Chafunkta Brewing. The nano-brewery opened last April, distributing only on the north shore, but has since expanded into the metro area. The brewery launched with VooKaRay, an imperial IPA, and Old 504, a vanilla-bean coffee porter.

Calls to Chafunkta Brewing this week went unanswered, but according to the Beer Finder on the brewery's website, Chafunkta brews are on tap at about 10 locations in the city and suburbs, such as St. Joe's Bar in Uptown. For other locations, check the brewery's website and call the spot to confirm. Some locations listed, such as The Bulldog in Mid-City and Fat Harry's Lounge in Uptown, do not currently have the beer on tap.

Chafunkta, 40 Arpent, and Gnarly Barley are not the only craft breweries launching and expanding this spring.

Here is an update on other breweries set to open soon:

Mudbug Brewery in Thibodaux

Bayou country gets its own beer soon with Thibodaux-based Mudbug Brewery, set to start brewing by April and distributing in May, according to co-owner and brewmaster Leith Adams.

Mudbug plans to launch with its flagship beer, the King Cake Ale, a spiced ale that uses a bready grain for cake flavor and cinnamon, vanilla, and lactose for a sweet taste. Mudbug brews will be available on draft only for the first year.

The brewery will initially focus on the Thibodaux-Houma area, but plans to expand into New Orleans and Baton Rouge fairly quickly, Adams said.

"We'll hit it pretty hard," he said.

Mudbug Brewery also plans to offer tours of its 7,000-square-foot facility.

Courtyard Brewery in New Orleans

Courtyard Brewery is still working through the permitting process, but plans to open "hopefully by April, likely in May, realistically in June," said Scott Wood, who owns Courtyard with his wife, Lindsay Hellwig.

The length of the permitting process can be tough to predict, but once approved, Courtyard plans to hit the ground running with a tap room at 1020 Erato St. in the Lower Garden District.

"We're doing what we can to get ready," Wood said.

The tap room will include a rotating selection of six to eight brews by the nano-brewery and four to six "guest" beers from other breweries.

Courtyard's offerings will focus on West Coast-style I.P.A.s, Belgian-style beers, and beers aged in wine and spirits barrels, Wood said.

"We're going to be barrel-aging beers soon after we start," he said. "That will be a big part of our business."

The nano-brewery's tap room will initially be open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only.

For explanations of "nano-brewery" and "tap room," check out Todd A. Price's previous article on Courtyard.

While those terms could require explanation, to further complicate the matter, the city is designating Courtyard as a "cocktail lounge" for permitting purposes. The designation has confused some neighbors, but Wood assures that the brewery's tap room will function as a tap room. There will be no wine or spirits served.

"They're calling us a cocktail lounge, but we're not serving cocktails," Wood said, adding that Courtyard has made serious efforts to clear up any misunderstandings among nearby Lower Garden District residents. "We've been going door-to-door in the neighborhood."

The simplest explanation: there will be beer and only beer.

Cajun Fire Brewing in New Orleans

Cajun Fire Brewing plans to move into a location by the fall and open by late 2014, according to founder and brewmaster Jon Renthrope.

"We're shopping around a couple locations," he said, trying to determine which makes the best fit for the craft brewery. "We're excited."

The brewery is considering a spot in Uptown, two spots in Mid-City, or a location in the Bywater, Renthrope said.

The brewery's opening could contain a special historical aspect and reach untapped markets, as one of few minority-run craft breweries in the country. Renthrope, a New Orleans native, describes himself and other members of the company as African-American and Native American.

"We're going to try to infiltrate new markets," he said. "There are a lot of markets that are not engaged in craft beer right now for whatever reason."

Cajun Fire aims to tread new ground flavor-wise as well.

"We're in New Orleans, so there are a lot of crazy ingredients to draw from, we have so many ingredients at our disposal," Renthrope said.

The brewery plans to open a tasting room and a tap room as the brewery is being built, he said. The tap room will offer 10 beers, including the brewery's flagship beers: Ol' Yella Ale, a pale ale; and Acadiana Honey Ale, an amber ale made with Louisiana honey; and the Praline Ale, an ale made with pecan pralines.

Cajun Fire will use the remaining eight taps to experiment with new brews.

"We want to keep up with the whole craft-brewery movement," Renthrope said. "We want to push the envelope."

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