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Monday, Oct. 14, 2013

CRAFTING BEER

Great Raft Brewing brings new business to Shreveport

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“Basically, we’re just drinking everybody else’s beer.” That’s the way Lindsay Nations characterized the state of beer-brewing affairs in Louisiana, particularly in the northern half of the state. But as co-owners of Great Raft Brewing, the first brewery in Shreveport since 1911 (that’s nine years before Prohibition), she and her husband Andrew plan to change all that.

“People are demanding more flavor, and they want more options,” she said. By the end of November, that’s exactly what they’re going to get.

The Brewers Association stated of craft beer, “An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional,” which certainly describes Great Raft Brewing, an operation currently with only four employees. It defines “small” as an annual production of six million barrels (a barrel is 31 gallons) of beer or less.

“The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation,” according to the website. “Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.” And it’s that innovation and uniqueness that have beer aficionados drooling in anticipation.

Lindsay and Andrew, both Shreveport natives, said they fell in love with craft beer while they lived for seven and a half years in Washington, D.C., where Andrew worked in IT project management for Sirius XM and Amazon.com and Lindsay worked in high-tech marketing (in fact, in addition to her role as vice president of Great Raft Brewing, she is still employed with Cisco Systems, Inc.).

They started brewing their own beer and getting involved in the brewing community, and they soon realized when they came back to Shreveport to visit that there were no locally-made beers for people to enjoy.

“There’s nothing north of Abita Springs,” Lindsay said.

The success of BREW, the annual beer-tasting event, is a testament to the Shreveport-Bossier City community’s desire for more and different quality beers. “They keep adding capacity, and they keep selling it out,” Andrew said. Ironically, Louisiana is ranked No. 11 in beer consumption by the Beer Institute but is No. 50 on the Brewers Association’s 2012 Capita Per Brewery List. The Nations are not only excited to bring new business to Shreveport, they also hope to revitalize the brewing culture.

“There’s a big home-brewing presence here,” Lindsay said.

Great Raft Brewing is now in the final stages of construction. “Our goal is to have a launch week where we’re available on draught the week before Thanksgiving,” Lindsay said. To begin, Great Raft Brewing will roll out its three flagship beers:

• Southern Drawl – a clean, easydrinking pale lager 

• Commotion – a pale ale with tropical aromas 

• Reasonably Corrupt – a black lager that’s dark but not heavy 

The tasting room, located within the brewery at 1251 Dalzell in Shreveport, will open soon after the beers become available on draught, and Great Raft’s canning operation will begin in January.

Why cans and not bottles? Their website explains: “Our cans are made of a minimum of 50 percent post-consumer recycled aluminum and are infinitely recyclable. Americans are also at least twice as likely to recycle aluminum as they are glass, so our packaging will continue to help the environment, even after the beer is consumed. The beer in our cans has never seen [ultraviolet light] and has less [carbon dioxide] pickup up during packaging. This means fresher beer for our consumers.”

“After working behind a desk for so many years, it’s great to build something from scratch,” Lindsay said. Great Raft Brewing has relied heavily on social media for advertising, a strategy that’s working extremely well – the brewery isn’t even officially open for business, and it already has more than 1,500 Facebook followers. “The community has really been behind us and has been really supportive,” Lindsay said.

As for the future, Great Raft Brewing already has big plans in the works. They hope to participate in BREW again in 2014, and they hope to become part of the Louisiana Brewery Trail as soon as the tasting room is up and running.

“We are excited to be part of the national and regional craft beer growth,” Lindsay said, “and especially proud to make beer for our hometown. In fact, our brewery is less than a mile from the last known brewery in Shreveport. We hope to help educate people on the beermaking process and create awareness about the variety of beer styles available.”

For more information about Great Raft Brewing, visit www.greatraftbrewing. com, or find them on Facebook at facebook.com/GreatRaftBrewing.

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