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Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023

Business Is Still Brewing


Andrew and Lindsay Nations opened Great Raft Brewing in 2013.

Great Raft celebrating 10 years of making beer

In 2012, Andrew and Lindsay Nations were frustrated.

From Shreveport – they were high school sweethearts – the Nations lived in Washington, D.C., pursuing a career in technology.

"We would come home for the holidays and got tired of not having good beer," Andrew said. "We would bring beer home from the mid-Atlantic – from the D.C. area – just for the holidays to share with friends and family."

Instead of continuing to complain – and continuing to travel with beer when they would visit – Andrew and Lindsay did something.

"We wrote a business plan in the winter of 2012 to raise some money and build a world-class production brewery here in Shreveport," Andrew said. "We moved back in the summer of 2013 and got busy building this brewery, and 1251 Dalzell is still where we are."

Great Raft Brewing was Shreveport's first brewery. Great Raft is celebrating 10 years of making, serving and distributing locally produced beer this year.

"We sold the first locally brewed beer since Prohibition," Andrew said. "That was a pint of Reasonably Corrupt – a black lager. The name is a bit of a jab at politics. We sold that pint to (then) City Councilman Jeff Everson on Oct. 15, 2013. That's a beer we still brew."

Looking back on when Great Raft opened, Andrew is happy – but not surprised – that the brewery will soon be a decade old.

"I was confident, for sure," Andrew said.

"We had a passion for making great, high-quality beer, and we knew Shreveport was ready for a hand-made product that people could be proud of – that they could say, 'This is the best beer in the state, and it comes from my hometown of Shreveport.' Very quickly, we made a name for ourselves and put Shreveport on the map, and in south Louisiana for sure.'"

From the beginning, Great Raft served their beers to locals and shipped their beers to other markets.

"Most of the beer consumed in the state – we're talking 80 to 90 percent of all beer in the state – is consumed in a package (a can or bottle), as opposed to draft beer at a restaurant.

Even down South, with all the tourism, restaurants and things. Louisiana still consumes way more beer from what they buy at a grocery store. We like cans. They're better for beer. They're better for the environment. From Day One, we were canning our beer."

Being recognized south of Alexandria is something Andrew is especially proud of.

"It's always a challenge to get south Louisiana to recognize there's some cool stuff going on up in Shreveport. I think we (received that recognition) right out of the gate and continue to do that today."

Yes, Great Raft's products reach parts of the state outside of Shreveport-Bossier, as well as areas in Texas and Arkansas. But its local customer base is not forgotten.

"Regional distribution has always been the goal, but with an emphasis to grow deep versus wide," Andrew explained. "Even 10 years into it, there are people who have never heard of us, and we're right here in Shreveport making some incredible beers. Deep versus wide is always our goal. We're proud of Shreveport. Our focus in terms of what we brew, where we send most of our product, and how we want to grow our market – our efforts will always be in north Louisiana."

This year, on Oct. 14, Great Raft will celebrate its birthday by having an annual event, "Ramble." You can enjoy food vendors, music, and – of course – beer.

"We have a lot of fun, and we typically break out a lot of our beers that we've been hanging on to," Andrew said. "Some barrelaged beers, special beers and one-offs. Some fun stuff that we've put in the back corner of which we have very limited offerings. It might be something that someone loved from previous years that they haven't had a chance to drink in a long time. It's a really fun day."

To learn more about Great Raft Brewing, you may visit: www.greatraftbrewing.com.

Great Raft is a distinctly Louisiana business, with extensive distribution throughout the state as well as Texas and Arkansas.

Great Raft will celebrate its 10th anniversary at 1251 Dalzell Street in October.


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