Louisiana Beer Road Trip

Great Raft Flight

Brewery Adventures from New Orleans to Shreveport

Brew Bus Staff

9/3/18

Hey y’all, my name is Alexis & I joined the Brew Bus team full time in June as the Operations Manager! My previous career teaching high school had me escaping every school vacation to breweries where I could explore a new city through beer.

Now after counting this beer adventure to Shreveport I have officially experienced 277 breweries in the US and abroad. Yeah, that’s right, two-hundred and seventy-seven breweries!

Despite visiting so many breweries I had not yet made it to Great Raft Brewing in Shreveport to check out what the Northwest Louisiana brewery atmosphere is like. Great Raft is a powerhouse in the Louisiana beer scene–Grace and Grit, their double IPA, was the first beer I ever had from them and instantly fell in love.

Below is my journey to 6 breweries between New Orleans & Shreveport that I explored in 3 days. Check it out and plan your own adventure!

Brewery Atmospheres

With all this experience comes learning 1) I love beer 2) I dig exploring the variety of brewery atmospheres.

Take for example the breweries in New Orleans. We can have giant warehouses, or the yummy brewery/restaurant combo, to a brewery in a converted old historic theater. Popcorn and beer anyone? But really, the diversity in our brewing culture continues growing vibrantly, matching our New Orleans festive spirit!

Each city tends to have a different overall vibe based on a variety of factors:

What’s the taproom audience? Locals? Visitors like me?

How much beer are they producing? …distributing?

Dog friendly taproom? Kid friendly?

There are so many other factors that can be listed, such as the regulations on taproom sales. Consider Georgia, where you have to purchase a brewery “tour” which is accompanied with beer samples, but no pint sales allowed. Jeeze let us just drink the beer!

The Road Trip

So, with the Brew Bus shop opening on September 1st and having my first weekend off hosting tours, a quick brewery getaway was in order. I figured this was the perfect amount of time to drive to the northwest corner of the state, to Shreveport, Louisiana, to finally explore the Great Raft Brewery.

Plus, they had just released fresh Grace & Grit the week before and it had yet to reach New Orleans, so I was excited to taste the new batch. There are a couple of different paths you can take to hit breweries between New Orleans & Shreveport.

I devised a route to hit as many NEW breweries as possible. For example, I could’ve made a slight southern detour to hit Broussard, Louisana, home to Parish Brewing, another Louisiana powerhouse, but I’ve already been there. So instead I went 20 minutes off the beaten path to Marksville, Louisiana to go to Broken Wheel Brewing to experience something new.

Another option was a slightly longer route that would’ve taken me up through Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Monroe, Louisiana. However, with so many breweries being closed on Sundays and only being able to drink so many beers while driving across the state, I decided on the following route:

NOLA –> Marksville –> Alexandria –> Shreveport/Bossier –> Baton Rouge –> NOLA

Stop 1: Broken Wheel Brewing: Marksville, LA

Hours: 11am-9pm, closed Sundays

Distance from New Orleans: 3 hours

Favorite Beer: Pachafa Pale Ale

Broken Wheel Brewery

5 years ago Broken Wheel began as a fun hobby inside the restaurant Fresh Catch Bistreaux, and is now a fully operational brewery. They gave it away to their friends and customers in hopes they would enjoy it.

Presently, Broken Wheel still has the same small-town, friendly, generous vibes. During my visit I chatted with Chris & Jon, the founders of Broken Wheel. Together they taught themselves how to brew beer and how to operate a brewery. They didn’t think too much would happen from their hobby, they just wanted to drink some craft beer in Central Louisiana, something that was not easy to do 5 years ago when they began.

To their surprise, when they took their beer to a few Louisiana beer festivals, people really liked it. Most notably, people loved their milk stout. So, they decided to keep brewing, and to actually sell their beer out of Fresh Catch, instead of just giving it away. #nomorefreebeer

It was a great decision. Broken Wheel is the OG brewery in Central Louisiana, and is now joined by Huckleberry Brewing and up-and-coming Twenty 8 West Brewing, both in Alexandria.

Broken Wheel Beer

When I visited they had four beers on tap: Pachafa Pale Ale, Spring Bayou Blonde, Grand Chien Milk Stout, and a lager. Jon said that Chris was about to release an IPA, a brown ale, and a schwarzbier.

My favorite was the Pachafa Pale Ale, made with cascade hops. It was bitter, but it was slightly more wheaty than most pale ales, almost like a hefeweizen and pale ale combination.

Overall the atmosphere at Broken Wheel is definitely more restaurant than brewery, as Jon & Chris continue to build things out. But as they slowly convert each citizen of Marksville from domestic beer drinkers to craft beer drinkers, I only see success in their future!

Stop 2: Huckleberry Brewing: Alexandria, LA

Hours: Wednesday/Thursday 4-8PM, Friday 3-8PM, Saturday 1-8PM, Closed Sunday/Monday/Tuesday

Distance from New Orleans: 3 hours, 15 minutes  (35 minutes from Broken Wheel)

Favorite Beer: 3rd Street Citrus Wheat

Brew System at Huckleberry

There’s nothing I love more than walking up to a brewery and actually smelling like a brewery full of hops. Huckleberry immediately checked that box for me.

Huckleberry just opened in June 2018, and its cute little taproom was busy with Friday afternoon locals.

At the time 5 beers were on tap, four of which are flagships: Sandbar Blonde, Riverboat Razz, Upriver IPA, Three Card Stout, and a seasonal: 3rd Street Citrus Wheat.

Huckleberry Brewing

My favorite was the 3rd Street Citrus Wheat, made with simcoe hops, banana, orange peel, and tangerine puree. The tangerine puree was the boldest upfront flavor immediately tasted, and it was delicious.

My second favorite was the Riverboat Razz, a raspberry ale that is tart but not too tart. Its easy to drink, with just a hint of raspberry and not too fruity overall.

The Sandbar Blonde was your average blonde ale. Easy to drink, smooth, not too flavorful.

Huckleberry is definitely new to the brew scene and striving to increase their beer production, and with the following they already have from locals they are bound to succeed.

Stop 3: Flying Heart Brewing: Bossier City, LA

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday/Saturday 11am-10pm, Sunday 11am-8pm

Distance from New Orleans: 5 hours  (2 hours from Huckleberry)

Favorite Beer: Strawberry Candy Shandy

Flying Heart Brewery

Arriving to Flying Heart at 6:30pm on Friday evening surprised me with a lively, bumpin’ scene! So many locals were hanging out with their mug club beers, playing games, or hanging out in the back patio. It was a fun atmosphere and felt very community based.

Flying Heart is based in an old firehouse station and is owned by three couples. They first opened in 2015 with just two couples, and in early 2018 they added a full bar, a kitchen, and their third couple in ownership. They passionately work with local charities to give back and get involved in downtown Bossier.

As for the beer scene, they have 6 flagships: Firehouse Blonde, Six of Hearts Golden Ale, Louisiana Amber, Milk Maid Stout, Black Heart Ale, and Barrel 52, a barrel-aged porter. They also have a large selection of seasonals that rotate frequently.

Flying Heart Pizza and Beer

I sampled a flight of the Louisiana Amber, the Highway 80 IPA, The Chief (NEIPA), and Strawberry Candy Shandy. The Louisiana Amber was toasty and medium-bodied. It was maltier than your average amber. The highway 80 IPA was very bitter, with hints of floral. The Chief was juicy and fruity, but not juicy or fruity enough to make it as delicious as it could have been. The Strawberry Candy Shandy was my favorite, though it was quite sweet it was light and refreshing.

On the food front they special in brick oven pizza, so if you’re needing something to soak up your beer that’s the perfect solution.

Stop 4: Great Raft Brewing: Shreveport, LA

Hours: Wednesday-Friday 4pm-9pm, Saturday 12-9pm, closed Sunday-Tuesday

Distance from New Orleans: 5 hours (5 minutes from Flying Heart)

Favorite Beer: Rhinestone Life

Great Raft Brewing

Finally! The brewery of the weekend! Great Raft didn’t disappoint. I happened to choose the weekend of their Oktoberfest release so the taproom was pretty packed Saturday afternoon when I arrived.

They had a food pop-up, St. Laurent, and they were selling out of their various German-themed offerings faster than they could believe.

My flight here consisted of Life Itself, Farmhouse Slang, Viva!, Grace and Grit, and Oktoberfest.

Life Itself is a lime gose that is tart and delicious, but I personally prefer Urban South’s Lime Cucumber Gose better, it’s a bit more flavorful.

Farmhouse Slang is a saison and personally I hated everything about it. Usually I like saisons, they are fruity and spicy but easy to drink. Farmhouse Slang was none of those things. Bitter in a negative way, slightly sour in a negative way.

Viva! is a Belgian wit, it’s very mild in comparison to most wit beers that have a strong coriander flavor and is easy to drink.

Grace and Grit, the famed double IPA! The new batch was released just a week before I got to taste it and it’s arguably the best batch yet. The intense hops are on the front, but it’s not too bitter at the end like a lot of DIPAs.  It’s smooth, juicy, and delicious.

Oktoberfest was the beer of the day, it’s malty but smooth, and extremely good. A hint more spice could take this beer to the next level.

Rhinestone Life

After the flight I went for a pint of Rhinestone Life because I was really digging the atmosphere and wanted to continue to hang out. I’ve had Rhinestone Life before in a can and enjoyed it, but there’s nothing like a fresh beer straight from the source. It’s a delicious IPA, so juicy, so hoppy, and so good.

I loved the beer and atmosphere at Great Raft and would highly recommend checking it out!

Stop 5: Red River Brewing: Shreveport, LA

Hours: Wednesday 11am-9pm, Thursday-Saturday 11am-10pm, Sunday 12pm-8pm, Closed Monday/Tuesday

Distance from New Orleans: 5 hours (5 minutes from Great Raft)

Favorite Beer: Hay Ryed

Red River Brewery

My next stop was Red River Brewing, about a 10 minute walk from the main street of downtown Shreveport. There’s not much happening in this ‘downtown’, so I’d suggest not spending much time here. Parish Taceauxs is a great place to get your grub on though.

Walking into Red River greets you with long Bavarian-style tables, windows looking into the brewhouse, a ping-pong table, and live music on weekend evenings.

I got their most popular beer, Hay Ryed. It’s an average wheat beer, nothing too special, but easy to drink.

Red River Hay Ryed

Red River also had a couple of food options, one in the front and one in the back, and they had a pretzel with beer cheese which is extremely rare in Louisiana and I was stoked. Sadly it was not good. Very soggy, very meh. Don’t do it.

As the night the crowd increased and the locals were all super friendly and made me feel at home, but the beer and food were unimpressive. To their defense, my Midwestern roots make me a harsh pretzel & beer cheese critic.

Stop 6: Tin Roof Brewing: Baton Rouge, LA

Hours: Tuesday-Friday 4pm-10pm, Saturday 12pm-10pm, Sunday 12pm-8pm, closed Monday

Distance from New Orleans: 1 hour, 15 minutes (3.5 hours from Red River)

Favorite Beer: Paloma Gose With The Flow

Tin Roof Brewery

I’ve been to Tin Roof a couple of times before with various outings to Baton Rouge, but in late 2017 they hired a new head brewer and changed a bunch of their recipes. Plus they recently released a couple of new beers, so I was excited to taste the changes and the new brews.

One of their new beers is Uber Froot, a blackberry berlinerwisse. It was a solid brew. Not to tart, smooth, and just the right amount of fruit.

Fruit Stand is another new beer they released this summer. This one is an apricot plum kolsh. To me that sounds terrible, but it actually was better than I was expecting. It’s smooth, crisp, and isn’t actually too flavorful. Both the name and description had me quite worried it was going to be a fruity explosion, but it really didn’t taste like anything too strong, just easy and crisp.

Tropical Haze Hunt on the other hand, a triple IPA with pineapple, mango, and passion fruit, was wayyyyy too fruity. The mango in particular was overwhelming, and it helped me realize I don’t actually like anything mango. Fun revelation. Even for someone who enjoys mango, I think the Tropical haze Hunt is a no-go, but then again turns out I’m a mango-hater.

Tin Roof Beer

Juke Joint 2.0, the new recipe of their IPA, is simply a basic west coast IPA. Bitter, hoppy, nothing too special. However, they are releasing Juice Joint soon, a new version, that will be made with a new yeast and is going to be a hazy New England style IPA.

Side note, I also compile Brew Bus’s This Week’s Beer Shenanigans blog, posting our newest beer releases so be sure to check it out! Juice Joint will definitely be featured when it’s released!

Anywho, Paloma Gose with the Flow was my favorite beer of the day. I have had the “normal” Gose with the Flow that is lemon-lime and it’s an average gose, generally wasn’t too impressed, but this Paloma version was delicious! It’s made with grapefruit, lime, and agave. The agave really helps to make it smooth. I loved it so much a 32 ounce crowler came home with me to NOLA.

As for the atmosphere at Tin Roof, on a Sunday afternoon it wasn’t very busy, but there was a dog birthday party happening out on their porch which I loved. They also have a food truck on sight now, Rock Paper Taco, a craft taqueria.

They have Taco Tuesday specials with the food truck, yoga on the lawn, and live music occasionally, and overall its’s a cool place to hang out.

Your Turn!

Overall my road trip was a blast, I listened to some great throwback 90’s music along the way (Nelly’s Hot in Herre anyone?) and got to explore a part of the state that I can check off my brewery list.

I would’ve loved to finally knock Southern Craft off my list while in Baton Rouge as well, but they are closed on Sundays. Don’t fret, this is changing as of September! So if you decide to take your own brewery road trip adventure  Southern Craft’s new hours as of September 5th are Wednesday-Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 1-9pm, and Sunday 11am-4pm.

Thanks for following along with my adventure and I hope you decide to take your own!  If you have any questions feel free to email me at alexis@nolabrewbus.com !

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