After leaving Texas, we traveled east on I-10 and paid a visit to Bayou Teche Brewing, located just north of Lafayette, LA in the small Cajun town of Arnaudville. The brewery was opened in 2009 by Karlos Knott and his two brothers, Byron and Dorsey, in a transformed shipping container on the family’s property where they brewed 1 bbl batches on a daily basis, utilizing 6-8 Blichmann 1 bbl fermenters. Growing demand caused them to contract brew with Lazy Magnolia in Mississippi while they worked on expanding operations into the larger facility on the same property that they operate today. Currently, they utilize a 15 bbl brewhouse with 15 and 30 bbl fermenters. Their biere is now available throughout the southeastern United States and also in New York City as New Orleans artists traveling to NYC demanded to have it available and the brewery was contacted by a local distributor. Current head brewer, Gar Hatcher, came by way of Lazy Magnolia to work at Bayou Teche and has been hard at work tweaking recipes and coming up with new offerings.
While there we had a long discussion with President Karlos and his son Cory who operates as artist (along with Byron) and brewer. Karlos was stationed in Germany while in the army and developed an appreciation for the German breweries that evolve organically with the local culture and cuisine. He began homebrewing when he was transferred to the Pacific northwest. Karlos explained that they prefer the term cultural brewery to craft brewery because they don’t just focus on beer but rather on maintaining their Cajun heritage – brewing beers that pair well with Cajun/Creole cuisine and also concentrating on preserving music, art, and supporting local charities and festivals. They partnered with producer Louis Michot and local recording studio, Dockside Studios, in creating an album of classic rock tunes that are sung in Cajun French. Most of the year round beers support a local charity or organization – listed on the bottom of the six pack boxes – ranging from LA folk roots, preservation of Creole and Cajun heirloom seeds, Festival Acadiens et Creole, and Tour du Teche.
Historically speaking, Bayou Teche is the largest bayou in Louisiana and was populated as the waterways were used for transportation and commerce before railroads entered the area after the Civil War. The name comes from the Chitimacha word for snake and legend has it the teche was carved out by the carcass of a giant snake defeated by the tribe’s warriors. The cultural brewery utilizes a unique process to dispose of waste water. After being inspired by a PBS special about Berkley, CA’s waste disposal, they worked with the LSU Ag Center and the University of Louisiana to create a natural disposal system that utilizes 3 ponds. Acids and bases are first allowed to neutralize in a tank out back before being dumped into the first pond that operates as a settling pond to separate solids. The remaining liquids are then racked into a second pond with native plants that filter and purify the water before it is sent to the third pond that doubles as a crawfish farm.
The brewery produces 5 year-round beers under the LA 31 label, which is a highway that follows the teche and goes through many of the old Cajun towns. The most popular of the offerings is the LA 31 Biere Pale which is also available every few months with a new experimental yeast. It is joined by LA 31 Boucanee cherrywood smoked wheat ale, LA 31 Bier Noir dark roasted ale, and LA 31 Passione passion fruit wheat ale. Acadie is a Biere de Garde that was meant to be a seasonal but was so popular that it has joined the year round repertoire but without the LA 31 tag.
The main line up is joined with a variety of seasonals as well as several barrel aged beers that are released once each year. Biere Joi resembles a Belgian Dubbel but is whiskey barrel aged with local Mello Joy Cajun coffee, dark candi sugar, cocoa nibs, and a chile de arbol. Miel Sauvage is a French style braggot utilizing wild honey from a close neighbor to the brewery. We were also fortunate enough to try a bottle of 3113, a whiskey barrel aged Biere Noir with tart cherries. Only about 30 cases were made and it was a one time release. The name is a play on the 2112 Rush album and Karlos divulged that there are a few other rock album themed beers in the works. Last year also saw a collaboration with the French Brasserie La Bambelle, a true farmhouse brewery located in Brittany. The beer was made with buckwheat and named Bayoust – the Bayou Teche release will be this coming April. Cory shared that they like to experiment constantly with small pilot batches and even poured us a Duck ale- a duck stuffed with kumquats and ginger added to the boil – tapped that day and also talked about plans for a crawfish saison.
The tasting room is open Tuesday through Friday 4-6pm and Saturday 12-4pm. We definitely recommend a visit to try these creative styles of beer and see if there are any experimental batches on tap. You are guaranteed to enjoy a one of a kind experience. A huge thank you to Karlos and Cory for showing us around and sharing their passion for their culture. Also, thank you to Mar, Louis, and Byron for chatting with us in the tasting room.
Author: Brandon Wurtz