A passion for good beer and an appreciation for the process of producing it has resulted in two young entrepreneurs starting Broken Wheel Brewery at Fresh Catch Bistreaux. Broken Wheel Brewery is the first commercial craft beer brewery in Central Louisiana. Located in Marksville, the brewery got its name from the hometown’s storied origins, when Marc Eliche’s wagon wheel broke down, leaving him stranded; he decided to stay and established a trading post. Jonathan Knoll and Chris Pahl have made the transition from being one of Marksville’s favorite restaurants to a brewpub. After years of learning the secrets to a successful business, Knoll and Pahl realized that their patrons had a thirst for craft beer. The pair took the time to learn how to brew what their patrons like and are turning heads with their Cajun-style beer. Broken Wheel Brewery now has two beers on tap, with a third seasonal rotating brew, all of which pair well with the classic Cajun fair served at Fresh Catch Bistreaux.
Jonathan Knoll is the owner of Fresh Catch Bistreaux, a full service family restaurant where the Broken Wheel Brewery has made its home. Knoll was born and raised in Marksville, returning home after moving away for college and graduate school, where he worked as a waiter and bartender, learning about good craft beer, but never thinking it would have led him to actually opening his own brewery. “We’ve certainly come a long way,” says Knoll, “We’ve had to work out a lot of issues to get the logistics right and purchase a lot of equipment, but we have a good solid process down and people are drinking it and saying its good.” Chris Pahl, originally from Denver, Colorado, is the manager-turned-head-brewer. He and Knoll met as fraternity brothers of Kappa Sigma in Boulder. Pahl was hired as a manager, but brought with him valuable experience of working at restaurants across the Denver area, as well as a brewery. Together, the two have learned the fundamentals behind the brewing process, and have been able to produce some very good quality brews. “We’ve only just begun brewing, having gotten our permit recently, so we are sticking to the basics right now, but we have plans to make some very interesting beers in the future,” says Pahl. “We want to satisfy the tastes of our clientele first, then we will venture out to making some different styles that we can experiment with.”
Broken Wheel’s signature brew is Pachafa Pale Ale, which is named for Avoyelles Parish folklore legend, Johnny Pochafaya, a historical character similar to the “boogey man”. It is a legendary story passed down from the Choctaw Natives in the Spring Bayou and Old River area of Avoyelles Parish. The Natives shared their story with the immigrated Cajun and Creole people who settled in the area. The story of the half-man/half-beast character, Tana Pachafa, was handed down from family to family, evolving into Johnny Pochafaya. If you ask Avoyelleans their version of the story, you will surely hear an elaborate tale of this half-man creature who lives in the swamp, haunting people and casting malicious spells. The elusive half-man story was told to children to scare them into behaving for their elders. Knoll and Pahl were excited to name their first brew and signature beer after this historic, native folklore. Pachafa Pale Ale is the perfect name for the perfect blend of malted barley balanced with Perle and Cascade hops. It has a slight citrus-like aroma, a beautiful amber color, and goes down smooth without too much bitterness.
Spring Bayou Blonde is an attempt to convert the mass-produced beer drinkers to craft beer. Named after one of Louisiana’s finest wetland areas, it’s a smooth, easy to drink beer, with just a touch of malt character and just enough hop bitterness to keep things balanced. Spring Bayou is home to many residents of Avoyelles Parish. It’s a place where families gather either to celebrate or to enjoy the scenery on a boat ride, and a place where fathers teach their sons the traditions of hunting and fishing, along with lessons about life, especially the art of having a “Cochon de Lait” at the camp. “We are proud to represent our Cajun culture with the naming of these brews,” Knoll says, “and Spring Bayou Blonde Ale, or ‘Bayou Blanc’ as some of the locals are calling it, is a perfect name for this well balanced hand-crafted beer.
Drop by Fresh Catch Bistreaux anytime to talk to the guys and get a personal tour of the Broken Wheel Brewery, and even try a sample.