Over the last few years, interest in craft beers made in small batch breweries and microbreweries has exploded. Prior to about 2018, craft beer lovers were forced to travel outside of Cenla to enjoy the atmosphere, cold brews, and comradery that are hallmarks of locally owned tap rooms. All that has changed as Cenla is now home to some of the best taprooms in the state! An appreciation for creativity is key for enjoying craft brewing, and similarly with great live music. This marriage of kindred creative spirits has made taprooms some of the most popular venues to enjoy the best of Cenla’s Rhythm and Brews.
HUCKLEBERRY BREWING COMPANY
Alexandria native Jacob Willson started off as a home brewer in the early 2000s. One night in 2007, after enjoying a few beers, Jacob headed off to the casino to try his luck. “I went to the casino and put some money on number 27,” he recalls. “I told myself if the roulette ball landed on my number, I would move to Portland and learn to brew from the pros. When that ball stopped, I started packing.”
In Portland, Willson teamed up with fellow Alexandria native, Ben Rougeau. What he planned to be a year-long venture to learn the ins and outs of professional brewing turned into a decade-long master class. “Ten years came and went. I learned a lot out there about a lot of things, but I learned everything I know about brewing,” he explains. “I enjoyed every bit of it. The Portland brewing scene is competitive, but also cooperative. I met some of the best brewers and the best people I have ever known.”
As great as Portland was, Willson always planned to return home to Cenla, bringing with him some of that “awesome northwest beer culture” along. “So, with my wife, our daughter, our dog, Huckleberry, 10 years commercial brewing experience, over 1,000 solo brews, 110 commercially sold recipes, 10 top 5 brewfest entries, 5 top 3, and 1 brewfest victory, I was prepared to put Cenla on the craft beer map,” he recalls.
Founded by an 8th generation Alexandrian, Huckleberry Brewing Company is as local as it gets. “Beer may be our specialty, but we thrive on building a better community. Central Louisiana is our home, and we take every opportunity we can to make it a better place. We have been, and will continue to be happy to work with and support local non-profit organizations that share our desire to build a better Alexandria.”
HBC Marketing Director Dale LeBouef says that music has always been a part of the Huckleberry experience, and that commitment has only grown as the community comes back to life and back together after the last 18 months. “Prior to the pandemic, we had occasional musical acts and special events,” says LeBouef. “Now, we want to feature rotating events like trivia, bingo, open mic night and karaoke each Thursday with live music every Friday and Saturday.” HBC is excited to showcase both local talent and to welcome acts from around the state and region. “We have a great outdoor stage, so it just makes sense.” Currently, the HBC Summer Concert series is in full swing, featuring acts like the New Natives Brass Band, CJ Ward & the Sick Vape Rips, Paul Ramirez, First Street Hooligans and more! For the complete schedule, visit the HBC Facebook page @HuckleberryBrewingCo.
The HBC taproom, located at 4724 Sterkx Road in Alexandria, is open every Tuesday through Saturday, pouring flights, pints and growlers available to go. HBC has 8 to 12 beers on tap at any given time, including six year-round brews, like their Sandbar Blonde, Riverboat Razz, Trail Dog Tangerine Wheat, Upriver IPA and 3 Card Stout, along with a rotation of one or two seasonal brews per month. Currently, seasonal features include a summertime favorite Boysenberry Shandy and Sweet Heat, brewed with the Jamaican Scotch bonnet pepper, and the Smokewagon Sessions Stout, which is lighter in body for the warmer summer months.
In addition to the taproom, HBC brews are widely available at restaurants across Cenla including Spirits, Fat Pat’s and more. With the acquisition of a new fermentation vessel, Huckleberry’s brews are coming to a can near you in the near future! For the latest on live events, to check out current offerings on tap, or for private event bookings, visit Huckleberry Brewing Company online at huckleberrybrewingcompany.com, follow HBC on social media or call (318) 704-6833.
TWENTY 8 WEST BREWING
What happens when three friends get together and brew their own beer? They start their own brewing company! Opened in 2018, Twenty 8 West Brewing hails as Alexandria’s first original microbrewery. Ray Gill, owner of Jack’s, teamed up with friends Edan Moran and Mike Brunet to brew and serve their own beers at the Jack’s location on LA Hwy 28 West, which serves as the inspiration for the brewery’s name. “Our motto here at Jack’s is for the customers to receive a premium product, platinum service, and create priceless memories while enjoying our beverages,” says Gill. “We value our customers—they are the reason we have been successful.”
What began as a family operation has grown into a thriving business that is known today as Alexandria’s best place for premium drinks. After opening the original location in 2008, a second location was added on Jackson Street in 2015, with the third Jack’s location opening on the north side of the Red River in Pineville last year. After outgrowing its initial space, Jack’s flagship location expanded into the adjoining space and now features ample room and tabletops to enjoy your favorite brew or premium beverage and to hear local music performances in a fun and lively atmosphere.
Moran and Brunet have been brewing beer together for well over a decade and racked up numerous awards at amateur brewing competitions. The trio of friends has made this their first step in creating an operation that hopes to distribute signature beers to bars, restaurants, and stores. Twenty 8 West Brewing was founded with the goal of giving the people of Cenla something new that they can’t get just anywhere. Twenty 8 West features its signature brews—AEX Amber, Big Island IPA, Coliseum Belgian Ale, Kincaid APA, Ray’s Red Dirt Irish Ale, and South Circle Black Ale—in addition to rotating seasonal brews like their Bayou Rapides Blueberry, and Bringhurst Bock.
Twenty 8 West Brewing is poured exclusively at Jack’s 28 West, located at 6354 Coliseum Boulevard in Alexandria. Jack’s 28 West is now serving full flights, allowing guests to sample a variety of current brews! Once you’ve found your favorite, fill your growler, or enjoy it by the glass. For more information on brews currently on Twenty 8 West Brewing, visit www.jacksdrinks.com/twenty-8-west-brewing, find them on Facebook at @twenty8westbrewing, or call (318) 487-0007.
FIGHTING HAND BREWING COMPANY
Owner and brew master Tiffany Simms Lindsey brings a unique combination of creativity and expertise to each brew at Fighting Hand Brewing Company. “Our brewery theme is rooted in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and our own experiences and family,” says Tiffany. Even inspiration for the name of the business has its roots in Sci-Fi Fantasy. “It comes from a Doctor Who episode,” she explains. “We’re big nerds.” As you might expect, the brewery reflects their unique personalities. “It has truly become a reflection of who we are!”
A chemical engineer and biologist, Tiffany combines her passion for science and her creative spirit as an artist and fantasy fan. “I’m a scientist by trade and that’s what my educational background is. I also dabble in a lot of different art,” she explains. “Brewing is an art. Things don’t always behave like you expect and you have to be able to pivot and find creative solutions.”
Back in 2003, a friend who knew that Tiffany was involved with home brewing and winemaking gifted her some equipment. Not thinking much of it at the time, the equipment spent several years, unused. While pursuing her degree in chemical engineering, Tiffany attended a presentation on brewing. “It immediately sounded better than the oil industry,” she laughs. Her subsequent masters degree in biology with a focus on yeast genetics also granted additional insights into the science behind brewing. She dusted off the equipment she already owned and began brewing.
“Fighting Hand Brewing Company was formed in early 2019, before we ever had a location,” says Tiffany. Along with her husband, Chris, the pair leased a space at 1600 Military Highway in the Trotter Centre in Pineville in December 2019. “When we found our place in Pineville and had the support of the local government and community, we knew we were home!” says Tiffany.
“It has taken a tremendous effort to get off of the ground and we are excited to welcome everyone!” Fighting Hand Brewing Company is now open Wednesdays through Saturdays at their Pineville location, where they feature an impressive list of 10 beers, including Kolsch, APA, Pineapple NEIPA, Wheat, Blood Orange Wheat, Amber, Coffee Amber, Molasses Wheat Stout, Coffee Molasses Wheat Stout and Hefeweizen, plus a current Satsuma Wheat seasonal brew. Lindsey plans a West Coast IPA in the more bitter end of the taste spectrum along with some new seasonal brews, set to launch in the fall. Brews are currently available in flight sizes, pints and growlers. “We will fill any growler,” says Tiffany. “And, we also have our own 64-ounce growlers for purchase.”
Community is important to both Tiffany and Chris. “Having grown up in this area, we wanted to put down our own roots at home,” she says. “We believe in buying local when possible and supporting other small businesses. We hope to be able to grow with Pineville and to support our local community.” Integral to building that community support is providing a place for folks to come together, and music is a natural building block. Both Tiffany and Chris, who owns his own instrument repair business in the same shopping centre, are musicians. They understand the life and challenges that face up-and-coming musicians and are eager to provide a space for local singer-songwriters to showcase their own works each Saturday.
In addition to live music, Fighting Hand strives to foster artistic creativity by highlighting the works of local visual artists in their space. Currently, several works by Maddie Anderson are on display, with a limited number of prints also for sale. Fighting Hand boasts a variety of different board games for patrons to play, and welcomes visitors to bring games of their own to play in the space. Speaking of games, each Wednesday night Fighting Hand plays host to its own dart league. All experience levels welcome to participate. The $5.00 buy-in is a winner-take-all, friendly round of games starting when the doors open at 6:00pm.
Under two years in, the Lindseys have even bigger plans for Fighting Hand Brewing Company. In addition to expanded brew offerings, Fighting Hand also hopes to welcome larger musical acts in the future and to expand their visual art offerings. “We’re very small, independently owned and have self-funded,” says Tiffany. “We’re excited to be here in Pineville. The city has been super supportive and we’re looking forward to growing with the community.”
For more information on the latest brews and offerings, visit fightinghandbrewing.com find them on social media @fightinghandbrewing or call (318) 704-0272.
BROKEN WHEEL BREWERY
When a shared infatuation with “local” beers brought together two frat brothers—one, a Cajun from Marksville and the other a Colorado native—no one would have dreamed that twenty something years later, the two would again sit down over a pint of their favorite brew. This time, however, the brew was their own creation and one they would set out to share. After graduating from Louisiana State University, Jonathan Knoll moved home to Marksville to open a seafood market in 2008. After years in the restaurant industry, he became disenchanted with the process and was looking to make a change.
Jon knew that he had a prime location on Tunica Drive in Marksville and wanted to bring something special to his hometown. “Wanted something like I enjoyed in college,” he says. “Something like the Chimes or Sammy’s Grill near LSU.” A chance reunion at a friend’s wedding set the stage for what was to become Broken Wheel Brewery. Chris Pahl has not always called Marksville home, but this Colorado guy has always had a palate for good beer. Chris became inspired by the craft beer boom early on and when he and Jon reconnected, moving to Marksville to run the brewing business was a dream come true. Now, he considers himself a local, or at least he’s drinking like one.
As the old story goes, Marksville was settled by a merchant trader who traveled the area selling his wares to the local Native American tribes and French settlers. On one such trip, a broken wheel on his wagon stranded the trader prompting him to throw his hands in the air and declare, “That’s it, I’m not going nowhere else.” Over the years, the moniker “Broken Wheel” has stuck with Marksville and as a business founded on the culture of this community, Jonathan and Chris adopted the name as their own, too.
Today, Broken Wheel boasts 10 brews on tap at all times. “We knew what our customers like to drink, so we make those beers,” says Jon. Popular brews include Pachafa Pale Ale, Spring Bayou Blonde Ale, Grand Chien Milk Stout, AP (Avoyelles Parish) IPA, La vielle Wheat, Muddy Waters Brown Ale, Loggerhead Lager, Hunter’s Moon Oktoberfest and a rotation of seasonal brews like the 82 Schwarzbier. Pouring exclusively at Broken Wheel Brewery, guests can enjoy a flight size sampling of several different flavors, glasses by the pint, or take home a growler of their favorite brew to go.
Unlike most brew pubs where food is just an afterthought, Broken Wheel Brewery serves up a full menu filled with authentic Cajun flare and seasoning. The pandemic presented the restaurant industry with an unprecedented set of challenges in modern times. But along with those challenges came new opportunities. Jon and Chris welcomed lauded local chef Trent Bonnette on board, merging Broken Wheel Brewery with Trent’s popular Marksville eatery, The Brown Bag Gourmet. The merger has been an immediate success as Trent has brought his years of experience and uniquely honed approach to cuisine to the Broken Wheel kitchen. Guests will find a menu filled with delicious options that perfectly compliment the many offerings on tap.
Prior to the last year, Broken Wheel was a well known venue for live music, and were excited to get back to their musical roots with a St. Patrick’s Day celebration this year. “People love drinking and listening to live music. We have a great venue that attracts a lot of people,” says Jonathan. “In our culture, music is engrained in us and it’s a perfect combination.” Jonathan, Chris, and Trent look forward to offering more live music moving forward, welcoming folks to bring their family, friends, and pets to enjoy the Louisiana outdoors in the Broken Wheel beer garden. Jonathan sums it up best: “At Broken Wheel, we drink beer we make while we make beer we drink…and it’s a lot of fun!”
Broken Wheel Brewery is open every Tuesday through Saturday. For the latest on what’s currently on tap at Broken Wheel, and for food menus and special events, find Broken Wheel on Facebook @BrokenWheelBrewery or call (318) 253-6543.
Get your vaccine and venture out to one (or all!) of Cenla’s great breweries to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones along the way, while enjoying the best of Cenla’s Rhythm and Brews!