Yo-ho-ho and a Bottle of Rum

by Walter Pierce

Locally produced potent potables complement the slow-food menu in Acadiana.

Locally produced potent potables complement the slow-food menu in Acadiana. By Tyler F. Thigpen / photos by tracie fontenot

Friday, Nov. 1, 2013

Local slow-food aficionados (from left, Ramsey Morein, Lucius Fontenot, Tyler Thigpen
and Jonathan Kastner) enjoy some suds from Parish Brewing Company.

The slow foods movement has grown to encompass more than just sustainable, locally grown and raised produce and meats. Value-added and artisanal products are gaining popularity and have become more abundant in most farmers markets than the vegetables, fruits and meats themselves. In the Lafayette area, locally brewed beer and distilled rum containing local ingredients have joined the ranks of our repertoire of artisanal products.

"[Acadiana] offers such unique resources," says Tanner DuCote, wine and spirits manager at Jolie's Louisiana Bistro. "The combination of high quality local foods and local booze contribute to the Cajun joie de vivre - a celebration of life that extols the culture's high-caliber music, dancing and food. Local spirits and brews of the same caliber ... add to the joie de vivre."

In 2008, Parish Brewing Company became the first local brewery in Acadiana. Initially, Parish Brewing, classified as a nano-brewery, was housed in a small building in Broussard. Its first beer, Canebrake, which comprises 90 percent of its sales, allowed the brewery to quickly grow and establish a micro-brewery in a new location in Broussard. Louisiana is important to Parish Brewing, as evidenced by the Louisiana pride shown in its taproom and on its labels. Canebrake is made with Steen's Cane Syrup manufactured in Abbeville from Louisiana sugar cane.

"In addition to using Steen's, all of the spent grains from the brewing process are donated to a local farmer to use as livestock feed," says Corey Davidge, Parish Brewing Company office manager. "Parish was also the first brewery in the state to have a taproom directly connected to the brewery," he says. "It allows for a more complete experience since the beer is literally being brewed on the other side of the wall."

In 2009, another brewery, Bayou Teche Brewing, opened a small operation in a railroad car in Arnaudville. Owned by brothers Karlos, Byron and Dorsey Knott, BTB has grown into a  micro-brewery that creates and bottles many of its beers near the Bayou Teche. BTB celebrates all things Acadian by working with local groups like Louisiana Folk Roots, the Center for Cultural and Ecotourism, Valcour Records and more. In addition to supporting community-based nonprofits, Bayou Teche has incorporated its products into the slow foods scene by using ingredients like Primo's peppers and Mello Joy coffee and other local flavors in its brews.

Bayou Teche also collaborates with local food businesses like Toby Rodriguez's Lache Pas Boucherie et Cuisine, Carpe Diem! Gelato Espresso Bar, and Pour for fundraising efforts. On Nov. 17, Pig & Plough Suppers teams up with Bayou Teche at the brewery for Cochon de Lune, a pig roast featuring a bevy of local-foods chefs and leaders and benefitting Acadiana Food Circle.

In 2012, two Lafayette landmen, David Meaux and Cole LeBlanc, founded Rank Wildcat Spirits and created Sweet Crude Rum, a white rum made with locally grown sugar cane.

"The sugar cane industry in Acadiana rivals all the other production areas in the world," says Meaux. "We saw no reason that Acadiana should not boast its very own rum. While we were getting everything in place, we started hearing about some other big dollar distilleries that were also in the works in the state, but it was looking like our little operation was going to get to market first and it did. Rank Wildcat Spirits is the second distillery in Louisiana, the first one in Acadiana and the only one in Lafayette."

Parish Brewing Company's Ryan Speyrer

Rank Wildcat has grown quickly in the past year and a half. This year, the company added three new partners, Kevin Guarino, David Buchholz and John Sledge III, and reached the shelves of more than 100 stores, restaurants and bars throughout the state.

Rank Wildcat will soon debut its second liquor product, Sweet Crude Oak Rum. The darker rum, which is also made with local sugar cane, is first distilled like its white rum and then steeped in oak. Eventually, the company will release Black Gold, a barrel-aged, traditional rum.

Like Parish Brewing and Bayou Teche Brewing, supporting the local economy and slow-foods movement by producing a local, artisanal product created with regional ingredients is part of Rank Wildcat Spirit's mission and company values.

"People have never stopped craving the diversity that comes from local products," says Meaux. "In the past, every city, town and community had its own smells, sights and tastes. From bread to beer to meat and water, the distance of a few miles meant a whole new culinary experience. The same phenomenon applies to spirits, and we are proud to help fully realize the potential of Acadiana's sugar cane."

Tyler F. Thigpen is a wetland ecologist and past president of Acadiana Food Circle (, a community-based nonprofit that connects local food producers to consumers.