Road Trip: Shreveport/Bossier City
I have been wanting to visit Great Raft Brewing after enjoying some of their beers that friends had brought me from Louisiana. A couple of weekends ago I decided to finally make the trip. I had one full day in Shreveport and set out to visit Great Raft Brewing and Red River Brewing Company and then took a short trip over the actual Red River to try Flying Heart Brewing in Bossier City. All three breweries are within ten minutes drive of one another making for an easy brewery trek. There are also quite a few other beer spots in the area which I’ll highlight as well.
Red River Brewing Company
Red River was my first stop. I’d only had one of their beers previously so I didn’t know what to expect. The taproom features beer hall style seating, a large bar, another row of seating that allows you to look into the brewhouse, a back porch, and a few couches. The taproom and brewhouse are both very spacious; there’s room for a small stage, cornhole, and a ping pong table. Red River seems like it would be a really fun place to hang out if it were busy and a band was playing, however, during my visit it was low-key. To be fair, I did visit the brewery around lunchtime on a Friday. To add to Red River’s appeal there’s an on-site restaurant called Fat Calf Boucherie that serves burgers, sandwiches, and other pub fare. I went with their steak and frites and was happy with my order.
Regarding the most important thing, their beer, I was disappointed that they only had two of their own on-tap, Penalty Bock, and Captain’s Porter. From the looks of their beer menu it seems they ran out of additional house brews that are usually offered. A solid selection of mostly local craft brews filled out the remaining eight taps.
Penalty Bock is a quality dark lager that played into the malty end of the Bock style, featuring a great grainy, caramel profile. Captain’s Porter was impressive too. Weighing in at 8.9%, sweeter and not as intensely roasted as I expected, this comes across as a big version of an English Brown Porter. The luscious feel of this brew, as well as the sweetness, make me think some lactose may have been used. Captain’s Reserve, a barrel aged version of Captain’s Porter, was available in bottles. I bought some to try later and found it to have a solid flavor, still very roasty, but having lost much of its sweetness. The barrel flavor is more oakey than boozy. The only downside I found was the limited selection of their own beer, especially since I found the three I tried to be worthwhile.
Flying Heart Brewing
The selection was not an issue at Flying Heart. In addition to eleven house brews, there were an additional nine taps of mostly local craft options. Flying Heart definitely feels like they put focus into their restaurant, which appears to be popular, based on the amount of people that were eating lunch. The main menu options are pizza and wings; probably America’s favorite foods to pair with beer. I didn’t sample any of the food, but the pizzas I saw looked tasty. The building is converted from an old fire station, which is evident as you can see where the huge garage doors used to be. There’s also firefighter themed decorations inside and on the back patio. I especially enjoyed seeing a couple patio tables that feature a fire hydrant in their center.
Not all of their beer offerings were to my liking, but the selection made up for the couple of duds I sampled. My favorite was their Smoked Wheat Ale which was akin to a Rauchbier. The smoke flavor is big, but there’s also a nice sweet grain that gives it a nice complexity. Day Wrecker is another winner and perfectly titled as it’s an Imperial Pilsner with a sneaky 10.1% ABV. The flavor works as the traditional pilsner character is amped up a few notches, resulting in a tasty brew. The remainder of the line-up featured core brews Six of Hearts, a Belgian Golden Ale, Louisiana Amber and Highway 80 IPA. Seasonal brews included Strawberry Kolsch IPA, Goin’ South, an American Wheat made with cilantro and lime, Two Left Turns, a kettle soured Amber, Redemption Wit, Chief IPA, and Strawberry Candy Shandy, which is the only beer I’ve had that I could recall tasting like a sugar-coated strawberry. Based on internet rating websites, it seems like others liked Strawberry Candy Shandy and Strawberry Kolsch IPA better than I did. Flying Heart was my second favorite brewery in the area as the variety of beer options coupled with a nice atmosphere won me over.
Great Raft Brewing
Great Raft was my favorite of the three area breweries, primarily due to the overall quality of the beer, but the vibrant brewery atmosphere sure helps. The location is a typical industrial complex with a taproom separated from the brewhouse. There’s plenty of table seating in the taproom as well as beer hall style seating in the brewhouse area. Great Raft is also fairly large, as both the taproom and brewhouse areas have stages. A band was playing on the taproom stage during my visit. There is no restaurant, but there was a vendor selling food. There’s nothing incredibly unique about the place, but it has a great vibe and is a cool place to hang out.
There were ten beers available including year round-round favorites Reasonably Corrupt Black Lager, Commotion Pale Ale, Southern Drawl Pilsner, and 318 Golden Ale, a brew only available locally. Reasonably Corrupt is one of my favorites due to great dark, roasty malt flavors. Commotion and Southern Drawl are also great examples of their styles. 318 is one of their two lightest offerings at 4.0%. It’s brewed with orange peel and honey, which come out lightly. This is a balanced, easy drinker, but was their only beer that didn’t excite me.
The latest entries in their rotating series, All My Tomorrows Hoppy Saison, At Arms Length India Pale Lager, Barrel Aged Old Mad Joy and Oceans Between Us Brett IPA, were also on-tap. I always enjoy All My Tomorrows, but my favorite brew from my visit was Oceans Between Us. This is a 100% Brettanomyces fermented IPA. This batch was double dry hopped with El Dorado. The flavor is a complex mix of spicy, lightly funky yeast, malt, and bright hops. It is effervescent and just feels great. The Barrel Aged Old Mad Joy Baltic Porter was also amazing. The June 2018 version features Buffalo Trace barrels and a blend of coffees from Rwanda and Colombia. The flavor is huge, rich and hits all the elements you want in this type of beer.
The final two taps were enjoyable seasonal brews Rhinestone Life and Life Itself Lime Gose. Rhinestone Life is an IPA brewed with wheat and oats, as well as Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra hops. It is a hazy IPA, with plenty of bright hop flavors. Life Itself made great use of adding lime flavor to a traditional gose. It’s lightly tart, refreshing, and joins 318 as their other lowest ABV brew at 4.0%. If you have only time to visit one brewery in the area, Great Raft gets my recommendation. If you go, don’t forget to buy some to-go beer to take back to your friends.
Additional Craft Beer Places
I didn’t get to all of these, but can vouch for PizzaRev, Brewniverse and Rotolo’s. The remaining places are based on my trip research. <
Brewniverse – A solid bottle shop with a small growler fill menu.
Daq’s Wings and Grill – Locations in both Bossier City and Shreveport feature lengthy tap lists.
PizzaRev Taproom – Pizza house with 40 taps of mostly craft, a lot of which is local.
Rotolo’s Pizzeria – The Shreveport location of this Baton-Rouge based chain features 30 taps.
Strange Brew – Bar with not a lot of taps, but a huge list of bottles.
The Round Bar – Another Shreveport bar with a lengthy draft list.
Twisted Root Burger Company – There’s a Shreveport and Bossier City location for the Dallas-based chain. Both locations feature 27 taps of mostly craft.
That’s all that I’ve got for Shreveport/Bossier City, please let me know if I missed anything cool. You can reach out on social media or e-mail me at Todd@HoustonBeerScene.com.