One of the first things Andrew Godley, the founder of Parish Brewing Co. in Broussard, Louisiana, will tell you is that no one who works at his brewery has any previous brewing experience. It’s not that he hasn’t found applicants with practical brewing experience in the past, but he’s found that hiring people with other backgrounds has helped his brewery grow, think differently, and make the kind of impact on the marketplace that has helped it stand out.
“In general, I like folks with fresh ideas, [folks] who innovate, [folks] who aggressively push boundaries,” he says. “We don’t have the mindset here of ‘Oh, that’s the way something should be done’; we never say ‘this can’t be done’ or ‘this is what the text books says.’ We make our own mistakes. That’s how innovation happens. No boundaries. No mental barriers about how things are supposed to be. And folks who come from other breweries already have the perspective on how it’s been done at another place and that just doesn’t work.”
He walks that walk. He was working as an engineer in Pittsburgh more than a decade ago when he realized that he just didn’t like working for “The Man.” And on a trip back home to rural Louisiana, he realized that there was a complete lack of a beer scene (save for Abita Brewing Company, which had become synonymous with craft in the state). In Pittsburgh, he had been introduced to a robust beer culture, including many small breweries that were cranking out ales and lagers that captured the excitement and innovation at the time.
Godley decided to bring that enthusiasm home and jumped in with two feet. He bought an all-grain nano system and started homebrewing and quickly opened his own spot with the equipment while continuing to work as an engineer (he had to fund the brewery somehow). “Looking back on it, it was really stupid,” he says with a laugh. “I get calls from aspiring brewers all the time—just got one from Australia—and they ask about launching with a nano. And I say, ‘Don’t do it. Save your money. If your beer is good, making it on a nano is a waste of time if you want to be professional.’ It’s how I got started with 55-gallon drums, plastic tanks, putting money in from each paycheck and making twenty kegs per week.”
The brewery is now nearing 20,000 barrels annually, between their current location and a contract relationship with Brew Hub in Florida.
Location, Location, Location
When Godley was starting out, he knew that he would need to make a connection with local drinkers. “Around here, we have sugar-cane fields and nothing else. You go to some parts of the country, they have corn; you go to the Pacific Northwest, they have hops; we have sugar cane, so that’s what we brew with,” he says.
Canebrake, a wheat ale with sweet notes of honey with just a subtle citrus spicy hops bite, is one of the brewery’s big sellers. Creating a beer that locals could identify with, have a sense of pride in, and, most importantly, find to be easy-drinking helped the brewery establish itself in this part of the country early on.
It also helped Godley to think about the way he was approaching other beers. An early version of Parish’s pale ale, Envie, was basically a clone of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, he says. And it was doing modestly well, but the world already had a Sierra Pale. Did it need another? Godley was pondering this in 2013 when he had a Heady Topper for the first time. The hoppy but not bitter IPA from The Alchemist was a revelation to his palate, he says, and he and the other brewers immediately started to figure out how to get those flavors into their beer.
He knew that the softer, fruitier, and more rounded flavors of a hazy IPA (still in the days before “New England–style” was a style) would appeal to his local drinking base, but convincing his distributors was another matter.
“They were selling the beer, but I wanted to sell more. So we changed the recipe internally, trying to make it as hazy and juicy as possible, in the days before people were really using those words, and we were the first brewery in the South to do this. It immediately took off, and we were able to introduce Ghost in the Machine, our double IPA. That put us on the map.”
He says that not being afraid at the time to go against the hoppy-beer trend is what led to his success. But there were learning curves.
The IPA Process
Early on, the brewery embraced hops oils, but Godley says there was a lot to learn when it came to using the substance that differs from whole cones or pellets.
“They are really aromatic and very volatile, meaning they want to turn into vapor and leave the solution,” he says. “The key is to treat everything very carefully to make sure they don’t leave the beer. That includes everything from fermentation, to carbonation, to packaging. So much depends on the temperature.”
Get him going on the topic, and Godley will tell you all you need to know about pressure and temperature and how it’s paramount to making sure the beers Parish makes hit their specs time and time again. The lower the pressure, the more readily the substances turn into gas and vapor. Higher pressure keeps everything in solution. For temperature, he points out that for some of their hoppy beers, they don’t use a full boil. Why not? He has three main reasons.
“We don’t want the oils to evaporate when in the beer. Higher temperatures, and they flash off and come out of solution.”
“We don’t want hops isomerization. Hops have enough perceived bitterness and apparent bitterness, and for the consumers, it’s all bitterness to them. The point is to minimize all of that. We add the hops at a much lower temperature than boiling.”
“Microbiological biotransformation is the most important piece. If you smell a bag of hops, it doesn’t smell like grapefruit or have that juice component. So why do we get grapefruit, or citrus, in our beers but not in raw hops? We were curious about that, and so we started doing some hops experiments.”
Because no one at Parish had previously worked at a brewery, they were left to their own devices to figure out just what was happening with hops in the beer. So they created a sample batch of wort, got a few 5-gallon carboys, and started experimenting with biotransformation—finding the ideal temperature for dry hopping—using Cascade hops. They stored one carboy at room temperature (70°F/21°C), another at about 60°C (15°C), one more at 50°F (10°C), and the last one in a refrigerator, at about 38°F (3°C). The warmer samples were turbid, lively, and full of grapefruit-rind aroma. There were even some thin layers of krausen around the top of the carboys. The cooler samples were not as active and had more of a raw-hops aroma and taste.
“That was our light-bulb moment. We didn’t know what biotransformation was; we just knew there was something that makes it juicier. That’s how we make hops juice. We let the yeast do it for us.”
To stay competitive in a crowded marketplace and in an arena where a few breweries have closed recently, Godley is looking beyond beer. He’s seen the success beer makers such as Boston Beer have had with their cider and spiked seltzers and knows that to stay top of mind for drinkers, he will have to diversify.
To that end, Parish has released a lineup called “Sips” that tries to capitalize on the market. Essentially, Godley says, it’s a Berlinner weisse mixed with fruit juice. It’s nothing new, of course, but it’s not really marketed as beer—more of a low ABV fruit-forward refresher. He’s done one with Riesling grapes and pear and another with tangerine and pink salt, with others on the way.
It’s just one way that this brewery, which has been charting it’s own path since day one, plans to make sure its future is secured.