Jon Renthrope was displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and relocated to Florida. But, he didn’t let that tragedy define him. Renthrope returned to his native New Orleans in 2010 after the city’s recovery from the devastation and made history.
At 32, Renthrope engraved his name in the history books when he founded the New Orleans-based brewery Cajun Fire Brewing. This buisness move made him not just Louisiana’s first Black brewmaster, but the first African American to own a brewing company in the South.
According to Blackbusiness.com, Black brewers, make up less than .001% of brewery owners. Louisiana and the south, in general, are no different – a void Renthrope sets out to bridge.
“Other brewers taught me a lot. I was able to launch my business Cajun Fire Brewing in 2011,” Renthrope told Travel Noire.
Renthrope’s company has been so successful that it’s first brick and mortar is slated to open later this year on a 10-acre property. The facility will house the company’s production warehouse in addition to a museum and taproom.
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“Our property is in East New Orleans which is a predominately Black area that is often overlooked by the city’s tourism funds,” Renthrope said. “I’m aiming to create quality jobs within the area and economic development. Also, building civic pride amongst the community.”
Inspired mostly by cultural references in New Orleans, such as the Mardi Gras Chief Shaka Zulu, the company has produced a total of nine flavors, two of which are already available in the market — the Acadiana Honey Ale and Big Chief Stout.
“It’s right at the foot of the city,” Renthrope said. “It’s the first thing you see coming and the last thing you see going out. We want the city to be recognized again as the brewing capital of the south. In the 1860s the city once had 50-plus breweries to its name. These breweries supported a lot of different families. We’re trying to essentially establish that in New Orleans East.
“My brewing style incorporates soul because I’m a black brewer first, and those experiences have a way of diving into whatever I touch with the company,” he said. “You recognize that you might have a lot more hurdles than your competition. For me it’s healthy because it allows me to express myself and create something that can infuse civic pride into an area that has often been neglected,” he stated.
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