Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Great Raft 318 in the Lone Star State

     It seems like it was yesterday, but over 3 years ago Great Raft Brewing brought their lineup of beers to our market and East Texas has never been the same. The ability to grab a six pack of Commotion from just about any gas station or grocery store changed the beer game for many of us. Great Raft already felt like they were part of our East Texas craft beer family but bringing their beer to our market solidified that relationship. Great Raft beers are now distributed across the region in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi.

We are happy to report they are shaking things up again! Great Raft Brewing is bringing their wildly popular 318 Golden Ale to the East Texas market. If you are not familiar 318 is their light, refreshing beer brewed with local honey and orange peel. It was originally launched exclusively in the 318 area code in March of 2018 and, according to Great Raft, almost immediately became their most popular beer throughout North Louisiana. Since the launch Great Raft has brewed and packaged over 1,200 barrels of 318 Golden Ale. To put that into perspective that equals nearly 300,000 pints of beer!

Being the only production brewery in Northwest Louisiana, Great Raft set out into the craft beer community “with one goal in mind - to share our beer across the region and create a craft beer culture within the community we serve. Since 2016, East Texas has been a part of that broader community and Great Raft Brewing has been very active in local events and fundraisers, while spreading the craft beer gospel”

East Texas Brews attended the November, 2016 launch parties at Rotolo’s, Lone Star Icehouse and Bootlegger’s in Longview and Charlie’s Backyard in Marshall. Great Raft also had launch parties in Tyler at Razoo's, Old Chicago, Jul’s, Rose City Draft House. From the start Great Raft showed East Texas they were serious about being a part of our community. Despite not being available in the East Texas market 318 Golden Ale still found a way to many a fridge and cooler in the Piney Woods. We certainly muled our fair share back from the Bayou State. Great Raft Brewing has been producing quality beers in Shreveport, Louisiana since 2013. As soon as they opened Shreveport’s first local brewery taproom in December of that year East Texans have been pouring over the state line to hang out at the brewery and enjoy a few pints.

When asked why Great Raft would now bring their formerly 318 area code exclusive beer to East Texas they had this to say:

“And really, as much as folks may not like to admit it, East Texas and Northwest Louisiana are more alike than different. While there may be a state border separating our identities, we actually share something in common - the type of beer we like to drink. The majority of people in our corner of the world like to drink beer that tastes 318 Golden Ale is our answer for people who ask for a no frills, easy-drinking beer. We wanted to share this light, local, full-flavored option with more consumers who will really appreciate it.

And ultimately, the consumers drove our decision to finally send 318 Golden Ale across state lines and out of the area code. We have a lot of fans from East Texas who visit the tasting room often and ask if we would ever consider selling it outside of the 318 Area Code. Instead of hauling it back “Smokey and the Bandit” style, fans will now have options throughout East Texas to purchase locally.”

The ties between Great Raft and East Texas are stronger than ever. For example last year the East Texas Homebrewers Guild brewed a collaboration beer with Great Raft. This beer was even featured at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. What does the East Texas market mean to Great Raft Brewing?

“The East Texas market has supported Great Raft from day one, and our relationship with the homebrewers guild has grown significantly over the last year. The collaboration brew was a first of its kind for us and a fun excuse to brew with our friends from the homebrewing community. The experiences we’ve had at East Texas festivals including Dogtoberfest, Red Dirt Dirt BBQ & Music Festival, and the Zonta Brewfest have been positive. Our mindset from the beginning has been to grow deeper within our backyard and surrounding markets versus expanding into more markets further away from home. There are a lot of thirsty folks in East Texas and we hope to see a 318 Golden Ale in their hands in 2020.”

In the past you would see beer drinkers stay loyal to one brand but as the craft beer community has grown many people have become curious and have expanded their horizons. 318 Golden Ale is very approachable and easy to drink. While it is a craft beer many people who traditionally stay away from craft beers should enjoy this beer. It is light bodied with a subtle citrus kick from the orange peel and is only 4% ABV. 318 Golden Ale costs the same or less than many domestic 12 pack options despite being crafted locally with premium ingredients. Great Raft puts quality and consistency at the forefront. If you tour their brewery you will see firsthand they put their money where their mouth is when it comes to quality. For those who are health conscious it only has 120 calories per can. As a craft beer drinker this beer for me can be the everyday “fridge beer” for the house, pool, golf course, camp out etc.

318 Golden Ale is currently available on draft at your favorite bar and will be available in 6 and 12 packs at your local grocery store, bottle shop or gas station near the end of March. You’ll find it priced lower than most other craft beers but with all the quality you’ve come to expect from Great Raft. Throughout the month of March they will be having launch events across East Texas. We are thrilled to have Great Raft bring another delicious craft beer option to our area!


Joel Patrick Heflin