Wayward Owl Brewing
So many microbreweries’ origin stories begin this way: guys in a garage (and it’s always a garage), making beers for friends, perfecting their techniques and dreaming big about seeing their labels on bottles. They get some cash together, get their business license and bam! A brewery is born.
Not so with Wayward Owl Brewing Company, according to head brewer Justin Boswell. The new brewery is the third such business he has opened, and the first in Louisiana. Boswell spent years working in the microbrewery paradise of Washington State before leaving Seattle, in 2014, to return to his hometown of Lafayette.
“I’d already done my bootstrapping,” Boswell says, recalling his earlier microbrewery startups while planning to start one in Louisiana. He sensed then that the microbrewery business would be booming in the state; and in retrospect, it’s hard to argue with Boswell’s intuition. He got together a small group of investors and set to finding a home for Wayward Owl.
The brewery ended up in a spectacular, if unexpected, location: The historic Gem Theater. The 10,000-square-foot former movie venue opened in the 1950s but had fallen into disrepair. When Boswell and his business partner bought the Gem, they set to renovating it, retaining its architectural flourishes and rehabbing the theater’s original marquee.
Visit Wayward Owl’s tasting room today, and you can relax in a theater seat with a cold brew in hand, seated just a few feet from the beer-making equipment. “You feel like you’re in the brewery,” Boswell says. “We’re trying to make it a nice place to hang out, with a lot of natural wood and stone we brought in, 12 seats at the bar, a row of theater seats, shuffleboard…. It’s supposed to be a neighborhood joint, really.”
Wayward Owl’s beer selection is starting out small, though there are already plans in place for future brews. The first batches available in the taproom include Clean Slate IPA, “a very Northwest Coast-style brew” with flavors of pine and citrus; an ESB known as Tawny Twit English Pale Bitter; and a Kristallweizen and Scotch Ale.
“We have more coming out after that, either just for the tasting room or to be served at other bars,” Boswell notes. “We’ll be doing session beers—double IPAs and Imperial Stouts. Second quarter of next year we’ll release our sour beer. We have 16 taps and will be rotating them out a lot.”