It’s no secret that in Louisiana, we like to “pass a good time.” And nothing is more reflective of that sentiment than our vibrant cocktail, spirits, and brewing community. When planning your next summer road trip to Louisiana, make sure to include a stop in Gonzales to visit two relative newcomers to the scene: Gilla Brewing Company and Sugarfield Spirits.
With a focus on local ingredients and high-quality spirits, brothers Thomas and Andrew Soltau opened Sugarfield Spirits in January 2020.
Thomas, a neonatologist at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, and Andrew, who holds a master’s degree in hospitality and has a long history in the hospitality industry, shared a great appreciation of fine spirits and from there, Sugarfield was born.
Inspired by the Bayou State’s fresh produce, the brothers started off using commercially available distilled spirits and experimenting with local fruit infusions and liqueurs. They’ve since expanded to include a selection of craft gin, vodka, bourbon, and agricole-style rum.
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Sugarfield Spirits tries to take a local approach to every product it produces. The sugarcane used in all its spirits is hand-harvested locally and crushed at the distillery.
Louisiana’s rich local resources continue to inspire the brothers, and their newest release, a strawberry liqueur, features strawberries grown in Springfield, Louisiana. Oranges used in the company’s orange liqueur come from a farm south of Chalmette, Louisiana. More citrus is sourced in Jesuit Bend. The brothers collaborated with Rêve Coffee Roasters from Lafayette, Louisiana, for the coffee liqueur.
On pivoting the business during the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas says, “We started out with this great business plan that, in the middle of March 2020, we simply waded up and threw in the trash can. Like everyone else, we had to adjust to the new normal. Our business plan relied heavily on the tasting room, so we just pivoted. We started to work more and more on getting into distribution and even produced hand sanitizer.”
Similarly, Gilla Brewing Company got its start shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Ascension Parish’s first brewery was founded in late 2019 by Brad Andersen, Alex Shillings, and Derek Stewart, all home brewers and craft beer enthusiasts who shared a dream.
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Derek worked at a local craft beer bar and saw that many of its patrons were willing to travel from the small communities of Prairieville and Gonzales to bigger cities in order to seek out local craft brewed beer.
After Derek partnered with Brad and Alex, the trio opened Gilla in October 2019 and enjoyed five months of good business before the pandemic began and they had to adapt to a to-go-only model. In the long run, this turned out to be a boost for the business.
In February 2020, Gilla signed a deal to upgrade its equipment with an expansion that allows the brewery to make about 150 gallons per batch, up from around 30 gallons per batch. This allows Gilla to continue selling canned beer as its taproom business begins to expand again.
The brewery specializes in fruited sours, New England IPAs, and pastry stouts. As a nano-brewery, its small batch sizes allows Gilla to try new and exciting things, which means there’s something different on tap each time you visit the taproom.
Gilla takes its inspiration from our local Bayou State flavors. In 2020, the brewery made a satsuma sour with local produce. The brewery also works with a local coffee roaster, Titan Coffee Roasters out of Baton Rouge, for the coffee stout.
As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to become more easily available, both Sugarfield Spirits and Gilla Brewing Company look forward to enjoying a renewal of their businesses.