The Ragin’ Cajuns of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are located in what some consider the “hub city” of Acadiana, Louisiana’s Cajun country, a region that has its own flag, its own cuisine and its own language, said Karlos Knott, president of Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville.
Now, with Ragin’ Cajuns Genuine Louisiana Ale—the first officially licensed college beer, according to the Collegiate Licensing Co.—Acadiana has its own beer.
“It’s not necessarily just a fan beer, but also it’s a community beer,” said Aaron Martin, director of communications and marketing at UL Lafayette. In Cajun country, according to Martin and Knott, widespread Ragin’ Cajuns gear—whether it be bumper stickers or truck decals—is part of the landscape. “About everyone that works at Bayou Teche went to UL,” said Knott.
Martin and the university approached Knott to brew the UL beer with two requirements: Knott had to use at least one Louisiana ingredient, and he had to make sure the beer would be quaffable enough for tailgating in the intense, humid Louisiana heat.
After showcasing four ideas to a tasting panel of distributors and university representatives, the collaborators settled on a recipe: It’s a Kölsch-style beer brewed using a grain bill partly consisting of Louisiana rice.
“This beer is perfect for tailgating in the area,” said Knott. “The rice lightens it up quite a bit, and it adds alcohol without adding much body.”
The Collegiate Licensing Co. approved the project for the University after scrutinizing the brewer and Schilling Distributing Co., the distributor. Production then moved forward.
“It’s a lot more legal hoops you have to jump through,” said Knott. “They did walk us through, but it was a very labor intensive process.”
The beer is a step outside the typical lineup of Knott’s brewery, which typically brews beers with denser flavor profiles such as the Acadie bière de garde and the LA 31 bière pâle.
“You do your first beer like this and you don’t realize how hard of a beer it is to brew,” said Knott. “We at the brewery usually drink our pale ale or IPA, but everyone’s been drinking this beer because they appreciate the amount of work that goes into it.”
The beer—which goes great with Cajun dishes such as boudin and jambalaya, according to Knott—is available on draught at local bars, pizza parlors and the Cajun Field football stadium, and also in bottles in certain parts of Louisiana. Kody Thompson, marketing manager for Schilling, said sales of Ragin’ Cajun have been “in the same ballpark” as those of Bud Light and Michelob Ultra at all football games for which it has been available.
“To be doing nearly the same volume as them is tremendous, especially for a new brand such as Ragin’ Cajuns Ale,” said Thompson.
Martin said that he hopes the beer’s planned future distribution to other parts of Louisiana by the end of this year will cause more people to inquire about UL and its programs, and made sure to stress that the University does not promote any sort of alcohol on its campus.
The beer, he said, is for adult fans and consumers.
Editor’s Note: A condensed version of this story appears in the January 2016 issue of All About Beer Magazine.