A few weeks ago, Lake Charles’ Crying Eagle Brewing Company got a call from the band Foreigner saying, essentially: I want to know what beer is. I want you to show me.
The band was heading to Lake Charles for a sold-out show on Jan. 27, and two of its members, Michael Bluestein and Bruce Watson, both craft beer aficionados, were interested in coming by to learn more about the brewing process.
“It was very surprising to have people of celebrity be as excited to be part of this process as we were to have them here,” said Stephen Tyson, general manager of Crying Eagle, adding that the brewery will soon release a new Hop Blooded IPA in honor of the friendship. “You expect them to sprinkle some stuff around and be here for a photo op, but everything we asked them to do they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, absolutely!’ They were loving it.”
Crying Eagle is a rough translation of the Atakapa Indian word “Calcasieu” (pronounced KAL-ka-shoo), which is also the name of the parish where Lake Charles is located. The brewery, the brainchild of president Eric Avery, opened in July with a mission of bringing something to the Lake Charles community that they’d never seen before. But despite their recent celebrity following, opening a craft brewery in a market where only 2 percent of beer sales are craft has provided some challenges.
“So much of our mission is education,” Tyson said. “We are in a Michelob Ultra-dominated market. It definitely influences what we do and the styles we choose.”
The brewery currently has three beers — the Chuck, Ready to Mingle and Calcasieu Common — available in stores in parts of Louisiana as well as about a dozen on tap in-house. They hope to be available in some capacity in Texas by the end of the year.
Brewmaster Bill Mungai moved to Lake Charles from Pittsburgh more than a decade ago and was solely a homebrewer for several years. Even after he married his wife and moved in with her, he kept his two-bedroom apartment for brewing. Eventually they added a room onto their house for that purpose.
“I moved down here and didn’t have any friends or know anybody, so I started making beer,” said Mungai, adding that it was always his dream to open a brewery. “Then I made a lot of friends. When you have good, free alcohol, people start turning up.”
The brewery itself is sleek and modern yet inviting, with a sprawling outdoor light-strung patio and textured walls that incorporate wooden pallets.
”The pallets really came about because we were looking for a way to add texture to walls that were huge and blank,” Tyson said. “I did a lot of looking on Pinterest, to be honest with you. I had a great Pinterest experience, to the point where I keep it on my phone and look at stuff sometimes. There’s a lot of smart people on there.”
Mungai added that the brewery hopes to become a destination for beer lovers from around the country in the coming years.
“Every time we travel we plan around what breweries and what beer bars we want to go to,” Mungai said. “We wanted to have a destination kind of place to come and check out. We have a great outdoor beer garden space, we’re dog-friendly and kid-friendly. We’re trying to encourage the community and anyone visiting to come by and spend an afternoon.”
Info: The taproom is open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, with live music on Fridays and Saturdays. 1165 E. McNeese St. in Lake Charles. 337-990-4871, cryingeagle.com.