At only 32 years old, New Orleans native Jon Renthrope is making history as not only Louisiana’s first Black brewmaster and first Black-owned brewing company.
Black brewers make up less than .001% of brewery owners and there are even less that are actually employed by breweries.
After being displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Jon relocated to Florida where he also attended college. Once the city recovered he made his way back to New Orleans in 2010. He saw that there was a void in the craft brewing scene around the city and he wanted to be the one to fill it.
Jon reached out to other brewers around the nation for guidance on getting started in the industry. To his surprise, many were very helpful.
“Other brewers taught me a lot. I was able to launch my business Cajun Fire Brewing in 2011,” Jon told Travel Noire.
In the beginning, the company set up at festivals and events around New Orleans, which allowed them to do very well even on a small budget. If you’ve ever been to an event or festival in NOLA then you know the crowds are always in search of beer and good food.
Fast forward to today and Jon has now purchased a 10-acre property to set up his first brick and mortar that is slated to open later this year. The facility will house the company’s production warehouse in addition to a museum and taproom.
“Our property is in East New Orleans which is a predominately Black area that is often overlooked by the city’s tourism funds,” Jon said. “I’m aiming to create quality jobs within the area and economic development. Also, building civic pride amongst the community.”
As far as the beers, Jon and his team like to draw inspiration from the many cultural influences found around New Orleans. The Big Chief cream stout pays homage to Mardi Gras Chief Shaka Zulu and gives off a sweet caramel smell. It was first premiered at Essence Fest and during an event with the Smithsonian. There are currently 3 flavors that can be found on the market but the company has a total of 9 flavor profiles altogether.
We asked Jon to give advice to other aspiring young Black business owners, here’s what he said:
“Don’t be afraid to fail, just make sure your faith forward. Stay informed and do your due diligence because owning a business ain’t easy. Take advantage of resources and programs like the Propeller’s Impact Accelerator program that I went through here in New Orleans. They are there to help you sharpen your blade, especially in the startup phase. Also, always embrace your uniqueness because it keeps you authentic.”