Jon Renthrope was displaced by the 2005 Hurricane Katrina and relocated to Florida.
The storm which made a landfall off the coast of Louisiana on August 29, 2005, caused so much destruction and loss of life, it is often considered one of the worst in the U.S. history.
An estimated 1,200 people died as a direct result of the storm, which also cost an estimated $108 billion in property damage, making it the costliest storm on record.
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Renthrope would return to his native New Orleans in 2010 after the city’s recovery from the devastation to make history.
At 32, Renthrope engraved his name in the city’s business fraternity, becoming Louisiana’s first Black brewmaster.
The founder of the New Orleans-based brewery Cajun Fire Brewing, Renthrope hasn’t only made history as Louisiana’s first Black Brewmaster but the first African American to own a brewing company in the South.
Renthrope would then reach out to industry players across the nation for guidance on how to get started.
With the coaching and guidance Renthrope had from his mentors, he would exactly a year after returning to his native New Orleans, establish Cajun Fire Brewing, setting up festivals and events around the city.
From a humble beginning, Renthrope’s company was so successful that it purchased a 10-acre property to set up its 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,” Renthrope said. “I’m aiming to create quality jobs within the area and economic development. Also, building civic pride amongst the community.”
Inspired mostly by cultural references in New Orleans, such as the Mardi Gras Chief Shaka Zulu, the company has produced a total of nine flavors, two of which are already available in the market — the Acadiana Honey Ale and Big Chief Stout.
“It’s right at the foot of the city,” Renthrope said. “It’s the first thing you see coming and the last thing you see going out. We want the city to be recognized again as the brewing capital of the south. In the 1860s the city once had 50-plus breweries to its name. These breweries supported a lot of different families. We’re trying to essentially establish that in New Orleans East.
“My brewing style incorporates soul because I’m a black brewer first, and those experiences have a way of diving into whatever I touch with the company,” he said. “You recognize that you might have a lot more hurdles than your competition. For me it’s healthy because it allows me to express myself and create something that can infuse civic pride into an area that has often been neglected,” he stated.