Photography by Matthew Noel
Houma, Louisiana, is a smallish town of 33,000 residents nestled among the bayous of South Louisiana. Its location is easy to recognize on a map – smack in the middle of the peninsula that flares off the bottom of the state. It is home to a plethora of Louisiana type cuisine, to the music the Southern state is known for and to alligators and swamp tours. It is also the home of a beer drinker’s oasis: Spigots Brew Pub, a quality Cajun restaurant with a formidable brewery attached to it.
Spigots started as a beer venture, but restaurant manager and brew master Jacob Aucoin will assure you the food doesn’t take a backseat to the suds.
“We don’t focus on one type of food. We don’t fry everything,” Aucoin said. “We got a cider glazed pork chop and on weekends a porterhouse with a huge crab right on top of it. When it hits the plate and goes in your mouth, you can’t believe what you’re eating.”
Opened this spring, Spigots is a labor of love more than seven years in the making. Aucoin found he had a hand for beer while working in an oil field as a pressure pump mechanic. It’s back-breaking labor that keeps workers away from home for weeks at a time. By chance, Aucoin made a friend who had dabbled in home brewing. It captivated Aucoin, who went right home and started extract brewing on his stove top.
“It’s pretty simple, I mean, it’s all extracts and syrups,” he said. “But I’m the type of guy who wants to learn as much as I can when I get into something, so after my third extract batch, I moved to all grain batches. You make everything from scratch, but you have more control over how it turns out.”
Another friend ended up introducing Aucoin to investor Richard Gonsoulin in 2011. Gonsoulin, Aucoin said, is somewhat of an aficionado who’s traveled far and wide tasting the best brews the world has to offer. In the late '90s, Gonsoulin came into a five-barrel brewing system from LaForche Brewing Co. in Thibodaux, Louisiana. The equipment had been sitting in Gonsoulin’s shed for a decade and some change, gathering dust.
“I thought, ‘Why would somebody like that want to meet me?’” Aucoin said.
Aucoin had grown tired of missing his family while in the oil field. He figured if he was ever going to roll the dice on something else, it’d be beer. So he rode out to Gonsoulin’s house after work with a couple of friends. Aucoin brought a few beers from each batch he’d made at home.
“One in particular, the oatmeal stout, I knew was special,” Aucoin said. “I guess he kind of liked it, too, because we got to talking about opening a brew pub. I said, ‘I’m your guy.’”
But the work was just beginning. They scouted a location for a year, and when they found it, it took another year to get the permits to renovate, and then renovation itself took two years. Even after they opened, it took some time for the public to understand Spigots and buy into the idea.
“There’s definitely an education that takes place. Some folks come in expecting us to have your standard domestic beers and are kind of annoyed when they find out we only serve our beers,” he said. “But now we have plenty of regulars who come in almost every day. I’ve done the hard work they do, and it don’t pay much. To see them come spend their hard-earned income here is the biggest compliment you can ask for.”
Spigots is both historical and ahead of its time. One part of its building was constructed in the '20s, the other in the '30s. It’s an immaculate experience, with its hand-crafted stained glass windows and cypress top bar. The artwork, photography and color palate are unique but soulfully Cajun. That original oatmeal stout still lives on, on tap and on the menu in the oatmeal porter chicken. Aucoin said more equipment is on the way that will allow Spigots to serve even more styles of beer. Eventually, he hopes to build an off-site brewery and throw some limited edition, specialty brews in the mix.