Day Brewing Company
By Bobby Bush
For Bernard "Sonny" Day, it all began with a boat. A 42-foot Chris Craft, he named it "Day Dream." With Lake Ponchatrain as their playground, Sonny and his family enjoyed Louisiana's warm climate and, while cruising this massive body of inland water, beer. After acquiring beer glasses engraved with their pleasure boat's name, Sonny had a bigger idea. He approached Dixie Brewing, the New Orleans brewery founded in 1907, about private branding a special Day Dream beer.
A minimum run for the regional brewery, he learned, was 5000 cases, a few more than he and his friends could handle, physically or financially. From this disappointment arose another plan. Why not brew his own beer, open his own brewery? Even though Sonny's only experience with beer to that point was as a consumer, the plot was in motion.
First things first, Sonny took to homebrewing, joining the Crescent City Brewers homebrewers' club. Munich Helles, a lilting German-style lager, was identified as his favorite style. He won homebrewing awards, eventually taking his art to the point that he was making commercial-grade beer at home. Temperature-controlled lagering, filtering, counter-pressure bottling, he had everything except a license to brew for distribution.
And then, Sonny sold his boat. Giving up one love to pursue another, the proceeds of the sale were used to found Day Brewing Company in Marrero, Louisiana. A new building, specifically designed for the brewhouse, was leased, putting Sonny and family in the beer business for real. The South New Orleans microbrewery opened in September 1999, twelve years after the initial day dream.
During the dozen years between concept and reality, Sonny spent two years working at Dixie Brewing as a maintenance engineer. Though his job was not brewer, he helped out in all phases of beer production. And today, based on that hands-on education, Sonny does all of his own brewery maintenance.
Day Brewing is a two man operation, though Sonny's father often assists. All products are sold in bottles and kegs through distributors and can be found throughout the state and in Arkansas and Florida as well. Doug Lindley, former brewer at defunct New Orleans micro Acadian, is second in command.
And for Day Brewing's beer? No surprise, a Munich-style Helles is the flagship. "Not real hoppy," as Sonny describes it, Day's Lager goes well with Cajun food. Without being boastful, he calls it "a signature New Orleans taste." Day Light is a low alcohol brew with more character than its pale golden color indicates. A Vienna Amber lager is in the works, as are a number of small batch, keg-only seasonal beers like a Maibock, Pilsner, Oktoberfest and Bavarian Dark.
Contract beers, especially Lagniappe Lager, a hoppy fest beer, also play a big role in Day Brewing's output. Big Easy, a German lager brewed for some of Sonny's friends, was added recently.
Sonny and Doug work in a 10,000 square foot building equipped with a 20 barrel brewhouse and plenty of 70 barrel fermentation, conditioning and bright tanks. Wide-open, the brewery has a production capacity of 4,000 barrels. In 2001, they hit 1,000 barrels. Though Sonny is happy with Day Brewing's growth, partly because he's finally found a good distributor, he has lofty aspirations. Not today, not tomorrow, but someday in his wish list, he hopes to find that his company has become a small regional brewery. No where near the volume of Sierra Nevada or Anchor Steam, maybe somewhere in the 100,000 barrel range.
A beer historian, Sonny "loves what [he's] doing,' he hopes to one day write a book on the past and present breweries of New Orleans. No doubt, Day Brewing will command more than a page or two.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush