A Brew of One’s Own
The conservation-minded women behind Wetlands Sake have expanded operations to include a tasting room where visitors can sip and see behind the scenes.
Wetlands Sake 634 Orange St, STE B
wetlandssake.com // Instagram: @wetlandssake Facebook: facebook.com/WetlandsSake
Date of opening
Brewing operations, summer 2020; Distribution, 2021; taproom, January 2022
Persons in Charge
Nan Wallis, founder/CEO and Lindsey Beard, founder/president
Tracie Ashe, partner in charge, studioWTA along with architects Alyce Deshotel and John Philip Mouton
Curtis Herring Interior Design
Given that it’s made from fermented rice — one of Louisiana’s top five agricultural crops —sake is one of those products you can’t believe hasn’t been produced here for decades.
While others may have considered brewing it, Nan Wallis and Lindsey Beard, the entrepreneurs behind Wetlands Sake, were the first to make it happen. They started brewing in the summer of 2020, with distribution rolling out in 2021 and a new taproom opened in January of this year. The 6,557-sqare-foot facility celebrates sense of place with visual nods to the company’s branding namesake — Louisiana’s wetlands — at every turn and a commitment to conservation with 2% of the company’s profits going to Save America’s Wetlands. (Donations to Save America’s Wetlands can also be made on the company’s website.)
To achieve their vision for the design, Wallis and Beard worked with studioWTA, a firm known for its environmentally conscious design.
What were your (or the design team’s) goals for the design and why?
Tracie Ashe: The primary goals were threefold: To create an operations-based layout that would also function as a performance-like space, as the owners wanted visitors to be able to view as much of the brewing process as possible from the tasting room; to maintain a strong connection to the shared porch across the front of the building; to upgrade the building for energy efficiency plus sustainability as it was transformed from a simple warehouse to a fully-conditioned structure.
Curtis Herring: To create a [taproom] with an organic and earthy feel, reflective of the Louisiana product. We chose reclaimed cypress wood, carpeting with a lichen motif, wood grain luxury vinyl tile flooring, an earthy color palette, and a central mural depicting Louisiana rice. The application of these elements is thoughtful and organic.
What was the biggest design challenge and how was it overcome?
Ashe: The biggest design challenge was converting what was previously an unconditioned warehouse to a weather-tight building which could be conditioned to the temperatures required for the sake preparation and brewing processes.
What is the design’s standout feature?
Wallis: When you are in our taproom there is a wall of glass windows that allow you to see our entire sake production area. So, you can actually see Wetlands Sake being brewed while you are enjoying one of our nine sakes on tap.
How would you describe Wetlands Sake to someone who hasn’t ever visited?
Beard: Wetlands Sake taproom is warm, comfortable and inviting. There is a great vibe and a good buzz, so people tend to come and hang out. We have a garage door that in good weather is always open onto our roomy covered porch and outdoor patio seating areas.
How did you offer something different or set yourselves apart from similar businesses in New Orleans?
Beard: Wetlands Sake is the only sake brewery in Louisiana. The thing that sets our sake and brewery apart is that we grow our own unique Louisiana rice, which is the main ingredient used to handcraft all of our sakes. What makes our taproom unique in the U.S. and Japan is that we have nine craft sakes and craft sake cocktails on tap.
Since this is our women’s issue, what, if anything, is noteworthy or different about working on a project for a woman-owned business as a partner in a woman-owned architectural firm?
Ashe: This project was particularly significant for me, as it was ongoing during the time in which studioWTA made the transition to a 100% women-owned business. The weight of that change was something I and my partner, Julie Babin, felt strongly through 2019 while the brewery was in design, then under construction. Our founder, Wayne Troyer, started this project with me but was soon too ill to continue, and did not live to see it complete. I’m grateful that one of the first projects completed after his passing was one that I worked on with a team of strong women owners. Their determination and vision were a driving force, and one I admired throughout our work together.
How do you promote a positive work atmosphere for the staff?
Beard: We have regular sake tastings built into our brewing schedules, which allow our staff to spend time together as a team and to appreciate the fruits of their labor.
What are your biggest challenges (on the business side)?
Wallis: Supply chain disruption issues have made resources that we utilize in brewing and canning our products very difficult and expensive to obtain.
What goals are you looking to meet in the near future?
Beard: We plan to distribute our products in several new states in the next 12 months.