Tucked away just three blocks from 25th Avenue in the seaside town of Gulfport, Mississippi, an unassuming one-story building is poised on the corner. A porch wraps around the front of the structure with an American flag denoting the main entryway. Just above the porch covering, simple black lettering in all capital letters reads “Chandeleur Brewing Company.” After the lettering, half of the hull of a white skiff gives patrons the first taste of what type of brewery they are about to walk into.
Founded by brothers Cain and Cammack (Cam) Roberds, Chandeleur has more of a mission than just serving up a happy hour delight.
Since its inception in December 2013, the brewery has dedicated its work to protecting ocean wildlife through profit contributions and awareness campaigns. Their beers are named after and dedicated to preserving a specific species or ocean location in the region.
Chandeleur Brewing Company (pronounced shan-duh-leer, the same as the light fixture) derives its name from a small row of barrier islands some fifty miles off the shores of Gulfport, uninhabited but whose diverse array of aquatic life is inescapably tethered to a changing environment.
Cain and Cam say their favorite spot has always been the Chandeleur Islands. When the pair decided to open their long-imagined brewery over eight years ago, they were sure it needed to pay homage to the offshore oasis, only accessible by boat (full hull required), just miles away.
The islands, which technically fall at the easternmost point of neighboring state Louisiana, are known for their breathtaking scenes, exceptional fishing, and over 30,000 acres of shoreline, inlets, and flats. They represent the outermost boundary of the Chandeleur Sound, which then flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The islands’ location makes them a crucial hub for not only aquatic life, but also a pivotal stop on bird migration routes.
Reportedly formed over 2,000 years ago by the flowing waters of what is now the Mississippi Delta and named by French a french explorer in 1700, the barrier islands and their species – both permanent and transient – have faced harsh degradation over the past three decades as a result of extreme weather and a changing climate. The 2004 record-breaking storm, Hurricane Katrina, had one of the most marked impacts on reducing the islands’ areas.
Fortunately, Chandeleur Island Brewing Company has dedicated itself to protecting the longevity of the islands. While it is unlikely that the brewery will single-handedly reverse environmental deterioration, its monetary and otherwise contributions could have a long-lasting effect.
“We tried to think of something different that we could tell a story with,” says co-founder Cain. “Every beer is named after something on [the Chandeleur Islands].” Some brews, like the Oceanic White Tip Wit, are representative of a specific animal, with a portion of the proceeds going to conservation efforts for that particular species. This is the proceeds model used for a variety of their “conservation beers,” whose donations go to the Mississippi Aquarium. Other offerings boast a more sentimental value and are tied to a different component of the islands. The Freemason Golden Ale, for example, gets its name from Cain and Cam’s favorite fishing spot amid the disparate landmass.
The brothers, who developed their love for home brewing in the 1990s and are Gulfport natives, have said that they are out on the water if they aren’t brewing. Their love affair with nautical life is woven into Chandeleur Brewing Company’s details too: a company logo showing a fish, waves, the barrier islands, and the recognizable lighthouse; dark-wood paneled decor reminiscent of genuine dive bars found in small coastal towns; and of course, the half of a skiff ornamented on the building’s facade.
The brothers’ commitment to preserving Chandeleur is shown through their philanthropic beer selection and their partnership with local institutions working towards the same goal. In addition to donations to the Mississippi Aquarium, the brewery works with Mississippi State University’s Marine Fisheries Ecology Program to help fund the Great Hammerhead Shark Tracking actions.
Education, conservation, and community are at the heart of the brewery, the Roberds brothers say. The combination of these three crucial initiatives, Cain and Cam hope, will “touch the hearts and open the minds” of loyal patrons to the role that all citizens have to be stewards of the world’s most valuable and pristine naturally occurring places.