Bayou Beer Society nets tax-exempt IRS status

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When members of the Bayou Beer Society boast their 501 c 3 tax exempt status as an educational foundation, lots of people give them a wink and a nod.

But for the members of the club, it’s a way to give back to the community while enjoying the fruits of their passion.

“We get a lot of jokes, but that’s OK,” said club board member Charles Gaiennie. “We go out of our way to handle it responsibility in a way that benefits the community. It’s a testament to how we’re structured and how we conduct ourselves that we’re able to get that designation.”

The Bayou Beer Society donated about $5,000 to the homeless veterans’ shelter in Houma last year and was classified as a non-profit organization by the IRS earlier this summer.

“There was an identifiable segment of the community that’s interested in this,” Gaiennie said. “It was something that was demonstrated as being a growing interest. We were very meticulous in terms of getting all of our business records in order and our accounting is in order and everything as it should be. We follow the rules very carefully.”

The group, which began is the garages of founders Jim Barrett and Joel Ohmer as merely a place to enjoy craft beer, has grown to having roughly 200 associate members.

“It started just like a crawfish boil, just them getting together, and, ‘Hey have you tried this? Hey have you tried that?’ And then they both learned home brewing, and they began to brew their own batches of beer. And then because of that they began attending other festivals, and in typical south Louisiana style they just kinda looked at each other and said, ‘Gee, we can do this.’ So they said, ‘Why don’t we form a Bayou Beer Society?’”

That’s when Gaiennie and Willie Rollins joined the fun and came together to form the four-member board. The group periodically holds events where members can sample small amounts of craft beers and train their noses and pallets to pick up the different nuances of the beers.

“It’s all about enjoying the beer and the experience, and I always wanna make the distinction it’s not about drinking,” Gaiennie said. “Where did it come from? Where is it made? All those things are important to you, so it’s more than just raising a glass. Nobody walks away teetering or tottering. Everybody’s just enjoying it. We’re just discussing it and all the things that go along with it.”

The society even teaches its members about how beer has shaped the society in which we live.

“It is said that the reason the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock is cause they were out of beer, and they needed to land and brew some more. So their beer supply was exhausted, and that’s why they pulled in at that particular spot. Benjamin Franklin actually wrote components of the Declaration of Independence in a beer tavern in Boston. Beer is a very historically significant beverage for lots of reasons. The monks brew beer and still do today. The point is there’s a lot of really interesting things that are associated with beer, and you can brew beer from pretty much anything – any kind of grain at all.”

But the education and satisfaction of consuming a well-crafted beer with friends is only part of what the Bayou Beer Society is all about. The other part is giving back to the community

Right now, the group is focusing on its crown jewel event of the year – the second annual Bayou Beer Festival which will take place Nov. 15 at Southdown Plantation.

With at least twice as many beers as last year, the organization hopes to raise even more money for local veterans this time around.

“It’s all about the community, Gaiennie said. “We’re a non-profit society, so our intent besides the enjoyment and the education about beer is to give back to the community. We’re all from here. This is home. We want the community to be involved, but we also want to give back to the community with what we do.”

The society always welcomes more members. Those who join in the near future would be asked to volunteer to help plan and run the Bayou Beer Festival, and they would be invited to the group’s next beer tasting event in September.

Those interested in joining the group can visit the organization’s website, and anyone interested in attending the Bayou Beer Fest can visit General admission tickets are $35, designated driver tickets are $15, and you do not have to be a member of the club to attend the festival.

“[The festival] is fun. It’s a great reason to come to Houma, to Terrebonne Parish,” Gaiennie said. “Last year the weather was beautiful and it’ll be beautiful again this year. It’s a really nice time to be here and people come, they stay in the hotels, they eat in our restaurants, they got to know us more and of course Southdown is a beautiful place. The home and the grounds are just so nice.”

Bayou Beer Society founders and board members (from left) Willie Rollins, Joel Ohmer, Jim Barrett and Charles Gaiennie have enjoyed the growth of their non-profit, tax-exempt club.