Excursion: The Brewery Boom


The Natural State is experiencing a brewery boom that shows no signs of slowing down. With more than 15 taprooms from central to northwest Arkansas — and numerous local restaurants supporting them — there are plenty of reasons to drink locally when you belly up to the bar. Whether you prefer a dark, rich stout or a crisp, fruity cider, here are a few local brewers who give craft beer a good name … in Arkansas and beyond.

(Above Photo) Core Brewing & Distilling Co., photo by Beth Hall


Apple Blossom Brewing Co. is tucked into a commercial area in the northern part of Fayetteville, away from the hubbub of other, more “expected” places to find a great bar and good food, which is probably why it has done so well. Brewmaster Marcus Ward has 13 beers available, several of which are named after favorite northwest Arkansas landmarks. A kid-friendly, full menu makes Apple Blossom a great place to gather. Unlike some breweries, the tanks and processing area are on full display behind glass walls adjacent to the dining area. Notable: Be sure to check out the beautiful bar and hostess station constructed with Irish-made bar components salvaged from a pub in Cincinnati, Ohio. 1550 E. Zion Road, Suite 1, Fayetteville; (479) 287-4344, appleblossombrewing.com.

The folks at Bentonville Brewing Co. have the right idea with the claim: “We want to transform typical macro beer drinkers — and non-beer drinkers — into craft beer enthusiasts!” The company is a production craft microbrewery; their beer is only available in select bars and restaurants throughout Benton and Washington County. Their standard and specialty beers are also available in their tasting room. Notable: If you like live music, check out the full schedule on their website. 1000 SE Fifth St., Suite A, Bentonville; (479) 464-0150, bentonvillebrewing.com.

Bike Rack Brewing Co. was the first brewery to open in Bentonville. Located on the Razorback Regional Greenway, a couple of blocks from Wal-Mart headquarters and three blocks south of the town square, they created a laid back and comfortable taproom for everyone, whether they’ve been out on the trail or at work. The four American styles they have on tap are inspired by the nationally recognized, local mountain bike trails. Two taps are reserved for seasonal and specialty brews. They are a small-batch, nano-brewery that focuses not only on refinement of their standard styles, but also on collaborating with other breweries as well as the premier chefs in the area to make specialty craft batches for beer aficionados. Notable: Join their “TrALE BUILDERS” club to receive taproom discounts and access to exclusive events. 410 SW A St., Suite 6, Bentonville; (479) 268-6648, bikerackbrewing.com.

Owners of Blue Canoe Brewing Co., Laura Berryhill and Patrick Cowan, set up shop in the River Market area in December 2014. They welcome beer-lovers Thursday through Sunday in their cozy location to sample nine taps. Sip on Lazy River, a lighter brew perfect for craft beer newbies, or try the darker Whittler, which is a milk stout and the first of its kind brewed in Little Rock. If you are looking for a bite to eat, order from the limited but varied menu provided by Good Food by Ferneau. If you like what you taste, pick up a growler. 425 E. Third St., Little Rock, (501) 492-9378, bluecanoebrewco.com.

A newcomer on the Fayetteville brewery scene, Columbus House Brewery experienced a robust opening, selling their entire supply of refillable growlers within 2 ½ days of their grand opening in April. The owners — all graduates of or current University of Arkansas at Fayetteville students — created their brewery as a place for students to gather for study sessions and/or social gatherings away from their apartments or dorms. It is ideally located just off the Scull Creek Trail crossing near campus and features a great shaded patio, a perfect spot for a bike ride break as well. You’ll find four brews on tap at all times: a Golden Ale, Nut Brown Ale, an IPA and an Oatmeal Stout. Their current Belgian Dubbel and Hoppy Wheat are limited and will be replaced with other short runs in the future. Food isn’t served at the bar, but Natural State Sandwiches food truck provides a tasty menu to satisfy patrons. Notable: There is a biweekly yoga class at the brewery, with drink specials for class participants. 701 W. North St., Fayetteville; (479) 935-3752.

Tasting room at Rock Town / Photo by Janet Warlick

Tasting room at Rock Town / Photo by Janet Warlick

Phil Brandon from Rock Town / Photo by Janet Warlick

Phil Brandon from Rock Town / Photo by Janet Warlick

Founded in 2010 by Phil Brandon, Rock Town Distillery was the first legal distillery in Arkansas since Prohibition. Rock Town has flourished with the creation of many delicious, award-winning products that include a variety of bourbon whiskeys and a rye whiskey; special concoctions, such as Hickory Smoked Whiskey; Arkansas Lightning moonshine in Apple Pie, Peach, Blackberry Cobbler, Grape and Lightening Hot; Muscadine Shine; Rum; Brandon’s Gin and Vodka; Rock Town Vodka; and Barrel Reserve Gin. Be sure to check out the distillery’s newest offerings, the Apple Pie 100 Proof — which is sure to knock your apple-loving socks off — and their smooth 3 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey. 1216 E. Sixth St., Little Rock, (501) 907-5244; rocktowndistillery.com.

Brewmaster Jesse Core and his dedicated team at Core Brewing & Distilling Co. (top of page / photo by Beth Hall) have served up great beer since 2010, and the more than 20,000 fans they have racked up on the brewery’s Facebook page prove they are doing something right. With four locations in northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith, another in the works, a bar inside the club seating area at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, and their brews on tap at Northwest Arkansas Naturals Arvest Ballpark, the 12 beers they have on tap reach far beyond their roots in north Springdale. In 2013 Core became the first craft beer canned in Arkansas, and they now can four styles of beer, along with their six-packs of 12-ounce bottles. Notable: Core also has a distilling license; they’re one of only a handful of breweries in the country with dual licensing. Be on the lookout for their Hanging Judge Whiskey. 2470 Lowell Road, Springdale; (479) 372-4300, corebeer.com.

Damgoode Pies opened its newest location on Pres. Clinton Avenue in Little Rock’s River Market district in March, and, with it, boldly entered the brewing scene. They have offered 11 taps, including the Damgoode Pale Ale, which is an American style pale ale known for its easy drinkability and light, citrus notes. This “house beer” is a safe bet if you prefer light beers, but we also recommend the lighter lager Red Ribbon and the robust House Porter, which is full of chocolaty hints that pair perfectly with any dessert, or would happily accommodate if you prefer to drink your dessert. 500 Pres. Clinton Ave., Little Rock; (501) 664-2239, damgoodepies.com.

Diamond Bear Brewing Co. has set the example for large-scale craft beer production in Arkansas since it was founded in 2000. The company relocated to a site with an expanded brewery and restaurant in North Little Rock in June 2014. Here, the company continues to produce its year-round brews, including the award-winning Pale Ale; Southern Blonde; Presidential IPA; Two Term Imperial IPA; Paradise Porter; and Dogtown, with distribution in four states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. They hope to finalize distribution in Texas and Oklahoma in the near future. 600 N. Broadway St., North Little Rock; (501) 708-2739, diamondbear.com.

In mid-November or so, North Little Rock will be the site of another microbrewery. Flyway Brewery Co., named for the Mississippi Flyway bird migratory route, sold its first keg to the Little Rock restaurant South on Main in November 2013. The company, which produces Free Range Brown Ale, halted operations to expand and will re-open with a tasting room accommodating about 80 people. Co-owners Jess McMullen and Matthew Foster also have plans to offer food and to produce four year-round beers, which will be available on tap in restaurants in central Arkansas. 314 Maple St., North Little Rock; (501) 350-8868, flywaybrewing.com.

Located centrally in Fayetteville, the patio at Fossil Cove Brewing Co. is close enough to the Razorback Regional Greenway to make it another good option for a refreshing break while on a ride. They offer a wide selection of containers to take your brew with you as well, including six-packs of cans, a 32-ounce can called a crowler, and refillable glass growlers. They typically have nine to 11 beers on tap that range from year-round offerings to one, off-season creation. You can also visit their tasting room and enjoy locally made art featured on the walls. They have a limited menu of tacos and sliders and tasty side items you won’t find anywhere else. Notable: Baked avocado and cheesy polenta fries? Yes, please! 1946 N. Birch Ave., Fayetteville; (479) 445-6050, fossilcovebrewing.com.

Lost Forty, Little Rock / Photo by Ashlee Nobel

Lost Forty, Little Rock / Photo by Ashlee Nobel

Lost 40 Brewing Co., a brewery and restaurant by the folks who created Big Orange, ZAZA Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. and Local Lime, opened its doors in December 2014 to rave reviews. Everything from the atmosphere to the food, the craft brews to the marketing of this brand are on point. Visit their restaurant/bar to sample the many house specialties, including Bare Bones Pilsner, Lost Forty Pale Ale, Love Honey Bock and Rock Hound IPA. Many of these can be found in local restaurants and in grocery and liquor stores throughout central Arkansas, and all taps can be purchased by the growler at the brewery. Notable: The Hunter Oktoberfest — a seasonal brew released in August — is a limited-edition run with warm, spicy flavors and subtle hints of citrus. It’s a perfect brew for early fall. You’ll find it on tap and for purchase in the Lost Forty taproom, but only 150 cases of this brew will be canned. 501 Byrd St., Little Rock; (501) 319-7275.

On their website, you can read the cutest love story ever about the couple behind Ozark Beer Co., but cute stories only take you so far. You also have to make great beer and do some killer marketing to achieve success, which brewmaster and co-owner Andy Coates has done. Ozark Beer Co. has been featured by Southern Living, Paste Magazine, RateBeer.Com, Men’s Journal, and Thrillist, among other national and international media outlets. They proudly source the majority of their equipment and ingredients in the United States, and they hired a local artist to create distinctive illustrations that feature Arkansas wildlife on their cans. They have seven beers on tap — five year-round standards, one of which uses locally roasted Onyx coffee in the recipe — and a couple of rotating, seasonal brews. They’re open for growler fills and tastings seven days a week, with pints available on the weekends. Notable: Check out their Ozark Table Series, a rotating offering of low-alcohol beer meant for session drinking, or to accompany meals and gatherings. 1700 S. First St., Rogers; (479) 636-2337, ozarkbeercompany.com.

The folks at Refined Ale Brewery (RAB) of Little Rock stepped outside of the standard brewing box when they opened their doors in the Central High area of Little Rock in March 2009 with a batch of homemade beers and malt liquor. Refined Ale offers five products including RAB Beer, RAB Golden Light, RAB Malt Liquor, and their two new offerings: Arkansas Premium Craft Irish Stout and Arkansas Premium Craft IPA. You can buy these brews in bottles at the brewery, which is open to the public Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m.; 2221 S. Cedar St., Little Rock; (501) 280-0556.

If you are looking for bucolic scenery and great beer, this brewery can’t be beat. Located on 30 acres in eastern Springdale where the White River meets Beaver Lake, Saddlebock Brewery grows hops and other produce right across the parking lot from the brewery. Brewmaster Steve Rehbock is a transplant to northwest Arkansas. When he moved to the area from Chicago nine years ago, he had never brewed beer, but he’s made up for his lack of experience by throwing himself into his passion headfirst. There are outdoor activities available on the grounds of the brewery and plenty of decks for anyone who would rather sit and watch. Notable: They recently opened a small home on the property for rentals and have plans to build a couple more. 18244 Habberton Road, Springdale; (479) 419-9969, saddlebock.com.

Beer flight at Stone’s Throw, Little Rock / Photo by Janet Warlick

Beer flight at Stone’s Throw, Little Rock / Photo by Janet Warlick

Stone’s Throw Brewing — opened in August 2013 — is a quaint microbrewery in downtown Little Rock that features eight always-changing, homebrewed beers and ciders on tap, including Wallonia Belgian Dubbel, Caddo Kolsch, Anniversary Stout, Garage Built Old Ale, Petit Jean Pear and more. You can find these brews at Stone’s Throw and on tap in many restaurants in Pulaski County and the city of Conway. Though the taproom doesn’t have full food service, they are known for the regular rotation of delicious central Arkansas food trucks that set up shop beside the brewery; check their Facebook page to find the schedule. Grab a to-go meal, and bring it inside to enjoy with the brew of your choice. Stay awhile, and play the brewery’s variety of board and card games. 402 E. Ninth St., Little Rock; (501) 244-9154, stonesthrowbeer.com.

Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery makes its home in the historic Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park. The bathhouse sat vacant for 30 years before Rose Schweikhart took over in 2013. This past January — to much fanfare — she released her first brews. Today, Superior has 10 beers on tap, including their five flagship flavors: Hitchcock Spring Kolsch, named for the natural spring just outside the brewery; Wittington Park Hefweizen, so called for an area within the park; Superior Pale Ale; Golden Stout; and their Foul Play Stout. The other five are seasonal beers that Schweikhart and co-brewer Jimm Powell add based on which fruits are in season, holidays — they have a few for Oktoberfest — or to commemorate events, including staff members’ birthdays. Superior serves lunch and dinner daily, and the menu features a number of local ingredients. 329 Central Ave., Hot Springs; (501) 624-2337, superiorbathhouse.com.

Vino’s Brewpub was early on the brewing scene in Little Rock when they opened their downtown taproom in 1993. The restaurant serves pizza, salad and calzones and rotates through a series of delicious, well-crafted brews, including Six Bridges Cream Ale, a light, golden ale and our personal favorite; Firehouse Pale Ale, a medium-bodied amber ale; Lazyboy Stout, a dark ale with a rich, roasted flavor; Ouachita ESB, a zesty amber ale; Rainbow Wheat, which has a light, slightly fruity flavor; Pinnacle IPA, a traditional India Pale Ale with an intense hoppy flavor; and Quapaw Quarter Porter, boasting rich, chocolaty flavors and named for the historic neighborhood in Little Rock. Look for other seasonal brews rotating throughout the year; 923 W. Seventh St., Little Rock; (501) 375-8466, vinosbrewpub.com.

It’s a no-brainer that good beer pairs well with good pizza, so the folks at West Mountain Brewing Co. have taken that to heart and paired the two. Located on the south side of the historic Fayetteville square, right next door to Tiny Tim’s Pizza (owned by the same folks), this is a great place to hang out and do some people watching, especially on Saturday during the Fayetteville Farmers Market. The building and equipment sat idle for over a decade before being put back to use to do what it was intended to do: make beer drinkers happy. They only have a few beers on tap, but when you do something well, that’s enough; 21 W. Mountain St., Fayetteville; (479) 442-9090.

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