by David Koon
I just got off the phone with Rose Cranson, owner and president of Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery, a company which was officially known as Vapor Valley Spirits until earlier this week, when they officially signed a lease with the National Parks Service that will allow them to renovate and retrofit the old Superior Bathhouse into a microbrewery and beer tasting room. The Superior is the bathhouse closest to the Arlington Hotel on Bathhouse Row.
Plans call for a small-batch brewery, a beer-only bar that will serve both Superior suds and those of Arkansas breweries, and a small restaurant serving light snacks that pair well with Liquid Bread. They also plan to make whiskey, brandy and rum on site using local or regionally-sourced ingredients.
Cranson is an Illinois native who moved to Hot Springs two years ago with her husband Todd, when he was hired as the director of the Hot Springs Music Festival. Todd Cranson will be head brewer and distiller at Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery. Long-time hobby brewers, they plan on using the thermal springs that once supplied water for the baths to brew beer. Rose Cranson said the water coming into the building at over 140 degrees will save energy, and contribute to their goal of being as sustainable and locally-sourced as possible.
Beer will be brewed in small, 210-gallon batches. They plan on selling mostly ales, with some stouts, their take on a Belgian saison and others in what Cranson called "the American craft tradition." Cranson said their recipes will rotate seasonally to match the weather. Though they will bottle some special recipes and offer small kegs at the brewery, Cranson said most Superior beers will only be available for sale on tap at the bathhouse. They plan on distributing their spirits to local liquor stores and bars.
Their equipment is being fabricated by a company in Maine as we speak, and Cranson said installation and troubleshooting will be done this summer. They plan on opening the brewery this fall, though Cranson said the beer tasting room will open and begin selling local craft beers before they begin brewing their own.