Bike Rack Brewing touches off the Bentonville beer explosion | Rock Candy

Bike Rack Brewing touches off the Bentonville beer explosion

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SLICK AND CLASSY: Hard wood and shiny metal add a homey feel to Bike Rack's taproom. - MICHAEL ROBERTS
  • Michael Roberts
  • SLICK AND CLASSY: Hard wood and shiny metal add a homey feel to Bike Rack's taproom.
I don't always make the best plans.

You see, it was 2 p.m. and I was walking around Bentonville, taking in the strange juxtaposition of small town features like a confederate soldier monument vs. the fact that Dreamworks SKG has an office basically right across the road. It's a beautiful city, and a well-planned one.

But it's first brewpub, Bike Rack Brewing, didn't open until 5 p.m., something I didn't realize until I trekked down to the place and saw it locked up.

At 5 p.m., I was supposed to be in Fayetteville for another appointment. I was heartbroken.

But I figured I'd see if anybody was around just in case somebody wanted to let an annoying reporter in for a few questions, so I gave the place a ring. After a few seconds of being sure that I was just out of luck, Brewmaster Joe Zucca picked up the phone. 

"Where are you?" he asked.

"I'm actually outside the door," I answered, trying to sound conversational yet totally aware of how much that made me sound like a serial killer. If Zucca thought anything like that, he didn't mention it. He came and let me in. And there I was, standing in the taproom of a brewery located in a town that had been dry just a year before. 

The interior of the small brewery is very well-done, with lots of rough-hewn wood along the walls and bar that looks like a stone wall. There's a pizza joint right next door, and Zucca told me that folks bring pizza over all the time to enjoy with their beer. That's the sort of symbiotic relationship that keeps small brewpubs open without increasing their overhead costs, and a good sign that Bike Rack is in it for the long haul.

For right now, the brewery is operating with a 3.2 barrel system, which in terms of commercial brewing is minuscule. But Zucca, whose brewing career includes a stint with Boulevard Brewing in St. Louis, says that there's room for expansion — and that he's been able to take a lot of the techniques he learned on a large scale at Boulevard and apply them to Bike Rack's brews.

Since the bar wasn't open, I didn't get the whole experience, but Zucca did pour me a swallow of Bike Rack's IPA to taste — and it was good stuff, very high quality beer. 

In addition to selling beer at the taproom, Bike Rack's beer is also available at Tusk and Trotter, the Press Room, Brewski's, Brick Street, and the aforementioned pizza place, Pedlar's. There are other breweries slated to join the Bentonville area in 2015, as well as at least 15 new restaurants. It's an area that is growing and thriving — and my prediction is that Bike Rack's tasty brews are going to outgrow that 3.2 barrel system sooner rather than later.




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