- BEER, BEER EVERYWHERE: And many drops to drink, at the Craft Beer Festival.
Beer lovers, rejoice. The party of the year is just around the corner. The Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival returns to the Argenta Plaza (Sixth and Main streets in North Little Rock) on Friday, Oct. 27. The festival, which benefits the Argenta Arts District, has sold out in the past, so you'd be wise to pause reading this and go to centralarkansastickets.com and buy your tickets in advance ($35, $40 at the door). The festival will serve up samples of more than 200 beers from more than 50 local, regional and national breweries.
There will also be eats, included in the ticket price, from a dozen restaurants: Cregeen's, Arkansas Ale House, Old Chicago Pizza (North Little Rock and Conway), Skinny J's, Doe's Eat Place, Damgoode Pies, Vino's, Flyway Brewing, Southern Table, Burger 21, Santo Coyote and Whole Hog NLR. Plus, sponsor Edwards Food Giant, aka "the meat people," will be grilling up bratwursts. Bluegrass bands The Creek Rocks and Beste & Clarke will perform.
The event runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., rain or shine. Read on for a preview of the participating breweries and what they'll be pouring.
BIKE RACK BREWING CO. Local beer nerds are sure to be swarming to this tent to sample what star Arkansas brewer Josiah Moody has been doing at Bike Rack since he joined the Bentonville brewery in February. The former Vino's and Damgoode Pies brewer, who also has his own Moody Brews label, came to Bike Rack amid a massive expansion in May that included a new brewery and taproom in a former Tyson plant at 801 S.E. Eighth St. The new brewery allows Moody and Co. to produce in a day what the setup in the original — and still open — location along the Razorback Regional Greenway allowed them to make in a month. Bike Rack will be pouring its Epic Trail Amber Ale, Slaughter Pen IPA and Urban Trail Golden Ale at the festival.
BLUE CANOE Come by the Blue Canoe table for some brew and to hear about the Little Rock beer maker's massive expansion plans. Before October is out, the nearly 3-year-old brewery plans to move its home base to 1637 E. 15th St., a 20,000-square-foot building that used to house the old PC Hardware. The Blue Canoe taproom at 425 E. Third St. will remain open. Blue Canoe East will have pool, shuffleboard and foosball tables, video games, Baggo, horseshoes and darts. Get more details while you sample Blue Canoe's Razorback Rye, Whoo Brew and more.
BUFFALO BREWING CO. The Water Buffalo sells supplies to hobby brewers and winemakers, gardeners, cheese makers and soda makers. Last year, owner Nolen Buffalo (real name) opened Buffalo Brewing Co., a microbrewery and taproom in the back of the store. There you can find beer from local breweries, expert home brewers and Buffalo Brewing Co. Much of what the
CORE BREWING CO. The Springdale brewery's novel expansion plan has been to put English-style public houses, often with beer and little else on the menu, throughout Arkansas just about as prolifically as Starbucks. They're in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Springdale and North Little Rock (and there might be more; it's hard to keep track). For the craft beer festival, head brewer and owner Jesse Core is sending Behemoth Pilsner, Hazelnut Brown, Toasted Coconut Brown and more.
DAMGOODE BREWING Damgoode's
DIAMOND BEAR Arkansas's first production brewery — founded 17 years ago — has embraced one of the trends sweeping through the industry: It's now canning four of its six year-round brews — Pale Ale, Presidential IPA, Southern Blonde and Strawberry Blonde. Meanwhile, the brewery continues to roll out its Hibernation Series of barrel-aged beers. Maybe we'll be lucky enough to get a taste at the fest. Guaranteed to be there are the IPA, Pale Ale, Rocktoberfest, Southern Blonde, Strawberry Blonde and Two Term.
FLYWAY BREWING Can we all agree that many, maybe even most, beer names are bad? In that spirit, North Little Rock's Flyway Brewing deserves extra credit for a cohesive name scheme. Its name is inspired by the Mississippi Flyway, the migration route that takes birds over Arkansas to and from Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, and accordingly all of its year-round beers have migration-themed names: Bluewing Blueberry Wheat, Early Bird IPA, Free Range Brown Ale, Migrate Pale Ale and Shadowhands Stout. At the fest, the brewery will be pouring all those beers, along with its Coffee Cake Stout and Magdalene Tripel.
LOST FORTY BREWING After four expansions since opening in late 2014, Arkansas's largest brewery by volume expects to produce 15,000 barrels of beer by the end of the year. We expect the expansions will continue. The Lost Forty taproom is constantly packed; the beer is prominently displayed in retail stores everywhere. The experts have given the brewery acclaim, too. In October, the judges at the Great American Beer Festival, the largest commercial beer competition in the world, awarded Lost Forty's new-this-year Logger Rita Vienna Lager a silver medal in the Vienna lager category. It's the first GABF medal for an Arkansas brewery since 2008. Lost Forty didn't know what it would be pouring at the festival at press time, but considering it's holding a big launch party for its barrel-aged Nighty Night Imperial Stout on Oct. 21, here's hoping there'll be some left over.
OZARK BEER CO. After moving its brewing operation late last year from the outskirts of Rogers to a historic building on the square (109 N. Arkansas), Ozark Beer Co. has kept growing in 2017. This summer, it began canning its Ozark IPA and distributing it — along with cans of American Pale Ale, Belgian Golden and Cream Stout — throughout Northwest and Central Arkansas. The brewery also collaborated with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on 61 Eyes California Pale Ale, a beer inspired by a recipe Crystal Bridges found among famed architect, inventor and thinker Buckminster Fuller's papers. The beer uses Citra hops that have been cryogenically frozen on the vine, which makes them much more potent than the dry hops brewers typically use. It's a process that could revolutionize brewing, Marty Shutter, director of marketing at Ozark, said. If you know the secret handshake, Shutter might let you try some 61 Eyes and maybe, just maybe, a sip of the much-coveted Bourbon Double Cream Stout (or BDCS), a 10.1 alcohol-by-volume cream stout that ages over the winter in bourbon barrels. The American Pale Ale, Belgian Golden, Cream Stout and IPA will be in full supply.
REBEL KETTLE BREWING CO. Rebel Kettle has a lot going for it: a brew-crew led by
STONE'S THROW BREWING Little Rock's
SUPERIOR BATHHOUSE BREWERY The first brewery to open in a national park and perhaps the only brewery in the world to use hot spring-fed water to make beer, Superior has become one of downtown Hot Springs' must-visit attractions. With massive windows across the front and a large front porch, it's an ideal spot to people-watch the tourists parading down Bathhouse Row. Open with tasty food and beer from other beer makers since 2013, brewer/owner Rose Schweikhart couldn't begin brewing her own beer until 2015 because of the lengthy federal permitting process. Come see why it was worth the wait and see if her beer cures what ails you. It will include the DeSoto Golden Stout, Fouke-ness Monster and Udder Chaos IPA at the fest.
VINO'S The state's oldest continually operating brewery, Vino's continues to brew reliably delicious beer. Is there a more refreshingly delicious pale ale in Arkansas than Vino's Firehouse Pale? Owner Henry Lee has kept the winning formula largely the same for 27 years: pizza and calzones, beer and live music. We couldn't get info on what Vino's plans to pour at the fest by press time.
ABITA BREWING CO. Abita's brews are made with unfiltered, untreated water from an artesian well in the piney woods of Abita Springs, La., just 30 miles north of the Big Easy. Rigorous environmental preservation standards and a tradition of donating to causes like disaster recovery make it clear that care — both for the Earth and for fellow man — is fundamental to the company's ethos. Taste two of Abita's year-round brews, Andygator and Purple Haze, or try a limited release or seasonal beer, like the Peach Lager, from the Harvest series.
ANTHEM BREWING CO. The brewers at Oklahoma City's Anthem Brewing Co. are passionate about bringing joy to people's lives via their taste buds. They see their menu of distinctive brews that intermingle the
BOULEVARD BREWING CO. Boulevard Brewing Co. is a household name, with 600,000 barrels rolling out each year. Among the fresh and distinctively flavored products available at the festival will be Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale — a grapefruit-forward ale with a peppery, dry finish — and three examples of the brewery's Rye-on-Rye series, the creation of which begins with a rich, tawny rye ale that is then mellowed in the warmth of charred oak rye whiskey casks: Rye-on-Rye 2016, Rye-on-Rye Classic Sazerac and Rye on Rye on Rye, which is aged twice.
COOP ALE WORKS Hailing from Oklahoma City, COOP Ale Works once again brings a lineup that packs a major
DESTIHL BREWERY Destihl Brewery knows how to follow a curious hunch and end up with a distinctive and flavorful new product — lots of them. With a beer list as long as it has,
GHOST RIVER BREWING CO. Memphis brewery Ghost River Brewing takes its name from a section of the Wolf River that's about 50 miles east of the city, where the river widens into a large, still opening; the surface looks placid, but a powerful current cuts a channel beneath — the Ghost River. In the same way, this brewery's attention to detail and its vigilance in creating a consistent product are unseen forces for the many who enjoy the brews. Available to taste will be the Riverbank Red, Ghost River Gold, Grindhouse Cream Ale and the 1887 IPA.
GOLDCREST BREWING CO. In 2015 a beer was reintroduced to the world when Little Rock resident Kenn Flemmons recovered the recipe for "The Original Memphis Beer," Goldcrest 51, which hadn't been produced since
GREAT RAFT BREWING Shreveport's Great Raft Brewing prides itself on creating "real" and unpretentious beers that play well with the spicy and bold culinary culture of the South. It'll be pouring Southern Drawl Pilsner, a mild, traditional session lager; Commotion Pale Ale, a hop-forward, slightly sweet pale with a pleasant finish; Reasonably Corrupt Black Lager, a black lager with dark malt sweetness; Buffalo Trace Barrel-aged Creature of Habit, a coffee brown aged in Bourbon barrels; and the Grace and Grit IPA, which has tropical aromas and bitterness balanced by honey malt.
INDEPENDENCE BREWING CO. Austin's own Independence Brewing Co. presents a lineup of its indie-spirited, smooth,
LAZY MAGNOLIA Lazy Magnolia is Mississippi's first packaging brewery since prohibition was enacted in 1907. This year, it'll be pouring at least one beer, its signature brew: Southern Pecan. The brewers claim that it's the first beer in the world to be made with whole, roasted pecans. Full of unique character but easy-drinking, its recipe had to be perfected to accommodate nut oil without losing any of the
MOTHER'S BREWING CO. Mother's Brewing Co. is, in the brewers' own words, "Springfield's bottoms-upping, five-slapping, wise-cracking,
PINEY RIVER BREWING CO. Ozark homebrewers-turned-pros Joleen and Brian Durham are the hearts and minds behind Piney River Brewing Co. From their 80-acre farm, brewery and taproom "BARn" in Bucyrus, Mo., they are bringing a few of their best-loved brews for all to taste. Float Trip is a blonde ale that took home the gold in the "Best American Wheat Beer" category of the 2017 U.S. Open Beer Championship. Black Walnut Wheat is an American-style wheat with the aroma and finish of black walnuts, and at the 2017
PRAIRIE ARTISAN ALES Playful and eccentric brews are the order of the day, every day, at Prairie Artisan Ales in Krebs, Okla., and they're bringing the fun to the festival this year with an adventurous beer list. Apricot Funk is a sour ale aged on apricots that achieves just the right tartness level; Birthday Bomb! is a new iteration of the brewery's popular Prairie Bomb! (a beer that some might categorize closer to dessert than beverage); Flare is a
SAINT LOUIS BREWERY (SCHLAFLY BEER) As the largest locally owned, independent brewery in Missouri, the Saint Louis Brewery is better known for the name of its flagship beers, Schlafly. It's been a cornerstone of the brand to focus locally — within a 300-mile radius — and, lucky for us, Arkansas fits in that area. Served up at the Schlafly tent will be the Pumpkin Ale — perfect for this season — which tastes like a slice of pumpkin pie; Kölsch, a golden ale that's available year-round; and the White Lager, which was originally a seasonal offering but satisfied so many that it has been upgraded to full-time status.
SHINER BEER This family of Texas beers is iconic for the state, and since Shiner Beer got its start in 1909 every drop has been brewed in a small-town brewery with 6 million cases in distribution nationwide. Shiner Bock is the MVP, an American-style dark lager, but also on the tasting table will be Shiner Light; Shiner Cheer, a holiday
SWEETWATER BREWING CO. Surely you've been seeing SweetWater Brewing Co. everywhere since its distribution expanded, but if you haven't yet had an opportunity to taste the Atlanta brews, the festival is your chance. Triple Tail is a seasonal offering that approaches the IPA from a tropical perspective; Goin' Coastal takes a slightly different tack, as an IPA that packs a pineapple punch; Hop Hash Easy IPA is the IPA lover's IPA — fruit forward and with what the brewers call a "one-of-a-kind chewy, gooey, resiny mouthfeel"; and Blue is a blueberry wheat that is subtle and fresh.
- GET AHEAD: Of the festival crowd by buying tickets before they're sold out.
TIN ROOF BREWING CO. Baton Rouge's Tin Roof Brewing Co. has a similar origin story to so many of the South's exceptional breweries: None of the beer close to home satisfied the owners' tastes, so they made their own. Tin Roof will be pouring two
WISEACRE BREWING CO. Memphis is home to Wiseacre Brewing Co., which will be represented by five of its brews. Named
ALPINE BEER CO. Hoppiness equals happiness at Alpine Beer Co., a small-town brewery tucked into the foothills of the mountains just outside of San Diego. It'll be represented by Windows Up, an American IPA chock-full of Citra and Mosaic hops.
BALLAST POINT BREWING CO. The story of Ballast Point Brewing Co. begins in 1996 as a local San Diego beer making hobby shop called Home Brew Mart, where building a brewery out back set two friends' dreams in motion. Since then, the brand has seen unchecked growth, expanding into larger, newer facilities, though the original Home Brew Mart still stands and serves as a tasting room for Ballast Point beers. At the festival, Ballast Point will serve three IPAs, a blonde and a sea monster (no, this isn't a "walk into a bar" joke). In the tradition of West Coast
BALL'S BREWERY Eccentricity and authenticity have been at the root of Bell's Brewery right from the start. Selling beer in Michigan since 1985, Bell's Amber Ale is the backbone of the brand — toasted sugar and malt balances with herbal and citrus hop aromas, all with a crisp, bitter finish. Two-Hearted is a smooth and easy IPA with pine and grapefruit notes. Before you taste the two signature stouts, Kalamazoo and Cherry, try the robust Porter to bridge the gap.
BRECKENRIDGE BREWERY Skiing isn't the only game in town in Breckenridge, Colo.; there's plenty of drinking to be done, too. Though the production capacity of the original brewery has long since been outstripped by demand, the beer is still served there, at altitude. The newest Breckenridge facility, purchased in 2015, is a 12-acre, "farm-inspired campus" in Littleton. Not only is this the site of the 100-barrel brewhouse; it's a public attraction, complete with restaurants, bocce ball courts, wraparound porches and a majestic view of the Rockies. Creating a leisure paradise for beer lovers proves the brand's focus on customer experience. At the festival, the brewery will be pouring Vanilla Porter, Nitro Vanilla Porter — the addition of nitrogen creates a more velvety
CALDERA BREWING CO. Though canning — rather than bottling — is now commonplace among craft breweries, Caldera has been micro-canning since 2005, making it the first craft brewery on the West Coast to brew and can its own beer. More important than the can, however, is what's inside. Caldera will pour Lawnmower Lager for drinkers who like it nice and easy; IPA, for those who don't mind a little hop aggression; and Mogli, a chocolate, bourbon, oak-aged Imperial Porter, the creation of which was inspired by the loss of one of
CARSON'S BREWERY Carson's Brewery, in Indiana, speaks craft beer in an entirely different language and appeals to a different drinker. Taste the award-winning beers it will have on offer, and find out if you like your beer with a sharper edge. Git-R-Done cream ale — a beer
CASCADE BREWING This Portland, Ore., outfit is leading the charge in the "sour beer revolution." Cascade will be serving the same four ultra-premium, oak barrel-aged, lactic-fermented Northwest sour ales that it presented at last year's festival: Apricot, Blueberry, Kriek (aged with cherries) and Strawberry, which is also aged with vanilla beans.
CLOWN SHOES BEER The unpretentious vision of Clown Shoes Beer is to be "free and a little crazy." What that translates to in the beer is an ethic of play and creativity, recovering styles of beer that had fallen from
ELYSIAN BREWING Elysian Brewing operates four restaurants and a full-production brewery in Seattle. With that much territory, this is a beer maker with some crowds to please; thus its reputation for creating brews that are classics, as well as more experimental ones. The brew it's selected to share at the festival is called Space Dust; it's an IPA, with what the brewers call "pure
FOUNDERS BREWING CO. Founders Brewing Co. attributes its success — six World Beer Cup medals, four European Beer Star medals and three Great American Beer Festival medals — to its refusal to play to the middle and try to please the masses. The brewery's passion is making beer for people who have a passion for beer: people like them. Try the All Day IPA, the Dirty Bastard and the Porter from the year-round selection, or take Mosaic Promise for a spin, an elegant golden ale showcasing only two ingredients: Mosaic hops and Golden Promise malt. If you're a coffee lover, the Breakfast Stout
GOOSE ISLAND Since 2011, Goose Island has been owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, yet it has never wavered in product quality or innovation. It still earns the respect it garnered among craft beer drinkers. The tasting list is enticing and runs the gamut of taste profiles. 312 Urban Wheat and Goode IPA will be poured alongside vintage ales Lolita, Halia, Sofie and Gillian. Bourbon County Stout poses a striking contrast and will have people lined up.
GREEN FLASH BREWING CO. San Diego mainstay Green Flash Brewing Co. approaches beer making and business with the same ingenuity — from partnerships with other breweries (like Alpine Beer Co., see above) to pushing the boundaries of
KONA BREWING CO. Kona Brewing Co. made its debut in Hawaii in 1995 with Pacific Golden Ale (now called Big Wave Golden Ale) and Fire Rock Pale Ale. Longboard Island Lager was added to the beer list three years later. Approximately 10 other styles of beer are brewed and served at the brewery's pubs. Today, Kona's three mainstay beers are distributed throughout Hawaii, and it is the top-selling craft beer in the islands. Longboard Island Lager and Big Wave Golden Ale — both of which are distributed throughout the continental U.S. — are up for tasting at the festival.
LAGUNITAS BREWING CO. Lagunitas Brewing Co. has multiple hubs, in California, Washington and Illinois, a structure that the brewer relates as a way to unify the "beer-loving diaspora" from coast to coast. Lagunitas returns to the festival this year with a tried-and-true lineup, including its ever-popular IPA; a reinvented pale ale, unfiltered and fresh-hopped, called Born Yesterday; American strong ale, Brown Shugga; and hop-forward 12th of Never.
LEFT COAST BREWING CO. Family-owned-and-operated Left Coast Brewing Co. is located in San Clemente, Calif. The independent brewery started in 2004 and since then has expanded into more than 25 states and seven countries. Demand is driving its growth, with awards and recognitions aplenty, and the 3,500-barrel operation is now surpassing 11,000 barrels a year. Don't miss the chance to taste Hop Juice, a triple IPA; Asylum, a Belgian-style tripel ale; and VooDoo, an American stout.
NEW BELGIUM BREWING CO. New Belgium Brewing Co. began operations in a tiny Fort Collins, Colo., basement in 1991. Today, the third-largest craft brewer in the U.S., New Belgium produces seven beers year-round and releases seasonal brews throughout the year. Taste the amber ale the maker is best-known for, Fat Tire, along with its reincarnation as Fat Tire Belgian White. Also try Voodoo Ranger IPA; Accumulation, a white IPA; and
NORTH COAST BREWING CO. In 1988, North Coast Brewing Co. was at the forefront of the craft beer movement. Between then and now, the California brewery's product has been recognized with 110 national and international beer awards. At the festival, it'll be pouring Old Rasputin Russian imperial stout, Brother Thelonious Belgian-style abbey ale, Scrimshaw pilsner, Puck Petit Saison and Pranqster Belgian-style golden ale.
OSKAR BLUES BREWERY Now a three-site operation, Oskar Blues Brewery began in a basement in Longmont, Colo. The brewer also claims the title of "original craft brew in a can," a choice that it says keeps beer fresher by protecting it from light, makes it more safely portable, and is widely recyclable. For festival goers they'll be serving up Dale's Pale Ale — the brewery's linchpin — Mama's Little Yella Pils, Pinner Throwback IPA, Old Chub Scotch Ale and Death by Coconut Irish porter.
SAMUEL ADAMS (BOSTON BEER CO.) Samuel Adams beer made an auspicious start in
SHOCKTOP Another brewery that operates within the Anheuser-Busch InBev framework, Shock Top predominately creates citrus-centric
SIERRA NEVADA BREWING CO. A true craft beer forerunner, Sierra Nevada helped define what craft beer making in America could become. Now a much larger operation, the brewery is still known for consistency and
SIXPOINT BREWERY Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery cites "mad science" as its guiding philosophy, claiming that the madness and the science are both necessary for making superior beer. They operated as a draft-only brewery in Red Hook until 2010, when they began canning and distributing further afield and have been tweaking, improving and releasing new formulations ever since. Early this summer, Sixpoint began releasing all of its ales raw and unfiltered, while also incorporating new building block ingredients. The two brews it's serving up this year are Resin double IPA and Sweet Action blonde.
SQUATTERS CRAFT BEERS Last year, Salt Lake City restaurant group and brewery outfit Squatters Craft Beers came to the festival as a guest of Wasatch Brewery, and it's back again this year, this time serving Off Duty IPA, Hop Rising double IPA, Outer Darkness and Full Suspension Pale Ale.
STONE BREWING When Beer Advocate names your brewery the "All-time Top Brewery on Planet Earth" not once, but twice, it's time to add that blurb to your resume. Stone Brewing has been there, and its growth seems unstoppable. It comes to Little Rock with five noteworthy brews to pour: the IPA, the Delicious IPA, the Go To IPA, Ripper pale ale and Arrogant Bastard, a Bourbon barrel-aged ale.
TALLGRASS BREWING CO. Former geologist Jeff Gill got up the nerve to leave his career and start Tallgrass Brewing, when, one night over dinner, his wife asked him what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Brewing was his answer, and as of
VICTORY BREWING CO. Pennsylvania microbrewery Victory Brewing Co. was founded in 1996 by childhood friends who first met on a school bus in 1973. Victory now serves craft beer enthusiasts in 29 states dynamic beers that meld European training with the spirit of free thinking and innovation. Victory brews that will be poured are Dirtwolf Double IPA, Golden Monkey Belgian Tripel, Prima Pils and Sour Monkey Sour Brettanomyces Tripel.
WASATCH BREWERY In 1986, Greg Schirf opened the first Utah brewery in the resort destination of Park City, and he named the operation for the Wasatch Mountains, east of Salt Lake City. In July 1989, Schirf opened the first brewpub in Utah at the top of historic Main Street in Park City. Schirf, in fact, proposed the bill to the Utah Legislature in 1988 to legalize the operation of brewpubs in the state, of which there are now 12. The beers the Park City brewery plans to pour at the fest include Devastator Double Bock, Ghost Rider White IPA, Polygamy Nitro Porter, Evolution Amber and Apricot Hefe.
HIRTER BIER Austrian beer maker Hirter Bier is presenting two beers for your enjoyment: Privat Pils, which is brewed with ancient Bohemian recipes with an extended
STIEGL Another Austrian beer maker with a rich history, Stiegl, will be serving its popular Grapefruit Radler, Zitron-Lemon Radler, Goldbrau and Pils.