Clear your calendar, beer lovers. The party of the year is just around the corner. The Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival returns to North Little Rock on Friday, Oct. 25, 6-9 p.m. 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 ($25 as opposed to $40 at the door).
Because the Argenta Plaza is in the final stages of construction, the festival will be in a new spot this year: It’ll be on the expansive grounds of Diamond Bear Brewing (600 N. Broadway St.).
DJ extraordinaire Mike Poe, who knows how to start a party, will be kickin’ out the jams. Make sure you check out special tents from the Fayetteville Ale Trail, the North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is promoting its Locally Labeled Passport Program.
There will also be eats for purchase from the Riceland Mobile Cafe, Delta Biscuit Co., The Crepe Coop and more. The event runs rain or shine. Read on for a preview of the participating breweries and what they’ll be pouring.
BLACK APPLE CROSSING
This Springdale-based cidery, founded in 2014, produces a range of dry, semi-sweet and hoppy varieties of hard cider using locally and regionally grown ingredients. Along with being the only full-time hard cider maker in the state, it’s one of only a handful in the country that produces cider without using sulfites or other preservatives. Newly available on tap in Little Rock, you can also find it in cans in North and Northwest Arkansas.
BIKE RACK BREWING CO.
Billing itself as “Bentonville’s first brewery,” this growing operation now has three locations — a small-batch brewery and taproom just off the Razorback Regional Greenway in Bentonville’s Arts District, a large production brewery and taproom in Bentonville’s 8th Street Market and a beer and coffee bar in downtown Springdale. You can find its brews in cans in Central Arkansas.
DIAMOND BEAR BREWING CO.
Founded 18 years ago, Arkansas’s first production brewery — and this year’s Craft Beer Fest host — is named for two former nicknames for The Natural State: the “Bear State” and the “Diamond State.” Its brewhouse in North Little Rock is also home to the delicious Ale House restaurant.
FLYWAY BREWING CO.
This Argenta-based brewery turns out year-round brews with titles that follow the brewery’s namesake: the Mississippi Flyway, the large migration route that takes birds over Arkansas to and from Canada and the Gulf of Mexico. Look out for year-rounders, such as the hugely popular Bluewing Berry Wheat, Early Bird IPA, Honeybird Blonde Ale, Peregrine Pale Ale and Free Range Brown Ale.
LOST FORTY BREWING
Arkansas’s largest brewery by volume, Lost Forty has become a local household name, with its brews served and advertised in restaurants and retail stores everywhere. It releases a dizzying number of seasonal and specialty brews, some of which it’s bound to have ready for sampling at the fest.
NEW PROVINCE BREWING CO.
Derek and Megan McEnroe founded New Province Brewing Co. in 2014, after Benton County voted to go wet in 2012. Their taproom and brewery in Rogers has a regular weekly event schedule that includes Wednesday trivia night, a 3-7 p.m. Thursday night happy hour and free brewery tours on Saturdays.
This nano-brewery in Norfork (Baxter County) opened for business in 2018 and uses local, organic and wild ingredients in its brews. Its small taproom near the White River is open Thursday through Monday.
OZARK BEER CO.
Since moving in late 2016 to its space in a historic building on the square in Rogers, Ozark has continued to expand the reach of its distribution, and four of its year-round canned beers can be found all over Northwest and Central Arkansas. Marty Shutter, marketing director, has said its motto — “Hard Work, Honest Beer” — translates in its efforts to keep prices accessible. “We keep our team small, our workload high and our prices low, hoping to dispel the notion that world-class beer can’t come at working-class prices,” he said.
REBEL KETTLE BREWING CO.
We love that Rebel Kettle brewers will do things like toss 100 Community Bakery glazed donuts and locally roasted Columbian coffee together to make an Imperial Coffee Donut Stout. That sort of creativity and willingness to experiment makes the East Village brewery stand out. We’re big fans of its taproom and restaurant, too. There you’ll find an enticing menu of Cajun-inspired pub-grub, an outdoor stage and a cornhole setup.
STONE’S THROW BREWING
Since Stone’s Throw opened at the vanguard of Arkansas’s craft brewery explosion in 2013, the cozy Little Rock neighborhood brewpub has gradually added more seating indoors and outside, and its space and selection continues to draw guests, both human and pooch alike. Now, it’s off to a great start in creating a similar vibe with a second location in Stifft Station.
SUPERIOR BATHHOUSE BREWERY
The first brewery to open in a national park and the only one in the world to use hot spring-fed water to brew, Superior has become a prime attraction in downtown Hot Springs. Situated on Bathhouse Row and with excellent pub grub, it’s an ideal spot for people-watching.
BOULEVARD BREWING CO.
This longtime craft beer favorite has been brewing out of Kansas City, Mo., since 1989 and is the 12th largest brewery in the country. In 2014, Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat purchased the brewery. We’re big fans of its Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, which packs a surprising, peppery punch.
CRANE BREWING CO.
This Raytown, Mo., microbrew specializes in saison, Berliner Weiss and lambic styles of beer.
COOP ALE WORKS
Hailing from Oklahoma City, COOP Ale Works describes its popular F5 IPA as “a belligerent hop reckoning.” We think its straightforward malt body nicely balances with the citrus, grapefruit and pine notes produced by the unique hop mix.
INDEPENDENCE BREWING CO.
Independence has been slinging beers in south Austin, Texas, since 2004, and these smooth, flavorful beers are a testament to the indie spirit of the brewery. Among its popular offerings: The Liberty Lunch IPA is an intensely drinkable IPA, with notes of honey balancing out “luscious stone fruit and tropical hop flavors,” according to the brewers.
KARBACH BREWING CO.
This Houston brewery uses German techniques to create beers and serves guests at its Biergarten and restaurant. Love Street, a Kolsch-style blonde, features delicate floral hops and a clean, refreshing malt profile. The Hopadillo IPA is a dry-hopped, bitter American IPA, according to the brewers.
LAZY MAGNOLIA BREWING CO.
Built in 2005 as the first Mississippi packaging brewery since prohibition, Lazy Magnolia is known for its Southern Pecan, a lightly hopped brown ale made with whole roasted pecans, used just like grain to create a nutty flavor profile.
MOTHER’S BREWING CO.
This Springfield, Mo., brewery is behind household names such as the Lil’ Helper IPA and Towhead Blonde. We’re also especially fond of Winter Grind, a dry English coffee stout infused with espresso beans.
PINEY RIVER BREWING CO.
An 80-acre farm in Bucyrus, Mo., is home to the brewery and taproom “BARn” of Piney River. Started by Joleen and Brian Durham as homebrewers, the Ozark brewery now houses a 15-barrel brewhouse and an eight-head canning line.
PRAIRIE ARTISAN ALES
Innovation and creativity are at the heart of Prairie Artisan Ales in Krebs, Okla. Each bottle or can is wrapped in unique, intricate artwork, and the playful labels introduce eccentric brews.
RAHR & SONS BREWING CO.
Brewing out of Fort Worth since 2004, the family behind Rahr & Sons comes from a long line of German brewers. Frederick William “Fritz” Rahr Jr. and his wife, Erin, opened Rahr & Sons 160 years after Fritz’s grandfather founded Eagle Brewery, the first lager brewery in Wisconsin, according to the brewers. Look out for Paleta de Mango, a mango chili beer with lime, and the Adios Pantalones, a Mexican-style cerveza de sesión brewed with lemon and lime.
An iconic name in Texas beer, Shiner has been brewing out of Shiner, Texas, since 1909. You can’t go wrong with the classic Shiner Bock, an American dark-style lager, or Shiner Ruby Redbird, a grapefruit lager with a kick of ginger.
Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewery started in 1997 as the brainchild of two college friends. After a 100,000-square-foot expansion in 2012, the brewery also broadened its distribution, and now also hosts 420 Fest, a beer and music festival in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. At the fest, look out for the 420 Strain G13 IPA, an “aromatic super-hybrid sticky” IPA with Columbus and Simcoe hops and a “natural hemp flavor.”
A 12-acre plot of land in Littleton, Co., formerly a carnation farm, is now home to Breckenridge Brewery. The brewery began operations in 1990 in Breckenridge, the mountain town of its namesake, before later moving to two locations in Denver and then outgrowing them, too. Their “farm-inspired” campus in Littleton features a 100-barrel brewhouse, a barrel-aging room and the Farm House restaurant.
DOGFISH HEAD CRAFT BREWERY
With roots in Delaware since 1995, the Dogfish Head empire now includes a brewery, distillery, restaurant and the Dogfish Inn, located in historic downtown Lewes in coastal Delaware. The Dogfish philosophy is all about bringing “off-centered goodness to off-centered people” through its brews, food and hospitality.
FOUNDERS BREWING CO.
This Grand Rapids, Mich., brewery prides itself on making beer for people who enjoy big, bold flavors outside of traditional taste. This philosophy has rung true with beer lovers, bringing success — six World Beer Cup medals, four European Beer Star medals and three Great American Beer Festival medals — and the ability to keep forging ahead with new flavors and series.
GOLDEN ROAD BREWING
Meg Gill and Tony Yanow are the beer enthusiasts behind Golden Road Brewing, which opened in Los Angeles in 2011. They’ve since partnered with Anheuser-Busch and expanded from their original pub and brewery in Atwater Village to locations in downtown L.A., Anaheim and Sacramento. Look out for their Wolf Pup Session IPA, a core beer from their year-round offerings with “a wildly aromatic tropical and citrus character.”
GOOSE ISLAND BEER CO.
Chicago staple Goose Island Beer has garnered respect among craft beer drinkers since its inception in 1988. In 2011, it was acquired by Anheuser-Busch, and, according to the brewers, this has allowed Goose Island to distribute its craft brews nationally and internationally. Bourbon County Stout, a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout with intense aromas of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke, is always a festival favorite.
LAGUNITAS BREWING CO.
With multiple hubs — in California, Washington and Illinois — Lagunitas is sharing its brews with the “beer-loving disapora” across the country. Its hoppy, high alcohol by volume (ABV) Super Cluster Ale is what we repeatedly turn to on the weekend.
OLD NATION BREWING
Based in small town Williamston, Mich., this brewery struggled in its early years after launching in 2015. Then it rolled out a hazy IPA M-43, which became a massive hit in Michigan and beyond. “Citrus and tropical notes of pineapple, mango and grapefruit come through in the huge, yet surprisingly delicate aroma,” the brewers say of that 6.8 percent ABV beer.
Based in Newport, Ore., this craft favorite has been overseen by brewmaster John Maier since 1989. It distributes its popular ales in all 50 states and to 54 countries.
SAMUEL ADAMS (BOSTON BEER CO.)
Samuel Adams beer began in 1984 with Jim Koch’s first batch of Boston Lager brewed in his home’s kitchen. That recipe dated back to the 1870s, when his great-great-grandfather had a St. Louis brewery. A mere six weeks after Koch first served his Samuel Adams Boston Lager to the public, it won the “Best Beer in America” award at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Since then, Sam Adams has grown exponentially: It’s now the second-largest craft brewery in the U.S.
SQUATTERS CRAFT BEERS
Founding partners Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis opened the first brewpub in Salt Lake City in 1989. Wasatch Brewery and Squatters Craft Beers make up the Utah Brewers Cooperative. Look out for the Hop Rising Double IPA, a fruit-forward IPA with notes of mango and citrus from exotic hops.
Brian Strumke founded Stillwater Artisanal in 2010 after a career as an electronica DJ and producer. His homebrewing experiments in the backyard of his Baltimore home eventually led to a distribution deal with Twelve Percent Imports, but to this day, neither Strumke nor Stillwater has its own facility. Strumke instead uses excess capacity at existing breweries and travels to each of them to produce his batches. The method must work because Stillwater has ranked on ratebeer.com’s Top 100 Brewers In The World list every year since its inception.
TOPPLING GOLIATH BREWERY
This Decorah, Iowa-based brewery has become well known among beer aficionados for its IPAs and stouts. Its Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout was rated the No. 1 beer in the world by RateBeer in 2015 and Beeradvocate has, in the past, ranked it the second-best brewery in the world.
Greg Schirf, founder of Wasatch, opened the first brewpub in Utah in 1989, and now is part of the Utah Brewers Cooperative along with Squatters Craft Beers. Look out for Wasatch’s Polygamy Nitro Porter, a nitrogenated version of its original Polygamy Porter (more nitrogen gives beer a creamier taste), along with Devastator Double Bock and Ghostrider White IPA.
The oldest operating brewery in the country continues to be owned by members of the founding Yuengling family and based in Pottsville, Penn. It began distributing to Arkansas in 2017 and has been an outsized player in the market ever since.