Whether you’re starting 2021 with a Dryuary or toasting the New Year until the fetid smell of 2020 has worn off, January’s become a time to get thoughtful about alcohol — what we love, what we hate and what role it plays in our newly pandemic-stricken social lives. It’s also the month when, in 1919, Arkansas ratified the Eighteenth Amendment, establishing prohibition in the state and ushering in a formalized relationship between booze and government. So, in January 2021, the Arkansas Times raises a glass to all things boozy with a series we’re calling Drink/Drank/Drunk: our city’s great cocktails and mocktails, the history of temperance in the state, brews to try before you die, a boozy playlist and more.
Twenty years have gone by since Diamond Bear Brewing revived the art of making beer in Arkansas. In the interim, the craft brewing industry has evolved into something of a scene, with everything from sours to saisons available pretty much whenever you want, in the taproom or in the liquor store cooler. Here we’ve aimed to help you navigate those foamy waters with a selection of a few Arkansas beers worth seeking out.
Crooked and Steep Batch #2 (Barleywine)
Eureka Springs’ newest brewery is led by an experienced brewer with some serious know-how. Although all the beers on tap are good, Crooked and Steep Batch #2 is noteworthy based on the difficulty in finding Barleywine elsewhere in the state. It’s a full-bodied, high-ABV beer that was aged in bourbon barrels. Visit Gotahold soon because the next batch in this series of special occasion beers will likely be something other than a Barleywine (the first was a stout). BS
Hawk Moth Brewery & Beer Parlor
2nd & Hudson (Dark Sour)
The tiny Rogers brewery with a penchant for brewing obscure styles and barrel-aged behemoths is also a serial collaborator. This is the second year Hawk Moth has teamed up with nearby New Province Brewing Co. to brew 2nd & Hudson. Last year’s version was a dry-hopped tart saison, while the 2020 edition is a dark sour beer aged on Cabernet Sauvignon grape must (crushed grapes with skins, stems and seeds left) in stainless steel (as opposed to wood barrels). The finished product is vinous and tart and won’t last long. Like all Hawk Moth beers, 2nd & Hudson can only be found at the brewery. BS
Bentonville Brewing Co.
Salted Cherry Sour
In a sea of IPAs and other hop-forward beers, Salted Cherry Sour stands out as something different. This Gose-style beer is slightly salty, a touch tart, and moderately sweet. And at only 4.2% ABV and 8 IBUs, it pairs perfectly with early summer adventures. Salted Cherry Sour can be found on draft and in bottled six- packs throughout Northwest Arkansas when released each June. BS
Diamond Bear Brewing
Two Term Double IPA
The state’s first production brewery is still going strong, even if it hasn’t quite kept up with the diverse offerings from its peers. But for a high-ABV IPA that packs a punch, the Two Term Double IPA remains one of our go-tos. It’s widely available in cans. LM
Is it hyperbole to say that Flyway’s Bluewing should be a case study for how to introduce fruit into the brewing process? An ideal low-ABV summer brew, Bluewing is crisp and low-ABV enough for summertime daydrinking, yet the blueberry is anything but subtle. What’s more, it’s a looker, faintly rose-tinged when poured into a pint glass and ’70s-kitsch when you’re drinking it from that classic can design. SS
Fossil Cove Brewing Co.
Orange Cream Ale
Late summer is the time to find one of Northwest Arkansas’s most anticipated seasonal releases. Fayetteville’s Fossil Cove has been making Orange Cream Ale for several years now, and each year’s edition is a better version of itself. The beer is made with orange zest and vanilla bean, and brings to mind the orange cream popsicles everyone ate as a child. It’s a must try in late August, September and early October when it is widely available in cans. BS
Lost Forty Brewing Co.
Trash Panda IPA
Lost Forty was named the Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year at the 2020 Great American Beer Festival. It makes a wide variety of highly acclaimed beers, but its Trash Panda series of Hazy IPAs is worth seeking out because of the brewer’s willingness to eschew consistency and fiddle with the beer’s formulation instead. Trash Panda is brewed in small batches, each made with a different hop than the last. This results in a unique and ever-changing flavor profile that helps beer drinkers appreciate the character of each hop variety. BS
New Province Brewing Co.
Ever wonder what an IPA brewed with lavender might taste like? Well, New Province’s version is soft and delicate, just like a flower. Brewed with 100% Munich malt and hopped with mosaic, Lavender IPA is floral and fruity with a toasty malt backbone. The lavender character is most prevalent in the aroma, but provides some subtle citrus and wood notes in the flavor profile as well. Simply put, it’s like no other IPA you’ve ever had. First brewed as a part of New Province’s Unchartered Territory series of one-off beers, it proved so popular that it has returned every year since. Lavish IPA is canned for distribution and fairly easy to find when in season. BS
Ozark Beer Co.
Onyx Coffee Stout
The buzz surrounding the Rogers brewery’s barrel-aged beers and big IPAs is deserved, but don’t sleep on this simple yet delicious, year-round stout. Onyx Coffee Stout is the combined efforts of two of the most recognizable brands in the state. The beer contains layers of mellow coffee aroma and flavor on top of a 5.3% ABV milk stout base. It’s a must-try if you’re a fan of coffee beers, though you’ll have to go to the brewery (or a few local draft accounts) to enjoy it. Despite constant requests to can it for distribution, Ozark only offers Onyx Coffee Stout on draft at this time. BS
Stone’s Throw Brewing
We can’t chow down on schnitzel at The Pantry or Pantry Crest without a tall stein of this delicious Bavarian wheat Stone’s Throw brews especially for Tomas Bohm’s Czech-influenced restaurants. It’s unfiltered with a slight hint of fruit and cloves. LM
Superior Bathhouse Brewery
The Beez Kneez Kolsch
Maybe it’s the thermal spring water Hot Springs’ Superior pipes in directly from the mountainside, or maybe it’s the touch of honey and basil in this low-ABV kolsch, but The Beez Kneez at Superior is a glass worth driving to the Spa City for, delicate and effervescent and gorgeously golden. SS
Firehouse Pale Ale
This is a great pale ale for craft beginners. It’s medium bodied and easy to drink — not too hoppy or bitter. It’s just slightly sweet with subtle fruity notes and accompanies a New York-style hand-tossed slice of Vino’s pizza perfectly. RB
West Mountain Brewing Co.
Blood Orange IPA
This pizza-and-beer joint located on Fayetteville’s downtown square has been brewing its own since 2011. The staples are classic brewpub styles — pale ale, IPA, stout and brown. There are also a number of rotating specialty beers on tap. One such beer has earned a position in the regular lineup: Blood Orange IPA, which balances between fruity sweetness and hop bitterness. On first sip it might summon memories of Sunkist soda. Yet the longer it lingers, the more its IPA backbone becomes apparent. BS
Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Co.
Hawk and Horse Coffee Porter
This tiny brewery and organic farm in Paris (Logan County) makes some of the most interesting beers in the state. Prestonrose’s flagship porter is a coffee-infused version of an underrepresented style. BS