A hundred years ago — Thursday, March 4, 1921 — President Woodrow Wilson put his name on a document declaring a lush, mountainous strip of land in the Ouachita Mountains as Hot Springs National Park. What had been designated by Congress in 1832 as a reservation was established as a heralded bellwether of Wilson’s relatively new national parks program, with government-led protections for the 47 thermal springs that bubble up from the Earth at a feisty 143 degrees, believed by many then and now to be medicinal. To mark the centennial, we’re celebrating all things Spa City — the things that make it a geological anomaly, the things that make it a haven for lovers of pizza and gambling and cycling, and the things that keep it perennially weird.
There may not be a better way to say cheers to the Hot Springs National Park centennial than clinking together two pints of Superior Bathhouse Brewery’s Centennial Elixir Indian Pale Lager. Brewed with centennial hops, the team at Superior created the Centennial Elixir in honor of the 100-year celebration, and it also corresponded with Arkansas Craft Beer week last week. Superior also introduced a new pickle sour beer called Jess’ Big Dill.
Superior Bathhouse Brewery, located at 329 Central Ave., resides in a historic former bathhouse that sat vacant for 30 years. It’s the only brewery in the U.S. located in a national park, and it’s the only brewery in the world to utilize thermal spring water in its beer. In 2011, Rose Schweikhart moved to Hot Springs with a dream to commercially brew beer using the spa city’s 144-degree spring water.
Superior has 18 beers on tap and for $30, you can take a “Beer Bath” and sample all of them. Flights, which include four 4-ounce tasters, are also available for $7. Some of the more outlandish sounding brews: the “Spicy Ride” jalapeño ale; “Doane’s Delight” double chocolate stout; “Rauchiger Berg,” a German-style smoke lager with notes of applewood; and the “Fordyce Funk” farmhouse ale, which is aged eight months with saison yeast plus wild fermentation with eight strains of Brettanomyces (wild yeast).
The food menu has a wide variety of offerings including jalapaño beer cheese, burgers, a bahn mi sandwich, chicken wings and tenders, pulled pork tacos, farmhouse salads, and a Vietnemese-style soup called the Yum Fun Bowl. For dessert, you can try the “World-Famous Root Beer Float” made with thermal water root beer, real honey and cane sugar, and — always worth noting — served in a frozen mug.
Superior Bathhouse Brewery
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Mon; closed Tue.; 11 a.m. -9 p.m. Wed-Thu.; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Superior Bathhouse Brewery is currently seating a limited number of guests at a time and requiring all guests and staff to wear masks upon entering the building. Customers may remove their masks while eating and drinking at their table.