If you don’t make it any farther in this article, remember this: The Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival takes place from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at the Argenta Plaza at 6th and Main streets in North Little Rock, and it is a hot ticket. The festival routinely sells out, so if you think sampling beers from around the country (and world) while noshing on food from local restaurants and listening to live music sounds like a good time, hasten to centralarkansastickets.com and buy your ticket in advance.
As usual, dozens of breweries will be pouring more than 250 different beers. There will be food from Skinny J’s Argenta, Zaffino’s by Nori, Whole Hog Cafe in North Little Rock, Arkansas Ale House, Taziki’s, Damgoode Pies, Cafe Bossa Nova, Old Chicago North Little Rock and Edwards Food Giant. Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings, a self-described “soul/roots/folk” band from Northwest Arkansas, will provide the soundtrack. Plus, Sam Adams will have a pop-a-shot, cornhole and something called a mustache teeter-totter set up in its corner. As usual, proceeds benefit the Argenta Arts Foundation. Read on to learn more about the breweries and beers coming to the festival.
(See here for more on Arkansas breweries.)
Bubba Brews You won’t miss this brewery at the beer fest; it will be serving its 10-Point Bock, All-American Pale Ale, Dirty Blonde, English Godfather ESB, Great White, Oatmeal Stout, Scooter Trash IPA and Southern Rok Oktoberfestbier out of its tap truck.
Blue Canoe The River Market district brewery will be pouring 4X4 Pale, Wolf Trail Pale and The Whittler, a milk stout.
Buffalo Brewing Co. The state’s newest brewery is also one of the state’s smallest. Situated in the back of The Water Buffalo, a supply store for gardeners and cheese-, wine- and beer-makers, it will have on hand 3 Doses, Easy Red Rider, Pineapple Wheat and a nonalcoholic root beer. Also, look out for a Water Buffalo tent with info on home brewing and the store’s free classes.
Core Brewing Co. The Springdale-based behemoth continues to open public houses throughout the state at a rapid clip. Next year, look for it to open a distillery in Fort Smith. At the festival, try Core’s Arkansas Red, Behemoth Pilsner, ESB, Hilltop IPA, Kyya Imperial Chocolate Stout, Leg Hound Lager, Pumpkin Pie Lager, Raspberry Lager and Toasted Coconut Ale.
Damgoode Brews The River Market district brewpub will pour its Arkansas Amber, Arktoberfest, Damgoode Pale Ale and O Quattlebaum, an IPA named for longtime brewer Joshua Quattlebaum.
Diamond Beer Brewing Co. The state’s oldest production brewery will be serving tasty food from its North Little Rock Arkansas Ale House as well as most of its beer lineup: Dogtown Brown, Oatmeal Stout, Pale Ale, Pig Trail Porter, Presidential IPA, Rocktoberfest, Southern Blonde and Strawberry Blonde.
Flyway Brewing The North Little Rock brwery will have on hand its year-round Bluewing Blueberry Wheat, Free Range Brown and Migrate Pale Ale as well as special and seasonal brews Coffee Cake Stout, Magdalene Tripel and Pumpkin Ale.
Lost Forty Brewing The state’s largest brewery will debut its new limited release Snake Party IPA, a double dry-hopped double IPA, and pour its latest seasonal, Forest Queen Stout, along with year-round brews Love Honey Bock and Rock Hound IPA.
Ozark Beer Co. The Rogers-based brewery will have on hand its widely distributed American Pale Ale, Belgian Golden and Cream Stout as well as its October Saison. True beer nerds will likely be hovering around Ozark’s table, waiting for a limited pour of its Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Cream Stout (BDCS), one of the most celebrated Arkansas beers.
Rebel Kettle Brewing Co. The rapidly growing East Village brewery will show off its range at the beer festival, pouring its popular Working Glass Hero Blonde Ale along with a trio of specials — Harvest Season Saison, REDRUMPUM Imperial Pumpkin Amber Ale and Show ‘Em Your O’Fest Oktoberfest Märzen.
Stone’s Throw Brewing The Ninth Street nanobrewery will have on hand its Amer Belge Belgian IPA, Barton British Standard, Big Dam Horn Imperial Oktoberfest and Special Cider Release.
Vino’s & Moody Brews After a stint at Damgoode Brews and working on his own Moody Brews as a gypsy brewer, Josiah Moody is back at Vino’s while also working on his own creations. He’ll have both at the festival: Moody Brews Earl Grey ESB, Moody Brews Watermelon Ginger IPA, Vino’s Dry Hopped Gardenhouse and Vino’s Dunkelweizen.
Abita Brewing Louisiana’s largest craft brewery was started in 1986 in the small town of Abita Springs, which sits about 30 miles north of New Orleans. Driven in part by the concentrated collective thirst radiating across Lake Pontchartrain, Abita has grown to produce over 151,000 barrels of beer annually, including its signature Amber. It will have a full menu of brews on offer this year: Amber, Purple Haze, Big Easy Session IPA, Oktoberfest, Andygator Dopplebock, Bourbon St. Coffee Stout, Bourbon St. Honey Pale Ale and Peach Harvest Lager.
Boulevard Brewing Co. For fans of wheat beer, Boulevard Brewing Co.’s Unfiltered Wheat Beer — usually just called “Boulevard Wheat” — is a reliably delicious tap mainstay, a brew to order when you’re not feeling adventurous and none of the tap handles look familiar. The brew that earned the beer a Gold Medal from the Great American Beer Festival likely owes a lot of its complexity to the Kansas City brewery’s bottle conditioning process, in which sugar and yeast are added to the brew just before it’s bottled, creating a second fermentation inside the bottle. The company also brings its Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, a floral-scented saison that’s heavy on the grapefruit; the Snow and Tell, an oak-aged Scotch ale added to the brewery’s lineup last winter; the Nutcracker Ale, a reddish winter brew with hints of caramel and toffee; the special-release Rye On Rye On Rye (or, Rye on Rye X), a beer version of the New Orleans Sazerac cocktail aged in a Templeton Rye whiskey barrel; and the Saison Brett, a take on the Tank 7, bottle-conditioned with a wild yeast called Brettanomyces.
Cedar Creek Brewery Situated on Cedar Creek Lake 60 miles southeast of Dallas, 4-year-old Cedar Creek Brewery is another fairly recent addition to the booming Texas craft beer scene. Founded by beer lover Jim Elliott and his wife, Cindy, the brewery grew out of Jim’s frustration with not being able to find good craft brews on tap when he moved to the area in 2008. Elliott eventually hired brewmaster Damon Lewis and together, they cobbled up a brewery from former dairy equipment. Since then, the little brewery has expanded considerably and continues to churn out fan-favorite suds. At the festival, look for the Dank-o-Saurus IPA, Patio Pounder Pale Lager and Lawn Ranger Cream Ale.
Charleville Vineyard & Microbrewery A winery that expanded into brewing, Charleville is situated in Sainte Geneive, Mo., in the hills just south of St. Louis, where in addition to the winery and brewhouse, there’s a refurbished 1860s log cabin that serves as a bed and breakfast. Look for the brewery to pour Late Night Karate Kicks, Oktoberfest and more.
COOP Ale Works This 7-year-old Sooner brewery based in Oklahoma City, bottles, cans and kegs its beers and is sending five to Central Arkansas for the festival: Its high-octane DNR (the label featuring bare feet and a toe-tag), a Belgian dark ale with notes of cinnamon, dried fruit and yeast; muddled pink Very Cherry DNR; its hop-forward F5 India Pale Ale; Spare Rib pale ale (a “gas station beer”); and spicy Elevator Wheat, a blend of Maris Otter barley, white wheat and rye. COOP expanded in 2014 and made its Craft Beer Festival debut that year, its first time to venture out of state.
Ghost River Brewing According to the brewers at Ghost River, “The Memphis Sand Aquifer is purified naturally through 850 feet of fine sand and natural quartz. That’s why every brewery in Memphis uses it.” The brewery donates $1 for every barrel it brews to the Wolf River Conservancy in the spirit of preserving that aquifer, and it’ll bring the results of that purification to the festival by way of four brews: the flagship Golden Ale; the Riverbank Red, a Great American Beer Festival winner originally brewed for the Memphis Redbirds baseball team; the 1887, an IPA made with Columbus hops; and Midnight Magic, a German-style black ale that’s light-bodied, but still tastes like a dark beer.
Goldcrest Brewing Co. Last year, Goldcrest Brewing Co. revived the domestic lager Goldcrest 51, a.k.a. “The Original Memphis Beer,” produced from 1906 by the Tennessee Brewing Co. until 1954, when the brewery closed. (The brewery was older, having opened in 1885.) Memphians used to say, “I’ll have a 51”; now we can say the same at the Craft Beer Festival. The new 51, the only beer produced by Goldcrest, is based on the original recipe and is now lightly hopped with Fuggle and Tradition hops.
Great Raft Brewing The Great Raft was a massive logjam on the Red River, at one point clogging the river from Shreveport 65 miles downstream to Campti back in the 19th century. Great Raft Brewing, on the other hand, has been flowing freely on the Red since 2012, when Andrew and Lindsey Nations launched their brewery in their hometown of Shreveport. Since then, the brewery has landed a Gold in the pale ale category of the 2015 U.S. Beer Championships. Great Raft paddled all the way upstream to Little Rock in September for Great Raft Arkansas Launch Week, serving up several varieties of suds at The Faded Rose, Maddie’s Place, Flying Saucer, Reno’s and at liquor stores. It returns for the Craft Beer Festival laden with Commotion Pale Ale, Reasonably Corrupt dark lager, Southern Drawl “Euro” lager and Creature of Habit American Brown ale.
Lazy Magnolia Mississippi’s first package brewery since prohibition, Lazy Magnolia has become one of the South’s most widely distributed beers. Founded in 2003 in Kiln, Miss. (the hometown of Brett Favre), the brewery will be pouring three beers from its Welcome to the Porch Series, or as it calls them, “easy-drinking brews for all occasions”: Flour De Wheat, an American wheat ale; Lazy Saison, a pale Belgian-style wheat ale; and Southern Pecan, its popular nut brown ale. Also on tap: the brewery’s fall seasonal, an American strong ale called Me and The Dev Ale.
Marshall Brewing Brewmaster Eric Marshall untapped the first of his “full-strength ales and lagers” in Tulsa in 2008 and says his goal is to be the “premiere brewery in Oklahoma.” The brewery is sending over four beers, three of them from its year-round lineup: its “easy-drinking” Sundown Wheat, Atlas India Pale Ale and the Old Pavilion pilsner. The fourth is the Black Dolphin Russian Imperial Stout, a beer with which to celebrate cooler weather.
Mother’s Brewing Co. The brewers at Mother’s, headquartered just up the road in Springfield, Mo., say they are doing their best to make their mothers proud with beers they say show their love for community. Mother-love in Central Arkansas will come in the form of four brews: Loopty Loop, a New World lager; Brandy Barrel MILF; Winter Grind, a coffee stout; and Three Blind Mice, a brown ale. Mother’s, opened in 2011 in a former Hostess bread bakery and won a 2016 Feast award for best microbrewery in mid-Missouri. You may have sampled some of Mother’s best at last year’s festival or at Oktoberfest at Eureka Springs or the Osceola Gala last weekend. If you were born at least 21 years ago, Mother you should know: It’s the beer with the heart label.
Piney River Brewing Co. More Ozarks-brewed beer for the Craft Beer Festival: Piney River Brewing Co. returns with seasonals Sweet Potato Ale and Masked Bandit black rye IPA and year-round releases Black Walnut Wheat Ale, the 2012 Grapes, Grains and Growls Festival winner; and Old Tom Porter, the 2013 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal winner. Piney River Brewing was once a nanobrewery on Joleen and Brian Durham’s farm in Bucyrus, Mo.; it’s still on the farm, but now has a canning line and is distributed in Missouri and Arkansas.
Public House Brewing Co. A brewery that grew from co-owner Josh Stacy’s adventures helping his homebrewer father make his own kitchen suds, the Rolla, Mo., Public House Brewing Co.and Brewpub opened in 2010 to rave reviews, and now has three locations in Rolla and St. James. Especially known for its seasonal brews, including a strawberry wheat ale and Courtship Cranberry Ale, Public House is fast becoming one of the big names of craft brewing in the Show Me State, which knows a thing or two about beer. Look for five of its favorites at the festival, including its Courtship Cranberry Ale, Rod’s Cream Ale, Revelation Stout, Hide and Seek Hefeweizen and Elusive IPA.
Shiner Beer The Shiner Brewery was founded by Kosmos Spoetzl, a Bavarian beer enthusiast who settled in Shiner, Texas, where he began brewing from within a tin shed in 1909, spreading the gospel of the Spoetzl Brewery’s output by leaving bottles of his beer on the fenceposts surrounding the fields in which local farmers worked. “Every drop” of the beer is still brewed there, Shiner says, and it’ll be bringing drops (collected conveniently in kegs) of its low-ABV summer grapefruit-ginger lager Ruby Redbird; the signature Shiner Bock that inspired the ram on the beer’s label; Shiner Cheer, a dunkelweisen brewed with peach and pecan; and the Wicked Ram IPA, the brewery’s first India Pale Ale.
Southern Star Brewing Located about 40 miles north of Houston in the town of Conroe, Texas, Southern Star began brewing in 2008. It’s known locally for sponsoring a homebrew “Pro-Am,” in which the winner has a chance to brew his or her recipe using Southern Star’s equipment. This year, it’ll be pouring Bombshell Blonde, Buried Hatchet and Conspiracy Theory IPA.
Tallgrass Brewing Co. Founded in 2007 in Manhattan, Kan., Tallgrass now distributes throughout the Midwest and South, exclusively in 16-ounce cans with colorful labels. For the festival, look for 8-Bit Pale Ale; Buffalo Sweat, an oatmeal cream stout brewed with vanilla beans; Flying Hawaiian, a double IPA brewed with pineapple; the Belgian-style Songbird Saison; Top Rope IPA; and Zombie Monkie, a robust porter made with roasted dark chocolate and specialty malts.
Tin Roof Brewing A standout from the burgeoning Louisiana craft brew scene, Baton Rouge’s Tin Roof Brewing Co. is yet another example of beer lovers creating their own supply when living in an area where the local beer offerings didn’t pass personal muster. Friends and business partners Charles Caldwell and William McGehee, both hardcore craft beer fans, had long dreamed of opening their own artisan brewery for years before making Tin Roof a reality in November 2010. Among other popular brews, they’ve since canned up the official beer of LSU, but please don’t hold that against them, Hog fans. They won’t be pouring their LSU-approved Bayou Bengal Lager at the festival, but they will be offering up their Juke Joint IPA, Game Day IPA, Perfect Tin Amber Ale, Turnrow Coriander Ale, Voodoo Bengal Pale Ale and Blonde Ale.
Anchor Brewing Co. This hallowed San Francisco institution claims to be “America’s first and oldest craft brewery,” and with roots dating back to at least 1896, it makes a convincing case. Anchor has survived Prohibition, the mid-century era of mass-produced lagers, and, long before any of that, the destruction of its original brewery in the great earthquake of 1906. It still produces its famous Anchor Steam in a copper brewhouse in San Francisco, along with variants like Brotherhood Steam, California Lager, Flying Cloud Stout and Anchor Porter — all of which will be available for sampling.
Blue Moon Brewing Co. Initially named “The Sandlot” because of its being situated in a Denver, Colo., baseball stadium, the Belgian White beer that earned Blue Moon its reputation — with a signature orange wheel garnish in place of the traditional lemon — spread like wildfire when brewer and founder Keith Villa toured bars with cases of the brew and bags of oranges. Blue Moon’s Belgian White made its way first to Northwest Arkansas and then across the state, eventually becoming a taproom staple. The MillerCoors brewery also brings its White IPA, a hoppier twist on the classic Belgian Wit made with a hops variety called Huell Melon; a Cappuccino Oatmeal Stout, a limited-release beer that makes up part of the brewery’s winter sampler pack; a Cocoa Brown that pairs chocolate with a hint of orange; and the brewery’s Cinnamon Horchata Ale, a take on the classic Valencian agua de horchata, a milky cinnamon beverage brewed with long-grain rice.
Brewery Ommegang Situated on a hilltop in Cooperstown, N.Y., Brewery Ommegang looks more like a farmhouse wedding destination than a brewery, and there’s a reason for that: The brewhouse is situated on a former hops farm. Like Blue Moon, Ommegang’s signature brew is a Belgian wheat called Witte that’s brewed with orange peel and coriander. It’ll have that on hand, as well as the brewery’s Lovely, Dark and Deep Winter Ale, brewed with midnight wheat, chocolate and flaked oats, as well as two brews based on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which the brewery says are “made to be deep, dark and complex like those who have sworn the oath to defend Westeros against threats from the north.”
Carson’s Brewery Jason Carson’s 3-year-old microbrewery is new to the Craft Beer Festival. Carson’s produces six core beers, seasonals and barrel-aged products in Evansville, Ind., and is sending five of those plus a retired label, Purgatory, which means you’ll be drinking the last of it. Carson’s marketing has a dark side, as you’ll see by the names: Meet the RIPA, Carson’s Red India Pale Ale; Demonik Double IPA, with a “sarcophagi bitter finish”; the nutty and dark Brown Cow brown ale; the Harlot Honey Blonde light ale; and Eville American Wheat ale. Don’t fear the RIPA: It brought home the bronze medal in the Double Red Ale category at this year’s Great American Beer Festival.
Cascade Brewing A Portland, Ore., brewery founded in 1998, Cascade Brewing only makes sour beer, which is intentionally brewed to be sour or acidic in taste. Cascade will have on hand its Apricot Sour Ale, a blend of blonde ales aged in wine barrels with apricots; Blueberry Northwest Style Sour Ale, a blend of blonde and wheat ales aged in wine barrels with blueberries; Kriek Northwest Sour Ale, a blend of sour red ales aged in wine barrels with Bing and sour pie cherries; and Strawberry Northwest Sour Ale, a blend of blonde and wheat ales aged in wine barrels with strawberries and vanilla beans.
Clown Shoes Beer The mission of this Ipswich, Mass.-based brewery is “to produce beer without pretension while being free and a little crazy.” Judge for yourself by trying The Barista, a “breakfast” brown ale; Chocolate Sombrero, a Mexican-style Chocolate Stout; Evil Crawfish Imperial Red Ale; Mango, an American Kolsch; and Undead Party Crash, an American Imperial Stout.
Craft Brew Alliance The fifth largest craft brewery in the country was born in 2008 out of the merger of two popular Pacific Northwest breweries founded in the 1980s — Redhook Brewery and Widmer Brothers Brewing. Over the years, Craft Brew Alliance has added Kona Brewing Co., Hawaii’s oldest and largest craft brewery, and gluten-free Omission Beer. At the fest, look for Kona’s Longboard Lager and Big Wave Golden Ale along with Widmer Hefewizen and Omission Pale Ale.
The Dudes Brewing Co. Torrance, Calif.-based The Dudes Brewing Co. might not be the brewery traveling the farthest distance to participate in the festival, but it’s probably in the running. Founded in 2013 by surfer and craft brewer Jeff Parker and his business partner Toby Humes, the company has long been big on putting its offerings in beach-friendly cans, and often brings the flavors of Southern California to its brews. All the beers from its popular “Juicebox” series will be available for sampling at the festival, including its Blood Orange Amber, Grandma’s Pecan Brown, Peach Berliner Weiss, Pumpkin Golden Ale and Schnitzen Giggles.
Einstok Brewing Co. Einstok’s website prominently features a set of geographic coordinates: N65° W18°, a spot about 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle. That would be the fishing port of Akureyri on the northern coast of Iceland, which is where Einstok crafts its ales. Newcomers to the festival this year, the Nordic brewmasters will serve their White Ale, Toasted Porter, Arctic Pale Ale and Arctic Berry, which is flavored with hand-picked bilberries.
Founders Brewing Co. A winner of six World Beer Cup medals, four European Beer Star medals and three Great American Beer festivals, this Grand Rapids, Mich.-based brewery will be pouring its All Day IPA, Breakfast Stout, Centennial IPA, Dirty Bastard, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, PC Pils and Porter.
Goose Island Owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev since 2011, Goose Island has kept up the quality and willingness to experiment that’s made it such a well-respected name in craft beer. It’ll bring an impressive lineup to the fest, including standards 312 Urban Wheat and Goose IPA; vintage ales Lolita, Halia and Gillian; Belgian-style farmhouse ale Pepe Nero; and the 2014 edition of the highly coveted Bourbon County Stout.
Green Flash Brewing Co. You’d have to visit the West Coast to sample Green Flash brews in their natural environment, but luckily, the San Diego brewery is bringing its inventive and always lovely-hued brews inland, including the Cosmic Ristretto, a high-ABV dense black porter brewed with espresso; the Passion Fruit Kicker, a tart wheat ale brewed with tea and passion fruit juice; and the Styrian Golding Single Hop, founded on a base of English malt. Green Flash Brewing Co. joined forces with a fellow San Diego brewery, Alpine Beer Co., with a handshake between owners that doubled the capacity of Alpine’s production, a badly needed strategic move after Alpine’s Great American Beer Festival medals stretched its popularity beyond its facility’s capacity. Green Flash now brews several Alpine beers, one of which it will have in tow at the festival: Alpine’s Hoppy Birthday, a session IPA.
Joseph James Brewing Co. This Henderson, Nev., brewery, founded in 2008, will be pouring its American Flyer Craft Lager, Busker Brown Ale, Citra Rye American Pale Ale and I’m Out Imperial Stout.
Lagunitas Brewing Co. A new and welcome entry into Arkansas last year, this Petaluma, Calif.- and Chicago-based brewery has been in expansion mode since it sold a 50 percent stake to Heineken International last year. It will bring its hop-forward 12th of Never Ale, American Strong Ale Brown Shugga, IPA and Lagunitas Sucks Ale to the fest.
New Belgium Brewing Co. Founded in a Fort Collins, Colo., basement in 1991 with two soon-to-be-famous recipes — Abbey, a dark Belgian Dubbel, and the now-ubiquitous Fat Tire Amber Ale — New Belgium this August celebrated both its 25th anniversary and the grand opening of its second production facility, in Asheville, N.C. Along with Fat Tire, New Belgium will be serving Citradelic IPA, Ranger IPA, Pumpkick and Tart Lychee, a sour ale in the brewery’s boundary-pushing “Lips of Faith” series.
Oskar Blues Brewery Oskar, which operates three breweries — in Longmont, Colo.; Brevard, N.C.; and Austin, Texas — calls its products the “original craft brew in a can.” Cans, Oskar says, keep beer fresher, are portable and are recyclable. This basement-to-149,000-barrels-of-beer outfit was founded by Dale Katechis in Longmont, which is open for tours in case you want to scope out the process that goes into making Dale’s Pale Ale (named “Best Pale Ale” by the New York Times in 2005 and first brewed in Katechis’ bathtub when he was a student at Auburn University in Alabama); Beerito Mexican lager; Old Chub Scotch ale; Priscilla (a take on Belgian Classic Wit); and Ten Fidy, a “boundary stretching” Imperial stout.
Rogue Founded in 1988, Rogue Ales was at the vanguard of the craft beer movement that has since spread around the world, making the Oregon-based brewery one of the foundation stones of the phenomenon. A repeat medalist for its beers at the Great American Beer Festival, Rogue is known for complex flavors and willingness to field quirky brews — like Voodoo Doughnut Pretzel, Raspberry and Chocolate Ale — as well as its commitment to never using preservatives and sourcing local ingredients, which have become a hallmark of craft brewing. It will be pouring some of its most popular brews for the festival, including Dead Guy IPA, 4 Hop IPA, 7 Hop IPA, Hazlenut Brown Nectar and Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout.
Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Co.) Though the first batch of Boston Lager was concocted in the home of founder Jim Koch in 1984, its lineage goes back to the 1870s, when Koch’s great-great-grandfather, Louis Koch, used the recipe at his St. Louis, Mo., brewery. Over a century later, Jim’s gamble to rekindle the family business paid off big: The Boston-based company today produces over 4 million barrels per year, making it the nation’s second-largest craft brewery. In addition to its trademark lager, Sam Adams will be pouring Winter Lager, White Christmas Ale, Nitor Coffee Stout and four different IPAs: Rebel, Rebel Rider, Rebel Grapefruit and Cascade.
Shock Top Another brewery under the Anheuser-Busch InBev umbrella, Shock Top specializes in drinkable, wheat-style beers. At the fest, try the Apple Wheat, Belgian White and Pretzel Wheat.
Sierra Nevada Now the nation’s third-largest craft brewery (behind only the makers of Yuengling and Sam Adams), this pillar of the beer scene helped define the citric, hop-heavy style that’s come to be called the American IPA. Sierra Nevada still brews in Chico, the California town where it got its start in 1979, but in 2012 it opened a second facility in Mills River, N.C. It will be pouring its trademark Pale Ale, along with Nooner Pils, Otra Vez, Hop Hunter IPA, Torpedo IPA and Oktoberfest.
Sixpoint Brewery Founded in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood in 2004, Sixpoint makes the audacious claim that its history really began “at the dawn of civilization,” seeing as the six-pointed “Brewer’s star” that ornaments its slender cans has quasi-mystical roots that trace back to before the Middle Ages. Say what you will about Brooklyn and cultural appropriation, but Sixpoint makes some fantastic beers: This year, it’ll be pouring Resin, The Crisp, Sweet Action and Bengali (all available year-round), as well as its specialty 5 Beans, brewed with coffee, cocoa, vanilla and black cardamom.
Stone Brewing Now celebrating its 20th year in business, Stone Brewing is the 10th largest craft brewer in the United States, and has breweries in Berlin as well as Richmond, Va. The company started as a microbrewery in San Diego and now operates Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens restaurants there and in Escondido, Calif. The brewery, which uses an image of a gargoyle on its label, has seven year-round releases, including two coming to the festival: Stone IPA and Stone Go To IPA, the latter brewed with “an irrational amount of hops” for an aromatic and bitter drink. Stone is also sending its limited release Stone Coffee Milk Stout, a bittersweet brew; and, from Stone’s Arrogant Brewing division, Arrogant Bastard, a bourbon-barrel-aged beer, and the pilsner Who You Callin Wussie. BeerAdvocate Magazine has called Stone Brewery the “All-Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth.”
Summit Brewing Co. Founded in 1986 in Saint Paul, Minn., in an old auto parts warehouse, Summit has been in Arkansas for two years now and gained a strong following. In 2009, it started the Unchained Series, where Summit brewers were given the freedom to brew anything they wanted. One of those, Unchained No. 23 West London Ale, will be available at the fest, along with the brewery’s Oktoberfest and excellent Saga IPA.
Traveler Beer Co. Can a brewery subsist on shandies alone? Traveler’s success proves it’s possible. Since first opening in 2012, this Burlington, Vt., based company has grown to distribute its light blends of American wheat ale and other ingredients to all 50 states. It will bring to the festival its Grapefruit Shandy (which is available year-round) and the seasonal Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy.
Tommyknocker Brewery No, not like the Stephen King book. In miner folklore, tommyknockers are subterranean sprites of mischievous inclination and dubious goodwill — a fitting image for any beer and especially one brewed in Idaho Springs, Colo., a mountain town forged by the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of the 1850s. The recipient of a cumulative 17 medals from the Great American Beer Festival, Tommyknocker Brewery returns to the festival this year with Green Chile Lager, Legend Anniversary Ale, Butthead Bock, Imperial Nut Brown and Jack Whacker Wheat.
Wasatch Brewery/Squatters Craft Beers Now in its 30th year, Salt Lake City-based Wasatch Brewery is another old-timer of the craft brewing scene, and was often forced in its early days to battle for the right to exist in conservative, buttoned-down Mormonland. When the company opened in 1986, it was the first brewery in Utah and later spearheaded the legal effort to bring brewpubs to the state. Wasatch will be joined at the festival by Utah Brewers Cooperative partner Squatters Craft Beers, a 27-year-old operation also based in Salt Lake. Wasatch will be pouring its Polygamy Porter, Devastator Double Bock, Ghostrider White IPA, Apricot Hefeweizen and Evolution Amber Ale. Squatters will serve up its Off Duty IPA, Hop Rising Double IPA and Full Suspension Pale Ale.