Like the old song says, “there are places I remember all my life, though some have changed.” In Little Rock, for me anyway, Vino’s Brew Pub is one of those special places, and through all the changes that have come to the ramshackle pizza joint on the corner of 7th and Chester, it’s remained a great place for food, music, and some of the best beer in the state.
For the last few years, that beer has gotten exceptionally good, and it’s due to the guidance of brewmaster Josiah Moody. A former medical student who turned his scientific mind to a different kind of medicine, Moody has pushed the small brewing setup at Vino’s to the limit, improving on classic recipes and developing fantastic new ones. Arkansas has undergone something of a beer revolution in the past five years, and Moody’s beers have been at the forefront, including Arkansas’ first farmhouse ales, beers cask-conditioned with locally grown hops, and a general attention to craft, technique, and style that have made Vino’s a top contender for best beer in the state.
But change comes to all things, and for Josiah Moody, exciting changes are afoot. He’s long wanted to launch his own label — cleverly called “Moody Brews“ — and after a year’s worth of planning, filed paperwork just this week to make that dream a reality. Moody has a deal in place whereby he will brew and bottle his new beer at Choc Brewing Company, a popular regional craft beer producer from Krebs, Oklahoma — a sort of set-up known as “gypsy brewing” made famous by ever-mobile Evil Twin brewing. Moody’s first run of beer will be distributed by Glidewell distributors only in Arkansas to start, but Glidewell has a knack for bringing delicious niche beers to new markets, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Moody Brews grow into a regional player.
The first official Moody Brews beer will be an Imperial IPA, which will be sold in 4-pack bottles and by the keg. After that, he plans to pay tribute to his Arkansas roots by brewing a so-called “wild” ale using yeast isolated at Dunbar Garden (a long time partner in Moody’s brewing). And he’s not leaving Arkansas permanently — while his brewing trips will keep him in Krebs for a time, he has made a decision to keep his permanent residence in Arkansas. We may be losing Josiah from Vino’s, but we aren’t losing his beers — a fact that makes me very happy indeed. At the current time, Vino’s has not announced who will be taking Moody’s place as their brewmaster, and while I wish them the best, there are some pretty large shoes to fill at the brew pub. Still, Vino’s has weathered changes in the brewery over the years quite well, so I have no doubt that we’ll continue seeing the sort of creative spirit we’ve come to expect. As for Josiah Moody, I predict you’ll hear a lot more out of him — I know I plan to have a couple of 4-packs of that first batch of Moody Brew in my fridge as soon as it hits the shelves.