Ok, y’all — I realize we’ve been writing about beer and breweries a lot here on Eat Arkansas of late. But let’s face it: Our brew scene is quite possibly the most exciting segment of our food scene right now. I used to be able to tell people exactly what every local brewery in the state was making right off the top of my head, but now I need an entire note card system to even begin to keep track.
Beer is booming in Arkansas, and there’s a lot of good Arkansas beer. Case in point, Blue Canoe Brewing.
Blue Canoe has only been open for a couple of months, but brewers Laura Berryhill and Patrick Cowan were working their cozy 3rd St. taproom like Blue Canoe had always been there. It was one of those pretty winter days in Little Rock, and the sun and mild temperatures meant that things were basically standing room only, although we managed to slip into a couple of bar seats right as a couple of people were leaving.
The bar space is attractive, and Berryhill told me that Blue Canoe had put its own work in designing, building and executing everything involved, from the varnished hardwood bar to the carved tap handles. The result is a bar that feels quaint and lived-in while still maintaining a modern edge it.
And then there’s the beer. It’s fantastic.
Here’s the thing: I never know what to expect from these little breweries. Blue Canoe is only running a three barrel system, and they’re only open two days a week right now — that’s a brewery with a limited footprint in both production and service. I’ve been to breweries in that situation that were serving the devil’s own sweat and calling it beer. But ever beer we tried at Blue Canoe was excellent. The Whittler Milk Stout was a creamy, chocolaty brew that was deceptively smooth and probably easier going down than any beer should be. The 4×4 Pale was a clean, crisp brew that was perfect for the pretty Saturday weather. But our favorite of all was the Razorback RyePA, a delicious IPA that traded in the normal bitterness of the hop-heavy style for a flavor that was floral and bright, complex without being busy — just a sheer pleasure to drink.
So Blue Canoe exceeded my expectations, and they did it with style. It’s a fun, busy spot to grab a beer, and I’d be willing to stack their beers up against any Arkansas beer I’ve had — and not a few national brews.