The first time I came across Matt Foster’s Flyway Brewing brand of craft beer was at a South on Main preview party at the Oxford American offices down on Main Street. Back then, Matt was brewing his suds in a converted carriage house in the Quapaw Quarter. My memory of what he was pouring that night is a bit fuzzy (although I am almost certain it was the Free Range Brown Ale), but what’s easy to recall is Matt’s enthusiasm as he talked of his plans for the future.
Since then, we’ve covered Flyway, which derives its name from the Mississippi Flyway (ask your favorite duck hunter) across pretty much every platform we’ve got. Matt’s dream of making a beer using only ingredients grown in Arkansas was part of our first year’s run of Arkansas Food & Farm, and the brewer was named an Arkansas Visionary by the Arkansas Times in 2014. The brewery’s growth and expansion is, in many ways, a mirror that of the Arkansas craft beer scene as a whole, and it’s been a lot of fun following its progress.
Flyway announced plans to open a taproom in North Little Rock in early 2015, opening later that year. It’s been on my list of “need to try that” places for some time, and I finally got to check it off over the weekend, and I was thoroughly impressed with the taproom space and the food, while the wife was pleased with the beer she sampled. And just as happened with a meal at Rebel Kettle, I was left with only one question: when did bar food get so tasty?
The soft pretzel is one of my all-time favorite methods of carb-spiking my blood sugar, and Flyway’s unique takes on the classic include the use of various salts flavored with things like lavender, sriracha and espresso. Should I have ordered one of these can’t-find-it-anywhere-else versions for the sake of this post? Yes, I should have. Am I a selfish bastard who just does whatever the hell he wants? Yes, I am, and therefore ordered the regular old plain-salt-topped kind with a side of spicy brown mustard.
It was delicious. I regret nothing.
The food offerings at Flyway are also quite unique, honoring its name’s theme of cold-blooded bird-murder by featuring a variety of wild game proteins. We ordered a couple of wild boar meatball sliders and were quite pleased. Excellent bread and fresh arugula really elevated these sliders, and while I would have preferred the ground pork and sauce to have a bit more punch to them, that’s more of a personal preference than an actual complaint.
Flyway’s food offerings are further proof that the era of apathetic bar food is over. Craft beer lovers are all about seeking out distinctive and sometimes challenging flavors in the beers they drink, and this has led to an elevation in the flavor profiles of the food that gets served alongside whichever IPA or saison is being poured. It’s good to see this brewery grow from that dream that Matt Foster spoke of way back when, because the clean, spacious taproom, good eats and tasty beer is a dream come true for all of us who love great food.