- by Spencer English
The Arkansas beverage scene is growing by leaps and bounds. Surely you’ve noticed it- Downtown Little Rock, Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, or all over Northwest Arkansas. Local breweries, distilleries, and even wineries have been popping up all over. It seems like there’s a new opportunity to “drink local” every week. Specifically, with all of these new beers and breweries popping up, here’s a list of some of my favorite local flavors to help pull you into the local craft beverage loop.
Superior Bathhouse Brewery
One of my personal favorites. Housed in a converted bathhouse on Central Avenue in Hot Springs, this brewpub makes some of the most creative and delicious beers I’ve tasted from any Arkansas brewery large or small. The atmosphere is fun, and they have over 20 beers on tap (most of which are brewed in-house with a few well-chosen craft beers on rotating taps). With so many great options it can be tough to decide on just one, luckily they offer a “Beer Bath” sampler which consists of a 4oz pour of all 20+ beers on tap. You should probably invite a friend if you plan on taking one down.
A newcomer to the developing Arkansas craft beer scene, Flyway Brewing in Argenta in North Little Rock is gaining a well-deserved reputation for well-made classic examples of American-style craft beer using the highest quality ingredients. In my experience, the beers from Flyway are extremely well balanced and have a wonderful malt character. While I have yet to try some of their more experimental creations, such as the “Cake Series,” I loved their newest brew, the Bluewing Blueberry Ale. It’s absolutely delicious with notes fresh blueberries and cereal grains. Look for it in bottles and on tap around Little Rock.
If you haven’t tried a Lost Forty beer yet you should probably come out of your cave. These guys are brewing and canning solid beers in a wide range of styles that are available in most stores and restaurants in Little Rock, and they’re constantly experimenting with new flavors. I love heading down to the Lost Forty Brewery to try some of their “Fresh Cuts” and see what amazing things are available on their food menu. If you haven’t been to their downtown brewery, it’s a “must.”
From the outside, it’s easy to wonder how such a tiny building can house a brewery that produces so many excellent beers. Stone’s Throw has established itself as a neighborhood craft brewer and growler hotspot for the past few years and has been on many people’s radar as part of the brewery tour circuit. If you haven’t checked out Stone’s Throw you really should. Spend an hour or so there and you’ll feel like part of the family. You can often find a food truck parked outside if you get hungry and the friendly staff will certainly make an impression. In my experience, the small taproom is usually pretty full with regulars so they must be doing something right!
Rock Town Distillery
Little Rock’s first commercial liquor distillery is a great take if you are interested in seeing what kind of great local products Little Rock has to offer. I have toured the distillery and let me tell you they are more than just vodka and whiskey. They offer a wide range of spirits including several types of bourbon, gin, vodka, flavored moonshine, and their newest addition the Rock Town coffee liqueur which is absolutely delicious.
Coming out of Fort Smith, Arkansas is a relatively new player in the Arkansas beverage scene. Smithworks is owned by country singer Blake Shelton. He has put his name behind this quality product and we think it isn’t just hype. Using regionally sourced corn from neighboring states and pure Arkansas water Smithworks has crafted a vodka that can easily compete with national brands and would drink well on its own as well as provide a base for your favorite cocktail.
This Brewery out of Springdale, Arkansas is just beginning to establish itself as one of the “core” Arkansas brands. With a lineup of approachable and innovative beers these guys a really making a name for themselves all throughout the state. My personal favorite brew is the Core ESB which balances full bodied malts with a crisp hoppy finish for a delicious beer. Alternatively, the Arkansas Red is a must have tailgate staple. If you don’t have Arkansas Red inside your cooler on game day you have to wonder if you’re doing all you can to support your team.
Ozark Beer Company
Established in 2013 OBC has only recently made it down to the Little Rock market and we are extremely glad that it did. The three beers we have gotten so far have been exceptional. The Ozark Pale Ale is a great go-to beer that suits almost any situation but my personal favorite- the Belgian Style Golden Strong ale is really something special. It’s just a tasty beverage and I hope that its popularity opens the door for more brewers to experiment with Belgian-style ales that I personally love so much. As a bonus, OBC is available in cans so…… river beer win.
Started in 2000 Diamond Bear has expanded to become the largest volume beer producer in Arkansas. Don’t let their size fool you, Diamond Bear is still making high-quality beer with great flavor and traditional brewing practices. Try their award-winning Pale Ale or their Strawberry Blonde made with real local strawberries.