The Natural State
In 2009 you could count the Arkansas breweries on one hand, today there are 40 or more that exist. With such a small Arkansas craft beer history in existence since the start of the 21st century, it’s surprising to hear that there were actually at least two breweries that date back to the pre-Prohibition days.
German immigrant Joseph Knoble opened his brewery in Fort Smith which ran from 1848 to 1881. The building still stands today and represents some of the city’s oldest surviving architecture. It also represents the kind of breweries seen in Knobles hometown of Wittenberg, Germany.
The Little Rock Brewery is another that was open until the national ban on alcohol went into effect in 1920. Along with Knobles brewery and Little Rock’s, two German brothers Alexander and Henry George opened a brewery and beer garden in downtown Little Rock.
Now that we’ve gone over the pre-Prohibition beer history, now comes time for all the growth that has occurred in the past two decades. Merely 10 years ago, breweries were limited to Fayetteville and Little Rock, but today there are some in smaller towns such as Harrison, Mountain Home, Paris and Amity. Arkansas breweries are spread across the rural landscape tucked into the hills and hollers far off the beaten path.
In 2010 beer drinkers in Arkansas were limited to macro lagers from companies like Bud, Miller, and Coors while dining out, however today, Arkansas made beers can be found in most restaurants with tap handles. Brewers today are making flavorful beer in many different styles and arguably living in the best era of beer the state has seen.
Though the craft brewing scene has grown considerably in Arkansas over the past twenty years having produced 46,000 barrels of beer in 2018, this still only puts them in 48th place in the United States ranks. To put this in perspective, Pennsylvania was number 1 producing 3.7 million barrels of beer. Arkansas may be behind other states, but that just means they have plenty of room to grow!
Before you go to Arkansas to start trying all the incredible craft beers and breweries they have to offer, its important to know the Arkansas beer laws. Under Arkansas state law, the sale of packaged alcoholic beverages in prohibited on Sundays. They may only be sold between 7:00 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 7:00 a.m. and midnight and Saturdays.
Although you cant get them on Sundays, while you’re there here are some of the best Arkansas breweries to try: Ozark Beer Company, Diamond Bear Brewing Co., Gravity BrewWorks, Bike Rack Brewing Co., Fossil Cove Brewing Co., Stone’s Throw Brewing, Apple Blossom Brewing Company, Lost Forty Brewing, Saddlebock Brewing, and Hog Haus Brewing Company.
Lost Forty Brewing Company is the largest by volume in Arkansas producing nearly 15,000 barrels in 2018 and every last drop was sold inside the states borders. Core Brewing Company is the second biggest brewing company, and recently signed a sponsorship deal with the University of Arkansas’s athletic program, and is now served and available inside the Fayetteville stadium.
The brewing industry has experienced its ups with a significant growth, but has also had its share of challenges and close downs. As Arkansas beer drinkers have grown more discerning over the past decade, tastes have changed, and qualities and consistencies have improved being the new key to brewing success. Arkansas is a place that once preferred old school Pale Ales, Stouts, and Wheats, but now everything is about sours, hazy IPAs, and barrel aged ales. A decade ago, anything that wasn’t crystal clear would suggest it was a seriously flawed beer, but now almost every brewery has a hazy IPA in their repertoire. Another industry trend is spiked seltzer which is incredibly popular nationwide.
Most Arkansas breweries sell the bulk of their beer directly to consumers over taproom counters and the average output per brewery was just over 1000 barrels in 2018. Only a few package their craft beer for sales in the retail market. Diamond Bear Brewing Company’s arrival was significant because it marked the first time an Arkansas brewery put most of its resources into packaging for off premise sales.
Arkansas craft breweries have become bona fide travel destinations, and an ever-evolving industry, which has seen dramatic, changes over the last decade. On top of this, it has had a significant economic impact, with the states brewing industry generating near $500 million.
After learning everything Arkansas has evolved into over the past few decades, it will be interesting to see what changes occur over the next decade!
We are pleased to feature a number of brew styles from this region in our beer of the month club. Enjoy!
Core Brewing & Distilling Co.
A rapidly expanding Northwest Arkansas brewery, Core Brewing Company is all about hometown pride, offering big, innovative brews rooted in tradition.
Established in Springdale, Arkansas in 2010, Core Brewing & Distilling ...Read more...
Diamond Bear Brewing Company
An internationally-awarded world-class craft brewery in Little Rock
Arkansas’ first production brewery, Diamond Bear Brewing Company was f ...Read more...