We appreciate what Lost Forty Brewery is doing: Opening a brewpub in a broken-down part of town takes guts, and while Yellow Rocket Concepts — the restaurant group behind Big Orange, Local Lime, ZaZa and the coming Heights Taco and Tamale Co. — surely isn't hurting for capital, it just as surely doesn't want to lose any. Judging by the crowds that keep the Byrd Street brewpub standing room only most nights, the group doesn't have much to worry about.
It's cavernous inside the converted warehouse, with massive windows dividing the brewery and brewpub. Long, family-style tables stretched out parallel to the main bar provide most of the seating. A side bar offers a nice view of the brewing equipment and two enormous flat-screen TVs line the opposite wall. Like other Yellow Rocket restaurants, it's highly stylized. The name Lost Forty comes from the name of a 40-acre forest in Calhoun County where virgin hardwood and pine trees still grow. In keeping with that, most of the beers have outdoorsy names, the tap handles at the main bar are made of various old tools (a hack saw, a couple of axes) and the menus include some intricate Roll & Tumble Press letterpress printing.
Like the look of the brewpub, Lost Forty's beers hit all the right notes, and even if they don't stand out from the current pack of Arkansas craft brews, they are technically sound enough to suit any craft beer lover. The Lost Forty Pale Ale is a solid signature beer — rich and crisp with a flavor that opened up nicely as it warmed in our glass — while the Forest King Stout provided a nice, deep flavor that was perhaps a touch over-hopped for the style. We tried a glass of the Love Honey Bock at the urging of some friends, and while we could understand why they liked the sweet beer, it was a little cloying to us — a matter of personal preference, to be sure. Our favorite of the brews we sampled, the Rockhound IPA, was mild in terms of booziness but loaded with flavor, a one-two punch of excellence that we wish more beers in the style could pull off.
We expect that the beer at Lost Forty will get more experimental as time goes by, but when it comes to the menu, we hope that nothing much changes. On our first trip in, we were drawn to the fried Italian bologna with egg ($8) open-face sandwich, a thick piece of bologna topped with a lovingly fried egg, its yolk perfectly thick and creamy but not solid. Almost as enjoyable was the smoked turkey and Brie ($8.50), although with both sandwiches we would have liked another slice of bread on top. With a bar as packed as this, there's not always elbow room to eat an open-faced sandwich with a knife and fork.
Our favorite bite of the night was the smoked jalapeno pimiento cheese ($5.50), a spicy, tangy cheese spread served with lavash and celery that was more than enough for two people to share. Like your cheese hot? Go for the Petit Jean bacon cheese dip ($6.50), a thick, creamy queso served with corn chips. There's hardly a bar menu in this state that is without cheese dip, and Lost Forty's version can stack up with any.
Like other Yellow Rocket restaurants, Lost Forty offers nightly dessert specials. We sampled a bread pudding served in a mini cast-iron skillet, a sweet, spicy dessert with a crunchy nut topping and moist, tender center. It was scrumptious.
Look for Lost Forty's brewing operation to expand rapidly. The brand has been popping up at bars and restaurants all over town — including all of the Yellow Rocket restaurants, where Lost Forty growlers can be refilled — and the plan, at least prior to opening, was for the brewery to begin canning three months into operation. Next up: regional expansion.