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2017 Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival preview 

Dozens of breweries, hundreds of beers, food, music and more.

click to enlarge BEER, BEER EVERYWHERE: And many drops to drink, at the Craft Beer Festival.
  • BEER, BEER EVERYWHERE: And many drops to drink, at the Craft Beer Festival.

Beer lovers, rejoice. The party of the year is just around the corner. The Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival returns to the Argenta Plaza (Sixth and Main streets in North Little Rock) on Friday, Oct. 27. The festival, which benefits the Argenta Arts District, has sold out in the past, so you'd be wise to pause reading this and go to centralarkansastickets.com and buy your tickets in advance ($35, $40 at the door). The festival will serve up samples of more than 200 beers from more than 50 local, regional and national breweries.

There will also be eats, included in the ticket price, from a dozen restaurants: Cregeen's, Arkansas Ale House, Old Chicago Pizza (North Little Rock and Conway), Skinny J's, Doe's Eat Place, Damgoode Pies, Vino's, Flyway Brewing, Southern Table, Burger 21, Santo Coyote and Whole Hog NLR. Plus, sponsor Edwards Food Giant, aka "the meat people," will be grilling up bratwursts. Bluegrass bands The Creek Rocks and Beste & Clarke will perform.

The event runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., rain or shine. Read on for a preview of the participating breweries and what they'll be pouring.

ARKANSAS BREWERIES

BIKE RACK BREWING CO. Local beer nerds are sure to be swarming to this tent to sample what star Arkansas brewer Josiah Moody has been doing at Bike Rack since he joined the Bentonville brewery in February. The former Vino's and Damgoode Pies brewer, who also has his own Moody Brews label, came to Bike Rack amid a massive expansion in May that included a new brewery and taproom in a former Tyson plant at 801 S.E. Eighth St. The new brewery allows Moody and Co. to produce in a day what the setup in the original — and still open — location along the Razorback Regional Greenway allowed them to make in a month. Bike Rack will be pouring its Epic Trail Amber Ale, Slaughter Pen IPA and Urban Trail Golden Ale at the festival.

BLUE CANOE Come by the Blue Canoe table for some brew and to hear about the Little Rock beer maker's massive expansion plans. Before October is out, the nearly 3-year-old brewery plans to move its home base to 1637 E. 15th St., a 20,000-square-foot building that used to house the old PC Hardware. The Blue Canoe taproom at 425 E. Third St. will remain open. Blue Canoe East will have pool, shuffleboard and foosball tables, video games, Baggo, horseshoes and darts. Get more details while you sample Blue Canoe's Razorback Rye, Whoo Brew and more.

BUFFALO BREWING CO. The Water Buffalo sells supplies to hobby brewers and winemakers, gardeners, cheese makers and soda makers. Last year, owner Nolen Buffalo (real name) opened Buffalo Brewing Co., a microbrewery and taproom in the back of the store. There you can find beer from local breweries, expert home brewers and Buffalo Brewing Co. Much of what the fledgling brewery will be serving remained to be determined at press time, but you can count on finding the popular Luau Pineapple Wheat.

CORE BREWING CO. The Springdale brewery's novel expansion plan has been to put English-style public houses, often with beer and little else on the menu, throughout Arkansas just about as prolifically as Starbucks. They're in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Springdale and North Little Rock (and there might be more; it's hard to keep track). For the craft beer festival, head brewer and owner Jesse Core is sending Behemoth Pilsner, Hazelnut Brown, Toasted Coconut Brown and more.

DAMGOODE BREWING Damgoode's mini empire — with three pizzerias in Little Rock and one in Fayetteville — got into the beer business in 2015, when it moved into the former home of Boscos Restaurant & Brewing Co. in the River Market district. Check it out at the festival to get a sample of Ready, Set, Gose, a German citrus saltwater sour beer; Red Ribbon Golden Ale; Arkansas Amber; and Arktoberfest, a German lager.

DIAMOND BEAR Arkansas's first production brewery — founded 17 years ago — has embraced one of the trends sweeping through the industry: It's now canning four of its six year-round brews — Pale Ale, Presidential IPA, Southern Blonde and Strawberry Blonde. Meanwhile, the brewery continues to roll out its Hibernation Series of barrel-aged beers. Maybe we'll be lucky enough to get a taste at the fest. Guaranteed to be there are the IPA, Pale Ale, Rocktoberfest, Southern Blonde, Strawberry Blonde and Two Term.

FLYWAY BREWING Can we all agree that many, maybe even most, beer names are bad? In that spirit, North Little Rock's Flyway Brewing deserves extra credit for a cohesive name scheme. Its name is inspired by the Mississippi Flyway, the migration route that takes birds over Arkansas to and from Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, and accordingly all of its year-round beers have migration-themed names: Bluewing Blueberry Wheat, Early Bird IPA, Free Range Brown Ale, Migrate Pale Ale and Shadowhands Stout. At the fest, the brewery will be pouring all those beers, along with its Coffee Cake Stout and Magdalene Tripel.

LOST FORTY BREWING After four expansions since opening in late 2014, Arkansas's largest brewery by volume expects to produce 15,000 barrels of beer by the end of the year. We expect the expansions will continue. The Lost Forty taproom is constantly packed; the beer is prominently displayed in retail stores everywhere. The experts have given the brewery acclaim, too. In October, the judges at the Great American Beer Festival, the largest commercial beer competition in the world, awarded Lost Forty's new-this-year Logger Rita Vienna Lager a silver medal in the Vienna lager category. It's the first GABF medal for an Arkansas brewery since 2008. Lost Forty didn't know what it would be pouring at the festival at press time, but considering it's holding a big launch party for its barrel-aged Nighty Night Imperial Stout on Oct. 21, here's hoping there'll be some left over.

OZARK BEER CO. After moving its brewing operation late last year from the outskirts of Rogers to a historic building on the square (109 N. Arkansas), Ozark Beer Co. has kept growing in 2017. This summer, it began canning its Ozark IPA and distributing it — along with cans of American Pale Ale, Belgian Golden and Cream Stout — throughout Northwest and Central Arkansas. The brewery also collaborated with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on 61 Eyes California Pale Ale, a beer inspired by a recipe Crystal Bridges found among famed architect, inventor and thinker Buckminster Fuller's papers. The beer uses Citra hops that have been cryogenically frozen on the vine, which makes them much more potent than the dry hops brewers typically use. It's a process that could revolutionize brewing, Marty Shutter, director of marketing at Ozark, said. If you know the secret handshake, Shutter might let you try some 61 Eyes and maybe, just maybe, a sip of the much-coveted Bourbon Double Cream Stout (or BDCS), a 10.1 alcohol-by-volume cream stout that ages over the winter in bourbon barrels. The American Pale Ale, Belgian Golden, Cream Stout and IPA will be in full supply.

REBEL KETTLE BREWING CO. Rebel Kettle has a lot going for it: a brew-crew led by brewer and part owner John Lee that's terrifically talented and boldly experimental, a menu of delicious Cajun-flavored pub grub and an outdoor stage and spot to play cornhole and enjoy the weather. Stop by the Rebel Kettle table and hear about the brewery's grand ambitions to keep growing, and sample Delorean Dynamite, a Berliner Weisse-style sour; Don't Fear the Reaper; Nightmare on "C-Street" Black IPA; REDRUMPUM Imperial Pumpkin Amber Ale; and Show 'Em Your O'Fest Oktoberfest Märzen.

STONE'S THROW BREWING Little Rock's favorite neighborhood brewpub was at the vanguard of the craft brewery explosion in Arkansas when it opened in 2013. It's grown since — adding in 2015 a biergarten with six large picnic tables out in front and an annex for added seating inside — but it's still cozy, a perfect spot for a happy hour pint or a night of Arkansas trivia. Stone's Throw will be pouring Kavanaugh Kristalweiss, Cran-Apple Cider, Shamus Stout and Amer Belge Belgian IPA.

SUPERIOR BATHHOUSE BREWERY The first brewery to open in a national park and perhaps the only brewery in the world to use hot spring-fed water to make beer, Superior has become one of downtown Hot Springs' must-visit attractions. With massive windows across the front and a large front porch, it's an ideal spot to people-watch the tourists parading down Bathhouse Row. Open with tasty food and beer from other beer makers since 2013, brewer/owner Rose Schweikhart couldn't begin brewing her own beer until 2015 because of the lengthy federal permitting process. Come see why it was worth the wait and see if her beer cures what ails you. It will include the DeSoto Golden Stout, Fouke-ness Monster and Udder Chaos IPA at the fest.

VINO'S The state's oldest continually operating brewery, Vino's continues to brew reliably delicious beer. Is there a more refreshingly delicious pale ale in Arkansas than Vino's Firehouse Pale? Owner Henry Lee has kept the winning formula largely the same for 27 years: pizza and calzones, beer and live music. We couldn't get info on what Vino's plans to pour at the fest by press time.

REGIONAL

ABITA BREWING CO. Abita's brews are made with unfiltered, untreated water from an artesian well in the piney woods of Abita Springs, La., just 30 miles north of the Big Easy. Rigorous environmental preservation standards and a tradition of donating to causes like disaster recovery make it clear that care — both for the Earth and for fellow man — is fundamental to the company's ethos. Taste two of Abita's year-round brews, Andygator and Purple Haze, or try a limited release or seasonal beer, like the Peach Lager, from the Harvest series.

ANTHEM BREWING CO. The brewers at Oklahoma City's Anthem Brewing Co. are passionate about bringing joy to people's lives via their taste buds. They see their menu of distinctive brews that intermingle the flavors of the Old World with the New as their own anthem to the world. Check out their OK Pils, Arjuna Witbier, Uroboros Stout, Golden One Belgian-style blonde ale, and the Anthem IPA; they're confident they'll have you singing.

BOULEVARD BREWING CO. Boulevard Brewing Co. is a household name, with 600,000 barrels rolling out each year. Among the fresh and distinctively flavored products available at the festival will be Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale — a grapefruit-forward ale with a peppery, dry finish — and three examples of the brewery's Rye-on-Rye series, the creation of which begins with a rich, tawny rye ale that is then mellowed in the warmth of charred oak rye whiskey casks: Rye-on-Rye 2016, Rye-on-Rye Classic Sazerac and Rye on Rye on Rye, which is aged twice.

COOP ALE WORKS Hailing from Oklahoma City, COOP Ale Works once again brings a lineup that packs a major flavor punch. COOP calls its F5 IPA "a belligerent hop reckoning"; it has a straightforward malt body to ground the citrus, grapefruit and pine notes produced by the unique hop amalgam. Native Amber offers a nuanced malt with an energetic dry-hopped finish. A spin on the year-round DNR, the limited release Cask-it Series Rye Barrel Aged DNR has undergone the aging process to further enrich the character of the Belgian-style dark ale, ripening it into a bouquet of aromas. Spare Rib pale ale is back again, with its late-hopped flavor and mild finish.

DESTIHL BREWERY Destihl Brewery knows how to follow a curious hunch and end up with a distinctive and flavorful new product — lots of them. With a beer list as long as it has, its narrowing down what brews to bring to the fest must have been a tough task. What made the cut? Synchopathic Apricot and Here Gose Nothin', both from the Wild Sour series; Weissenheimer, a south-German style hefeweizen; and a specialty bomber to be determined.

GHOST RIVER BREWING CO. Memphis brewery Ghost River Brewing takes its name from a section of the Wolf River that's about 50 miles east of the city, where the river widens into a large, still opening; the surface looks placid, but a powerful current cuts a channel beneath — the Ghost River. In the same way, this brewery's attention to detail and its vigilance in creating a consistent product are unseen forces for the many who enjoy the brews. Available to taste will be the Riverbank Red, Ghost River Gold, Grindhouse Cream Ale and the 1887 IPA.

GOLDCREST BREWING CO. In 2015 a beer was reintroduced to the world when Little Rock resident Kenn Flemmons recovered the recipe for "The Original Memphis Beer," Goldcrest 51, which hadn't been produced since 1954, when the Tennessee Brewing Co. closed. The 51 will make an appearance at the festival, of course, and so will the Goldcrest Premium Bock. Don't miss the chance to have a taste of Memphis history.

GREAT RAFT BREWING Shreveport's Great Raft Brewing prides itself on creating "real" and unpretentious beers that play well with the spicy and bold culinary culture of the South. It'll be pouring Southern Drawl Pilsner, a mild, traditional session lager; Commotion Pale Ale, a hop-forward, slightly sweet pale with a pleasant finish; Reasonably Corrupt Black Lager, a black lager with dark malt sweetness; Buffalo Trace Barrel-aged Creature of Habit, a coffee brown aged in Bourbon barrels; and the Grace and Grit IPA, which has tropical aromas and bitterness balanced by honey malt.

INDEPENDENCE BREWING CO. Austin's own Independence Brewing Co. presents a lineup of its indie-spirited, smooth, full-flavored brews — just in time to celebrate its 13th anniversary. Stash IPA, which the brewers describe as a "dank, resinous hop trip," is a perfect storm of four types of hops: Nugget, Columbus, Galaxy and Summit. Power + Light is an American Pale that is crisp and lingers, with a hint of grapefruit. Austin Amber's toasted malt flavor and smooth finish are a match made in heaven with rich, heavy, comfort foods. Liberty Lunch takes the IPA a different direction from Stash; it's a tropical breeze of an IPA. And the Redbud Berliner Weisse will be a favorite among sour beer fans, with its lemon-tart effervescence.

LAZY MAGNOLIA Lazy Magnolia is Mississippi's first packaging brewery since prohibition was enacted in 1907. This year, it'll be pouring at least one beer, its signature brew: Southern Pecan. The brewers claim that it's the first beer in the world to be made with whole, roasted pecans. Full of unique character but easy-drinking, its recipe had to be perfected to accommodate nut oil without losing any of the flavor.

MOTHER'S BREWING CO. Mother's Brewing Co. is, in the brewers' own words, "Springfield's bottoms-upping, five-slapping, wise-cracking, keg-tapping team of craft beer lovers hell-bent on brewing and sharing the love." In that spirit, it'll be pouring two of its brews at the festival this year: Uncanny, an American pale ale with an intense hop character, and Oktoberfest, a Märzen lager.

PINEY RIVER BREWING CO. Ozark homebrewers-turned-pros Joleen and Brian Durham are the hearts and minds behind Piney River Brewing Co. From their 80-acre farm, brewery and taproom "BARn" in Bucyrus, Mo., they are bringing a few of their best-loved brews for all to taste. Float Trip is a blonde ale that took home the gold in the "Best American Wheat Beer" category of the 2017 U.S. Open Beer Championship. Black Walnut Wheat is an American-style wheat with the aroma and finish of black walnuts, and at the 2017 Open it won silver in the "American Wheat Dark" category. Hopheads will want to head straight for the Missouri Mule IPA, and River Access lager will satisfy others who want an easy-drinking beer.

PRAIRIE ARTISAN ALES Playful and eccentric brews are the order of the day, every day, at Prairie Artisan Ales in Krebs, Okla., and they're bringing the fun to the festival this year with an adventurous beer list. Apricot Funk is a sour ale aged on apricots that achieves just the right tartness level; Birthday Bomb! is a new iteration of the brewery's popular Prairie Bomb! (a beer that some might categorize closer to dessert than beverage); Flare is a gose ale brewed with orange and coriander; Twist is a saison farmhouse ale; and Vape Tricks — a tongue-in-cheek critique of vaping culture — is a kettle-soured ale conditioned on cherries for "around a month."

SAINT LOUIS BREWERY (SCHLAFLY BEER) As the largest locally owned, independent brewery in Missouri, the Saint Louis Brewery is better known for the name of its flagship beers, Schlafly. It's been a cornerstone of the brand to focus locally — within a 300-mile radius — and, lucky for us, Arkansas fits in that area. Served up at the Schlafly tent will be the Pumpkin Ale — perfect for this season — which tastes like a slice of pumpkin pie; Kölsch, a golden ale that's available year-round; and the White Lager, which was originally a seasonal offering but satisfied so many that it has been upgraded to full-time status.

SHINER BEER This family of Texas beers is iconic for the state, and since Shiner Beer got its start in 1909 every drop has been brewed in a small-town brewery with 6 million cases in distribution nationwide. Shiner Bock is the MVP, an American-style dark lager, but also on the tasting table will be Shiner Light; Shiner Cheer, a holiday dunkelweizen brewed with Texas peaches and roasted pecans; and Shiner Golden Ale, a light-bodied ale dry-hopped with Mosaic hops, giving it its tropical notes.

SWEETWATER BREWING CO. Surely you've been seeing SweetWater Brewing Co. everywhere since its distribution expanded, but if you haven't yet had an opportunity to taste the Atlanta brews, the festival is your chance. Triple Tail is a seasonal offering that approaches the IPA from a tropical perspective; Goin' Coastal takes a slightly different tack, as an IPA that packs a pineapple punch; Hop Hash Easy IPA is the IPA lover's IPA — fruit forward and with what the brewers call a "one-of-a-kind chewy, gooey, resiny mouthfeel"; and Blue is a blueberry wheat that is subtle and fresh.

click to enlarge GET AHEAD: Of the festival crowd by buying tickets before they're sold out.
  • GET AHEAD: Of the festival crowd by buying tickets before they're sold out.

TIN ROOF BREWING CO. Baton Rouge's Tin Roof Brewing Co. has a similar origin story to so many of the South's exceptional breweries: None of the beer close to home satisfied the owners' tastes, so they made their own. Tin Roof will be pouring two favorites from the beer list: Voodoo Pale Ale, a thicker and hoppier-than-typical pale ale, and Juke Joint IPA.

WISEACRE BREWING CO. Memphis is home to Wiseacre Brewing Co., which will be represented by five of its brews. Named with the Sanskrit word for "bliss," Ananda IPA is dry hopped and juicy, delivering on the high hopes the name inspires. Tiny Bomb American pilsner is made with German and American pilsner malt and inundated with 50 pounds of local wildflower honey, delivering a sweet clover finish. Adjective Animal (i.e. "Grumpy Giraffe, Funny Ferret, Sophisticated Owl, Ostentatious Ocelot, Cantankerous Coatimundi ... you know the drill.") is as hop-forward as they come. Oktoberfest is a traditional Märzen — smooth, clean and malty.

NATIONAL

ALPINE BEER CO. Hoppiness equals happiness at Alpine Beer Co., a small-town brewery tucked into the foothills of the mountains just outside of San Diego. It'll be represented by Windows Up, an American IPA chock-full of Citra and Mosaic hops.

BALLAST POINT BREWING CO. The story of Ballast Point Brewing Co. begins in 1996 as a local San Diego beer making hobby shop called Home Brew Mart, where building a brewery out back set two friends' dreams in motion. Since then, the brand has seen unchecked growth, expanding into larger, newer facilities, though the original Home Brew Mart still stands and serves as a tasting room for Ballast Point beers. At the festival, Ballast Point will serve three IPAs, a blonde and a sea monster (no, this isn't a "walk into a bar" joke). In the tradition of West Coast IPAs, Fathom IPA is easy-drinking with enough depth — orange and pine notes — to leave an impression. Ballast Point's Sculpin IPA is what the brewery recognizes as its "trophy beer," an award winner that's hopped at five separate stages with lots of fruit and a serious sting. Take that recipe and twist it with grapefruit, and you get Grapefruit Sculpin IPA. Bonito Blonde is a tribute to the ever-gorgeous and sunny San Diego weather. And that Sea Monster? It's an imperial stout that reaches into the darkest depths of a traditional oatmeal stout.

BALL'S BREWERY Eccentricity and authenticity have been at the root of Bell's Brewery right from the start. Selling beer in Michigan since 1985, Bell's Amber Ale is the backbone of the brand — toasted sugar and malt balances with herbal and citrus hop aromas, all with a crisp, bitter finish. Two-Hearted is a smooth and easy IPA with pine and grapefruit notes. Before you taste the two signature stouts, Kalamazoo and Cherry, try the robust Porter to bridge the gap.

BRECKENRIDGE BREWERY Skiing isn't the only game in town in Breckenridge, Colo.; there's plenty of drinking to be done, too. Though the production capacity of the original brewery has long since been outstripped by demand, the beer is still served there, at altitude. The newest Breckenridge facility, purchased in 2015, is a 12-acre, "farm-inspired campus" in Littleton. Not only is this the site of the 100-barrel brewhouse; it's a public attraction, complete with restaurants, bocce ball courts, wraparound porches and a majestic view of the Rockies. Creating a leisure paradise for beer lovers proves the brand's focus on customer experience. At the festival, the brewery will be pouring Vanilla Porter, Nitro Vanilla Porter — the addition of nitrogen creates a more velvety mouth feel — and Mango Mosaic Pale Ale.

CALDERA BREWING CO. Though canning — rather than bottling — is now commonplace among craft breweries, Caldera has been micro-canning since 2005, making it the first craft brewery on the West Coast to brew and can its own beer. More important than the can, however, is what's inside. Caldera will pour Lawnmower Lager for drinkers who like it nice and easy; IPA, for those who don't mind a little hop aggression; and Mogli, a chocolate, bourbon, oak-aged Imperial Porter, the creation of which was inspired by the loss of one of man's best friends.

CARSON'S BREWERY Carson's Brewery, in Indiana, speaks craft beer in an entirely different language and appeals to a different drinker. Taste the award-winning beers it will have on offer, and find out if you like your beer with a sharper edge. Git-R-Done cream ale — a beer honoring Larry the Cable Guy — will be served, as will Brown Cow brown ale and its richer partner in crime, Vanilla Brown Cow. Red Dawn amber wheat, Demonik Double IPA — the bitter finish of which the brewer describes as "sarcophagy" — and Ripa, a red IPA, round out the list.

CASCADE BREWING This Portland, Ore., outfit is leading the charge in the "sour beer revolution." Cascade will be serving the same four ultra-premium, oak barrel-aged, lactic-fermented Northwest sour ales that it presented at last year's festival: Apricot, Blueberry, Kriek (aged with cherries) and Strawberry, which is also aged with vanilla beans.

CLOWN SHOES BEER The unpretentious vision of Clown Shoes Beer is to be "free and a little crazy." What that translates to in the beer is an ethic of play and creativity, recovering styles of beer that had fallen from favor or had stagnated. The brewery is bringing some prime examples, like Undead Party Crasher, an American imperial stout; Mango, an American Kolsch dry-hopped with Huell Melon Hops and flavored with natural mango; and Chocolate Sombrero, a Mexican-style chocolate stout.

ELYSIAN BREWING Elysian Brewing operates four restaurants and a full-production brewery in Seattle. With that much territory, this is a beer maker with some crowds to please; thus its reputation for creating brews that are classics, as well as more experimental ones. The brew it's selected to share at the festival is called Space Dust; it's an IPA, with what the brewers call "pure starglow energy," with Chinook hops added first, to bitter the beer, and later additions of dry Citra and Amarillo.

FOUNDERS BREWING CO. Founders Brewing Co. attributes its success — six World Beer Cup medals, four European Beer Star medals and three Great American Beer Festival medals — to its refusal to play to the middle and try to please the masses. The brewery's passion is making beer for people who have a passion for beer: people like them. Try the All Day IPA, the Dirty Bastard and the Porter from the year-round selection, or take Mosaic Promise for a spin, an elegant golden ale showcasing only two ingredients: Mosaic hops and Golden Promise malt. If you're a coffee lover, the Breakfast Stout specialty beer will get you going; it's brewed with flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and two types of coffee.

GOOSE ISLAND Since 2011, Goose Island has been owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, yet it has never wavered in product quality or innovation. It still earns the respect it garnered among craft beer drinkers. The tasting list is enticing and runs the gamut of taste profiles. 312 Urban Wheat and Goode IPA will be poured alongside vintage ales Lolita, Halia, Sofie and Gillian. Bourbon County Stout poses a striking contrast and will have people lined up.

GREEN FLASH BREWING CO. San Diego mainstay Green Flash Brewing Co. approaches beer making and business with the same ingenuity — from partnerships with other breweries (like Alpine Beer Co., see above) to pushing the boundaries of barrel-aging and bottle-conditioning. At the festival, it's serving up West Coast IPA, a double IPA; Soul Style, a bright and tropical IPA; Passion Fruit Kicker, wheat ale with passion fruit; GFB blonde ale; and Ideal Belgique, a bottle-conditioned grand cru Belgian-style dark ale from the Cellar 3 collection.

KONA BREWING CO. Kona Brewing Co. made its debut in Hawaii in 1995 with Pacific Golden Ale (now called Big Wave Golden Ale) and Fire Rock Pale Ale. Longboard Island Lager was added to the beer list three years later. Approximately 10 other styles of beer are brewed and served at the brewery's pubs. Today, Kona's three mainstay beers are distributed throughout Hawaii, and it is the top-selling craft beer in the islands. Longboard Island Lager and Big Wave Golden Ale — both of which are distributed throughout the continental U.S. — are up for tasting at the festival.

LAGUNITAS BREWING CO. Lagunitas Brewing Co. has multiple hubs, in California, Washington and Illinois, a structure that the brewer relates as a way to unify the "beer-loving diaspora" from coast to coast. Lagunitas returns to the festival this year with a tried-and-true lineup, including its ever-popular IPA; a reinvented pale ale, unfiltered and fresh-hopped, called Born Yesterday; American strong ale, Brown Shugga; and hop-forward 12th of Never.

LEFT COAST BREWING CO. Family-owned-and-operated Left Coast Brewing Co. is located in San Clemente, Calif. The independent brewery started in 2004 and since then has expanded into more than 25 states and seven countries. Demand is driving its growth, with awards and recognitions aplenty, and the 3,500-barrel operation is now surpassing 11,000 barrels a year. Don't miss the chance to taste Hop Juice, a triple IPA; Asylum, a Belgian-style tripel ale; and VooDoo, an American stout.

NEW BELGIUM BREWING CO. New Belgium Brewing Co. began operations in a tiny Fort Collins, Colo., basement in 1991. Today, the third-largest craft brewer in the U.S., New Belgium produces seven beers year-round and releases seasonal brews throughout the year. Taste the amber ale the maker is best-known for, Fat Tire, along with its reincarnation as Fat Tire Belgian White. Also try Voodoo Ranger IPA; Accumulation, a white IPA; and Dayblazer, an easygoing golden ale.

NORTH COAST BREWING CO. In 1988, North Coast Brewing Co. was at the forefront of the craft beer movement. Between then and now, the California brewery's product has been recognized with 110 national and international beer awards. At the festival, it'll be pouring Old Rasputin Russian imperial stout, Brother Thelonious Belgian-style abbey ale, Scrimshaw pilsner, Puck Petit Saison and Pranqster Belgian-style golden ale.

OSKAR BLUES BREWERY Now a three-site operation, Oskar Blues Brewery began in a basement in Longmont, Colo. The brewer also claims the title of "original craft brew in a can," a choice that it says keeps beer fresher by protecting it from light, makes it more safely portable, and is widely recyclable. For festival goers they'll be serving up Dale's Pale Ale — the brewery's linchpin — Mama's Little Yella Pils, Pinner Throwback IPA, Old Chub Scotch Ale and Death by Coconut Irish porter.

SAMUEL ADAMS (BOSTON BEER CO.) Samuel Adams beer made an auspicious start in 1984, when Jim Koch brewed the first batch of Boston Lager in his home's kitchen using a recipe that reached back to the 1870s, when his great-great-grandfather had a St. Louis brewery. Just six weeks after Jim Koch presented his Samuel Adams Boston Lager to the public, it brought home the "Best Beer in America" award at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. From there, the brewery's success has skyrocketed; Samuel Adams is the second largest craft brewery in the US. In addition to the trademark lager, Samuel Adams will be pouring Winter Lager, Octoberfest, Rebel IPA and a special brew still to be determined.

SHOCKTOP Another brewery that operates within the Anheuser-Busch InBev framework, Shock Top predominately creates citrus-centric flavor profiles for easy-drinking wheat beers. For the festival, it'll be pouring Belgian White, Sunset Orange, Ruby Fresh and Inner Beauty.

SIERRA NEVADA BREWING CO. A true craft beer forerunner, Sierra Nevada helped define what craft beer making in America could become. Now a much larger operation, the brewery is still known for consistency and flavor. Taste a pour of the Pale Ale; Otra Vez, a gose-style brew with a cactus twist; the cult classic Bigfoot Barleywine-style ale; and the Torpedo IPA.

SIXPOINT BREWERY Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery cites "mad science" as its guiding philosophy, claiming that the madness and the science are both necessary for making superior beer. They operated as a draft-only brewery in Red Hook until 2010, when they began canning and distributing further afield and have been tweaking, improving and releasing new formulations ever since. Early this summer, Sixpoint began releasing all of its ales raw and unfiltered, while also incorporating new building block ingredients. The two brews it's serving up this year are Resin double IPA and Sweet Action blonde.

SQUATTERS CRAFT BEERS Last year, Salt Lake City restaurant group and brewery outfit Squatters Craft Beers came to the festival as a guest of Wasatch Brewery, and it's back again this year, this time serving Off Duty IPA, Hop Rising double IPA, Outer Darkness and Full Suspension Pale Ale.

STONE BREWING When Beer Advocate names your brewery the "All-time Top Brewery on Planet Earth" not once, but twice, it's time to add that blurb to your resume. Stone Brewing has been there, and its growth seems unstoppable. It comes to Little Rock with five noteworthy brews to pour: the IPA, the Delicious IPA, the Go To IPA, Ripper pale ale and Arrogant Bastard, a Bourbon barrel-aged ale.

TALLGRASS BREWING CO. Former geologist Jeff Gill got up the nerve to leave his career and start Tallgrass Brewing, when, one night over dinner, his wife asked him what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Brewing was his answer, and as of 2015 the operation moved into a facility large enough to meet the growing demands on their production, as one of the top regional craft breweries in the Midwest. Two fruit-flavored wheat ales top the list of their festival offerings, Blueberry Jam and Raspberry Jam; Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat and 8-Bit Pale Ale round out the selection.

VICTORY BREWING CO. Pennsylvania microbrewery Victory Brewing Co. was founded in 1996 by childhood friends who first met on a school bus in 1973. Victory now serves craft beer enthusiasts in 29 states dynamic beers that meld European training with the spirit of free thinking and innovation. Victory brews that will be poured are Dirtwolf Double IPA, Golden Monkey Belgian Tripel, Prima Pils and Sour Monkey Sour Brettanomyces Tripel.

WASATCH BREWERY In 1986, Greg Schirf opened the first Utah brewery in the resort destination of Park City, and he named the operation for the Wasatch Mountains, east of Salt Lake City. In July 1989, Schirf opened the first brewpub in Utah at the top of historic Main Street in Park City. Schirf, in fact, proposed the bill to the Utah Legislature in 1988 to legalize the operation of brewpubs in the state, of which there are now 12. The beers the Park City brewery plans to pour at the fest include Devastator Double Bock, Ghost Rider White IPA, Polygamy Nitro Porter, Evolution Amber and Apricot Hefe.

INTERNATIONAL

HIRTER BIER Austrian beer maker Hirter Bier is presenting two beers for your enjoyment: Privat Pils, which is brewed with ancient Bohemian recipes with an extended aging period, and, Hirter Morchl, a beer lover's beer, with a dry malt effect on the palate and a faintly bitter but well-rounded finish.

STIEGL Another Austrian beer maker with a rich history, Stiegl, will be serving its popular Grapefruit Radler, Zitron-Lemon Radler, Goldbrau and Pils.


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