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Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival 2013 guide 

With beer from 50 brewers from across the country.

click to enlarge 2012 Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival image
  • Brian Chilson
  • At the 2012 festival.

Clear your schedule. Book the babysitter. Find your DD. The event of the year for beer drinkers with discerning palates is on the horizon. On Friday, Nov. 1, the Arkansas Times and the Argenta Arts District present the second annual Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival. It'll run from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Argenta Farmer's Market lot at Sixth and Main streets in North Little Rock. Tickets are $35 in advance at arktimes.com/craftbeerfest or $40 at the door. But don't dawdle; last year's even sold out, leaving some thirsty folks outside the gates.

Below, find short profiles of all the participating brewers. Even if you can't make it to the festival, consider it a near-comprehensive survey of the craft beer market in Arkansas.

ARKANSAS

Boscos Boscos has been brewing in our own backyard, down in the River Market district, for 10 years, but it got its start 21 years ago in Memphis. It's one of the few breweries in the country that makes a German "stein beer," heating up granite rocks in its pizza oven and dropping them into the beer during the brewing process to add a caramel flavor and taste. The result: The award-winning Famous Flaming Stone. Boscos is not a bottler, but besides enjoying beers at the restaurant you can buy the brew by the growler (64 ounces, $10 for beer, $3 for bottle), and you can buy said growlers on Sunday, manager Courtney Bibb would remind you. LNP

Core Brewing Northwest Arkansas has gone from a relatively parched beer market to having its own seven-brewery tour circuit — the Fayetteville Ale Trail — in short order. How to distinguish yourself from that pack? For Core, out of Springdale, it has been to roll out a true bonanza of brews (at the festival will be its ESB, LegHound, Hilltop IPA, Pumpkin Pie Lager, Imperial Red IPA, Black Lightning 2xIPA, Oatmeal Stout and Imperial Chocolate Stout). It's also pioneering a weird, fun series of online video documentary shorts with its owners and staff, sort of a "Duck Dynasty" set in the brewery, that generates lines like, "I might put you in a wood chipper one day, but I love you," and a comforting number of bleeps, on the way to teaching you about brewing. SE

Dark Hills If you follow Dark Hills Brewery President Connie Rieper-Estes on Facebook (she's "Connie Rieper-Estes Gluten Free Consultant"), you'll learn things like the fact that Celiac disease affects 1 in 133 Americans. Or that a mouth swab is the best way to determine if you're gluten intolerant. One factoid she's likely to tout soon: Not all gluten-free beers are equal. Some brewers use barley as their grain and extract the gluten from it. That process leaves behind small traces of gluten, according to Leigh Nogy, Rieper-Estes' partner, which is a problem, when even parts-per-million levels of gluten can cause a celiac sufferer problems. Dark Hills, a project Nogy and Rieper-Estes have been working on since around 2000, is completely gluten free. They're working on financing to open a small commercial operation in Bentonville. Once they open, Nogy, says there'll be no gluten allowed in their facility — not even for people's lunches. Dark Hills got an early endorsement when the brewery's Creamy Buck Wheat Amber — made from buckwheat, honey and sorghum molasses — won a gold medal in the Gluten Free category at the 2013 U.S. Open Beer Championship. LM

Diamond Bear It's likely you've already gotten acquainted with Little Rock's oldest craft brewery, now in its 14th year. At the festival the proprietors and master brewer will serve the brewery's decorated lineup of Pale Ale, Presidential IPA, Southern Blonde and Rocktoberfest, and probably brag on their new North Little Rock location: the former Orbea building at 600 N. Broadway. "We picked up the keys on Oct. 4," Diamond Bear founder Russ Melton said. Renovations are underway. Eventually the new digs will mean bigger on-site events and greater production. "You'll see some more brands, greater variety," Melton said. "We can only get as aggressive as our supply allows." Look for a more-aggressive Diamond Bear, then, right soon. SE

Dog Towne Brewing Company Little Rock businessman John Chandler describes himself as an enthusiastic brewer who's "in the process of putting together a nanobrewery at an undisclosed location." Wonder what side of the river it's on? It'll be a small operation, on the scale of Stone's Throw, something Chandler, who runs the wholesale merchandising company Asian American Global Trading Partners and has real estate holdings (including, full disclosure, controlling interest in the building where the Times' office is), and his partner Tom Rystrom, a real estate broker, can work on while maintaining their other gigs. The craft beer fest marks the public debut of Dog Towne's three brews. They've got good names: Hurt Me; She Almost Kilt Me Scottish Ale; Bock, Paper Scissors Helles Bock, and No Dog Like the Moedog IPA. LM

Flyway Brewing Co. Matt Foster homebrewed as a hobby for 10 years before starting Flyway Brewing Co., one of the state's newest craft breweries. He isn't brewing at home anymore — he shares space with Loblolly Creamery in a commercial kitchen in Quapaw Towers — and rather than sharing beer with friends, he's now selling it to local restaurants and brewpubs. But brewing beer is still a hobby. Foster is a longtime English and creative writing teacher at Central High School and has no plans to quit. Flyway "is all about quality — great beer — and not about quantity," he said. "I'm not trying to grow fast." The goal, he said, is to get Little Rock to continue its embrace of great beer. Next up on that mission: the debut of his Migrate Ale at the craft beer fest.

Fossil Cove Brewing Fayetteville's Fossil Cove Brewing Co. is now in its second year of operation. Its beers are available at several local restaurants, in growlers at liquor stores and, of course, on tap at its tasting room. They'll be pouring four beers, including the La Brea Brown, Black IPA, the seasonal Pumpkin Ale and the Paleo Ale, which was among the best beers I tasted at last year's festival. RB

Rebel Kettle Tommy McGhee and John Lee believe that beer shouldn't be categorized. They don't do competitions because they don't want to adhere to the strictures of classification. "We don't want to brew a beer to have someone tell us it's not, say, a brown [ale]," McGhee says. "We just want to brew beer that tastes good." So far so good. Co-workers at Bale Chevrolet, Lee and McGhee started brewing together four or five years ago. Six months back, they decided to take their brews public and began working towards opening Rebel Kettle. They don't yet have a location and are at the early stages of the permitting process, but according to McGhee, their beer went over well at Little Rock Rocktoberfest, Rebel Kettle's debut pouring. "Everyone really seemed to appreciate what we were doing," he said. The hit of the night was an Imperial Pumpkin Ale they call Red Rum Pum. They make it by mixing pumpkin puree in the mash and then dropping oak staves that've soaked in rum for more than a month into the beer. That'll be at the festival along with Black Reign, an imperial stout; the C Street IPA, made with eight different hops; a Coffee Coconut Cream and a Dirtbag Brown ale. LM

Refined Ale Brewery An Arkansas craft-brewing success story, Refined Ale Brewery started in 2010 as a one-man operation, that one man being Little Rock's Windell Gray, who founded the small-batch brewery in a former hair salon at Cedar and 23rd streets. Soon after, Gray started self-distributing his bottled beers to retailers all over central Arkansas, and his traditional brews have since become local faves. For the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival, Refined Ale will be pouring its Arkansas Premium Craft IPA, their APC Irish Stout, and their namesake Refined Ale. DK

Stone's Throw Brewing Little Rock's newest brewery may also be its smallest, but that hasn't stopped this nanobrewery from coming up with some big tastes. Stone's Throw has specialized in Belgian-style beers since its opening in July 2013, keeping a constant rotation of different Belgian styles on tap at its taproom on Ninth and Rock. Stone's Throw has also made a name for itself for featuring local brews from other Arkansas breweries, adding to the cooperative nature of the growing beer scene across the state. MR

Vino's Brew Pub Vino's began brewing beer just two years after Little Rock made on-site brewing legal for restaurants, but since the arrival of brew master Josiah Moody in 2010, the brewery has become known for its experimental beers, including cask-conditioned ales that feature locally grown hops and other botanicals from Little Rock's Dunbar Garden. In addition to a classic lineup of pale ales, IPAs, porters, and stouts, Vino's brewed Arkansas' first saison in 2012, then expanded on the style in 2013 with their "Slaughterhouse 5" cask-conditioned series. MR

REGIONAL

Abita Brewing Company Any brewery within shouting distance of New Orleans could reasonably roll out any ol' thin swill and keep the lights on. Not so venerated Abita, which is rolling some of its "big beers" up to Little Rock: its Abbey Ale (an 8 percent ABV double ale), its Andygator (also 8 percent, a helles dopplebock), and its SOS (for Save Our Shore, a stiff copper pilsner). These are fitting cool-weather beers from a sweltering clime. Need something lighter for those 110 percent humidity days? Its Amber lager, Restoration pale ale and Jockamo IPA (sing it!) will also grace the festival. SE

Bayou Teche Brewing Bayou Teche brewing began as an experiment to brew beer that would pair with the spicy Cajun food that is prevalent in the brewery's South Louisiana home. Not available for general purchase in Arkansas, this is an excellent brewery with balanced, well-crafted beers that are deceptively easy to drink. The brewery has come a long way from its 2009 start in an old railway car, but remains committed to the unique spirit of Cajun country. MR

Boulevard This Kansas City brewery has long been a craft beer presence in Arkansas, with staples like its Bully! Porter, Pale Ale and Unfiltered Wheat filling up pint glasses all over the state. For the Times Craft Beer Festival, Boulevard will be pouring several of its flagship year-round brews, including the Unfiltered Wheat and 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer, and from its Smokestack Series the Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, Saison-Brett, Reverb Imperial Pilsner, Long Strange Tripel and Sixth Glass Belgian dark strong ale. Also available will be the Westside Rye and Mid Coast IPA, both of which are seasonal and are only available in the sampler pack or on tap at its tasting room at Boulevard HQ. RB

Cathedral Square Brewery St. Louis's Cathedral Square Brewery was founded by brewmaster Brian Neville, who put in a decade with Spanish Peaks Brewing Co., makers of Black Dog Ale. He'll be pouring several of his distinctive brews, including the Abbey Ale (Beer Advocate raved thusly: "We closed our eyes and thought we were in a cafe in Belgium); White Ale; Hail Mary IPA; and the Repent Rye barleywine style ale and the Holy Moly Imperial Stout. Those last two clock in at a respective 9 and 10 percent ABV. RB

Charleville Based in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., Charleville started its life as a winery but has transitioned over the last several years into primarily a brewery, one that creates an array of seasonal beers. They'll be pouring their Half-Wit Wheat (a very session-able 4.5 percent ABV), the Hoptimistic IPA ("intense hop bitterness and flavor" per the brewer's website), Tornado Alley Amber and its seasonal Box of Chocolate, a Belgian Quadrupel that's a heady 10.5 percent ABV. It's also normally not available until early February, but the folks at Charleville brewed some special just for the Times Craft Beer Festival. RB

Choc Beer Tiny Krebs, Okla., is home to a fantastic old-school Italian market and several great restaurants, including Pete's Place, which in 1995 began brewing beer (though founder Pete Prichard had a history of brewing that began in the pre-Prohibition days). Short for Choctaw, Choc Beer offers a raft of excellent craft brews both seasonal and year-round. They'll be pouring their OPA, Winter Stout and the Oak-Aged Quad, a Belgian Quadrupel that really packs a punch at 11 percent ABV. RB

COOP Ale Works Three buddies in Oklahoma City spent three years researching and trying out homebrew test batches before founding COOP Ale Works in 2008. Since then they've become a hit in Oklahoma City with creative brews and a deep commitment to local production and distribution. They've also gotten attention for their efforts to create a more sustainable brewery through more efficient equipment, recyclable materials and a 100-percent wind-powered infrastructure. Their F5 IPA has been getting rave reviews from hop-fanatics, with citrus and pine accenting the bite. In addition to that, they'll be pouring Horny Toad Blonde, Native Amber and DNR — a Belgian-style dark ale. DR

Crown Valley Brewery A small operation out of Ste. Genevieve, Mo., Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling is a favorite tourist spot in the quaint Mississippi River town just south of St. Louis, but their beers — with a lineup featuring porters, pilsners and ales — aren't just for window dressing. For the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival, they'll be pouring six brews, including their Big Bison Ale, Gunslinger XX IPA, Coffman Coffee Porter, Farmhouse Lager, Sleigbell Spiced Ale and, for you apple drink fans, their strawberry-infused cider. DK

Lazy Magnolia Eight years ago this Gulf Coast brewery starting cranking out Mississippi's first commercial beer since Prohibition. For such a benighted beer state, the brews are downright freaky. The Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale pioneered the use of roasted pecans in beer, and went on to win a bronze at the 2006 World Beer Cup. The Jefferson Stout folds in sweet potatoes and lactose. The Timber Beast pours rye and four kinds of hops into an 8.9 ABV pale ale. All will be at the festival, plus a couple of stragglers to be determined soon. SE

Mustang Brewing Co. Tim Schoelen, then a healthcare executive, was sitting in a boardroom one day in his suit and tie, looked around, and thought, "Wait a minute, this isn't exactly what I wanted life to be." He sold his house, cashed out his 401k, moved into a rental house and started learning to brew beer in the garage on a 5-gallon turkey fryer. "As soon as the neighbors realized I wasn't cooking meth, we became popular," he said. "The neighborhood would come by and try out the beers." Mustang Brewing Co. served its first pint in the summer of 2009 and has been growing rapidly ever since. After "gypsy brewing" for several years (doing its brewing at the facilities of other microbreweries), it opened its own facility in Oklahoma City in January 2013. When the tragic tornado struck Moore in May, Mustang shut down the warehouse operations for two weeks to become a designated drop site for the Red Cross for tornado relief efforts. The night before Mustang was set to begin beer production again, another tornado hit Oklahoma City, destroying the brewery. With some help from the craft-beer community and their know-how in gypsy brewing, Mustang has kept up production and plans to open a new brewery in Oklahoma City later this year. Among the beers Mustang will be pouring is Washita Wheat, which has won gold at the World Beer Championships the last three years, beating out Sam Adams, among others. It's made with Oklahoma red wheat, giving it a slightly sweeter and less floral taste profile than white-wheat brews. DR

O'Fallon Brewery Founded in 2000 as a small craft brewery just outside of St. Louis, O'Fallon grew steadily until making a big leap in the last two years after Jim Gorcyzkais, a former Anheuser-Busch marketing executive, purchased the company. O'Fallon produces more than 13,000 barrels a year and is well on its way to making the transition from microbrewery to regional brewery. They'll be pouring four of their everyday beers — Wheach, 5-Day IPA, Hemp Hop Rye, and Smoked Porter — as well as their award-winning seasonal, O'Fallon Pumpkin Beer. This year is the tenth anniversary of the Pumpkin, which was the first pumpkin beer to be distributed in St. Louis. O'Fallon uses more than 100 pounds of pumpkin puree in every batch, setting the beer apart from other "pumpkin" brews, which often just use spices and no actual pumpkin. DR

Piney River Brewing This Missouri Ozarks brewery named for a nearby float-trip river packages its beer in cans, all the better to chill safely in an eddy, and brews in a restored, 70-year-old barn. The beer's only available in Missouri and Arkansas, but look for demand to increase since the three-year-old brewery just won its first Great American Beer Festival medal, a gold, for its Old Tom Porter, which might appear in Little Rock. Definitely making the trip across the state line will be Black Walnut Wheat, McKenney Eddie Amber, and Missouri Mule IPA. SE

Prairie Artisan Ales Have to appreciate the direct sincerity from the website of Prairie Artisan Ales, out of Tulsa, Okla.: "A company started by two brothers. We didn't start it due to a lack of good beer, or whatever people like to say in this part of their website. We wanted to do something that was awesome." Mission accomplished on the doing-something awesome front, with adventurous farmhouse ales that are getting national attention. They've also been at the forefront of barrel-aged brewing, and a recent Kickstarter campaign raised more than $20,000 to help build a 100-percent-oak-barrel-aged beer facility. DR

Schlafly If you think St. Louis brewing, you probably think of Adolphus Busch, even if Budweiser and co. are property of multinational overlords across the pond these days. But for the last 20 years, Saint Louis Brewery, which brews a large variety of beers under the Schlafly brand, has become a regional favorite, and now they're the largest locally-owned brewery in St. Louis. They also hold the distinction of being Missouri's first new brewpub after Prohibition, after the state allowed microbreweries in 1990. In addition to their standbys, they serve up interesting seasonal options that are only available at their brewpubs — word is, we'll get to sample a few at the festival. DR.

Shiner When Texas inevitably secedes from the Union, leaving the rest of the country to wonder whether it means we'll be deprived of more Rick Perry presidential campaign bloopers, beer drinkers will rue the loss of suds from Shiner, Texas. The 104-year-old flagship brew, Shiner Bock, last year claimed one of Spoetzl Brewery's three gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival; its Bohemian Black Lager, which will also be in Little Rock, captured one as well. You can also toast with the Holiday Cheer and the Blonde, which we must presume will always remain a favored Texan export. SE

Tallgrass Brewing Company This six-year-old Manhattan, Kan., brewery was started by a former geologist who has made the packing material a point of pride, jettisoning bottles two years ago in favor of 16-ounce cans that shut out light, keep beer fresher and, perchance to dream, deliver a third again as much beer as your traditional 12-ounce bottle. Its 8-Bit pale ale is some of the smoothest drinking in flyover country. Also on hand will be its Buffalo Sweat stout, Ethos IPA, spanking-new Zombie Monkie porter, English-style Pub Ale, and Velvet Rooster, which purports to be the world's first canned Belgian-style Tripel. SE

NATIONAL

Anchor Brewing If you want to taste one of the beers that helped pull America out of its mid-century addiction to macrobrews, take a tug off an Anchor Steam, from a San Francisco brewery that first brewed the robust caramel lager in 1896. Bottling arrived in 1971, and patiently waited for American tastes to catch up. Joining it in Little Rock will be the '70s throwbacks Liberty and the English-style Old Foghorn. Also along for this trip: California Lager, last year's Christmas and this fall's seasonal, and Big Leaf Maple, the newborn babe of the bunch. SE

Boston Beer Company The largest craft brewery in the country, and the fourth-largest overall, carries a ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange that nods to its ever-expanding line of Samuel Adams beers. Business is good: If you'd bought a share of SAM 10 years ago, when its price was equivalent to half a case of Sam Adams Lager, you'd have $240 today, or about three kegs' worth. You can taste prosperity at the festival via Grumpy Monk Belgian IPA, the stiff Fat Jack Double Pumpkin Ale, Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red, and Samuel Adams Thirteenth Hour Stout. SE

Breckenridge Brewery Opened in 1990 by home brewer and self-described "ski bum" Richard Squire, Breckenridge Brewery has grown to a 32-state distribution area, including Arkansas. Known as much for their food as for their beer, the five operating ale houses in Colorado draw thousands of visitors every year, as does the original brew pub located in historic Breckenridge, Colo. MR

Brewery Ommegang Finally a brewer that combines my favorite thing (Belgian-style brewing) and my wife's favorite thing ("Game of Thrones" novelty items). Among the beers that Brewery Ommegang will be pouring: Take the Black Stout, inspired by the brotherhood of the Night's Watch from the hit fantasy novels and television series. According to Ommegang's website, it's "made to be deep, dark and complex like those who have sworn the oath to defend Westeros against threats from the north." Ommegang, from Cooperstown, N.Y. (home of the Baseball Hall of Fame), will also be pouring its Hennepin, Abbey, Three Philosophers, Rare Vos and Witte. DK

Craft Brew Alliance If a game of touch football breaks out at the festival, onlookers can grab a Redhook Audible Ale, which the CBA teamed up with radio and TV sportscaster Dan Patrick to create. It's sessionable — or, in CBA lingo, "crushable" (a more manly word, says sales rep Steve Engleman) — so you can enjoy more than one before the fourth quarter. (If the festival had Audible on tap, you'd see that its tap is microphone-shaped, giving a new meaning to open mic.) CBA, of Washington state, New Hampshire and Oregon, was formed when Widmer Brothers Brewing and Redhook Ale Brewery merged in 2008. The Widmers' claim to fame rests with their introduction of an American hefeweizen, a wheat beer. Since the CEO of CBA and his wife both have celiac disease, the brewery has created a gluten-free ale called Omission. LNP

Evil Twin Brewing One of the big success stories of the "gypsy brewing" subcategory of craft brewers, Evil Twin is unique in that it doesn't have a brick-and-mortar home brewery. Instead, founder Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Denmark creates unique beer recipes, then brews all over the U.S. and Europe. Recently, Superior Bathhouse Brewery in Hot Springs offered a "Taproom Takeover" weekend featuring Evil Twin brews, and beergeek friends who hit it were well pleased by the interesting beers on hand. Sure to be a must-taste at the Craft Beer Festival. DK

Finch's Beer Co. Chicago brewer Finch's Beer Co. is one of the newer arrivals in Arkansas. The company's four-pack pint cans are certainly eye-catching, and the beer contained in them has earned some accolades at competitions. All of the company's flagship beers will be available, including the Threadless IPA, Secret Stache Stout, Cut Throat Pale Ale, Golden Wing Blonde Ale and Fascist Pig Ale. Also being poured: the seasonal Sobek & Set, named after the Egyptian gods that represented the boar and the alligator. RB

Fort Collins Brewery Some of the best craft beer in Colorado (and that's really saying something) has distribution in some 20 states and Sweden, a reach that has yet to impinge on its sense of quirk. Consider the titles of some of Fort Collins' one-off brews: the Carl Weathers As Dillon In Predator Imperial Cascadian Dark Ale. The brewer described it as "strapping, black and highly hopped." That won't be making the trip to Arkansas, alas, but Major Tom's American Wheat, the fruit beer winner at the 2009 U.S. Beer Tasting Championship, will be, along with its Rocky Mountain IPA, Double Chocolate Stout and FCB Doppel Bock. SE

Goose Island Beer Co. Chicago's most renowned craft brewery, b. 1988, has become an institution in a part of the country that would be known as the Schlitz Belt if so much rust hadn't sprung up in the past few decades. Cubs fans know its Wrigleyville brew pub as the pre- (and post-) game local flavor of choice; the rest of the country knows its Honkers Ale and IPA, in particular, as approachable, unassuming craft staples. Try those or the Matilda, still aglow from its 2011 gold at the World Beer Championships in the Belgian Style Amber Ale category. Also: 312 Urban Wheat, Mild Winter and Bourbon County Stout. SE

Green Flash Six months ago, I was in Colonial Wines and Spirits wandering aimlessly in the beer aisle carrying an IPA from a craft brewer that'll go unnamed. An attendant strolled by, saw what I was carrying and told me I didn't want that, I wanted Green Flash's West Coast IPA. Even though it was the same price for four bottles as the other brand's six-pack, I took his advice. Glad I did; it's the best beer I've ever had. I can't isolate "notes" or anything like that, though a description on the brewery's website mentions "grapefruit zest" and a "floral aroma." But it's not fruity, not heavy like a lot of IPAs, not funky like others — just damned delicious. The San Diego brewery is relatively new to the Central Arkansas market. At the festival, in addition to the aforementioned greatest beer ever, they'll be pouring their Double Stout Black Ale and the newly bottled Green Bullet, a triple IPA named for a New Zealand hop. LM

Hermitage Brewing Co. This San Jose brewery (which uses the French pronunciation of its name, so ask for er-mee-taj) is known for its "over the top" hoppy IPAs, says spokesman Thomas Keim. Its Ale of the Imp Imperial, for example, has twice the bitterness units that the typical IPA has. The brewery, which employs three master brewers, all of whom trained in Munich, also makes single-hop ales with distinct flavors, from grassy to floral. HBC made only 3,000 barrels last year of its own label, but produces beer for about 10 other California brewers. Because this is California, HBC has hung a disco ball over its bottling line; it starts to rotate and ABBA's greatest hits start to play when the line is turned on. LNP

Laughing Dog Brewery OK, this family brewery in Northern Idaho calls its brews "fetchingly good," and the puns don't end there: Its labels include Alpha Dog Imperial IPA (it's "ahead of the pack," the brewery says); Dogfather Bourbon Stout, Dogzilla Black IPA and so forth. Laughing Dog (named for Ben, the family Labrador) brews most IPAs in the West Coast style — using aromatic hops that recall Northwestern forests and citrus scents — with water drawn from Lake Ponderay, one of the deepest lakes in the country and said to be pristine. It's a small brewery, making only about 5,000 barrels a year, and most of its brews are sold in glass 22-ounce bombers. One of its labels might become your new best friend. LNP

Mendocino Brewing Co. When a home brewer and two partners started this venerable company in Hopland, Calif., in 1983, it was only the second brewpub in the country and first in California since the repeal of Prohibition 50 years earlier. So the brewery has been crafting beers — all named for raptors, by the way — for a long time, and they're sticking to the well-balanced brew that brung 'em (as opposed to "off the chart" hoppy California beers, as salesman Jon Scutt put it). The first beer the company served at the Hopland Brewery was its Red Tail Ale on draft, and, according to the company website, then it "rolled out the 'World's Largest 6-Pack' featuring 6 magnums of Red Tail ... an OSHA nightmare tipping the scale at a brutal 42 pounds ..." The company was bought by an Indian concern, United Breweries Group, which also made beer named for a bird: Kingfisher, "the Budweiser of India," Scutt said. Find Kingfisher at Indian restaurants, but amber ales Eye of the Hawk and Red Tail and the IPA Whitehawk at the festival. LNP

New Belgium This Fort Collins, Colo., brewery has bloomed into one of the finest craft destinations anywhere (the tour was ranked tops in the country by TripAdvisor in 2011), with beer to match. As it prepares to expand to Asheville, N.C., in a couple of years, you're probably going to meet some of the cheerier workers at its stand. Did you know that every employee is sent to Belgium for a week after five years at the company, to brush up on Belgian culture? See if you can taste their expertise in the Accumulation, Ranger, 1554 and French Aramis they tote in from the base of the Rockies. SE

New Planet Pedro Gonzelez started New Planet after being diagnosed with celiac disease and searching unsuccessfully for a gluten-free craft beer that tasted good. I can't vouch for it, but someone on a site called weareglutenfree.com gave the brewery's pale ale five out of five stars and compared it favorably to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In any case, someone is drinking New Planet. Last year, it established a long-term partnership with the established, nationally distributed Fort Collins Brewery to increase capacity. Now, you can find its beers in every state in the county save Alaska, Mississippi and West Virginia. LM

North Coast Brewing Beginning as a brew pub in Fort Bragg, Calif., in 1988, North Coast Brewing has become famous for its award winning Scrimshaw Pilsner, Old Rasputin Stout and Red Seal Ale, as well as resurrecting the historical Acme label that was popular in San Francisco in the 1860s. Distributed worldwide, North Coast brews are a staple of the Little Rock bar scene, appearing at the Flying Saucer, Big Orange, and ZaZa Pizza and Salad. MR

Shock Top Brewing Company One of the tastier minor moons in Anheuser-Busch's beery galaxy (the behemoth sells about one of every two beers Americans drink) is Shock Top's wheat offerings, out of Fort Collins, Colo. They're spicy, accessible and feature fruit-slice heads on the labels, so you don't assume the barkeep is trying to poison you with nutrients when she slides a slice of orange on the rim of the pint glass. You'll have your pick of the Belgian White, Raspberry Wheat, Honeycrisp Apple or the seasonal offering. SE

Sierra Nevada Among American craft brewers, only Sam Adams sells more of its flagship lager than Sierra Nevada sells of its Pale Ale. The home brewers who founded this Chico, Calif., brewery more than 30 years ago kickstarted the American craft revolution, and they're still cranking out world-class brews. More recently, its Torpedo Extra IPA became one of the most celebrated beers in its category, after incorporating a new method of integrating hops into the brew. You'll also find Flipside Red IPA and Celebration Ale, another top-flight IPA, on tap at the festival. SE

Shipyard Brewing Co. From the rocky coast of Maine comes Shipyard Brewing Co. Started in Kennebunk in 1992, Shipyard moved its operations to Portland, Maine, in April 1994 and has since grown to be among the top 20 biggest craft brewers in the U.S. Its spinoff Sea Dog Brewing Co. brewpub chain has five outlets in Maine and Central Florida. For the AT Craft Beer Festival, they'll be pouring Shipyard Export Ale, Shipyard IPA, Seadog Apricot and Seadog Blueberry Wheat Ale, which won first place honors at the California Brewer's Festival in 2007. DK

Stillwater Artisanal Ales The product of another roaming brewer, Stillwater Artisanal Ales are the love projects of Brian Strumke of Baltimore. Featuring some of the most lovely tear-'em-off-and-frame-'em labels in craft brewing, Stillwater beers are also works of art inside the bottle, with a lineup that leans heavily toward traditional, Belgian-inspired recipes. Some of the best are their saisons — spicy, hop-heavy beers with creamy heads and high alcohol content. The proof of the "Artisanal" is in the tasting, with most Stillwater brews rating 95 or above on ratebeer.com's 100-point scale. DK

Tommyknocker Brewery From high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado comes Tommyknocker Brewery, named for the gremlins said to play havoc with the area's historic mining industry. As difficult as it is to stand out in the famed Colorado craft beer scene, Tommyknocker has managed to do just that, growing from its home in Idaho Springs into a nationally distributed brewery that made its Arkansas debut in 2013 with excellent craft brews and a tasty line of non-alcoholic sodas. MR

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