Guide to the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival 

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Clear your calendar, beer lovers. On Nov. 2, the Arkansas Times and the Argenta Arts District present the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival. It will run 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Argenta Farmer's Market lot at Sixth and Main streets in North Little Rock (or at Dickey-Stephens if it's raining). Tickets are $35 via arktimes.com/craftbeerfest or $40 at the door if still available. Below, find short profiles of each of the 31 participating breweries.


Anchor Brewing Certainly one of the oldest brewers at the festival (founded 1896), San Francisco's Anchor Brewing is probably best known for its Anchor Steam Beer, a highly effervescent, extremely drinkable beer. But Anchor makes several other excellent brews, including Anchor Liberty, Porter and Small (a low-alcohol beer made from "second runnings" of a stronger beer mash), all of which will be on tap Nov. 2. RB

Blue Moon Born in Denver in 1995 and purchased by Coors, Blue Moon's reach is now pervasive, found seemingly everywhere but in playground water fountains. These guys are big now, but they came up the right way: Blue Moon's head brewmaster and founder has a Ph.D. in brewing from the University of Brussels. SE.

The Boston Beer Co. As the fifth-largest brewing company in the country, Boston Beer Co.'s Samuel Adams is the Target store of American craft brews: wide-ranging and presentable, with a veneer of middlebrow pretense. On tap from Massachusetts at the festival will be the delectable Winter Lager and three you probably haven't tried: the stiff, malty New World; the "wine-like" Stony Brook Red and the oaky/raisin-y Thirteenth Hour. SE

Brewery Ommegang From the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame (that'd be Cooperstown, N.Y.) comes Brewery Ommegang, the only American brewer that exclusively makes Belgian-style ales. That might sound like a niche focus, but Belgium has one of the richest and most diverse brewing traditions in the world, thanks in large part to centuries of beer-loving monks doing God's work on Earth. Ommegang's devotion to doing things the right way speaks to the brewery's level of commitment to delicious beer. The folks from Ommegang will be pouring their Abbey, BPA, Hennepin and Three Philosophers ales. RB

Goose Island The brewery is the pride of Chicago's North Side, just within staggering distance of Wrigley Field. These guys are bringing the full band: Honker's Ale, Mild Winter, India Pale Ale, the Belgian-style Pere Jacques, Matilda and the coveted Bourbon County Stout, of which the brewery makes this enticing claim: "One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer." Read more about the Bourbon County Stout here. SE

Henry Weinhard's A brand new entry into the national beer market, this brewery traces its roots back its namesake, a German immigrant who settled in Portland in the 1860s, started a brewery and once offered to pump beer through a city fountain (the city declined, the story goes, for fear of rowdy horses). MillerCoors now owns the 150-year-old brand, and last month started introducing it to markets across the country. At the festival, they'll be pouring their Private Reserve, Redwood Flats Amber and Woodlands Pass IPA. LM

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. The Wisconsin-made keg-filler college students get when they're willing to shell out a couple of bucks more than the Bud/Miller fare so they can actually taste their beer. The Sunset Wheat, Berry Weiss, Lemon Berry Shandy and possibly the Fireside Nut Brown Ale will be representing. SE

Laughing Dog Laughing Dog, out of Ponderay, Idaho, got started back in aught-five. So while it's not the oldest brewery in the festival lineup, it does offer a big selection of brews, including The Alpha Dog — billed as one of the hoppiest beers ever made, describe thusly by Beer Advocate: "Crazy ... crazy flavors here. Not the most together DIPA [Double India Pale Ale], but it does end up landing on its feet with a good balance of malt base and hop suppression. The choppy, craggy hoppiness will be appreciated by veteran hopheads." They'll be pouring that brew, along with Anubis Coffee Porter, CSB ESB, Dogfather Imperial Stout, Dogzilla Black IPA, Huckleberry Cream Ale, Rocket Dog Rye and Sneaky Pete IPA. RB

New Belgium New Belgium was one of the earlier arrivals on the craft beer scene in Arkansas and also one of the most highly anticipated. About 15 years ago, a friend, just back from a trip to Colorado, was breathless over this beer called Fat Tire. "It's the best beer I've ever had," he said, going on and on about its delicious caramel flavor and general amazingness. And while it would still be a few years before the rest of the state got to try it, Fat Tire did live up to the hype, which had grown considerably by that point. New Belgium is now one of the biggest craft brewers in the country, with a huge, diverse lineup of brews. It will be pouring its Peach Porch Lounger, Snow Day and Shift Pale Lager. RB

North Coast A prolific granddaddy of craft beer, North Coast, based 150 miles north of San Francisco, is chockablock with fantastic brews. They travel well (to 47 states, Europe, around the Pacific) and win gobs of awards — more than 70, by the brewery's last count. The most renowned is probably the Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, one of the best-regarded stouts in America. If you're into craft beer, you'll probably welcome Red Seal Ale, Acme Pale Ale, Pranqster Golden Ale and Scrimshaw Pilsner — all of which will be gracing the festival — as old friends coming to visit in a beery reunion. SE

Redhook Ale Brewery This Seattle-based purveyor of accessible craft beers has been around for more than 30 years. Its ESB (Extra Special Bitter) has been in production for a quarter-century; the brewery will also bring its IPA and its Pilsner. Nothing complicated here, just long-respected standards. With Widmer Bros., part of the Craft Brew Alliance. SE

Shock Top Brewing Co. This is one of the cottage brands within the Anheuser-Busch empire. Your bartender will tend to serve its spicy Belgian-style wheat with a slice of orange on the rim because, you know, scurvy. Taste the Belgian White side-by-side with Blue Moon's to determine macrobrewery wheat beer supremacy, then move onto the Raspberry Wheat, the Wheat IPA, the Lemon Shandy and the Midnight Wheat, which includes chocolate malt and chiles. SE

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. The California granddaddy of craft brews began at a time (the late '70s) when the entire United States supported fewer than 100 breweries. Now the second-largest craft brewer in the country, after Samuel Adams, its iconic Pale Ale is coming; so are its Kellerweis, Stout and Torpedo Extra IPA, as well as its seasonal Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale. SE

Widmer Bros. Representing all that is carbonated and hoppy about Portland, Ore., since 1984 is this mature microbrewery that now trades on the NASDAQ (symbol: BREW) as part of the Craft Brewers Alliance, along with Red Hook. It's bringing its flagship Hefeweizen and Drifter Pale Ale, as well as two of its gluten-free Omission beers, the Lager and the Pale Ale. That fact will come as delightful news to anyone suffering from the chronic beer-starvation that accompanies celiac disease, which afflicts Widmer Bros. CEO Terry Michaelson and a million other Americans. In honor of Omission, Portland Mayor Sam Adams (yes, really) declared a "Gluten-Free Beer Day" there in May. SE


Abita Based just north of New Orleans, in Abita Springs, La., Abita Brewing Co. has long been a favorite among Natural State beer-lovers. Its Purple Haze is ubiquitous 'round these parts, and it will be pouring that brew, as well as its crisp Amber, Jockamo IPA and Restoration Pale Ale.RB

Boulevard As the 10th largest craft brewer in the United States, Boulevard is Kansas City's answer to Samuel Adams and a major craft brew pipeline to Arkansas. Expect to encounter its standby Unfiltered Wheat and 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat as well as brews from its "esoteric" Smokestack Series: the Sixth Glass, Double Wide IPA and Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale. SE

Charleville BrewingThis brewery (and winery) is straight outta Ste. Genevieve, the oldest city in Missouri and the point where the Ozarks make the prudent decision not to venture onto Illinois. The family that runs Charleville also built a bed and breakfast on their property; this is indeed a micro-brewery, and one run by people who know from right living. They're bringing their punny, warm-weather Half-Wit Wheat (a hybrid American Wheat and Belgian Wit) and their Hoptimistic IPA (which promises a grapefruity citrus aspect with a dry finish). You better get it here unless you're going to be in the central Midwest any time soon: Charleville is on tap around St. Louis and is in packages around southeastern Missouri and in Illinois, but that's about as far as they go for now. SE

Choc Beer When you read "since 1919" on the Choc logo, and recall that Oklahoma wasn't even a state until 1907, and that our panhandled neighbor to the west extended its Prohibition until 1958, well, you figure this is a brew with some stories to tell. The Krebs Brewing Co., nestled in the hamlet of Krebs two hours southwest of Fort Smith, traces the recipe for its flagship 1919 brew to old Choctaw nation recipes the founder, Pete Prichard, brewed in his bathtub and served at his restaurant. "Of course," the brewery notes, "this entire process was illegal." Well, not any more, clearly; after a hiatus, the brewery fired up again in 1995 and set about crafting award-winning beers. Get started with the 1919, an unfiltered American wheat, then advance to the OPA (that would be an Oklahoma Pale Ale), the Winter Stout and the Signature Dubbel, redolent of "dark fruits." SE

Crown Valley This craft brewery/distillery from Ste. Genevieve, Mo., is bringing the house: Five beers and a cider, covering the gamut of tastes. The crowdsource at Beer Advocate regards the Big Bison Ale, a 6.9 percent alcohol by volume "ruby red" Belgian dubbel, as the top of the bunch. Also along for the ride will be the Farmhouse Lager, the Plowboy Porter (gets "butterscotch" and "smoky black licorice" comparisons) and the 60 IBU (International Bittering Units), hops-laden Wooden Nickel IPA. Also coming are the Country Carriage Cider and a seasonal that'll just have to surprise you. SE

Marshall Brewing Naturally, when you think of great beer, you think of Tulsa. No, wait. Normally when you think of Tulsa, you think of the low-alcohol-content laws prompting thirsty Oklahomans to consume entire cases of watered-down Bud and Coors in pursuit of a vague buzz. Enter Eric Marshall, a fourth-generation Tulsan who learned brewing in Munich and fired up his eponymous microbrewery, Tulsa's first, in 2008. Making the trip to Little Rock will be Marshall's Atlas IPA, a 6.5 percent ABV ale with "a malty backbone"; Sundown Wheat (barley, flaked oats, coriander, oranges), the German-style lager Old Pavilion Pilsner and the English/Irish-style McNellie's Pub Ale. SE

Piney River Not terribly far from our own Big Piney Creek, this brewery hails from Bucyrus, Mo., about two hours through the Ozarks from Mountain Home. Joleen and Brian Durham — who founded the brewery in 2010 and now run it out of a restored, 70-year-old barn — will be representing the brewery themselves at the festival. They're bringing their Black Walnut Wheat, Old Tom Porter, McKinney Eddy Amber Ale and Missouri Mule Pale Ale. The brewery is young, small, based in the Ozarks and in true float-trip-friendly fashion, it cans (rather than bottles) its beers, carrying a printed reminder to "Pack it in. Pack it out. Enjoy nature." Piney River is new to Arkansas but should have no trouble fitting right in. SE

Schlafly The largest craft brewery in St. Louis by a wide margin, the St. Louis Brewery keeps its Schlafly brand of beers straightforward: Pale Ale, Dry Hopped IPA, a Kolsch, Coffee Stout, and for the fans of Belgian-styles, Grand Cru and Quadrupel. The 21-year-old brewery (proudly Missouri's first new brewpub after Prohibition, once Missouri lawmakers in 1990 allowed microbreweries) could be considered a cross-state rival of Kansas City's Boulevard. Also, since Anheuser-Busch fell into the hands of Belgians and Brazilians, it's the largest 'murican-owned brewery in St. Louis. From pioneers to patriots, these fellows. SE

Tallgrass Brewing Co. It's one of the more recent craft beer brewers to arrive in Arkansas. The Manhattan, Kan., brewery's brightly colored, visually appealing cans started showing up on liquor store shelves last year with attention-grabbing names like "8-Bit Pale Ale," "Buffalo Sweat Stout," and "Velvet Rooster." And yes, you read correctly: most Tallgrass brews come in 16-oz. cans, which founder and brewmaster Jeff Gill makes a great case for based on environmental impact and convenience, as well as the ever-important blocking-out-the-light angle. "Think of them as little recyclable kegs that can fit in a backpack," he writes. Sounds great to us. Gill and brewer Andrew Hood will be pouring the three beers mentioned above, as well as their Halcyon Unfiltered Wheat, IPA and Oasis. RB


Boscos Although based out of Tennessee, the Boscos chain has established its River Market location as a true Arkansas brewery through Arkansas-only beers such as the Hookslide Ale brewed for the Arkansas Travelers and its upcoming Ray's Honey Rye made with Arkansas honey, which brew master Josh Quattlebaum says should be out later this month. Boscos holds special "cask nights" every third Thursday of the month, where it serves cask-conditioned ale, and the restaurant has plans for a mug club starting in November. Quattlebaum's beer has received national accolades, including a first-place finish in last year's World Beer Cup for his German-style Hefeweizen. MR

Central Arkansas Fermenters The Central Arkansas Fermenters are a group of home brewers of various ages and experience levels who share a passion for home-crafted beverages, including beer, mead, wine and sake. The CAF is also active in supporting local causes such as the Arkansas Arthritis Foundation, the Pulaski County Humane Society, the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre and the Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial. Most recently, the CAF brewed a batch of beer at the Arkansas Museum of Discovery as part of the museum's Science After Dark series, and the group is always ready and willing to teach others about their craft. They'll be doing demos at the Craft Beer Festival. MR

Core Brewing & Distilling Co. Drawing on two decades of experience in brewing, brewmaster and seventh-generation Arkansan Jesse Core has been operating Core Brewing in Springdale since 2010. In addition to the stock ESB, Kolsch, and Oatmeal Stout brews, Core has several other beers in rotation including the Golden Ale, Robust Porter and Arkansas' only barley wine. Core Brewing is expanding production, with a new four-unit, 20-barrel setup going online in November, and its beer is found at several of Northwest Arkansas's better restaurants like Hog Haus, Tusk and Trotter, Kingfish, Brewski's Draft Emporium and Greenhouse Grille, with Core also serving as the brewmaster at Hog Haus Brewing in Fayetteville. MR

Diamond Bear Brewery Russ Melton and crew have been brewing beer in Little Rock since 2000, but it's really been since 2006 (the year they began bottling their beer in Little Rock) that they've become a quality craft brewery and one we've come to enjoy a great deal. Brewmaster Josh Melton is in charge of producing Diamond Bear's beers, from the Pale Ale that won gold at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival to newer brews like the summery Strawberry Blonde that debuted last year. Diamond Bear is available at liquor stores and restaurants across the Natural State, and the brewery operates a small taproom at its 323C Cross St. location in Little Rock. Notable for being the only retail location in the capital city to sell bottled beer on Sundays, Diamond Bear also offers tours Friday through Sunday at 3 p.m. for $7, a price that includes a pint glass. MR

Fossil Cove The latest addition to Northwest Arkansas's growing craft beer scene opened this summer in Fayetteville. After a stint working at Silverton Brewing Co. in Silverton, Colo., and completion of a six-month brewmaster course at the University of California at Davis, Ben Mills returned home and opened Fossil Cove. The microbrewery offers about five beers at a given time, including its flagship Paleoale, which is an American pale ale, and Belgian Brown, a brown beer with a touch of coriander for a bit of extra character. Mills sells to nine restaurants and offers pints and to-go growlers from Fossil Cove's taproom. The latest seasonal beer is a Pumpkin Ale. Some larger fermenters are in the works for later this month, which will allow Mills to sell more beer and possibly bottle some as well. They'll be pouring the Paleoale and Belgian Brown. RB

Hog Haus Kari Larson and Julie Sill were already well known in the Fayetteville dining scene as the owners of the popular Common Grounds coffee house on Dickson Street before they renovated and re-opened the restaurant and brew pub formerly known as the Ozark Brewing Co., serving up hand-crafted beers from brewmaster Jesse Core in addition to a selection of other imported and domestic beers. In addition to the beer, Hog Haus boasts an executive chef, Eric Lea, who previously worked for Ozark Brewing and James at the Mill. Hog Haus also offers an exclusive beer club. MR

Refined Ale Brewery of Little Rock One of the more ambitious craft-brewing upstarts Little Rock has seen in recent years, Refined Ale Brewery is the brainchild of brewmaster Windell Gray, who turned a brewing hobby into a full-time occupation in 2009 after running a barbecue restaurant and working as a trucker for several years. The first and still the only black-owned brewery in Arkansas, Refined Ale has pretty much been a one-man operation from the start, with Grey overseeing all the brewing, bottling and distribution duties himself with the help of a very small staff. As you might have guessed from the name, Refined Ale focuses on what Grey calls "true ales" from traditional recipes, working in small, 35-gallon batches to create light, open-fermented, unfiltered brews. Refined Ale will have two varieties on hand for the festival: Its signature Refined Ale, and a Golden Light ale.DK

Saddlebock At barely a month old, Springdale's Saddlebock Brewing is the newest brewery to come online in Arkansas, but its beer is already available in locations from Fayetteville to Eureka Springs. Saddlebock brews classic-style beers such as American Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, Dukelweizen and a Kolsch-inspired Dirty Blonde. Saddlebock's brewery was designed with the environment in mind, with a gravity-fed delivery system sending its grain to the brewing system and into the cellar tanks, and skylights to eliminate need for most electric lighting and heat during the day. Like most Arkansas craft brewers, brew master Steve Rehbock began making beer out of disgust at the state of American beer, going from home brewing to creating kits for others to finally founding Saddlebock. MR


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