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Core comes to SoMa 

Another brewpub on the block

click to enlarge TWELVE ON TAP: From IPAs to hoppy ales.
  • TWELVE ON TAP: From IPAs to hoppy ales.

Central Arkansas, a question: Have we reached peak local brewery?

No scoffing, now. We're serious. This is more than an existential question. Truly, how many local breweries can our community reasonably support?

After years of the good folks at Vino's Brewpub operating the lone brewery in town, followed by the happy growth at Diamond Bear, we are now nearly overrun with variety and experimentation. It's definitely a happy problem to have. The last few years have brought us, in no particular order, Stone's Throw, Flyway, Blue Canoe, Rebel Kettle, Lost Forty, Damgoode Pies and now a new Core Public House on South Main in Little Rock (joining its sister Core location in North Little Rock's Argenta neighborhood).

Core Brewing Co., established in Springdale in 2010, is opening pubs across the state. In addition to Little Rock and North Little Rock, thirsty Arkansans can also find Core Public Houses in Springdale, Rogers and Fort Smith.

Two of those thirsty Arkansans darkened the Core door on a recent happy hour excursion in search of food and drink and to learn what this place was all about. The pub has a very casual atmosphere, with local art for sale on the walls and '90s music videos playing during our visit. The crowd was pretty sparse (us and two other patrons), and we settled in quickly for drinks.

A pub is only as good as its beer, and we are happy to report that Core has some excellent choices. The bar featured 12 different Core beers on tap, and the bartender was happy to let us sample the choices until we found what we liked. The Arkansas Red ($5, $3 during happy hour) was crisp and refreshing without an overpowering flavor. We also favored the somewhat stronger Ouachita IPA ($5, $3 at happy hour), which should please any lover of hoppy ales. Happily, Core also has a full bar with several signature cocktails and beer cocktails featuring local spirits and brews. Our companion very much enjoyed Core's salute to its dachshund logo — the "Shake Your Wiener" cocktail ($6, featuring Rocktown Basil Vodka and lemonade).

Core's kitchen duties are handled by Foghorn's Express, a venture growing out of Northwest Arkansas's Foghorn's Wings, Burgers & More sports bar chain. Foghorn's menu is focused largely on standard bar fare, but with some surprising and welcome choices.

We set out to try an unusual-for-Arkansas bar appetizer, the cheese curds ($7.99) with marinara sauce. They were surprisingly flavorful, lightly fried and a great (if somewhat heavy) start. This choice is definitely one to order with a few friends.

The menu includes several familiar bar food options: burgers, chicken tenders, wings, and the like. My companion ordered the Foghorn's Philly ($10.99), the pub's take on the classic Philly cheesesteak sandwich. She was unimpressed: The meat was dry. Additionally, the french fries that accompanied the sandwich were somewhat overcooked.

Our table also took a chance on one of Core's "3 Cheese Mac Bowls" ($10.99 each). Core offers three different selections of macaroni and cheese: the Deluxe Mac (topped with boneless wings and a choice of sauce), the BBQ Pork Mac (topped with smoked pulled pork) and the Cheese Burger Mac (topped with ground beef, dill pickle chips and a signature sauce). We opted for the BBQ Pork Mac, which was excellent. The large portion of pulled pork was tender and zesty, and paired surprisingly well with the macaroni.

Core's menu highlights its 16 signature sauces and eight dry rubs. On a return visit for a takeout lunch, we tried Core's chicken wings in two sauces: Kung Fu and spicy garlic Parmesan. The wings were meaty and tender and perfectly cooked. The Kung Fu sauce was reportedly teriyaki-based, but we couldn't detect that; the spicy Parmesan was better. Research also revealed that Core's Yossarian beer (an excellent New England-style IPA) was the perfect to-go refreshment for hot Arkansans doing weekend yard work.

Returning to our question: Have we reached peak local brewery in Central Arkansas? Our answer is definitely not, and we will gladly endure the beer battles to come while welcoming the arrival of Core's brews to the capital city.

Core Public House
1214 S. Main St.
353-2489
facebook.com/coresomalittlerock

Quick bite

In addition to a wide variety of beers, Core also brews its own root beer.

Hours

3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Other info

Happy hour 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
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