This past weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to once again visit northwestern Arkansas and take a trip on the Fayetteville Ale Trail. What made this time so special was that this was a guided tour over 2 days and also it was with a bunch of other like-minded "beer bloggers" from around the region. I was able to not only take my time at each of the 7 breweries but also afforded access to the brewers for private tours and information and discuss things with my beer geek brethren. End result? I believe the northwestern corner of Arkansas is turning into one of the best areas for beer in this part of the country, if not THE best.
Each of the 7 breweries have their own unique charms and personalities, all really do offer something different, and (perhaps most importantly) in the end all do a fine job of making good beer. The overall quality has improved since their scene started jumping off and I think it's due in large part to the friendly brotherhood they seem to have. It's not a competition against each other it seems to me, just an overall competition to raise the area as a whole. For the record they even have 2 more breweries "close" to opening, plus Core Brewing is building a huge taproom separate from their brewery. The hits just keep coming.
I could write about each of the breweries ad nauseam but I'll let you go discover the nuances for yourselves. I'm sure everyone will take something different away from them all. I can give you a tip also... don't do all of them in 1 day. I've done it before and you really miss a lot by not taking the time to soak each place in, and also you'll just be a lot more sober at the end of the day. I suggest a 2/3/2 format: 2 on Friday, 3 on Saturday, 2 on Sunday. This should give you plenty of time to sample product, eat a bit of food at some stops and also more time to meet people and get a feel for the area as a whole. Don't rush! Another tip? Keep up with your special (awesome) Ale Trail passport and don't forget to get it stamped!
I know I said I wouldn't bore you with TOO much info, but I will share a little about each stop and a few pictures if you're interested. Click on any of the photos for a larger version.
We started on Friday night with 2 stops; Tanglewood Branch and Apple Blossom Brewing Co. These 2 places couldn't be much more different. Tanglewood Branch has a very "neighborhood bar" feel, with a really laid back vibe and a feeling that everybody not only knew everybody else, but probably knew their dogs also. I had a very nice and malty Proper 1420 and got to chat with owner J.T. Wampler, or "The Wamp."
|Beer & Bacon Mondays at Tanglewood
|The whole bloggin' gang at Tanglewood Branch (photo credit: Tom Gilbert (@tngtulsa))
|Inside the brew room at Apple Blossom
|Great Selection at Apple Blossom
|You MUST remember to get your passport stamped
On Saturday, after some coffee and a visit to the Fayetteville Farmer's Market (highly recommended), we started our day at West Mountain Brewery on the square. Sort of the running joke was that this place apparently had "brewery" in their name for the better part of a decade, without brewing any beer. Well it was worth the wait. They're right next door to Tiny Tim's Pizza and are turning out some quality beers that pair nicely with the 'za coming from next door. Over the weekend I had a Blonde, Brown Ale and Black IPA (on nitro) that were all spot on for their styles. They only have a tiny brewing room but pump out a lot of quality beer from it, keeping their tap handles heavy with house beer.
|West Mountain on the Square
|House Taps at West Mountain
|Pair it with some Tiny Tim's pizza for best results
|West Mountain Black IPA on nitro... delicious
|Happy faces at West Mountain (photo credit: Tom Gilbert (@tngtulsa))
|More beer than horses
|Session IPA on the patio
|Steve Rehbock leading the Saddlebock tour
|Lining up some Core tasters
|Respect your wiener
|The canning line at Core Brewing
|Taps at Core Brewing
Craft Beer in the State of Arkansas (June 2014 issue)" and right now you'll not get an argument out of me. Their APA and Onyx Coffee Stout are just as good as they come, period, and I also had a taster of their Belgian Golden, IPA and Cream Stout and was very impressed with them all. I brought a 12-pack of the APA home with me but fear it's not going to see a very long life. Watch these guys.
|Growler full of coffee stout heaven
|Ozark Beer Co. tanks
|A coffin for standard lagers? Ozark buries them.
|Fossil Cove taproom
|House selections at Fossil Cove
|Watch for some bottles and cool packaging in the near future
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