June 25, 2014

There's Beer In Them There Hills

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."

Tanglewood Branch
Beer & Bacon Mondays at Tanglewood

The whole bloggin' gang at Tanglewood Branch (photo credit: Tom Gilbert (@tngtulsa))
The next stop on Friday night was for dinner at Apple Blossom Brewing Company, where we had a great quick tour and update, a nice dinner and some great beers. What I liked about this place was that their beers were all not "simple" styles (not that I have a problem with those) but showed a lot of uniqueness. I had a delicious Gose Salt Beer for example that was salty and tart with a hint of coriander. Seriously. I also had a Old Iron Belgian Strong Dark Ale that was almost equally as delicious. This place is really making some good beer and I've seen some improvement on each of my 3 visits I believe. They're really turning into a favorite of mine.

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))
The next stop on the beer bus was at Saddlebock Brewery. It may just be a bit outside of town, but it has the feel of being out in the middle of nowhere, basically in a horse pasture near a river. It's just beautiful and I love how the brewery itself just fits right in, styled like a barn. We got a tour from the owner and head brewer himself, Steve Rehbock. It's easy to see why this place was named one of Yahoo Travel’s Top Five Coolest Craft Brew Tours in America in 2013. Steve designed it all to be super efficient and the tour is really just fascinating. Upstart breweries should consult with this guy about how to set-up their facility. I had the session IPA during the tour and it was a pleasant, hoppy session beer, not a palate blaster.

More beer than horses

Session IPA on the patio

Steve Rehbock leading the Saddlebock tour
And we're off to Core Brewing and Distilling Co. for our next guided tour. Compared to most of our stops, this place is huge. It needs to be as well because they are bottling and canning a whole lot of beer right now, basically because they're selling a whole lot of beer right now. There's no telling how big these guys will get in the coming years. There is more expansion coming and they're just getting their distillery up and going. We got a great tour and knocked back some samplers. I had a pint of their Toasted Coconut Brown Ale and if you like sweet beer, and coconut, you'll be wanting to find this.

Lining up some Core tasters

Respect your wiener

The canning line at Core Brewing

Taps at Core Brewing
Our next to last stop of the tour was at Ozark Beer Co. where brewer Andy Coates is making some OUTSTANDING brews. Southern Living Magazine named Ozark the "Favorite Southern
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.
The final stop! We hit Fossil Cove Brewery where we got a quick tour and spent some time sampling beer (see the theme here?). Another of those places that's got a cool, laid back vibe. A bunch of friendly beer lovers, dogs, bicycles and a really fun taproom. I think I've liked their beer more as it's progressed a bit over the last year, to where now their Paleo Pale Ale is nearly a staple for me. On this day I tried their Anniversary Ale, a very pleasant farmhouse ale, and finished with The Whizzle, a clean, light and refreshing "White" IPA.

Fossil Cove taproom

House selections at Fossil Cove

Watch for some bottles and cool packaging in the near future
OK, so if you're still reading you must really be thirsty by now to get your taste buds up to Fayetteville and hit the Ale Trail. Personally I'm already planning my next visit up in that direction as a 3 hour drive is so well worth it for the pot of hops that waits at the end. Their scene is solid and only going to get better with the way they work together to promote this thing. Go see for yourself.

For more info:

June 19, 2014

Local Breweries Collaborate on Ales For ALS Brew

ALS is a disease that's had an impact on my life since I lost my grandfather, who was more like a dad to me, when I was a teenager. Now I have a good friend who has been battling it the last few years at way too young of an age, if there is such a thing. But first things first here. What is ALS? (AKA: Lou Gehrig's Disease)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to paralysis, due to the death of motor neurons in the spinal cord and brain.

  • There is no known cure for the disease.
  • The average person survives only 2-5 years following diagnosis.
  • About 5,000 people in the US are diagnosed with ALS each year.
  • There are about 30,000 people in the US diagnosed with ALS today.
  • The worldwide population of ALS patients is estimated at 450,000.
In summary: it sucks. So what can you do? Give money for research for one thing, and one group has made that easier for beer drinkers to do. Check out: http://www.alesforals.com/

These guys have offered participating brewers access to a proprietary hop blend, free of charge, in exchange for participation in Ales for ALS™.

For more on the hop blend click here.

In come our local boys...

From Rebel Kettle: "We are happy to announce that next week we are brewing a very special collaboration beer with our good friends at Stone's Throw Brewing, Flyway Brewing Co., and Leap of Faith Brewing Co. to benefit Ales for ALS. Ales for ALS has partnered with hop producer Hopunion to create a special 6 hop blend just for this project. We will be using this unique blend in a generously hopped American Wheat ale. There will be a few release events next month to raise awareness and to aid research beginning at Stone's Throw on July 18th. Stay tuned for more details."

Here's the event page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1499430676958483/

And here are a few of more details for you:

June 28th - Brewday
July 17th - Radio spot on 103.7 The Buzz @ 11:30am
July 18th - Beer debuts at Stone's Throw
July 21st - Dugan's Pub 5-9pm
July 22nd - Big Orange Midtown 5-9pm
July 23rd - Flying Saucer

I reached out to John Lee from Rebel Kettle and shot a few questions at him if you're interested in learning more about this came about.

ABS: So how did this collaboration come about?

John Lee: After Foam Fest, Matt Foster (Flyway Brewing) mentioned how well he thought the Little Rock breweries did amongst the regional and national breweries there and I thought it would be a great idea to get some of us local breweries together and do a charity beer.

ABS: So you just got in contact with the Ales for ALS people and told them what was up and they sent you some of the hops? And how did the recipe come about?

John: Yeah, as far as getting the hops, you're correct. We actually got right in at the tail end of the window. They were running out and we only needed a small amount. We got 11 pounds. As far as the beer we're doing, we decided to do a couple of test batches. I did a hoppy wheat beer and Dave Ragan from Leap of Faith did a pale ale then we sat down last week and did some tastings and decided the hoppy wheat would work better for what we wanted to do. That's what we'll be brewing next week.

ABS: So tell me a little about the beer we'll be drinking?

John:  It's a hoppy wheat beer. The base is a simple American Wheat Ale recipe utilizing a 35% mix of wheat malt and flaked wheat. What really makes the beer shine is the six hop pellet blend provided by Ales for ALS and Hopunion. The hop expresses a wide array of aromas and flavors ranging from tropical fruity to piney and spicey. We used an enormous amount of the hop in late kettle and dry hop additions to give it a huge hop nose but still leave the underlying flavor of the beer intact. Although it may smell like an IPA it isn't bitter at all. Balanced and refreshing, the beer finishes crisp and clean making a perfect Summer beer.

ABS: Sounds great! I'm seeing a quite a few of this style now and I like them. And the schedule of events I'm posting is pretty close? 

John: Yes, we have the 4 dates, starting at Stones Throw on July 18th on their "new brew Friday" followed by July 21st at Dugan's Pub, the next night at Big Orange Midtown and then The Flying Saucer on July 23rd.

ABS: Big week! Each place will have a slim keg?

John: I believe 2 each, that's what we're going to commit right now.

ABS: Is this the first of many of these collaborations?

John: I hope. We've had a great time. I hope we can do some more. We're always looking for good causes and spreading the word through brewing. I hope we can continue to do so.

So there you go, now get ready to get out and get some of these for a GREAT cause. I'll see you there I hope!

June 13, 2014

Video: Coming Soon: Summit Southern Cape Sparkling Ale

Sounds like we can look for this intriguing and quite mouth-watering jewel around here soon from our good friends at Summit Brewing Co. Seems perfect for the Summer and I'm a fan of these a bit "out of the box" styles I guess.

"Go around the world in a pint." 

Presenting Southern Cape Sparkling Ale, the latest in the limited-release Summit Union Series. Inspired by sparkling ales popular in the Southern hemisphere. Named after the Southern Cape hop farms in South Africa. With ingredients from Australia, New Zealand, Chile and South Africa for a refreshingly balanced ale that’s perfect for summer.

Flavor Notes: Hints of pineapple and mango hop aroma. Biscuity malts lend a soft, toasted note and rounded finish. Lively carbonation pairs well with a warm summer afternoon.


Beer Specs:

{Limited Release}
Original Gravity: 10.5° Plato
Alcohol by Volume: 4.4%
Color, (deg. L.): Pale Straw
IBUs: 47
Malts Utilized: Gaidner Pale (Australia) and Sebastian Caramel (Chile)
Hops Utilized: Waimea (New Zealand) and Southern Passion (South Africa)
Yeast: Australian Ale
Established: 2014

Serving Tips:

Serve in a Pilsener glass at 42-46°F on a warm summer afternoon.


Food Pairings:

Ceviche, rotini with beurre blanc sauce, melon and prosciutto salad, green bean almondine, Australian camembert, and American Southwest fish tacos.

June 11, 2014

Brew Dogs Is Returning!

Oh how I love the show Brew Dogs. Not only do you get to see some of America's coolest craft breweries, but there are plenty of laughs and you can even learn (gasp!) something about beer along the way. I loved the first season, my wife and I watched every episode together. Now they're back for another round.

More breweries, wilder experiments, same attitude. The rock stars of craft beer return in Season 2 of Brew Dogs this June 25th at 9|8c on Esquire Network.

About Brew Dogs:

James Watt and Martin Dickie, owners of the UK's fastest-growing brewery, travel across America visiting different American beer towns, celebrating distinctive craft beers and creating their own locally-inspired drafts.

Connect with Brew Dogs:

Visit the Brew Dogs WEBSITE: http://bit.ly/BreDoweb
Like Brew Dogs on FACEBOOK: http://bit.ly/BreDofb
Follow Brew Dogs on TWITTER: http://bit.ly/BreDotwtr

June 10, 2014

2 More Breweries Set To Enter Arkansas

I got word from Glidewell that they're bringing 2 more breweries into central Arkansas in July, in addition to the already announced Caldera Brewing. Here's a bit of info on both breweries to hold you over until I dig into to them more and do some proper introductions.

First up is Butternuts Beer and Ale out of Garrattsville, NY.

"Established in 2005, Butternuts Beer and Ale is located on a 120-acre farm in the beautiful Butternut Valley. Brewing in a renovated dairy barn, we brew American-style farmhouse ales with German, English and Belgian influences. Water is taken from our own springs and lends to our signature flavor. Our beer is made with natural ingredients and no pretense. We've been known to throw in a few spices or fruits into our beer. Our most popular beer, Pork Slap Pale Ale is sweet and malty, brewed with fresh ginger root. Heinnieweisse is a German-style weissebier with tart citrus and banana notes. For all our hopheads, Snapperhead is an American IPA with light spicy and earthy hop flavors. And don't forget about Moo Thunder American Stout with its espresso, dark chocolate, smoky flavor."


The other new entry to the market is Carson's Brewery out of Evansville, Indiana.

"Carson’s Brewery, founded in 2012 in Evansville is Southern Indiana’s premier microbrewery. We started with barrel batch sizes used to test, improve and perfect many different types of beer. A few had what it took to make the cut and became the staples of our core offerings. These and our seasonals are available to you both in package and in your favorite bar or restaurant. Carson’s Brewery will be offering a variety of American ales, wheats, brown ales, IPAs and multiple seasonals."


June 9, 2014

Central Arkansas Left Coast Launch Week (updated)

Info on Left Coast Brewing Company's central Arkansas launch week has changed. They were scheduled for next week (June 16-20th), but I've gotten word that's been changed to the FOLLOWING week (June 23-27th). Also, the only events I've gotten information about so far are the 2 listed below. I'll update of course if I get more information.

Monday Jun 23th -  Tasting at Crush Wine Bar (Argenta)

Wednesday June 25thMini Pub Crawl at The Joint and Cregeens (Argenta)

The Joint: 6pm
Una Mas Amber
Trestles IPA

Cregeens: 7pm
Voo Doo American Stout

June 6, 2014

Welcome To Arkansas: Left Coast Brewing Co.

The great brewery invasion of 2014 continues for Arkansas! The latest newcomer to the shelves and bars is Left Coast Brewing Co. It's been pretty hard to get news or updates on this, so a bit of this is secondhand info, but it appears that the launch week will be the week starting June 16th. I have gotten "official word" that there will be a mini-pub crawl of sorts with The Joint and Cregeen's over in Argenta on Thursday, June 19th starting at 6pm. The Joint will have some pint glasses to give away and Trestles IPA on draft. If I can get some more information I'll pass it along on the Twitter feed. 

So who are these guys? Read on...

Left Coast Brewing Company is a production brewery based in San Clemente, Ca. The business began brewing for family-owned Oggi’s Restaurant chains in 1991 and has since took off as a separate brewing company in March of 2004.

They produce five beers full time with their flagship beer being Hop Juice Double IPA. The other full time beers are the Asylum Belgian Style Tripel Ale, Trestles IPA, Voo Doo American Stout and Una Mas Amber Lager. They also offer four seasonal beers throughout the year: Red Tide Belgian-Style Red Ale during spring, Board Walk Saison during summer, Ale Epeteios Imperial Stout in the fall and The Wedge Black IPA in the winter.

Their Epeteios Imperial Stout won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2013, so definitely cross your fingers for that one landing here.

The Voo Doo American Stout won a bronze at the 2012 World Beer Cup.

Their most popular beer from what I've seen online so far seems to be the Hop Juice Double IPA. In their words: "This hop monster uses Premium American 2– Row and a touch of light crystal malt to create a solid malt foundation. Five different Hop Varieties are used in the Hop Juice. It spends two weeks dry hopping in fermenter contributing to its great hop aroma. Starts out sweet and finishes with the crisp bitterness of a Double IPA. This drinkable blend will have you HOPPING till nights end." Well I'm not sure about you but I'm totally sold on that one!

So know you know a little. Again, watch the Twitter feed for more as it gets closer. In the meantime, follow these links and also check out the video of a visit to the brewery at the bottom. Cheers!




June 5, 2014

2 New Tasting Room Beers From Boulevard

I noticed the new Boulevard Sampler Twelve Packs have hit the shelves around central Arkansas, which I always love. It's not just that their regular beers like Unfiltered Wheat and Single-Wide IPA, which are both awesome, are in there, it's that they have started putting their "Tasting Room" beers in there. Last year it was Mid-Coast IPA and Westside Rye Ale that found their way into the mix, and I loved them both. This time around, rotating in from the Tasting Room series is an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) and Ginger-Lemon Radler. Let's check these 2 out a bit before I get down to tasting them this weekend.

Here's more from the brewery:


 Our ESB will fall along the more traditional lines of the style with a nice balance of English malt character with spicy/earthy English hops. Although referred to as “a bitter,” ESBs aren’t necessarily that bitter. You can think of them as a quaffable English pale ale. I talked with brewer Matt Hecke about the team’s intentions behind the ESB and here’s what he had to say: “As of late a lot of our newly released beers have been more hop forward or extreme in their own ways. We wanted to show that a traditional style ale can hang with the best of our beers. We specifically chose to make an ESB because it isn’t very common, but still traditional in nature. It’s a good opportunity to showcase our knowledge of brewing past and present.”

Radlers, which are usually a mixture of beer and a citrus flavored soda, have really blown up over the past year as drinkers seek out more sessionable beers that still pack a ton of flavor. We’re using Unfiltered Wheat Beer as the base for our Radler and blending in lemon and ginger juice following fermentation. The slightly tart, spicy character of the beer brings plenty to the palate, but Ginger-Lemon Radler is crisp and super drinkable. This beer has been crafted to be a refreshing beer worthy of session drinking.

June 4, 2014

A Few Pics From The 1st Hot Springs Craftbeer Festival

I went down to Hot Springs for their inaugural craft beer festival last weekend and had a great time. I didn't take a whole lot of pictures but I'll share a few. I got to try a couple of the first beers from Superior Bathhouse Brewing (a Kolsch and a pale ale) and was pleased. Lots of excitement for them going on with huge wait lines to try out the new stuff. I sat around their tasting room a few times during the day drinking from their quality tap selection also. Great addition to Hot Springs IMO.

So you know the routine at these... walk around with your tiny cup, talk about beer, get tipsy, talk more about beer, pee a lot, etc...

Enjoyed an Evil Twin Low Life Pils at Superior to start

Some drafts at Maxine's, home of a Leaky Roof Meads tap takeover later in the night

Capone's Ohio Club is a cool old bar

The Copper Penny Pub has Founders taps

Rebel Kettle table

Piney River table

Stone's Throw table

The Founders All Day IPA truck

Founders table

Vino's table
Ended the day with a Founders Devil Dancer at Superior

June 3, 2014

Video: An American Small Town - New Glarus Brewing Company

I realize that we don't get New Glarus Brewing Company beers here in Arkansas, but I've had a few of them and just thought this was a really cool video; definitely worth 20 minutes of your time if you love craft beer. Very well done. Check it out:

 "A Film Series by Stuart Meyer: Beyond the perceptions and stereotypes of small town life, An American Small Town immerses you in an honest portrait of daily life in American small towns and brings each town's unique history to life. 

This documentary film series is currently being produced without funding. If you are inspired by our mission, we hope you'll join us on this journey by considering a donation and helping us spread the word! Your support will help make future films possible." 


June 2, 2014

Video: Boulevard Beer Bulletin: Love Child No. 4

Boulevard Brewing Company's Brewmaster Steven Pauwels shares some insight on the flavors and the process behind their award-winning Love Child sour beer series.