December 30, 2014

Fayettevbrew's 2014 Year In Review (Part 2)

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Part 2 of @Fayettebrew’s 2014 Year in Review

We are pretty spoiled up in Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas. There are now five breweries now in full production and a sixth one looking like it will join the community sometime early in 2015. This year, Bike Rack Brewing joined Core Brewing, Fossil Cove Brewing, Ozark Beer, and Saddlebock Brewery in the collection of local breweries located in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and now Bentonville. As for the sixth brewery, after a few quiet months, it now looks like Columbus House Brewery in Fayetteville is planning open in early February 2015. However, before we get there, let's take a look back at this past year of beers, expansion, and events from the local breweries in Northwest Arkansas!

 Bike Rack Brewing Co.

The folks at Bike Rack spent the first nine months of the year completing construction, securing licenses, and brewing pilot batches. Since then, they have wasted little time hitting the ground rolling and serving some fresh brews out of their Bentonville brewery. October was the big month for Bike Rack as they prepped their operation with a series of soft openings before a big Grand Opening Weekend to introduce themselves to the community.  As they get going, they have focused on releasing four foundational beers so far: their "FAST IPA", "Slaughter Pen Pale Ale", an American Stout, and "Urban Trail Golden Ale".

Core Brewing & Distilling Co.

Core’s growth continued in 2014, including one big new addition to the company. Now well established in the Northwest Arkansas area, Core hosted a trio of tap takeovers in January and would continue to host a variety of events throughout the year, including some brewmaster beer dinners with local restaurants. February brought an expansion to Core’s canning program as their Leg Hound Lager joined their ESB as being packaged in six packs of cans (the Behemoth Pils would later join the can retail lineup in June). In addition to participating in the St. Patrick’s Day on the Hill AR Stout Championship in March, Core won Little Rock-based Sync Weekly’s People’s Choice Bracket in their Craft Beer Tournament, which pitted local and regional brews against each other in a March Madness-style tournament voted on by Sync readers. The month of May saw Core heavily involved within the Fayetteville city limits as they participated in Foam Fest (bringing barrel-aged versions of their Oatmeal Stout and Imperial Red) and they hosted their own beer garden at the Block Street Block Party. The biggest news from Core came in September when they opened their Core Pub in Rogers, AR. The pub is a separate location from the company’s Springdale brewery and features 12 taps dedicated to Core’s brews. Then in October, Core was one of four Arkansas breweries to attend the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO. In November, both the brewery and the pub locations added a English-style hand-drawn ale tap and begun a weekly Firkin Friday program of releasing special limited release. Recent Firkin Friday releases have included a Double Chocolate Imperial Stout with vanilla beans and coffee and a Wassail. To give back at the end of a busy 2014, Core hosted a Toys for Tots donation drive at both the pub and brewery locations, offering discounts on pints for those who made a donation.

Some standout beers released by Core in 2014 included: the Wee Heavy Scotch Ale; the Hazelnut Brown Ale;  the Toasted Coconut Brown Ale; the Rye Barrel Aged Imperial Red IPA and Bourbon Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout from the Fayetteville Foam Fest; Waterfall Wheat; the Firkin Friday series.

Fossil Cove Brewing Co.

Consistently exploring new styles, introducing new rotating series, and tinkering with fun Randalls/ infusions, Fossil Cove kept local craft beer enthusiasts busy with a creative lineup. They kicked off the year with the debut of their SMaSH series in January. By the end of the year, Fossil Cove had already rotated through seven versions of these single malt and single hop brews. In February, Fossil Cove co-hosted a rare event outside of their brewery walls - a Flight Night at Maxine’s Tap Room in Fayetteville. March brought the addition of a nitro tap to the brewery and the start of what looks to be a recurring Fossil Cove event: the crew from the Cove recruited volunteers for a clean-up along the Skull Creek Trail which runs near their brewery. The month of May was perhaps Fossil Cove’s busiest month in 2014. They hosted a release party and screening for the documentary about craft beer in Northwest Arkansas “Tapping the Ozarks” and co-sponsored two music stages and a beer garden at the Block Street Block Party. Then, to top it all off, Fossil Cove not only participated in the Fayetteville Foam Fest but also took home the People’s Choice Award for top brewery at the festival. Things did not slow down the rest of the year through: June brought the celebration of Fossil Cove’s second anniversary; in September they debuted a stainless steel growler for to-go orders; and in October they started their “Throwback Thursday” series with the release of the 2013 Pumpkin Ale which had been aged for a year on oak and vanilla beans.To round out a busy year, in November Fossil Cove played host to the first Arkansas Brewers Guild Tap Takeover event, which showcased nine Arkansas breweries.

Some standout beers from Fossil Cove in 2014 included: the Konga Stout brewed with coffee from the local roaster Onyx Coffee Lab; the Hoppy Wheat spring seasonal; assistant brewer Kort’s Orange Cream and White Stout one-off; the SMaSH series; and the Coffee IPA, also brewed with Onyx Coffee.

Ozark Beer Company

Over the course of their first full year of production operations, Ozark Beer Company quickly carved out a well-regarded niche in the Arkansas beer community. While they have stuck with their starting lineup of their Pale Ale, American IPA, Cream Stout, Golden Ale, and Onyx Coffee Stout (which was promoted to year-round regular after its initial run) since their opening, the OBC team began working in some limited releases in the second half of the year. The first half of 2014 was largely dedicated to the expansion of production at the brewery, although Ozark did partner with some other local businesses for special sale promotions. Like some of the other breweries in the area, 2014 kicked into high gear in May for Ozark: they started off by hosting a Red Cross relief fundraiser at the brewery for those affected by tornado damage in central Arkansas during the spring; they then participated in their first Fayetteville Foam Fest; they were officially added to the Fayetteville Ale Trail program; and began releasing Pale Ale in six packs of cans (they sold out of their first batch the day it was released). May also had some recognition come Ozark Beer Company’s way when they were named Southern Living’s Favorite Arkansas Beer. June and July saw a pair of events from the Ozark team - a tap takeover at Gusano’s pizza and Ice Cream Social (featuring ice cream made by Pure Joy Ice Cream using the Ozark Golden Ale and Cream Stout) hosted at the brewery. They hosted a second social in August. Prior to celebrating their first anniversary in November, Ozark expanded their fermenter capacity in September. Ozark Beer Company wrapped up 2014 nicely with a pair of events: they continued to make charitable contributions to community by hosting a NWA Food Bank fundraiser at the brewery by donating a portion of their pint and growler sales and they were a sponsor of the Little Craft Show in Fayetteville where they also hosted a pop-up taproom. Also in December, Paste Magazine listed Ozark’s Pale Ale can as one of the “Best Beer Can Designs of 2014” (the can was co-created with local studio BLKBOXLabs).

Outside of their regular lineup, some standout beers from Ozark in 2014 included: their Belgian Golden infused with hibiscus, raspberry, and rose hips; their mango and chamomile-infused Belgian Golden; their Fresh Hopped IPA; and their Extra Pale Ale.

Saddlebock Brewery

Regularly pouring about 15 or more beers on tap out at their brewery, perhaps no local brewery more ardently explores different beer styles than Saddlebock. To keep up with that level of production, Saddlebock completed two big expansion projects in 2014. The first came in July when they expanded to add two 30bbl fermenters to their brewery. Later in the year, in November, the second project was completed: the opening of a new tasting room out at the brewery. Saddlebock stayed busy with events as well. In addition to hosting multiple tap takeovers in Northwest Arkansas and in the River Valley area, Saddlebock participated in the following Fayetteville craft beer events: the previously mentioned St. Patrick’s Day on the Hill beer garden, Ales and Tails, Fayetteville Foam Fest, First Thursday, and Brews and Brats. In March, Saddlebock participated in a panel event on craft beer at Crystal Bridges and in July they co-hosted the White River Rendezvous with Fayettechill. October was probably Saddlebock’s busiest month; they attended the Great American Beer Festival for the second time; hosted their second anniversary party; and launched their mobile party barn service for events.

Over the course of the year, Saddlebock received a variety of awards and recognition. At the St. Patrick’s Day on the Hill celebration in March, Saddlebock took home the Arkansas State Championship. Then, in April, Saddlebock Brewery’s owner Steve Rehbock received an Arkansas Eco-Hero award for Saddlebock’s operations, including being the first sustainable brewery on a septic system in Arkansas. Lastly, in July, Saddlebock was recognized as Flipkey/ TripAdvisor’s “Top Brewery Worth Travelling To” in Arkansas.

Some standout beers from Saddlebock in 2014 included: the Maibock; the Oktoberfest; the IPA; and the Bourbon Vanilla Oak Porter.

As 2014 closes out, fans of locally brewed craft beer have a lot to look forward to in the new year thanks to the collection of breweries and brewpubs in Northwest Arkansas. This is a young, growing brewing community that will continue to treat its patrons to an expanding selection of beers as well as events and community outreach projects that will strengthen the roots each brewery/ brewpub has established. If you have not made your first visit to the local breweries in this area (or it has been a while since your last visit) I highly recommend setting aside time for a trip in 2015.

Here is to a great year in locally brewed beer and having even more to celebrate this time in the next!

December 26, 2014

Fayettebrew's 2014 Year in Review (Part 1)

Back in the Spring I had the good fortune of  spending a couple of days being shuttled around the awesome Fayetteville Ale Trail up in northwest Arkansas, and in addition to getting to drink gallons (no, really... gallons) of great brews from right here in our home state, I also got to meet some really cool like-minded people. One of them runs a fantastic and very informative Twitter feed under the handle Fayettebrew for the NWA folks and if you love Arkansas beer you really need to follow him, regardless of where you live.

December 23, 2014

Better Beer Authority Reviews Rogue Santa's Private Reserve

I haven't found this one yet this year, but it doesn't feel like Christmas until I get me some Rogue Santa's Private Reserve! Fun review here. Seek some out.

"Watch as Brian enjoys this holiday red ale on our latest Better Beer Authority Solo!"

December 22, 2014

Welcome To Arkansas: Sprecher Brewery

The next brewery to enter Arkansas should be Sprecher Brewing Company out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I hear we should expect them before the end of the year. Here's a bit more info about them.

Sprecher Brewing Company was founded in 1985 by Randal Sprecher, formerly a brewing supervisor at Pabst Brewing Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From 1985 to 1994, the brewery was located at 730 W. Oregon Street in Milwaukee's Walker's Point area. Through the first ten years the company grew steadily as more and more people found out about Sprecher's high quality beers and sodas. Finally, the company had outgrown its original facility and began looking for a new location to continue its growth. In 1994, Sprecher purchased its current building, located at 701 W. Glendale Ave., a former elevator car factory. The new, larger brewery enabled the company to continue growing, and allowed more people to enjoy all of Sprecher's fine products.

Check out this YouTube video "Randy Sprecher gives us a look inside Sprecher Brewery."

And another about them expanding:

December 18, 2014

Best Christmas Beers 2014 from The Craft Beer Channel

I thought this was a pretty fun Christmas themed video for the beer lovers from the guys at The Craft Beer channel. Enjoy.

"Jonny tries out some of his favourite Christmas beers on the Brad, who casts his skeptical palate over them. We fall in love with Camden's barrel-aged lager and Achouffe's N'Ice, and learn that wax caps may look good, but need serious tools to open." 

December 16, 2014

Video: Bourbon County Brand Stout

I hope you guys all found some Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island this year when it hit here in limited availability. If you didn't, you probably don't want to watch this little video from them. I only found the "regular" version, but I did get a couple of 4-packs at least.

"Bourbon County Brand Stout was brewed in honor of the 1000th batch at our original Clybourn brewpub back in 1992. A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel. The nose is an intense mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer."

December 15, 2014

Let's Check Arkansas Untappd!

So much going on in the beer world in our wonderful state lately, I think it's a good time to do my usual check-in on Untappd's numbers. I've added Lost Forty Brewing, which officially launched less than 1 week ago (and are BOOMING). I've also added the monthly entry in parenthesis, which seems to be the number of check-ins over the last month. I can't really find the exact definition of it, but that adds up I believe.

So check it out:

Diamond Bear - 12,008 (483 monthly)
Core Brewery - 9,432 (537)
Fossil Cove - 4,179 (215)
Saddlebock - 4,146 (275)
Ozark Brew Co. - 2,977 (233)
Apple Blossom - 2,700 (138)
Stone's Throw Brewing - 1,673 (130)
Vinos Brew Pub - 1,563 (61)
West Mountain - 1,281 (41)
Moody Brews - 351 (51)
Bike Rack Brewing - 140 (60)
Lost Forty Brewing - 140 (140)
Blue Canoe Brewing Co - 76 (54)
Rebel Kettle Brewing - 76 (0)
Flyway Brewing - 52 (4)
Gravity Brew Works - 23 (15)

Top 5 monthly check-ins for the past calendar month:

1. Core Brewery - 537
2. Diamond Bear - 483
3. Saddlebock - 275
4. Ozark Brew Co. - 233
5. Fossil Cove - 215

And what did we learn?

* Stone's Throw moved past Vinos on the overall list.

* Lost Forty has been open for 5 days officially and already jumped way up there in the list. I can't wait to see how their entire first month goes.

* Core is closing in on the 10,000 mark, the 2nd Arkansas brewery to do so sometime soon.

* Once again, 4 of the top 5 monthly check-in leaders are in NWA, but I think Lost Forty will be changing that when they get a full month.

* Some people up in Big Flat started checking in at Gravity Brew Works! Awesome. They more than doubled their check-in total.

* Moody Brews will be getting their 2nd beer out around Christmas, watch their numbers jump.

* Check-ins are going to be pretty slow for Rebel Kettle for the next 6 months while they work on getting their doors open, but expect an explosion this Summer. Led by yours truly.

* I'm hoping I'll be adding Noble Crossing Cider House, Spa City Brewing and Superior Bathhouse to the list soon.

Anybody I'm missing? Anything else you'd like to see here?

December 9, 2014

All You Need To Know About Summit Unchained 18 - Hop Silo Double IPA

Summit brewer Eric Harper discusses the game plan for his upcoming Unchained 18: Hop Silo Double IPA, Summit's first double-IPA, clocking in at 8.3% ABV. Hop Silo will be available in early March 2015 in kegs and 16 oz can four-packs. Yes, cans. This will be the first of the Unchained series in cans. Lots of neat stuff about this beer, so watch the video! 

December 7, 2014

Memphis Untappd

I was planning on doing an update to my Arkansas Uptappd posts this morning, but then decided I wanted to wait until Lost Forty Brewing officially launches this coming week so I can include their numbers and see how their first week goes on my favorite beer logging site. But since I was already in the mood I figured what the heck, I'll do something a little different and visit Memphis' excellent beer scene numbers on Untappd.

Only a 2 hour drive (when I-40 is actually moving) from Little Rock, I make a lot of trips to Memphis for one reason or another, but usually just to hang out and enjoy their great restaurant and music scene. Lately though their beer scene has made the trips even more enjoyable, not just from the great selection of beer available there which we don't have (Dogfish Head, Stone and Yazoo to name just a few) but from their recently booming local breweries.

Ghost River has been around for a while over there, but in the last few years 3 new craft breweries have popped up. No visit is complete unless I hit one of their local pubs like The Flying Saucer, The Growler or Bar Dog to get some drafts or hit Cash Saver to reload my Memphis shelf of the beer fridge.

Let's see how the Untappd world looks for their breweries as of today:

Wiseacre Brewing Company - 13,664 (1,302 monthly)
Ghost River Brewing - 9,312 (504 monthly)
Memphis Made Brewing Company - 4,957 (460 monthly)
High Cotton Brewing Company - 4,372 (242 monthly)

The first thing I noticed was Wiseacre already has more check-ins than Arkansas' leader Diamond Bear (11,839). Ghost River is just about to bust the 10,000 mark too. Overall having over 2,000 check-ins on local beers average on the month is a pretty good indicator of how their scene has taken off.

Glancing back through my Untappd check-ins from these breweries, here are a few of the beers I've ranked the highest from the city where Marc Cohn walked (with his feet 10 feet off of Beale):

* Memphis Made Soulful Ginger
* Wiseacre Ananda IPA
* Wiseacre Unicornicopia
* Memphis Made Plaid Attack
* High Cotton Belgian IPA
* Wiseacre Tiny Bomb

So step away from the BBQ on your next visit and seek out some local brews.  The King would be proud.

Also see: A visit to Memphis Made Brewing