Southwest Brewing News bites the dust / Fayetteville is for beer lovers

Southwest Brewing News bites the dust / Fayetteville is for beer lovers

Well, the saga surrounding publisher Bill Metzger’s misogynistic story in Great Lakes Brewing News just got worse.

Check out blogger Robin Leblanc’s post for the back story in case you missed the brouhaha that took place a couple of weeks ago.

The fallout was swift and significant. Metzger ultimately agreed to step away from the family of papers, which also includes Northwest Brewing News, Rocky Mountain Brewing News, Southern Brew News, and Southwest Brewing News.

Now it looks like his decision was too little, too late.

I’ve been the Arkansas correspondent for the Southwest Brewing News for the past couple of years. Today I received an email letting the writers know the paper is no longer.

“There’s still an outside chance Bill will find someone to carry us forward, but for the moment, we’re out of business,” wrote editor Bev Blackwood. He told us not to bother compiling information for the April/May issue.

For the record, Bev has been an excellent editor to work with, and seemed legitimately upset with Metzger’s story. Southwest Brewing News had nothing to do with the garbage that was published in its sister paper, but the backlash—coupled with declining ad revenue—was just too much to bear.

Fortunately Arkansas beer drinkers will have other outlets from which to get their beer news. The Fayetteville Flyer, Rock City Eats, and new-to-the-scene Brewed in Arkansas will provide the coverage and commentary that will keep y’all in the know.

Unfortunately, I just wrapped up a feature story for the next issue of Southwest Brewing News. At the editor’s request, I wrote a piece on the Fayetteville Ale Trail, which has recently revamped its look and added some new brewery members.

So here it is—what was to be the feature story of the April/May issue of Southwest Brewing News. Keep in mind, readers of the paper were spread across Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California (I’m not sure how Arkansas ended up in that region, but so it was). Thus, they were not as familiar with the Arkansas beer scene as you likely are.

So if it has a bit of a “chamber of commerce” feel, please forgive me. I’ll save more hard-hitting, in-depth reporting for the Fayetteville Flyer and Brewed in Arkansas.

Fayetteville Ale Trail Logo.jpg

Fayetteville is for beer lovers

The Arkansas brewing industry is coming of age. Over the last decade it has matured to the point that drinkers in the state now have an abundance of choices. Several breweries are putting their packaged products into the market, and the overall consumer focus has shifted from out-of-state beer to homegrown ales and lagers.  

Yes, it is true that brewing got off to a late start in Arkansas compared to other parts of the country. The modern era effectively began in 1991, when the state legislature voted to allow brewpubs. A handful opened across the state in the years that followed. In 2000 Diamond Bear Brewing Co. hung its shingle in downtown Little Rock, marking the first sustained effort in true production brewing. Diamond Bear—which has since moved across the river to North Little Rock—won gold at GABF in 2007 for its English-style pale ale.   

Early on the state divided its brewing industry between its two major population centers—the greater Little Rock metro and Northwest Arkansas (which includes Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, and surrounding communities). The regions are approximately two hundred miles apart, or three hours by car. Today the Little Rock metro boasts ten breweries and Northwest Arkansas is home to fifteen (plus one cidery). There are another thirteen breweries scattered across the rest of the state, most coming online in the last three years.   

Recognizing the powerful draw of a vibrant brewing industry, the Fayetteville Visitors Bureau launched the Fayetteville Ale Trail in 2013 to promote the breweries in Northwest Arkansas. The program went through a major revamp last fall, with an updated passport and new brewery partners. “The new breweries we’ve added are a great addition to the Ale Trail, and we are proud to have them,” said Molly Rawn, executive director of Experience Fayetteville. “We hope everyone will enjoy the expanded offerings.”

I wrote about the Fayetteville Ale Trail in the June/July 2016 issue. Scott Parton was the Arkansas correspondent back then.

I wrote about the Fayetteville Ale Trail in the June/July 2016 issue. Scott Parton was the Arkansas correspondent back then.

Today there is something for every kind of beer lover along the Fayetteville Ale Trail. Small breweries with intimate taprooms offer small batch diversity. Larger breweries provide space for events and distribute their beers deep into the retail market. Brewpubs provide culinary experiences that range from the tried-and-true to the trendy and upscale. And destination breweries deliver unique experiences that deliver fun and excitement. 

Southwest Brewing News last wrote about the Fayetteville Ale Trail in 2016, so here are some notes on breweries that have joined since then: 

JJ’s Beer Garden & Brewing Co.—or JBGB as it is referred to by locals—opened in Fayetteville in May 2017. The brewery is an offshoot of the wildly popular JJ’s Grill restaurant chain (which has locations throughout Arkansas). Brewmaster Jennifer Muckerman was hired away from Half Full Brewery in Stamford, Connecticut to command the 15-barrel brewhouse. “Muck”—as she is affectionately known—was formally trained at Chicago’s Seibel Institute. Though she makes outstanding beers at JBGB, perhaps the biggest draw to the brewery is the outdoor music venue and adult gaming area, which includes a sand volleyball court, bocce ball, and ping-pong tables.    

Across town, Crisis Brewing Co.opened its doors in early 2018. The tiny taproom is home to a two-barrel brewhouse and a modest amount of seating. It’s where locals go with friends to relax and have good conversations with friends. It’s not as loud and boisterous as other local taprooms. Co-owner and brewmaster Sean Slape brings an engineering background and a dedication to process to the mix and his beers have been outstanding from the start. Outdoor seating was recently added at Crisis to accommodate the growing number of fans who stop in for beers such as Fayzed (a New England IPA), Existential DIPA, and Major Milk Stout. 

Hawk Moth Brewing Co.opened last September. The focus of the Rogers brewery is old-world French and Belgian-style beers, yet owner and brewmaster Bradley Riggs says his IPA—The Hoppy Tap— is still his best seller. In January the brewery installed a nine-barrel foeder that will be used to finish high-ABV stouts in the solera style of brewing. The taps constantly rotate at Hawk Moth, but the one constant is The Interurban—a 4.3% table beer in the grisette tradition.  

Opening on the same day as Hawk Moth was Ivory Bill Brewing Siloam Springs. Partners Casey Letellier and Dorothy Hall are the force behind the brewery, which is located in an old Pontiac dealership in the reawakening-downtown area. Letellier, who brews on a seven-barrel woodclad system, developed his skills at Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op in Los Alamos, New Mexico and West Mountain Brewing Co. in Fayetteville. Ivory Bill is named for the thought-to-be-extinct Ivory Bill Woodpecker and produces three core year-round beers in its open fermenters—Dark (an English Mild Ale), Extra (a pale ale), and Regular (a cream ale).  

Rendezvous Junction Brewing Co., which is not an official member of the Fayetteville Ale Trail, took over brewing operations at Foster’s Pint & Plate in Rogers in 2017. The two still share some real estate, and most of Rendezvous’ Junction’s beer is served in the restaurant.  

Getting there

The Fayetteville Ale Trail is located along the I-49 corridor in Benton and Washington Counties. It’s accessible through Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA), or it’s an easy five-hour drive from Dallas or Memphis. It’s just under four from either Oklahoma City or Kansas City.   

Ale Trail Map.jpg

Fayetteville is home to Apple Blossom Brewing Co.Columbus House Brewery & Taproom, Crisis Brewing Co., Fossil Cove Brewing Co., JJ’s Beer Garden & Brewing Co., and West Mountain Brewing Co.You can find Black Apple Crossing (a cidery), Core Brewing Co., and Saddlebock Brewery next door in Springdale.

Up in Benton County—which has only been “wet” for seven years—there are, coincidentally, seven breweries. Hawk Moth Brewery & Beer Parlor, New Province Brewing Co., Ozark Beer Co., and Rendezvous Junction Brewing Co. call Rogers home. In neighboring Bentonville you’ll find Bike Rack Brewing Co., and later this year Bentonville Brewing Co. (which is operating on an interim basis in Rogers while a new facility is completed in its hometown). And just outside the I-49 corridor, in Oklahoma state line-straddling Siloam Springs, is Ivory Bill Brewing Co.

European beer adventures

European beer adventures

A few thoughts on Arkansas beer

A few thoughts on Arkansas beer