Giving thanks for local beer

Fossil Cove’s canned lineup includes (L to R) Paleo Ale, Crowlers for taproom fills, La Brea Brown, and the Blizzle Black IPA.

Courtesy photo

It’s the time of year to slow down and show gratitude for the special people, places, and things in our lives. So here we give thanks for all the wonderful beer now available in Northwest Arkansas.

There was a time when the closest breweries were in places like St. Louis, Milwaukee, or Golden, Colorado. Beer was a commodity – made far away and sold in bulk.

Even when American craft brewing took off in earnest, it seemed to steer clear of the Ozarks Mountains.

Remember when West Mountain Brewing Company finally started making beer in late 2011? It was almost too good to be true.

Yes, there was an existing brewpub on Dickson Street that had been open for many years. But West Mountain’s first batch of house ale signaled the beginning of a new era in local brewing.

Andy Coates, head brewer at Ozark Beer Company, examines an overnight shipment of Citra hops from Loftus Ranches in Yakima, Washington. The order was for the first of two fresh hopped ales released this fall.

Courtesy photo

Tanglewood Branch – the tiny brewpub in south Fayetteville – started making its own beer a few months later. Nine others soon followed suit across Benton and Washington counties. That number is ten if you count the hard cidery in downtown Springdale.

And at least two others will arrive in the months ahead.

So it’s reasonable to think the majority of the area’s residents are now within a 5-10 minute drive of a brewery. We can be thankful for such close proximity.

Each brewery brings something unique to the conversation. They’re not just recycling the same business concept over and over again. Large production breweries and small neighborhood pubs, breweries that focus on traditional styles and others that like to experiment – it seems like every conceivable base is covered in Northwest Arkansas. We can be thankful for diversity in our local beer options.

The culture that surrounds craft beer has grown alongside the industry. Beer menus at local eateries have evolved to include local brews. Festivals and other beer-centric events are multiplying in number.

More than anything, people are now talking about beer on a regular basis. It has become a part of the lexicon in Northwest Arkansas. Trying Ozark Beer Company’s new fresh-hopped ale for the first time? Better check it into Untappd so your friends can see you have good taste!

Indeed, there’s much to be thankful for if you live in these parts and love good beer. Here are just a few specific things that I appreciate:

  • Columbus House’s youthful exuberance.
  • Sour beer from Fossil Cove.
  • Ozark’s barrel-aging efforts.
  • Cozy neighborhood pubs built by Core.
  • Apple Blossom’s leadership on state and federal brewing issues.
  • A reason to take a drive in the country, thanks to Saddlebock.
  • West Mountain’s brown ale – still one of my favorites.
  • The emphasis on food at Foster’s Pint & Plate.
  • Pit stops at Bentonville Brewing Company when in town for business.
  • Brewer Joe Zucca’s good humor when I misspelled his name in a story about Bike Rack last year.
  • J.T. Wampler of Tanglewood Branch – for being a pioneer and chasing his dreams.
  • Local twitter personality @Fayettebrew for keeping us in the know regarding beer releases and tap lists.

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, and that you are able to celebrate with your favorite local beer.