UPDATED: Bell’s Brewery to expand distribution to Arkansas in April 2016

UPDATE: Bell’s has partnered with Arkansas Craft Distributors and O’Connor Distributing, according to a Feb. 9 press release. Look for Bell’s to hit shelves in April.

Bell’s Brewery will begin distributing to Arkansas in 2016 in an effort to fill in the company’s southeastern footprint, officials announced Thursday (h/t to reader Boyd for the heads-up).

The expansion also includes distribution into Mississippi and Louisiana.

No specific launch dates were announced, and no other details appear to have been finalized. In fact, the brewery doesn’t seem to have even locked down any distributors yet.

“We start with making sure we have the right people in any new state, then start looking for a distributor that believes in and follows the same standards of quality that we maintain,” said Laura Bell, the company’s vice president, in a blog post.

It’ll be quite the get for whoever lands the Michigan-based brewery.

The company, which started in 1983 as a home-brewing supply shop before selling its own beer, has grown to become the 8th largest craft brewer in the nation, according to The Brewers Association.

Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale has long been considered one of the best IPAs in the world, with consistent top rankings both by style and overall beer in several of the most respected publications. Zymurgy named it the second best beer in the country this year, trailing only Russian River’s legendary Pliny the Elder. While it slipped in 2015, Two-Hearted was at the top of the RateBeer.com list of best IPAs in 2014.

Hardcore fans might argue that Hopslam Ale, or better yet, the coveted Black Note Stout, are the brewery’s more deserving offerings. But as far as balance and drinkability are concerned, Two-Hearted remains one of the most spectacularly delicious go-to beers on the market.

For folks living in Northwest Arkansas, Bell’s has been only a quick excursion to the Missouri border. But news of a shortened trip for a taste of Two-Hearted should serve as an early Christmas present for any craft beer fan in Fayetteville.