Local beer scene giveth, taketh away

Rackensack Kilns works at Moonbroch Brewing Co. / Courtesy photo

The news coming from the Northwest Arkansas beer scene is a mixed bag this week. There’s reason for excitement, but also cause for concern.

The bad news does has a bit of a silver lining, perhaps leading some local beer fans to view it with optimism.

Here’s the latest as we know it.

New moon rising

It looks like another brewery is coming to Northwest Arkansas, albeit in stages.

Moonbroch Brewing Co. is set to open as a restaurant and bar at 117 W. Walnut Street in downtown Rogers next month. Partners Kyle Reidy, Cassy Grover, and Jeff Pettus have been busy since mid-November setting up shop. Beer production, however, looks to be several months away.

The original plan called for brewing operations to be located at the restaurant, but the vision has changed due to tight quarters.

“Jeff did not like the layout of this place as a brewery because it’s hard to make it look like a brewery,” says Reidy. “And there’s such limited space back there where the brewing would be done.”

Pettus, who is currently brewing at Bike Rack Brewing Co. in Bentonville, will handle brewmaster duties for Moonbroch. Reidy is himself a former Bike Rack employee.

The trio didn’t want to give up their newfound location on Walnut, so they have decided to locate the brewing operation in Eureka Springs, closer to where Pettus lives.

They aren’t ready to discuss the specific location of the brewery just yet, but the wheels are in motion and more information will be coming soon.

Reidy says the focus will be on producing IPAs and saisons, which are Pettus’ specialties. They also plan to dabble in wild fermentation. The goal is to be making MoonBroch beer by the end of 2019.

In the meantime, there will be 10,000 square feet of restaurant and bar space to keep customers happy. The building is chockful of character and offers multiple levels of seating. Two bars with 24 lines and a total of 48 taps will feature some of the big national names until house beers come online.

Reidy says other bars and restaurants have the local angle covered, so he wants to offer something different. “We have really good breweries in Arkansas, but when you walk into a place in downtown Rogers that’s all you see,” he said. Look for hot brands like Toppling Goliath on the highly-curated draft list.

Heading up the kitchen will be Chef Michael Robertshaw, formerly of Pressroom.

“He is a fantastic chef and he has a great menu lined up,” says Reidy. There will be a mix of pub fare, Irish-inspired delicacies, and a late-night menu to satisfy the nocturnal crowd.

There’s still some work to be done, but progress is being made and opening day looms near. Check out Moonbroch Brewing Co.’s Facebook page for future updates.

Core closing local pubs

Core Pub Springdale / Staff photo

In a surprise move, Core Brewing Co. announced the closure of several brewery-owned pubs in Northwest Arkansas.

According to a post on the brewery’s website, the north Fayetteville, Rogers, and Bentonville locations will close on Feb. 28. The pub in downtown Springdale will follow suit on March 31.

Core closed its North Little Rock location earlier this year.

“The reason for it is pretty simple,” says Core’s president and CEO, Christopher Reed. “The brewery is the beating heart of our organization. It’s where everything happens, and I don’t feel the consumer gets to feel that at our public houses.”

The pub on Mission Boulevard in east Fayetteville will remain open, as will the pubs in Fort Smith, Little Rock, and Hot Springs. “At those locations [outside Northwest Arkansas] we can still provide the experience of being at the brewery without having to drive for three hours,” says Reid.

The first of the pubs opened in late 2014 in the Pinnacle Hills area of Rogers. It was a unique business model for Arkansas breweries, which tend to focus on onsite taprooms. More Core pubs soon popped up across Northwest Arkansas.

Founder Jesse Core hoped to create a low-key environment in the English pub mold; one that enabled conversations amongst friends.

“My perfect location would be between your work and your house so you can driver there, have a beer, and decompress before heading home,” he said at the time.

The news isn’t all bad for fans of Core beer. The original taproom at the production site in Springdale is set to reopen on April 5. It hasn’t entertained customers since the investment was made in the pub model.

“It will be bigger and better than it was before it shut down,” says Reid. “It will be a new adventure for us. We want our fans to come to the brewery and interact with our brewers and everybody that makes the beer. We don’t want to keep those guys separated from our fans and consumers.”

Reed says Core brewed 6,500 barrels of beer last year. Official production numbers for Arkansas breweries haven’t been released for 2018, but in the year prior Core was the second-largest brewery in the state by volume. Little Rock’s Lost Forty Brewing Co. was the leading producer with just over 12,000 barrels.