NWA Beer Updates: Fossil Cove expands taproom, West Mountain cans beer, and more

Photo: Fossil Cove Brewing Co.

Folks in Arkansas seem to be enjoying their beer these days, even in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

Local breweries are doing their part by pumping out large volumes of high-quality beer. They are doing some of their best work to date, and beer drinkers are reaping the benefits.

Here are a few updates from across the beer scene, starting with an apology and a correction of the record.

Eureka Springs’ first brewery

Last week I wrote a piece about Eureka Springs Brewery, which opened in June 2019. In the story I referred to it as the “first brewery in Eureka Springs.”

A reader emailed the Flyer to remind me that the first commercial brewery in town was, in fact, Eureka Springs Ale House. Tara Puzey and Conn Hutzell were partners in the short-lived brewpub, which started producing beer in January 2015.

I spoke to Hutzell on the phone this week, and he told me he had a lot of fun brewing on the pub’s one-barrel system. Financial difficulties and operating challenges ultimately led to the brewpub’s closure in April 2016.

Getting the record straight is important. Even though Eureka Springs Ale House wasn’t open for long, it did precede both Eureka Springs Brewery and Gotahold Brewing.

I’d like to offer my sincerest apologies to Puzey and Hutzell for the oversight (and to readers for the misleading claim). Theirs was indeed the city’s first commercial brewery.

Fossil Cove expands taproom

Fossil Cove opened its new bar and taproom space back in June, in what was formerly the main brewing area. The change significantly increased seating options and made the place feel…well, bigger.

The expansion was made possible when production was moved down the street a couple of years ago. Most of the beer from Fossil Cove is now made on a 20-barrel brewhouse instead of the five-barrel system owner Ben Mills started with in 2012.

Fossil Cove’s Andrew Blann said the team started thinking about expanding the space last year, but plans were put on hold when COVID hit. Ultimately, they decided to move forward by incorporating a few public health considerations — removing bar seating, spacing tables, and improving the outdoor seating situation.

The original brewhouse still stands, now prominently displayed behind the new bar.

“Its main purpose is for tasting room-only beers,” said Blann. “It acts as a pilot system, helps dial in recipes, allows us to experiment and get a little weird, and explore new beers.”

The new bar and taproom space are nice upgrades for the pioneering Fayetteville brewery. They go hand-in-hand with new canned beer options (Orange Cream Ale, anyone?) and growing interest from area beer drinkers.

Rendezvous Junction’s Peerson continues recovery

Michael Peerson, Ken Warden and Levi Taylor / Photo: Rendezvous Junction Brewing

Michael Peerson and son-in-law Levi Taylor have been brewing beer at Rendezvous Junction Brewing Co. since late 2017.

On June 17 of this year Peerson was seriously injured when he flipped his Polaris utility vehicle while checking out a fire near his home. According to a Facebook post made by his daughter, Peerson broke his back in two places and was rescued from a deep ravine by local firefighters.

Peerson was airlifted to Washington Regional hospital in Fayetteville, where he experienced a massive blood clot and subsequently coded on the operating table.

He survived the ordeal thanks to the staff that was on hand at Washington Regional the day of his accident.

I recently talked to him about the accident, and he detailed a near-death experience in terms that were absolutely amazing to hear. For me to summarize his experience within the confines of a beer column would not do it justice. In short, he is a changed man, and his faith in a higher spirit — which was already strong — has reached new levels.

“Across the board, there were so many right people in the right place at the right time that I view it as one of God’s miracles,” said Peerson.

By early August he was back in the brewery making beer again. Although he was limited to the role of supervisor due to restrictions on lifting, it was a joyous sight for all that know and love him. His recovery in ongoing.

Peerson said to expect big news about the brewery soon, though he was tight-lipped with the details.

West Mountain cans beer for takeaway

I am an unabashed fan of West Mountain Brewing Company. It’s one of my favorite places to spend a quiet afternoon enjoying a tasty brew.

Brewmaster Jesse Gagnon is making great beer these days. I was head over heels for the Helles he tapped in late summer, and the Blood Orange IPA is consistently one of my favorite beers in town.

Fortunately, West Mountain recently made its beer easier to enjoy at home. The brewpub invested in a can seamer, and 16oz cans are now available for takeaway. Options have so far been limited to the staples — Blonde, Brown, IPA, Stout, and an occasional one-off. But at $3 a pop, it’s a deal that’s hard to beat.

Around the horn

Photo: Hawk Moth Brewing

In the beginning of COVID quarantine Bike Rack Brewing Co. and Hawk Moth Brewing teamed up to offer a combined home delivery service. Those ties seem to have strengthened recently. According to Bike Rack’s Jeff Charlson, Bradley Riggs of Hawk Moth is now leading brewing production at both locations.

Ozark Beer Co. recently introduced its “Volume One: Ozark Mixer Pack,” which features IPA, APA, Lager, and Oktoberfest. In the future the Oktoberfest will be rotated with other small batch releases. And fresh on the heels of the mixer pack, Ozark began distributing its beer to southwest Missouri, expanding its reach outside the state of Arkansas for the first time.

Core Brewing & Distilling Co. has been working on a barrel-aged barleywine for more than a year now. The beer was aged in barrels from Makers Mark and Four Roses, and this week it was transferred to the brite tank for finishing. Core promises a release date soon.

Saddlebock Brewery recently celebrated eight years in business. The Springdale brewery has become much more of a destination brewery over the past year, with an emphasis on its food offerings and frequent trivia and karaoke events. Saddlebock has also branched off and started making its own cider.

Recent beer releases of note

Black Apple Pumpkin Spice Cider
Bentonville Brewing Razorbock
Boston Mountain Simcoe IPA (coming soon)
Columbus House Okami Green Tea IPA
Crisis Erma Gerd Hazy Double NEIPA
Gotahold Ruckus Coffee Stout
Ivory Bill Butternut Beer
Natural State Nitro Coffee Schwarzbier
New Province This Is My Costume (sour gummy worm IPA)
Ozark Dry Stout (taproom only)
West Mountain Belgian Wit