Apple Blossom brewer’s first beers should help build local trust

Alton Huebner, head brewer at Apple Blossom Brewing Co. / Photo by Brian Sorensen

Apple Blossom Brewing Co.’s new head brewer is no stranger to the brewpub environment.

Alton Huebner spent 23 years making beer at the oldest brewpub in Texas — Fredericksburg Brewing Co. — before moving to Northwest Arkansas.

“I started out there as a bartender in 1994,” he said. “The brewmaster needed help after having surgery, and I just kind of fell into the job.”

Huebner takes the reins at Apple Blossom now that it’s under new ownership. The north Fayetteville brewpub reopened in February after being closed for nearly eight months.

This isn’t Huebner’s first brewing job in the area. He briefly worked for Springdale’s Core Brewing & Distilling Co. after moving here in 2017.

Working at Apple Blossom, however, seems to be a good fit given his brewpub background.

“This is actually the first brewery I visited when I moved here,” said Huebner. “And I thought it had a lot of promise at the time.”

Brewing background and the move to Northwest Arkansas

Photo by Brian Sorensen

Huebner completed a week of brewing instruction at the University of California, Davis soon after he became a brewer at Fredericksburg. The course was taught by legendary brewing scientist Dr. Charles Bamforth.

Huebner and his fellow Fredericksburg brewers went on to win five medals at the Great American Beer Festival in the early 2000s, including gold for Hauptstrasse Helles, Pioneer Porter, and Helles Keller. The brewery also earned two World Beer Cup medals in the first decade of the new century.

Huebner’s longtime partner is Dr. Melissa Triplett, a dentist who sold her Fredericksburg-based practice and moved to Springdale for a new opportunity. Huebner followed her to the area and landed a job at Core.

His time at Core was short, however, and he soon found himself back in west Texas, where he assumed brewing duties at Brick Vault Brewery and Barbeque in Marathon.

“It was a one-barrel, all-electric system,” said Huebner. “It was really awesome.”

He also brewed at Big Bend Brewing Co. in nearby Alpine, Texas. Its 30-barrel brewhouse dwarfed the setup at Brick Vault. Throughout his career, Huebner has brewed on systems 1-, 10-, 25-, and 30-barrels in size.

Yet with Triplett still in Arkansas, the distance from west Texas was too much to bear.

“It was a two-and-a-half-hour drive to the nearest airport,” said Huebner. “And it was an 850-mile drive, which I did a couple of times.”

Huebner decided to move back to Arkansas without having a brewing gig lined up. He found a job outside the industry to bide his time. Then, as luck would have it, Apple Blossom was purchased by the Trammell Restaurant Group and an opportunity presented itself.

Brewing at Apple Blossom

Photo by Brian Sorensen

“When I interviewed with the Trammells, they said they wanted to come out of the gate as a straightforward brewery,” said Huebner.

It seems to be a good fit because Huebner fashions himself a straightforward type of brewer who enjoys making traditional styles of beer.

“I’m kind of old school,” he said. “I do love the creativity in the beer world today, but sometimes I just want to make beer that tastes like beer.”

The first five beers tapped at Apple Blossom fit with this approach. They include a blonde ale, a porter, an Irish red, a juicy pale ale, and a hefeweizen.

The juicy pale ale is perhaps the most modern of the bunch.

“We used a little bit of wheat and a little bit of oats to give it that hazy look,” said Huebner. “I was brewing a similar recipe in west Texas and found it to be very approachable, very drinkable.”

Northern Brewer hops were used to bitter the juicy pale ale. A combination of Falconer’s Flight, Citra, and Ekquanot hops were used at the end of the brewing process for aroma.

These first few beers should go a long way towards building trust with local beer drinkers. Those who were more accustomed to big and playful beers during Apple Blossom’s early days will find the ABVs toned down a bit, and a more restrained approach to the tap list.

“There’s going to be room to play,” said Huebner, pointing to the possibility of a Mexican lager for Cinco de Mayo. “But straightforward representations of traditional beer styles are what you’ll see here most often.”

Huebner’s transition to Apple Blossom’s 10-barrel brewhouse has been eased by the presence of two brewery holdovers — Chris Tritt and Brandon Evans. The pair worked at Apple Blossom prior to its closure last June.

“They knew all the little secrets of the brewhouse,” said Huebner. “They’ve been invaluable to me as I learn this system.”