The year in Arkansas beer: Some memorable moments from 2021

Native Dog Brewing in Camden / Photo: Brian Sorensen

2021 was a good year for Arkansas beer.

Existing breweries expanded, and new breweries arrived on the scene. We finish the year with 50 active breweries in the state (not counting the cidery in Springdale).

Festivals didn’t make a full return this year, but on-premise drinking regained momentum as 2021 wore on. Beer drinkers were clearly tired of Covid-19 and ready to gather again (albeit with new safety protocols and/or a general sense of precaution).

Here are a few memorable beer moments from 2021:

In January, Native Dog Brewing opened for business in Camden. It was, at the time, the southernmost brewery in the state of Arkansas, nestled downtown near the Ouachita River.

In February, Gotahold Brewing and Natural State Beer Co. joined forces to brew a seven-barrel batch of Berliner Weisse. The tart beer was released in each brewery’s taproom during Arkansas Craft Beer Week festivities in March, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Arkansas Brewers Guild.

Ozark Beer Co founders Andy Coates and Lacie Bray / Photo: Marty Shutter

In March, Blade & Barrel Brewing Co. opened its doors in Jacksonville. It’s a unique concept, with a brewery and barbershop sharing the space. A cut, a shave, and a pint sound like a mighty nice combination.

In April, Core Brewing & Distilling Co. launched a line of ready-to-drink mixed beverages in cans. “25th State Craft Cocktails” is further proof that Core is a total beverage company that counts beer, seltzer, and canned cocktails in its portfolio.

In May, Three Birds Brewing Co. in El Dorado and Burks Brothers Brewing in Bryant both opened for business. The proliferation of breweries outside the NWA and Little Rock metros continues.

In June, Rapp’s Barren Brewing Co. unveiled as its new home the newly renovated Baker Building on Mountain Home’s downtown square. The historic structure is the second-oldest in the city, and it provides the brewery with an anchor location in the up-and-coming entertainment district.

Social Project Brewing Co. / Photo: Brian Sorensen

In July, Rendevzous Junction Brewing Co. moved into its new brewery and taproom at 2225 S. Bellview Road in Rogers. The 6,000-square-foot building and 15-barrel brewhouse represent a significant expansion for the four-year-old brewery. And down in Little Rock, Stone’s Throw Brewing hosted Block on Rock 2021: Return to Normalcy. People were definitely ready for some of that normalcy stuff.

In August, Native Brew Works opened its doors in Jonesboro. Craighead County is still dry, but thanks to legislation passed by Arkansas lawmakers in 2019, breweries can now set up in dry counties (with restrictions, of course). Jonesboro seems like a logical place for more breweries given its recent growth.

In September, Social Project Brewing Co. opened at 600 SW 41st Street in Bentonville. Its hazy IPAs and big stouts are creating a buzz in the region. Also, Natural State Brewing Co. won a gold medal at GABF for its Maibock — a pale lager similar to (but stronger than) Helles-style beer. It was a big achievement for the brewery, which wasn’t even two years old when it was awarded gold.

Jack McAuliffe with FLOPS members and the Fossil Cove crew / Photo: Brian Sorensen

In October, Ozark Beer Co. introduced a satellite taproom in Bentonville. Ozark Beer at Rope Hounds is located at 407 SW A Street and features beer, cocktails, and dogs. Camp Taco, an offshoot of Lost Forty Brewing Co. and parent company Yellow Rocket Concepts, opened in the former Rebel Kettle Brewing Co. location in Little Rock. It has a 1970s vibe in its green tiled, wood-paneled, stained glass-globed taproom.

In November, Ozark phased out its original 15-barrel brewhouse so a 30-barrel system could take its place. The expansion should lead to better order fulfillment in the near term, and the opportunity for distribution growth in the future. Earlier in the year the brewery was featured in Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine.

And then, on Dec. 11, Fossil Cove Brewing Co. partnered with the Fayetteville Lovers of Pure Suds (a local homebrew club more commonly referred to as “FLOPS”) to brew a special batch of beer with craft brewing pioneer Jack McAuliffe.