JJ’s Brewing Co.
We are in the golden age of Arkansas beer. There is more delicious beer being made in the state than ever before.
In addition to great ales and lagers, there’s also plenty of news being made as well. Here are some recent notes from the Arkansas beer scene.
JJ’s winds down
JJ’s Brewing Co. — which exclusively supplied the JJ’s Grill restaurant chain — recently announced that it is winding down brewing operations.
The brewery opened in 2017 as a part of a restaurant and entertainment complex that has since transformed into the music venue JJ’s Live. The brewing setup was impressive from the start, with a 15-barrel brewhouse and 15- and 45-barrel stainless steel tanks visible through street side windows.
With an experienced brewer in Jennifer Muckerman in charge, the sky seemed to be the limit. Beer production, as reported to the state of Arkansas, was 1,886 barrels in 2018. Production increased to 2,138 the following year, before falling to 924 in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s hoping Muckerman and everyone else involved with the brewery lands on their feet.
New owner for New Province
New Province Brewing Co. is changing hands.
John Lee — formerly of Rebel Kettle Brewing Co. — and a few partners purchased the six-year-old Rogers brewery from founders Derek and Megan McEnroe last week. Lee said he expects brewer Kort Castleberry (who has been with New Province since the beginning) to continue in his role, as Lee focuses on the business side of brewing.
“The hard part is over,” said Lee, referencing brewery startup and the initial stages of brand-building. “Now it’s about pushing New Province forward and growing the business. I’d like to eventually expand into new markets.”
The brewery has enjoyed steady growth since opening in 2016. In 2020, the last year for which official numbers have been reported, New Province produced 1,806 barrels of beer, making it the sixth-largest beermaker in the state by volume.
Fans of the brewery shouldn’t notice many changes at first, but will likely see the influence of new ownership over time. Lee was famous for pushing the limits of beer during his Rebel Kettle days, and even though he won’t be in the brewhouse on a regular basis, it’s natural to think he will make an impact there.
New Province brewer Kort Castleberry / Photo: Brian Sorensen
Lowell gets a brewery
In March a small brewery opened up inside the Grove Comedy Complex in Lowell. Goat Lab Brewing Co. stands for “Greatest of All Time Lowell Arkansas Brewery.” The boast is technically true since it’s the only brewery to ever operate in the city of Lowell.
Owner Bill Adams was born in Germany (but raised in the Arkansas Delta) and is apparently partial to German beer styles. Some of Goat Lab’s first offerings include two pilsners, a bock, and a Kölsch.
The Grove Comedy Club has grown in stature in recent years, hosting comedy super stars such as Jay Pharoah, Rodney Carrington, and Jim Breuer, among others. The combination of beer and comedy seems like a great concept since everything seems funnier after a pint or two.
More beer in Springdale
There are other new breweries in planning in Northwest Arkansas.
The latest to come to light is Mothership Brewhouse in Springdale. Owner Chris Aaserude filed for a small brewery permit in March. Mothership originally opened in April 2019 as a restaurant and bar, but went dormant as COVID-19 put a stranglehold on the hospitality industry.
We hope to catch up to Aaserude soon to hear what his plans are for the brewery.
Homebrew, Hot Springs and sake
The Art of Home Brew Showcase is taking place in Siloam Springs on Saturday, May 14. Phat Tire Bike Shop will host the event, which will feature over 20 beers and ciders and commemorative glasses. Tickets are $30 at the door, but discounted if purchased online. Proceeds will benefit the Siloam Springs Center for the Arts. Homebrewers are the bedrock of a thriving local beer scene, so it’s good to see another event celebrating the hobby.
Beyond Northwest Arkansas, one of the most enjoyable beer experiences in the state is sipping a pint of beer in a window-side seat at Superior Bathhouse Brewery in Hot Springs while watching people stroll down legendary Central Avenue. Now patrons can do their sipping and people watching while sunbathing in the brewery’s new beer garden, which was unveiled on the north side of the property a few weeks ago. Superior was the first brewery to open inside a national park when it did so in July 2013.
Speaking of firsts, and also in Hot Springs, Matthew Bell has filed an application with the state to open Arkansas’ first sake brewery. If all goes well, Origami Sake should be up and running by the end of the year. Sake is a traditional Japanese brew made with rice. It seems like a natural fit for the state considering Arkansas is responsible for more than 40 percent of U.S. rice production.