Fossil Cove’s 10-year anniversary saison / Courtesy photo
It’s hard to believe, but Fossil Cove Brewing Co. is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week.
The Fayetteville brewery opened for business at 1946 N. Birch Ave. on June 2, 2012. Back then breweries were still a novelty in Northwest Arkansas. Now there are 19 making beer in Benton and Washington counties, with more on the way.
Founder and brewmaster Ben Mills and his team will be celebrating their achievement with a big party from 1-8 p.m. this Saturday (June 4). During the event, the brewery will be the place for food, music, and the release of an anniversary saison.
Mills — a native of Gravette, Arkansas who studied at famed beer school UC-Davis — launched Fossil Cove with a five-barrel brewhouse and just a few beers on tap. Among those were a T-Rex Tripel, La Brae Brown, and an IPA that was a precursor to today’s IPA #3.
Over the years Fossil Cove has focused on slow growth — with additions, improvements, and expansions happening at a measured pace. There has been, perhaps, more of an emphasis on destination and experience than distribution and market domination.
Andrew Blann, Fossil Cove’s marketing director, said he is excited about the weekend’s festivities.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing our regulars and catching up with customers that have shaped Fossil Cove throughout the years,” Blann said. “A lot of relationships have been forged over a pint, and it will be great to see all our beer loving friends.”
Many people have fond memories of Fossil Cove’s decade in existence. For Blann, a couple stand out.
“The first Frost Fest was crazy,” he said. “We had no idea what to expect. I still get flashbacks of the line down Ash Street, onto Birch Street, and past the taproom.”
If you’ve ever visited the taproom or picked up a six-pack of Fossil Cove beer you’ve probably noticed the eclectic artwork associated with the brewery.
“Working with local artists to bring our ideas to life has been an amazing experience,” said Blann. “Nick Shoulders and Chad Maupin have definitely left their stamp on Fossil Cove. It’s tough to imagine the Fossil Cove experience without their creativity.”
Here are a few other memorable milestones for Fossil Cove:
In the beginning
Opening day in June 2013 was a big deal. At the time, the only breweries in Northwest Arkansas were Hog Haus, Core, Tanglewood Branch, and West Mountain. The craft brewing phenomenon had barely touched our corner of the world. Fossil Cove’s arrival was an indication that beermaking in the region was about to accelerate.
First commercial sour beer in the state
In August 2013 Mills brewed a batch of Berliner Weiss with local podcaster James Spencer of Basic Brewing Radio. It is believed to be the first sour beer brewed (on purpose!) on a commercial system in the state of Arkansas. Andy Sparks, owner of the local homebrew supply store, brought traditional German syrups to accompany the kettle-soured beer on the day of its release. The experience signaled that Fossil Cove wasn’t in business to make run-of-the-mill styles. Mills was interested in doing something different.
Tapping the Ozarks
In May 2014 the brewery hosted the release of the brewing documentary, “Tapping the Ozarks,” which was produced by journalism students at the University of Arkansas. The taproom was packed with beer fans and curious members of the community. The film highlighted the growing influence of beer in Northwest Arkansas.
Courtesy Fossil Cove Brewing Co.
Cans came into the picture in July 2015. Paleo Ale and La Brae Brown were the brewery’s first beers released in aluminum, and were among the first to be canned by a brewery in Northwest Arkansas. Now it’s common to see the state’s beermakers put their products in cans.
Frost Fest sets new standard
In February 2016 Fossil Cove hosted what was billed as the first winter beer festival in the state. More than 20 breweries were in attendance for that first Frost Fest, which was located around the corner from the brewery on Ash Street. Festival organizers required breweries to send their own employees to provide samples — instead of volunteers or distributor personnel — which made it an appealing event for hardcore beer fans who wanted more than just a pour (they wanted information, too!). In 2018 the festival moved to a location near the Washington County Fairgrounds. The event was last held in 2020, falling victim to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is hope for its eventual return.
Frost Fest / Courtesy
The brewery expanded into the former Lyn D’s Cajun Gypsy building at 535 W. Poplar Street in 2018. A twenty-barrel brewhouse was installed, creating more brewing capacity to accommodate the growing demand for Fossil Cove beer. The taproom remained in its original location, giving the brewery two locations within a block of each other—one for production and one for consumption.
In June 2020 the taproom expanded into the former brewing space at the original location. The extra elbow room helped people feel comfortable as they emerged from their Covid quarantines. What was once a slightly cramped taproom has evolved into an expansive space with an outdoor area enclosed by a tent. Coffee service was added in conjunction with the expansion, and now you can find patrons at the brewery morning, noon, and night.
Brewing with Jack
In December 2021 the brewery teamed with the local homebrew club and brewing pioneer Jack McAuliffe — of New Albion Brewing Co. — to brew a batch of barleywine, which will be released on the summer solstice this year. Aged in barrels, it’s an interpretation of McAuliffe’s Old Toe Sucker Ale.
Jack McAuliffe with FLOPS members and the Fossil Cove crew / Photo: Brian Sorensen
In its 10 years of existence, Fossil Cove has become a vital part of the Fayetteville experience. Help Ben Mills and his band of merry beermakers celebrate a decade in business this Saturday at the brewery.