2023 was a year to cheer in Arkansas beer

Breweries in The Natural State are flourishing in a challenging market.
Orthodox Farmhouse Brewery’s Winter Radler holiday beer (Courtesy)

Another year draws to a close, and Arkansas-brewed beer continues its upward trajectory. Despite national trends that point downward, the amount of beer produced in the state is increasing as existing breweries enjoy success and new breweries enter the scene.

Official numbers trail by nearly a year, but the last batch of data from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division shows 2022 output beat the previous year by more than 6,000 barrels. A cursory glance around the state seems to indicate that 2023 will finish even better.

Here in Northwest Arkansas, there were five new breweries that opened in 2023, with another nearing completion.

The new wave

Orthodox Farmhouse Brewery opened in Goshen in April. The brewery offers a unique experience in a busy beer landscape. Brewmaster Jesse Gagnon — formerly with West Mountain Brewing Co. and Ozark Beer Co. — makes Belgian-inspired beers for folks who enjoy the slower pace of rural Northwest Arkansas.

Mad Rooster Beer Co. hung its shingle in an old machine shop in south Fayetteville back in July. There’s an emphasis on hazy IPAs and stouts, but there’s plenty of other options flowing from the 32 taps behind the counter.

In August, Fayetteville Beer Works launched in east Fayetteville, giving residents in that booming part of town a taproom to call its own. Owner Brian O’Connell recently opened a coffee shop — named Fayetteville Coffee Works — inside the taproom.

North Little Rock’s Flyway Brewing Co. opened a satellite location in the space previously occupied by Apple Blossom Brewing Co. in November. Kort Castleberry, brewmaster at New Province Brewing Co., also oversees brewing operations at Flyway.

(Greenhouse Ale Works)

In December, Greenhouse Ale Works opened in east Rogers. Travis Banks — who owns the brewery with his wife, Lauren — was previously with Social Project Brewing Co. before striking out on his own. Greenhouse Ale Works currently offers four year-round beers and will also have four styles with rotating recipes (single IPA, west coast IPA, imperial IPA, and sour).

It won’t be long before another Benton County brewery comes online. Black Howler Beer Co. is making progress on its new brewery and taproom in Highfill. Photos posted to its Facebook page show a striking presence in the mostly barren landscape west of XNA.

A brewery that flew under the radar until it joined the Fayetteville Ale Trail earlier this year is The Recreation Parlor in Gentry. The nano brewery and sports bar gained its small brewery permit in November 2022. Currently, a Mexican lager is the only beer made onsite.

(The Recreation Parlor)

Holding the fort

Already-established breweries had a good year, too.

Ozark Beer Co. won a medal at the Great American Beer Festival in September. The Rogers brewery took bronze for Paper Game, its American-Belgian farmhouse ale. Ozark celebrated its 10th anniversary in November. Gravity BrewWorks in Big Flat, Stone’s Throw Brewing in Little Rock, and Superior Bathhouse Brewery in Hot Springs also celebrated 10 years in business in 2023.

A Eureka Springs brewery partnered with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture to utilize surplus fruit. Gotahold Brewing used 900 pounds of blackberries from Ritter Farm in Judsonia to make Beloved Blackberry, a white wine barrel-aged farmhouse ale. A second batch is currently aging in a wood vessel and is slated for release next year.

(Saddlebock Brewery)

Hawk Moth Brewing closed its east Rogers location earlier this year, but appears to be back up and running inside Airship Coffee in Bentonville. You can’t visit a physical taproom at this time, but Hawk Moth’s Hazy & Hoppy and Howler Cream Ale can be found at most Airship locations in the area.

Saddlebock Brewery in Springdale changed hands this year, with the small brewery permit shifting over in August. Founder Steve Rehbock opened the brewery in 2012. The new owners have been busy remodeling the place, which retains the name and familiar riverside setting, but not much else.

Down in the Arkansas River Valley, Prestonrose Farm & Brewing Co. is moving its operations from Paris to downtown Clarksville. The Mercantile — a general store with a coffee shop and bagel cafe — is already up and running. Prestonrose Towne Bistro is set to open on Jan. 4. The farm-to-fork restaurant will be a bigger, bolder version of what chef and brewmaster Liz Preston has been doing at the beer farm since it opened in 2016.

On a more somber note, West Mountain Brewing Co. in Fayetteville is without a brewer at the moment. The venerable pizza pub boasts an impressive list of brewers in its pedigree — Andy Coates from Ozark, Casey Letellier from Ivory Bill Brewing Co, and Jesse Gagnon from Orthodox to name a few. There are only a couple taps of house-made beer left in inventory, so here’s hoping West Mountain finds its next brewmaster soon.

(West Mountain Brewing Co.)

This final note isn’t related to local breweries, but should still bring joy to the hearts of many local beer drinkers. A quick scan of new permits granted by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division reveals the name of a familiar out-of-state brewery positioned to re-enter Arkansas. Fellow fans of Maharaja Imperial IPA and White Rascal Belgian-Style White Ale will look forward to the possible return of Boulder, Colorado’s Avery Brewing Co. to local shelves in 2024.

This article is sponsored by First Security Bank. For more great stories of Arkansas food, travel, sports, music and more, visit onlyinark.com.