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Craft brew craze sweeping Arkansas

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It's cold, original, and is made to cater to a beer drinker's palate; craft beers are sweeping the nation even here in Arkansas, where more than 20 breweries have popped up throughout the state. But what's with the craft brew craze?

After talking to some of the local brewers here in central Arkansas, it's clear that more and more beer drinkers are seeking out unique brews to satisfy their taste buds.

"Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit, and promotes health,"-Thomas Jefferson.

A quote from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson shows that beer has been a part of American society since the beginning. Today a new revolution is sweeping the country, the craft beer revolution.

To see the impact craft beer is having, just check out your local liquor store. Many are now dedicating rows and rows to highlight the vast variety of beer being produced around the country. With names like 'Lil Helper,' 'Winter Grind' and 'Spiffy Britches,' originality is definitely a key.

This craft beer craze is now filtering down to Arkansas with more than 20 local breweries around the state. What's behind the sudden surge?

"Whether it coffee or it's wine or fine food, people are looking for a better quality product and craft beer is certainly on the forefront of that," said Diamond Bear Brewing Company Owner, Russ Melton.

Here in central Arkansas, beer is booming with a number of new breweries and more on tap in the near future, each with their own unique approach.

"Our beer has become extremely popular amongst some of the better restaurants in town, it's a beer that pairs very well with different foods, the different varieties that we have," said Beard.

Just down the road in downtown Little Rock, two more breweries are set to open by the end of December. Lost 40 Brewing in downtown Little Rock is focusing not only on its beer, but is planning on providing a full menu as well.

"Beer and food are good together, I love German food and this space here you can see these giant long tables it's like a German beer hall," said Lost 40 Brewing Co-owner, Scott McGehee.

"We're taking some of those classic German foods, and then we're smashing that together with some delta cooking which is my roots," added McGehee.

For Blue Canoe Brewing's owners, what started as a hobby is now turning into a business.

"We brewed our first batch and it was very good and we decided to share that beer with other people essentially, we kept brewing with one another and with additional recipes and basically share this with other people and turn it into a business," said co-owner, Patrick Cowan.

Diamond Bear Brewing Company was founded 14 years ago and while it's not new to the central Arkansas scene, they have recently opened a new facility in North Little Rock giving it one of the largest beer production capacities in the state.

"The facility is a wonderful facility, we are in a great neighborhood but it also have the added advantage allowing us to have a bigger tap room, small restaurant and bigger retail shop," said Melton.

Melton added he doesn't necessarily look at these new breweries as competition.

"One of the things I like about it is the people, not just the craft beer customer but the other brewers, there is much more of a brotherhood or camaraderie than there is in most other businesses," said Melton.

The same sentiment comes from Vino's, Little Rock's longest running brew pub, which opened in 1990 and started brewing beer in 1993.

"I like it, the more the merrierit develops the culture of beer of especially good beer in Little Rock," said Vino's Brewpub General Manager, Chris New.

"We've got some die hard regulars and just like everybody else we drink at other establishments around town I think people are just going to make the circuit," added New.

Local brewers said the cooperation in their community will help them grow in the future.

"We're all working towards the same goals of really just raising the profile of local beer in Arkansas," said beard.

"We're a collective of breweries here in Little Rock there's more opening all the time, and we have a unique opportunity to really be able to band together, building awareness throughout the community for this great locally made artisan product," said McGehee.

The future is definitely looking bright, according to a recent Brewers Association study, by 2020; craft beer production is expected to more than double its current shares.

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