Beer Production Swells in Northwest Arkansas

New Province Brewing doubled its production in 2017, and expects to double it again this year.

The 2-year-old Northwest Arkansas brewery is a perfect demonstration of how the region's flourishing craft beer industry is foaming over with success these days.

 The beer being produced by companies such as New Province Brewing in Rogers is creating a positive economic impact in Northwest Arkansas.

The beer being produced by companies such as New Province Brewing in Rogers is creating a positive economic impact in Northwest Arkansas.

Records kept by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration show the 14 breweries in Benton and Washington counties increased their combined production by 23 percent last year, giving a clear indication that New Province isn’t the only company expanding to keep up with rising popularity.

Market leaders such as Ozark Beer, Fossil Cove, Core Beer and Bike Rack Brewery were joined by 10 other producers to make nearly 14,000 barrels of beer in 2017. If you assume not one drop was wasted, it means their customers consumed 3,433,345 pints of ales, lagers, IPAs, porters and stouts last year.

The 2016 production was enough to make 2,795,886 pints.

“We, as brewers, continue to improve quality and variety while local consumers have become more knowledgeable about beer and the brewing process,” said Derek McEnroe, who founded New Province in Rogers. “The two go hand in hand, driving the overall market upward. With more breweries on the way, we can safely say that craft beer is not only here to stay, but it will be a driving cultural and economic force in Northwest Arkansas.”

Northwest Arkansas’ 23 percent growth in craft beer production last year is certain to exceed the nation’s growth rate. Bart Watson, an economist with the Brewers Association in Colorado, expects the 2017 annual growth to be near 5 percent when the final totals are reported nationwide.

The economic impact of the craft beer industry was near $67.8 billion in 2016, according to a report from the Brewers Association. The impact in Arkansas was near $405 million, the association said.

While New Province plans to double production, changes are coming for other Arkansas breweries, too.

Springdale-based Saddlebock, for example, recently shipped its beer out of state for the first time, sending it to stores in southeast Kansas, said Steven Rehbock, Saddlebock’s owner.

For the first time, Ozark Beer plans to make its India pale ale available in a can later this year, said Marty Shutter, the company's marketing director. It also plans to add an Ozark lager to its group of five primary products, and it should be able to expand its offerings of seasonal and small batch brews being sold at the brewery's location in downtown Rogers, Shutter said.

"I see that growth coming, and I also see the landscape evolving even faster than it has in the past, which is just as exciting for me as a business dude as a beer drinker," Shutter said.

What’s happening in Northwest Arkansas is reflective of a national trend that’s stretched over the past several years.

A report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published in December showed nearly 59,000 people work in U.S. breweries. In 2012, the number was near 29,000.

The bureau said data for how many Arkansas people worked in breweries wasn’t available until 2014 and the number of jobs statewide was just 108. It reached 202 by 2016, the most recent data that’s available.

Other states have far larger networks of breweries and more jobs in the industry. In 2016, California was the nation’s leader with more than 8,000 jobs at 333 breweries; Arkansas’ neighbors Missouri and Texas each had more than 3,000 jobs in breweries.

The bureau’s report showed there were 16 Arkansas breweries in 2016, but the state’s Finance and Administration Department said that number had grown to 29 by the end of last year.