The incredible growth of Northwest Arkansas craft breweries kept right on rolling in 2018.
Brewers in Benton and Washington counties increased their production by 23 percent or more for the fourth year in a row, making 4.2 million pints in 2018.
The 2.7 million pints in 2016 increased to 3.4 million in 2017, and the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration last week shared information that made it possible for the Northwest Arkansas Council to calculate that 4.2 million pints were produced last year.
Hawk Moth, Ozark Beer, Crisis Brewing, Fossil Cove, and Saddlebock were joined by 11 other producers to make just over 17,000 barrels of ales, lagers, porters and other beer in 2018.
Information kept by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the region’s breweries increased jobs at an impressive rate between 2012 and 2018. The 23 jobs in 2012 rose to 164 by 2018.
Jeff Charlson, an owner of Bike Rack Brewery, said 2018 was particularly good for his company. The company accounted for almost 25 percent of Benton County’s beer produced in 2018. The beer is distributed in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith region, and it’ll make its way to Central Arkansas this spring, Charlson said.
Bentonville Brewing Co. had a solid 2018, too, said Katie Boykin, one of the company’s owners. Four of the company’s bottled beers started being sold in local Walmart stores last year.
For now, the company remains in a temporary space in Rogers, but it announced its plans in December to erect a 20,000-square-foot building in Bentonville and make a return to its hometown. The building, which will have outdoor space where there will be a dog park, playground and picnic tables, is going up near the Bentonville Municipal Airport. The move back to Bentonville could occur in the fall this year, Boykin said.
Ozark Beer’s Marty Shutter said there remains room to grow for the region’s craft beer industry. The company has purchased new equipment that’ll make production increases possible, he said.
“Our market's rise in participation has made Arkansas an attractive place for out-of-state breweries looking to capitalize on an underserved market,” said Shutter, Ozark’s marketing director. “We whole-heartedly welcome the influx of world-class beers on Arkansas shelves, as it raises the overall bar of what a good beer should and can be, and it keeps the local market on its toes.”
The region’s organizations, meanwhile, are working to amp up attention on craft beer.
The Fayetteville Ale Trail, a self-guided tour by Experience Fayetteville, promotes breweries in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Siloam Springs, Rogers and Springdale. The program, which started in 2013, now includes 14 of the breweries plus the state’s only cidery, Black Apple Crossing in Springdale.
Experience Fayetteville also supports beer-focused celebrations each year. Frost Fest, organized by Fossil Cove Brewing each February in support of the nonprofit Apple Seeds Inc., and Ales and Tails (April 6 in Fayetteville and April 13 in Bentonville) are among the most popular.
There are other events, too. They include Bentonville’s Gardens on Tap at Compton Gardens (Sept. 28 this year) and the Springdale Downtown Alliance’s Brews & Tunes is part of the city’s Ozarktober Fest. In its third year, Ozarktober Fest will be Oct. 12-13 weekend.
In addition to more beer production and events that promote the craft beer industry, the two Northwest Arkansas counties keep adding breweries at a consistent clip, and the best way to keep up with the region’s fast-changing breweries is in the Beer News section of the Fayetteville Flyer, a locally owned news resource. There were seven breweries in 2014, eight in 2015, 11 in 2016, 14 in 2017 and 16 in 2018.
The Finance and Administration Department said the statewide number of breweries paying the native beer tax of $7.50 per barrel grew from 29 in 2017 to 36 last year. Breweries now exist in Baxter, Benton, Garland, Logan, Hot Spring, Pulaski, Sebastian and Washington counties.