Arkansas continues to play a role in the resurgence of the American craft beer industry.
The number of active breweries in the Natural State has grown from six in 2011 to 21 this year, with at least another half dozen in the works.
One of the latest to enter the early stages of planning is JJ’s Beer Garden & Brewing Co., a new restaurant and brewery set for construction at the southwest corner of Van Asche Drive and Steele Boulevard in Fayetteville.
It’s the latest venture from Jody Thornton, owner of JJ’s Grill, which operates six locations across the state.
Design plans submitted to city planners this week show a nearly 12,000-square-foot building, which Thornton said will include three tenants: an off-shoot bar and restaurant concept of JJ’s Grill; a production brewery that will develop and sell a unique line of beers exclusively to JJ’s Grill restaurants; and the corporate headquarters for JJ’s Grill.
It will be Thornton’s first foray into beer production, but he said the time is ripe for entering the brewing market.
“JJ’s Grill has continued to watch as the local, regional and national craft beer scene has developed and evolved,” Thornton said Wednesday. “There are some great breweries in Northwest Arkansas that are thriving and JJ’s wants to be a part of that community.”
The brewery will include a 15-barrel brewhouse with enough fermenters to produce 2,500 barrels (or 77,500 gallons) of beer per year. Thornton said the space was designed with growth in mind. With a few small additions, he said, brewing capacity can easily be doubled.
The primary goal for the brewery will be to supply its own line of beer to all JJ’s locations, including growler fills at each restaurant. As for packaging, keg production will be the only means of delivery, but Thornton said bottles or cans could be added “when the time is right.” Initially, he said, the brewery has no plans to sell to anyone besides JJ’s Grill.
Aside from a massive interior, the north Fayetteville location will also come equipped with an enclosed patio that can be opened during nice weather. Thornton said he also plans to include a large outside gaming area as well as an outside stage and lawn area with enough space to host larger regional and national bands.
City planners are set to review the designs at the next Technical Plat Review Meeting on Sept. 2. If approved, members of the Fayetteville Planning Commission will weigh in sometime this fall. If all goes well, Thornton said the new brewery should be open for business in late spring or early summer of 2016.