Bentonville Brewing Co. has been busy as of late. Between launching bottled beer and relocating the entirety of its brewing operation and taproom to Rogers, co-owner Katie Boykin said there’s hardly time to relax. “Sometimes I just have to take off,” she said with a hint of fatigue in her voice. “There’s never a perfect time, but we do manage to see our families from time-to-time, which is nice.”
The brewery has reached several important milestones over the last few months, and has earned a fair amount of street cred in the process.
Perhaps most notably, the brewery moved a city over and landed in the former home of Ozark Beer Co. The move is temporary as Bentonville Brewing Co. determines where it wants to be over the long haul. Boykin said land has been secured near I-49 in Bentonville, but another scenario involving real estate investors has emerged that has the brewery’s ownership thinking hard about next steps.
One thing is for certain, however. Bentonville Brewing Co. will return to its namesake city at some point in the near future. “We will be back in Bentonville, and we’re trying to do it as quickly as possible,” said Boykin. “It will definitely happen soon.”
In the meantime, the temporary space at 1700 South 1st Street is the perfect situation for Bentonville Brewing Co. “The owner was super great coming up with something that really fit our needs,” said Boykin. “And the place was already fitted to be a brewery.”
Alas, landlords who might allow a temporary tenant to bust up a concrete floor in order to install trench drains—just one example of the massive retrofitting that breweries must make to pre-existing spaces—are few and far between. In that sense, Bentonville Brewing Co. really lucked out. It was the right situation at just the right time.
Normally, moving locations is a permitting nightmare for breweries. The federal government does not allow a brewery to begin operations at a new location until it grants its approval. The bureaucratic red tape associated with this process can be maddening—and can take an inordinate amount of time—for those with a stake in the outcome.
Fortunately for Bentonville Brewing Co., it had a champion in United States Representative Steve Womack. Boykin gives him credit for working on the behalf of the brewery, speeding up the process significantly. And as is usually the case, time was a precious commodity.
“It’s such a competitive market when we deal with restaurants,” said Boykin. “The tap handles that we have are prime real estate, and there are a lot of people trying to get their beers on tap.” Being out of the market for even a week or two might lead to a situation where those tap handles are lost. And once they’re lost, they are often difficult to regain.
Thanks to the congressman’s help, Bentonville Brewing Co. was able to expedite the move and minimize the impact on its customers. “We didn’t run out of beer too badly,” said Boykin. “Some accounts may have received three kegs of Homewrecker instead of six, but we were able to maintain.”
Amidst the massive move to Rogers, Bentonville Brewing Co. also introduced 6-pack bottles of Homewrecker IPA and Soul Shine Kolsch to the market. The brewery joined the likes of Ozark, Fossil Cove, New Province, Core, and Saddlebock in offering local beer for off-premise retail purchase.
“Homewrecker is the beer that we sell by far the most of,” said Boykin. “We brew it at least two days each week.”
Bentonville Brewing Co.’s flagship IPA is big but not overbearing. It clocks in at 7.5% ABV and 80 IBUs, but is remarkably balanced between its malt and hop components. It’s neither too sweet nor too bitter. There’s a bit of a biscuit note up front, with a honey-laced softness on the back of the palate. It toes the line between the West Coast IPA and its transatlantic cousin, the English IPA, quite nicely.
If there’s one complaint to be made it’s that there is no packaging date on the bottle. IPAs are best when enjoyed fresh, and without an indication of how old the beer is, a less-than-optimal specimen might make its way into your glass. This is not likely to be a problem with a local IPA that sells quickly, but it’s always nice to know the age of your chosen beer.
Some of Bentonville Brewing Co.’s small batch offerings are also making their way into bottles in 4-pack formats. Airship Coffee IPA, Salted Cherry Sour, and Schwarzbier have made their rounds, and Roundabout Chocolate Milk Stout and Fresh Ground Brown are not too far behind.
Speaking of Fresh Ground Brown, the new beer is a collaborative effort between the brewery and local homebrewer Phil Wright. He lent a hand in brewing his breakfast ale recipe, which incorporates beans from Airship Coffee and oatmeal for what Boykins describes as a rich, malty aroma and nutty, toasty flavor. A release party will take place inside the brewery’s taproom from 6—10pm tonight (Friday, November 17).
Another Bentonville Brewing Co. beer destined for year-round distribution happens to be one of Boykin’s personal favorites—Natural State Porter. Taproom customers might know it as Naked Porter, but the name was changed to avoid potential trademark conflicts with Naked Juice. The beer is absent any fillers or flavors (such as peanut butter, vanilla, or chocolate) that mar many porters brewed in the U.S. “It’s just a nice robust American porter that gets its character from the malt we use,” said Boykin.
Boykin is a jack-of-all-trades at the brewery, and on top of that she’s a new mom as well. She and husband Beau—who handles head brewing duties at Bentonville Brewing Co.—welcomed a baby girl they named Mabel to the family last January.
The months since Mabel’s birth have been hectic at Bentonville Brewing Co., with an increase in brewing capacity (three new 40-barrel fermenters since moving the brewery), a new logo that emphasizes the brewery’s shift to a production mindset, and rise in employee headcount.
“We’ve grown bigger,” said Katie Boykin. “And there are more people working here now.” She said the brewery employs a total of nine people, and they are on track to produce approximately 900 barrels in 2017.
The economic impact Bentonville Brewing Co. has had on the local economy is perhaps one reason Congressman Womack was so quick to assist during the brewery’s move to Rogers.
He may be needed again in the not-too-distant future as Bentonville fulfills its promise to move home. Until then, keep an eye out for the increasing number of bottled offerings from this up-and-coming Arkansas brewery.