Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware / Courtesy photo
There have been so many great breweries entering the Arkansas market recently that it’s hard to imagine a time when Fat Tire was the craftiest beer available on local shelves. The arrival of Stone, Ballast Point, Lagunitas, and Bell’s (among others) has all of a sudden given Arkansans access to some of the country’s finest brews.
Despite the influx of big names over the past few years, there are still several breweries on beer enthusiasts’ wish lists. Here are a few I would personally like to see come to our state soon:
It’s not unreasonable to think Dogfish Head might eventually enter the Arkansas market. The Milton, Delaware brewery already distributes to all six states bordering us.
Sam Calagione opened Dogfish Head in 1995 and has since become known for his radical approach to brewing. He regularly incorporates unconventional ingredients into his beers, resulting in peculiarities like Raison d’Etre (brewed with raisins), Midas Touch (made with honey, grapes, and saffron), and Chicory Stout (infused with roasted chicory, Mexican coffee, and licorice root).
Dogfish Head is most famous for its 60 Minute, 90 Minute, and 120 Minute IPAs. There are a number of drinkers whose first transcendent experience with craft beer happened over one of those particular IPAs.
The next brewery on my wish list is probably a pipe dream at best.
Founded in 1997, Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa, California distributes to just a handful of states on the West Coast.
It’s a shame, too, because Russian River makes one of the most revered IPAs known to man — Pliny the Elder. It is brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops and packs a wallop at 8% ABV. Zymurgy Magazine named Pliny the top beer in America for eight consecutive years, knocking off 90 Minute IPA for the title in 2009. It’s made in small batches to ensure freshness in the market, making it hard to find and highly-coveted among beer enthusiasts. A friend of mine once brought some home from a West Coast road trip, and Pliny more than lived up to the hype. Grab some if you ever see it in the wild.
Last year I visited Portland, Oregon for the first time. I instantly fell in love with the city’s beauty, the relaxed atmosphere, and the sheer number of breweries to explore.
I didn’t get a chance to see the production facility in Bend, but Deschutes Brewery’s brewpub in the Pearl District was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. The food was wonderful and the beer was incredibly fresh. My favorite beer from Deschutes — Fresh Squeezed IPA — was particularly good on that overcast day in Portland.
Many of the brewery’s year-round offerings are highly regarded, including Black Butte Porter, Obsidian Stout, and Mirror Pond Pale Ale.
I can’t count the number of trips I have made to the Missouri state line to pick up beers from Deschutes.
It’s currently the eighth-largest craft brewery in the Unites States and is available in 28 states, so the folks at Deschutes are obviously interested in growth. The brewery would lend a taste of the Pacific Northwest should it land in Arkansas at some point in the future.
Cigar City Brewing Co. was founded by former Tampa Bay Times beer writer Joey Redner in 2007, proving that writers obsessed with beer are, in fact, redeemable
The upstart brewery is a big reason why Tampa has become the preeminent beer city in Florida. The bay area is now home to more than 50 breweries and supports a thriving culture built around beer.
The most recognizable beer in Cigar City’s portfolio is Jai Alai, an American IPA flooded with notes of citrus and caramel. Jai Alai is terrific, but the white oak-aged version may be even better.
Other notable beers in the Cigar City lineup include Maduro Brown and its cousin Vanilla Maduro.
Much like southern hip-hop, breweries from the South were often overshadowed by their peers on the East and West Coasts. Cigar City’s pioneering success in the region was in many ways like Outkast bursting onto the scene in 1994 with Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.
The Midwest is also represented on my craft beer wish list. Three Floyds Brewing is located in Munster, Indiana and has built a cult following behind the success of Dark Lord — a Russian imperial stout that weighs in at a hefty 15% ABV and features coffee, Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar. The beer is released on “Dark Lord Day” each spring and is only available at the brewery. Which of course means Three Floyds wouldn’t send Dark Lord to Arkansas anyway.
Instead, we would probably find beers like Gumballhead (an American wheat brewed with Amarillo hops), Zombie Dust (a classic pale ale), and Robert the Bruce (a 6.5% Scottish ale).
In addition to great beer, Three Floyds also has a certain cool factor that was recently enhanced by a partnership with Danish brewer Mikkeller in Copenhagen. The joint venture — WarPigs brewpub — is a brewpub featuring collaborative beers and, curiously, Texas-style barbeque sold by the pound. WarPigs’ Lazurite IPA is available in the Unites States now, and if Three Floyds should ever come to Arkansas, we might get a taste of it, too.
There are several other breweries I would love to see in Arkansas, including Revolution (Chicago), New Glarus (Wisconsin), Wicked Weed (Asheville, NC), and Allagash (Portland, ME). I suppose there are only so many square feet in a beer cooler — but a boy can dream, can’t he?
What are the breweries on your craft beer wish list?