Photo: Brian Sorensen
A few weeks ago, we introduced you to the newest brewery in Eureka Springs. Now let us introduce you to the first.
Owned and operated by father-son duo Jeff and Matt Joseph, Eureka Springs Brewery sits on five acres east of downtown, just off Highway 62 on Ridgeview Road. It opened for business in June 2019.
It’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, though an old vacant hotel in front of the brewery (which is kind of creepy) provides a noticeable landmark to watch for.
The building itself is an unassuming metal structure built explicitly for the purpose of brewing. There aren’t many frills, but it’s a welcoming space, and the brewhouse is prominently displayed in the taproom.
There are 10 taps behind the wood-wrapped bar, which is adjacent to a cozy indoor seating area with a view of the pine laden forest behind the brewery. Curiously, there is a nine-hole disc golf course nestled in those trees.
Jeff Joseph is originally from Kansas City, but moved to Northwest Arkansas around the age of 10. He spent most of his childhood in Springdale. The fourth-generation homebrewer said he grew up watching his uncles brew beer.
“It was much different in those days,” said Jeff. “They brewed with malt extract, and they didn’t have all the equipment we have now.”
Jeff eventually picked up the hobby himself. At his peak he was brewing once per week. This prolific beermaking pace would continue for many years, even as a career in mechanical design for a local engineering firm took off.
Like many homebrewers, Jeff harbored visions of opening a commercial brewery. While traveling for work he visited small breweries and took note of the features he wanted to build into his own.
According to Jeff, running a brewery with his son Matt was his ultimate goal.
“I was probably eight or nine years old when I first remember seeing Dad brew,” said Matt Joseph. “I really took an interest in the process of brewing towards the end of high school.”
It took a while for a father-son business model to develop, however. A series of moves and odd jobs kept Matt busy immediately following his graduation from Har-Ber High School in 2008.
His first move was to Colorado, where he worked a little and had big fun.
“I was printing t-shirts at night and snowboarding during the day,” he said.
After a short return to Arkansas, he moved to Alaska to work as a deckhand on commercial boats. He stayed in the land of the midnight sun for about five years.
Then his dad called and said it was time to get serious about the brewery idea, so he moved back home to Arkansas to help launch Eureka Springs Brewery.
Their approach to brewing
Matt is the brewmaster. He is the creative force behind the beers, while Jeff — who assists with the brewing process and handles taproom duties — is more of the process guy.
The brewhouse is a three-barrel electric system manufactured by Stout Tanks and Kettles in Portland, Oregon. There are currently four three-barrel fermenters, but there is room for more as demand grows.
They brew mostly ales at Eureka Springs Brewery, though they occasionally make lagers on a half-barrel pilot system.
Many of the beers started out as homebrew recipes, including the ESB (an English bitter) and the pale ale. Scaling up to larger batches wasn’t much of a problem given Jeff’s occupational background.
“The last 23 years of engineering work prepared me for that,” he said. “It’s all numbers to me, and really not a big deal to adjust.”
Matt likes to experiment, sometimes finding inspiration in beers he sampled during his travels.
While in Alaska, for example, he fell in love with a certain beer made with spruce tips. After sourcing spruce tips and having them shipped to Arkansas — which proved more difficult than it might sound — he made his own version with an IPA base.
Other creative brews recently poured in the taproom include an IPA made with rosemary and a blonde ale infused with basil.
One beer that really grabbed my attention on a recent visit was Kraken Pepper Pale Ale. It was made with poblano, jalapeno, and habanero peppers and had a pleasantly mild flavor with just a hint of spiciness.
“We roasted the peppers to remove the oil from the skin and added them at the end of the boil,” said Jeff. “After fermentation we ‘dry-hopped’ with more roasted peppers, which really helped with the aroma.”
Other beers of note include a sour saison, an orange wheat, and an American-style barleywine.
As for the decision to locate in Eureka Springs, Matt said his family fell in love with the city long ago.
“It’s a wonderful town,” he said. “We used to come over here for vacation all the time, and it’s a really cool place. Everybody is really chill and laid back.”
The Josephs’ beer is becoming popular around Eureka Springs. It’s on tap at Basin Park Hotel, and is occasionally available at the Crescent Hotel, Brews, and a handful of other watering holes in town.
Jeff said he expects to finish 2020 with around 500 barrels of production output. Yet even with all the success, he relishes one achievement more than any other.
“I knew it would be great to open the brewery with Matt,” he said. “But we are really having fun, and I love doing this with him.”