Photos: Brian Sorensen
Something big is brewing in Rogers.
That something is Rendezvous Junction Brewing Co.’s new 6,000-square-foot brewery and taproom, located at 2225 S. Bellview Road in Rogers. It will become Rendezvous Junction’s main location, with the current location converting to a sour beer-only production site the owners are calling “Side Tracked.”
The new brewing facility is slated to open to the public on July 10.
Rendezvous Junction launched in late 2017 inside what was then Foster’s Pint & Plate. Foster’s opened as a microbrewery in 2015 but decided to carve out the brewing operation to focus on food. Enter Mike Peerson and his son-in-law, Levi Taylor. They bought the five-barrel brewhouse and rebranded the beer. Without a dedicated taproom they continued to sell most of their beer at Foster’s, which has since closed and been replaced by a Mexican restaurant.
The brewery’s production has been modest, with 70 barrels of output in 2020 (the most recent year of officially reported numbers). According to Peerson, much of Rendezvous Junction’s beer has been sold at Uptown Kitchen & Taphouse in Rogers since Foster’s closed.
Peerson flirted with death last year, and by all accounts, is lucky to be alive. On June 17, 2020 he flipped his Polaris utility vehicle and broke his back in two places. He was airlifted to Washington Regional hospital in Fayetteville, where he experienced a massive blood clot and coded on the operating table. He credits first responders and hospital staff for saving his life.
The experience heightened Peerson’s faith and sense of purpose.
“I’m supposed to be doing this,” he said, referring to the brewery project. “God is opening doors for me. He closed other doors to encourage me to do this.”
Rendezvous Junction is releasing a raspberry and hibiscus sour saison to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Peerson’s accident, death, and eventual recovery. “Revival” will be a taproom exclusive once the new brewery opens.
Peerson said the accident slowed down the brewery planning process, but it gave him an opportunity to be careful with the details. He worked on the project in between rehabilitation sessions at the hospital.
“We went so long in the design phase before I said OK because I wanted to understand what I was building and what the cost was going to be,” he said.
Mike Peerson / Photo: Brian Sorensen
He partnered with local businessman Alex Blass (who owns the building) and architecture firm HFA to design the interior of the new brewery. With 38-foot ceilings, the space feels much bigger than the 6,000 square feet it occupies.
The bar sits front and center facing the main entrance, and features an enormous number of taps.
“Some people might think I’m crazy or stupid,” said Peerson. “But we’re going to try to keep 23 beers on tap.”
One additional handle for water results in a total of 24 taps on the brick wall behind the bar, which also sports an updated Rendezvous Junction logo.
At the time of our interview, the brewhouse had yet to arrive. Peerson said a new 10-barrel, direct-fired system will be installed along a far wall, with four 10-barrel fermenters along an adjacent wall, and several one- and five-barrel fermenters lined up in the center of the brewing space. There is nothing separating the area from the taproom, other than a few bourbon barrels and chains. Everything is on full display.
“You can sit there with a beer and have a conversation with us while we brew,” Peerson said.
Brewers have been busy building inventory at the old location to support the grand opening, just in case the new brewing system isn’t completely ready in time.
The railroad theme carries throughout the brewery. A faux steam engine water tower sits high above the bar. Copper piping lines the walls and ceilings, giving the place a nostalgic feel.
A large mezzanine above the brewery’s walk-in cooler provides a bird’s eye view of the brewing space and taproom seating area below. Peerson said he envisions businesses and other community groups using the spot for meetings.
An 1,800-square-foot patio will eventually grow to 6,000 square feet as construction of an adjacent restaurant is completed. Rendezvous Junction will share patio space with the new restaurant, which has yet to be named.
Photo: Brian Sorensen
Also new to the brewery is a one-barrel pilot system manufactured by Ruby Street Brewing. It will allow Peerson to scale new recipes up to full-batch sizes more effectively. He said scaling recipes is not a linear process, and it’s much easier to do from a one-barrel recipe than a five-gallon home brew batch (which is how he has done it to this point).
As for the beer, Rendezvous Junction keeps a constant rotation of new beers, and will continue to do so in the new brewery. Whereas some brewing counterparts find economies of scale in bulk purchases—using just a handful of ingredients in different combinations to yield different beers—Peerson has a different mindset.
“Bulk purchases limit your creativity,” he said. “Some breweries use a house yeast strain, for example. I’m the opposite in that I don’t want to constrain us by locking into buying ‘X’ amount of this or that. We have twenty-three different beers, and probably use nineteen different yeast strains.”
Even with the additional capacity, Rendezvous Junction won’t be distributing much beer outside the taproom. Peerson said he wrestled with the question of how big he wanted the brewery to become, but settled on the goal of making it a destination rather than a production brewery with wide distribution.
But for those looking to take beer home, they will find four- and six-packs of 12-ounce cans for sale inside the taproom. Growler fills will also be available.
Peerson brought on a couple of full-time employees to support the brewery as it expands its production capacity and gets into the taproom game for the first time. Ken Warden was hired as director of brewing operations. He previously worked as a bartender at Bentonville Brewing Co., Growler USA, and Saddlebock Brewery. Brandon Grumieaux is the new director of taproom operations and sales. He worked at Foster’s Pint & Plate when the brewing operations was sold to Peerson and Taylor, and later served as the beverage director at The Hive in Bentonville.
It has been a long road for Peerson. He started a brewery in 2017, retired from a 31-year career at Walmart in 2019, and nearly died in 2020. And now, finally, he’s ready to do what he believes the Lord has led him to do.
“I’m a blessed man, for sure,” he said.