Made in Arkansas: State of the ‘Brew-nion'

The microbrewing industry here in Arkansas is booming thanks to one simple act of Legislature

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- While the big national brewers scramble to secure their market-share, the microbrewing industry in Arkansas is scrambling to catch up to the rest of the country when it comes to craft beers.

But they are catching up fast.

“An Arkansas beer would probably first and foremost follow the brewers' association of what a craft beer is,” said Ian Beard, the president of the Arkansas Brewers Guild. That makes him a very good guy to grab a beer with a local watering hole. “Craft beers are small, independent and or traditional.”

His group of almost 30 brewers has plenty of room for growth.

 “The entire state of Arkansas still produces less beer than say Lazy Magnolia in Mississippi or Abita in Louisiana,” Beard said.

The Legislature helped open the taps in 2015 with what became Act 857 and the way it modernized what had been called “native brewing.”

“With that they can produce up to 20,000 barrels a year. That's a lot of beer,” said Mary Robin Casteel, the chief counsel for the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division. “It increased their production capacities and I think just gave them a clearer sense of what they needed to do going forward and gave them a more stable platform to grow.”

Beard and his group applauded the move.

“Our laws were already fantastic in Arkansas and what that legislation did was it helped confirm a lot of the very business friendly aspects of Arkansas brewing law.”

With government regulations clarified, brewers of all sizes could no build business models. Many will focus right in their own backyards.

“You'll have the large breweries that you can get anywhere,” said Beard. “But then you'll have these hyper local breweries that become that town's brewery or even that neighborhood's brewery.”

 And once a neighborhood brewery gets a good reputation, the chances for beer tourism go up.

“I think the destination tourism part of the industry is something that's huge and that we're just beginning to tap in to,” said Beard.

When a beer guy talks about tapping into something, you probably want to listen to him – especially when he talks about where the state’s beers can go.

“We want Arkansas beer to be known for quality. That if you get a beer from Arkansas that it will taste good...it will be a good beer.”


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