48 Hours in Northwest Arkansas
Baltimore Sun writer and noted satirist H.L. Mencken spent the early part of the 20th century writing disparaging things about Arkansas. Back then the national perception of the state involved hillbilly caricatures and backwoods humor. Mencken was so merciless with his scorn that in 1931 the Arkansas legislature passed a motion to pray for his soul.
Arkansas has made great strides since Mencken’s time. Natives Johnny Cash, Scottie Pippen, and former President Bill Clinton—just to name a few—proved the state could produce top talent, and corporate heavyweights Dillard’s, Tyson Foods and Wal-mart provided the spark needed for economic development.
Over the years, Northwest Arkansas (the proper name used to reference the cities of Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville) and the capital city of Little Rock have grown into large metropolitan areas. They now provide the urban experience to complement the state’s abundant natural beauty.
It’s within these two population centers that the state’s brewing industry has emerged. And since Northwest Arkansas got a head start in this most recent wave of brewing activity, it makes sense to start your Arkansas beer adventure there.
Fayetteville’s downtown square is the perfect place for lunch after your arrival. West Mountain Brewing Co. (21 W. Mountain St.) produces traditional ales and offers some of the tastiest pizza in town. The brown ale has been popular since West Mountain started brewing in 2011, but check out the rye if it’s on tap.
After lunch take a tour of the Clinton House Museum (930 W. Clinton Drive, Fayetteville), the first home of former President Bill and current presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. The couple were married in the living room of this small rock home. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
Head to Fayetteville’s entertainment district for a quick pick-me-up. Puritan Brew Co. (205 W. Dickson St.) boasts an impressive tap list and locally roasted coffee. Puritan doesn’t make its own beer, but with around 20 beers on constant rotation, it’s the place to find the beers people are talking about.
Check out Hugo’s (25-1/2 N. Block Ave.) for dinner. Burger joints come and go, but this popular basement eatery has been open since 1977. The taps are mostly local and usually feature special releases like Ozark Beer Co.’s Smoked Porter.
After-dinner entertainment can be found at the Walton Arts Center (495 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville) or nearby George’s Majestic Lounge (519 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville). Opened in 1927, George’s is the oldest club and live-music venue in Arkansas.
Of course you can skip the music and head to Columbus House Brewery & Taproom (693 W. North St., Fayetteville) instead. It’s one of the area’s newest breweries, in addition to being one of the smallest with a tiny three-barrel system and cozy tasting room. Some of Columbus House’s most popular beers are its darkest—Spottie Ottie Oatmeal Stout and a coffee stout called Kabamba.
Fossil Cove Brewing Co. (1946 N. Birch Ave., Fayetteville) makes for a great nightcap. The brewery’s lineup of six year-round beers is complemented by seasonal and experimental releases such as Coffee IPA, Hoppy Wheat and Black Gose. Fossil Cove was one of the first breweries in Northwest Arkansas to can its beer.
One of the region’s best people-watching opportunities takes place each Saturday morning from April to November on the downtown square. The Fayetteville Farmers Market (101 W. Mountain St.) offers fresh produce and other goods from area merchants. Grab some coffee, stretch your legs, and breathe the sweet Ozark air.
Take a short drive out to Saddlebock Brewery (18244 Habberton Road, Springdale) for a change of scenery. The three-level brewery is nestled in the countryside alongside the White River. Grab a pint of Saddlebock’s popular kölsch–Dirty Blonde—and check out the expansive property. Pick up a bomber of vanilla bourbon porter after your tour.
Apple Blossom Brewing Co. (1550 E. Zion Road, Suite 1, Fayetteville) is a terrific choice for an early lunch. The brewpub is located next to Lake Fayetteville and provides a trailside seat to the Razorback Regional Greenway—a 36-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian surfaces that stretches the entire length of Northwest Arkansas. Order a mole chicken sandwich and relax on the patio with a flight selected from nearly 20 house beers.
Next, visit the state’s biggest beer producer, Core Brewing & Distilling Co. (2470 Lowell Road, Springdale). The brewery recently installed three 160-barrel fermenters to meet growing demand. You can find Core-branded pubs throughout the state, including a location inside Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
Catch a minor-league baseball game if you’re in the mood. Arvest Ballpark (3000 S. 56th St., Springdale) is home to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, the AA affiliate of the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals. Fans can enjoy more than 20 beer options in the aptly named Craft Beer Corner.
Foster’s Pint and Plate (2001 S. Bellview Road, Rogers) is the place to go if you’re hungry. Six beers are brewed onsite and join 76 guest taps and an impressive food menu for a true gastropub experience.
Bike Rack Brewing Co. (410 S.W. A St., Bentonville) is worth checking out after dinner. It was the first brewery to open in Benton County after 2012’s vote to go wet. Bike Rack’s brewhouse is only 3.2 barrels in size, but is pumping out great beers like Faster Double IPA and a rye whiskey barrel-aged stout.
Only a mile away is Bentonville Brewing Co. (1000 S.E. 5th St.). The taproom is big and communal with spillover seating on the side-loaded patio. Airship Coffee IPA, a collaboration with the coffee roaster next door, has earned plenty of notice since its release last year.
You’ve had a lot of beer the last couple of days, so soak it up with brunch at Tusk & Trotter (110 S.E. A St., Bentonville). Carrot cake waffles and a flight of bloody Marys will help fight off any lingering hangover.
Next head over to one of the crown jewels of Northwest Arkansas, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (600 Museum Way, Bentonville). The permanent collection includes works from the likes of Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. Spend some time on the trails that surround the museum and enjoy the beautiful sculptures and gardens. Have lunch at the restaurant inside the museum—Eleven—to save time for more brewery visits.
For an afternoon pint, visit the newest local brewery, New Province Brewing Co. (1310 W. Hudson Road, Rogers). In an industry that usually sees brewery startups in repurposed spaces, New Province opened in a brand new 8,100-square-foot building designed specifically for making beer. Enjoy a pint of Yeoman Porter while you take a look around.
Make sure you visit Ozark Beer Co. (1700 S. 1st St., Rogers) before you leave town. Co-owner and brewmaster Andy Coates—who cut his teeth at Goose Island Beer Co. and Great Divide Brewing Co.—is getting some serious attention for his beer. Ozark’s recently released Bourbon Barrel-aged Double Cream Stout stands toe-to-toe with some of the world’s best stouts.
If at any point during your visit to Northwest Arkansas you feel like being chauffeured around, check out Hogshead Tours. You’ll visit the local breweries in a 1970 Volkswagen van—and most importantly, make it home safe and sound. –Brian Sorensen
Black Apple Crossing (321 E. Emma Ave., Springdale) opened as the state’s first hard cidery in May 2015. Northwest Arkansas was once home to a thriving apple industry, so in a sense things have come full circle with cider production.