I wasn’t a beer drinker. In fact, I hated beer. It wasn’t until craft breweries started popping up and I tried real beer, (please don’t throw your can of Budweiser at me) that I truly became a beer lover.
Obviously, I’m not the only beer lover either. The way breweries and craft beer have taken off in the last ten years is incredible. Mid-summer of 2019, there were a 1000 more craft breweries operating in the US than the previous year. And there are another 2500 to 3000 in the planning stages.
There are sought after “best beer” medals and beer festivals can be found in even the smallest towns. Cities have created entire beer and brewery trails to attract visitors and be the next city on a beercation list.
Little Rock Locally Labeled
Enter Little Rock, where you can “drink like a local” on their Locally Labeled Passport Trail. While the trail includes two wineries, that I haven’t been to, yet, and a distillery, that I have been to and is great btw, the stars of the show are the breweries. All six of them.
Way back in 1991, some politician and I’m sure a beer lover, had the foresight to change the legislation in Arkansas, making brewpubs legal. They were way ahead of the times. Even now in 2020, in some cities, it’s a struggle to get brewpubs up and running.
By comparison, it wasn’t until 2017 that Atlanta lawmakers finally passed the Booze Bill that allowed local breweries to sell directly to the public instead of tour and tasting kind of thing.
There’s a reason they adopted that drink like a local moniker. The fact that Arkansas is and has always been an agricultural state, there is a push to keep things local. Local means fresher food, more farm to table, and more products for Arkansans to enjoy.
A Real Passport
Never one to back down from a challenge, when I found out that they actually give you a real passport to get stamped as you drink your way through Little Rock’s Locally Labeled list, I was in!
While I haven’t even come close to getting all my stamps, yet, it’s been fun stopping in now and again and trying. Here’s where I’ve been so far on Little Rock’s Locally Labeled passport.
“Lost Forty aims to craft beers as unwavering, wild, and uniquely Arkansas as the the land itself. The Lost Forty is part tall tale, a little bit of hearsay, a lot of history, a few facts, a big cast of characters and completely Arkansas.”
That tall tale and their name is taken from a story about a “lost” parcel of forty acres that somehow escaped timber men and surveyors for years. Since they couldn’t find it, what was left was forty acres of pristine Arkansas forest. How? No one really knows but it’s a great name for the beer and a lot of fun to discuss it over a brew.
The brewery is housed in a warehouse type building with lots of long European style beer garden tables for seating. This is great for bigger parties and socializing.
They also serve really good food. The pimento cheese was one for the books.
On any given day, they typically have about twelve beers available. I liked the lineup. It’s a good mix of offerings and easy ordering for a flight. Ales, IPAs, stouts and lagers all coexist nicely at Lost Forty. My favorite was the Easy Tiger, a Mexican style lager. The Raspberry Lime Gose a close second.
Lost Forty is open 7 days a week and offers free tours on Saturdays at 1 pm and 2 pm.
“In a world full of boring beers, Rebel Kettle is leading the rebellion. On a mission to move beyond the mundane, we have the key ingredients at our fingertips – the passion for the craft, the willingness to experiment, and the respect for quality ingredients”
That quote says it all. Rebel Kettle is anything but boring. With a line up of intriguing beers, you can experiment with new tastes but still find something standard if that’s your thing.
Not surprisingly, Rebel Kettle is housed in a cool, rocker kind of space. They have indoor seating and a beer garden, where they schedule various events, yoga and live music. You can play games and be a little more active outside or just hang out.
While they are a brewery and beer is the focus, let’s just talk about the food for a minute. Rebel Kettle has a Cajun inspired menu and it’s some of the best food I’ve had at a brewery. They even serve brunch, which I’ve rarely seen at a brewpub.
Last time I was there I had boudin balls or what Rebel Kettle calls Bou(damn) balls. Boudin is sausage which in Rebel Kettle’s case, has been beer battered and fried into little balls and served with creole mustard and saltines. Yummee!
Dessert at a Brewery?
One of the most surprising things, and who doesn’t like good surprises, were the homemade beignets. I don’t get beignets often and there’s only one other place that’s lived up to the beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Until now. Rebel Kettle has their own sweet and a savory versions.
The sweet one is most like a classic beignet with powdered sugar but made with buttermilk. The savory one is made with sweet potatoes. So while it’s not sweet like a regular beignet, it does still have a hint of sweetness to it. It’s served with bacon drippings, cayenne and dark chocolate. These beignets are a must have! Interestingly enough, they go great with beer.
Check Rebel Kettle’s website for hours and for monthly events.
“To us, the Flyway experience is much more than brewing beer. It’s about using the land and resources we are given, and crafting something truly special. We try to pour the essence of Arkansas’ breathtaking natural habitat into everything we do”
On my last drive through Little Rock, the next brewery I visited on Little Rock’s Locally Labeled trail was Flyway Brewing. It’s located in North Little Rock, just across the river from downtown Little Rock
The brewery takes it’s name from the largest bird migratory route in the Americas. They have translated the complexity of this natural phenomenon into their building, their brand, and their beer. You’ll see nature and landscapes in the colors of the brewery and the beer itself.
Part of their business philosophy is to remain small and personal and you feel that immediately when you walk. The brewery has an intimate, welcoming almost homey feeling.
You can play board games while you sip your beer or order up a tasting flight if you want to try more that one.
Flyway serves, what I would consider pub food with a twist. Sliders, wings and some amazing apps. Nachos that are anything but typical with toppings such as duck, gator and crawfish.
I had wings that were very good. Anyone who eats wings knows that wings are only as good as the sauce. Theirs was clearly homemade and very delicious with the right amount of heat.
The brewery is open every day and they have tours on Saturday and a Sunday Brunch so fly on in as soon as you can.
“Rock Town is a true grain-to-glass distillery, our spirits are carefully distilled from corn, wheat and rye that are grown within a 125 miles of the distillery. Our passion is our spirit and our dedication is to our craft”
Little Rock’s Locally Labeled also includes two wineries and a distillery. I haven’t visited the wineries yet but Rock Town Distillery was part of the Savor Arkansas Culinary tour that brought me to town the first time.
I’ll be honest, I love breweries and I especially love a brewery with a good story. Rock Town Distillery was actually the first legal distillery in Arkansas since prohibition.
Owner Phil Brandon wasn’t a whiskey maker by trade or at least he wasn’t until 2010, when after a series of job layoffs, he decided he wanted to make whiskey. There’s lots more to the story but ultimately his decision and down right determination, led to the success of Rock Town. Just three years after opening, he won double gold awards for his whiskey, double gold awards for his gin and his vodka scored very high in another competition.
Rock Town Products
While he still creates whiskey and bourbons, now days, Rock Town Vodka is the mainstay of the distillery. Besides this affordable, award winning vodka, they sell five additional flavors that are all produced right in Little Rock.
When I visited, they had just moved into their new building at 1201 Main Street in the up and coming, southern posh SoMa neighborhood (info coming soon). While I only caught an abbreviated tour, they offer full tours six days a week, including Sundays. And you can buy bottles on Sunday as well.
Even if you aren’t doing the Locally Labeled trail, a stop at Rock Town is a definite must do in Little Rock.
The Other Breweries on Little Rock’s Locally Labeled Passport
So what’s left? I still have three breweries I want to visit to complete the brewery portion of the passport. You better believe I’ll be working on them this year. The other breweries on the Locally Labeled passport are:
The wineries on the Little Rock Locally Labeled trail are:
Thanks to the Little Rock Convention & Visitor’s Bureau for telling me about the Locally Labeled Passport. In full disclosure, I was hosted by them for some of the breweries and at the Rock Town Distillery. However, I have visited some on my own and I would go back to anyone of them. Hope you will visit soon too! Cheers!
Pin this image to have the complete list of venues on Little Rock’s Locally Labeled Passport