Our first Illinois brewery to visit during our trip last year was Scratch Brewing Company located on some farmland about an hour and a half southeast of St. Louis, MO. Scratch was one of the most distinctly unique, beautiful, and remote breweries that we saw all year and remained that way through to the end. With a focus on locality, the people at the brewery forage and/ or grow ingredients on their land to use in the beer recipes; mushrooms, roots, pine needles, multiple herbs & spices, and hops for example. During our time sampling in their taproom, we got to try some Gruits, a Gotlandsricka, a Licorice Basil Schwarzbier, a beer made with maple sap instead of water, and a handful of other beers that prove this is not your everyday brewery; the best part is they are brewed well and we enjoyed each and every one of them! The Scratch crew also told us that they were planning to only enter beers that do not have hops in them at GABF in Denver later in the year and when we ran into them at the festival a few months later they had done just that. Do not miss out on an opportunity to visit the amazing people, location, scenery, and beers that make up Scratch Brewing Company – it’s the full package!
As we walked up to Mother’s back in May, people were setting up tents and other items outside in preparation for their fourth ever Mother’s Day Festival that would be held the next day. Unfortunately our timing did not line up with the party, however it was a blast talking with founder Jeff Schrag about the brewery as we hung out in the taproom and walked around the brewery. The brewery itself was full of quirky little decorations such as a Dolly Parton album on the wall by their dollys, Hans Solo frozen in carbonite on their walk-in refrigerator door, and an Air Supply album by some air tanks. We also learned that head brewer Brian Allen really pushes the experimentation approach and brewing is done to flavor with less overall focus on meeting strict style guidelines. He nails it, too, their beers are outstanding…
After going to the Fayetteville Visitors Center to pick up our handy-dandy Ale Trail passport and then checking out a few bonus stop breweries on the Fayetteville Ale Trail, we found ourselves at Fossil Cove Brewing just as they were opening up for the day. Their founder and head brewer, Ben Mills, spent time with us spilling details about the dino-themed brewery before two Arkansas-based bloggers met up with us there for a drink; Woo Pig Brewey! and Fayette Brew. Fossil Cove offers one-off brews that are only available in the taproom and they were also the first brewery in the state of Arkansas to release a sour beer. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the brewery thanks to the unique environment, tasty beers, and great people, so do yourself a favor and check out all the information below then make a trip to Fayetteville to check them out!
Immediately after leaving COOP Ale Works back in mid-May, we drove across town to meet with the guys at Roughtail brewing. When we arrived, co-owner Blaine Stansel greeted us before having to commit to a 12th Round challenge that involved their 12th Round Strong Ale and 12 minutes of time. It was quite entertaining, so we were all in a good mood the rest of the time. While chatting with him and the other co-owner, Tony Tielli, we learned all about Roughtail’s business model, beers, and history. There are many attributes about the brewery and beers that are quite unique, so we can assure you that Roughtail Brewing will satisfy your thirst whether you’re trying them offsite or at the brewery. A new taproom was opened quickly after laws changed to allow breweries to pour samples, so stop by and tell them hi for us when you’re in town!
After taking a short break back in our home town of Dallas, TX, we started off our second leg of the trip by heading north into Oklahoma to visit COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma City. While there, we spoke with co-founder JD Merryweather about the brewery; he told us that COOP had just celebrated their 5 year anniversary about a week and a half before our visit. To celebrate the occasion, they held an event that included live local music, food trucks, and over 20 beers on tap. We were also informed that the brewery has six year-round flagship beers – F5 IPA, Elevator Wheat, Horny Toad Blonde, Native Amber, Gran Sport Porter, and DNR Belgian-style Dark Ale – but they also do a lot of small batch recipes and firkins. Later on, JD (who is also President of the Oklahoma Craft Brewers Guild) gave us insight into beer and breweries in Oklahoma before we had to head to our next stop!
Our last brewery visit before returning home to Dallas for the first time since we left at the beginning of the year was to Stone’s Throw Brewing in Little Rock, AR. The co-owner we had been in contact with, Ian Beard, is a historian who was away for a conference about the Civil War, so we spent the day talking with Lindsay Brown and Devin Foster in the taproom. While there, we found out that the four owners were previously in a homebrewing group together and won multiple awards at competitions before deciding to open up Stone’s Throw with a 3bbl system. The brewery is located in the MacArthur Park Historical District of town, so extra steps had to be taken in order to open their business in the location it resides. Currently they offer eight beer taps – some of which are rotating local & regional guest taps – as well as different meats, cheeses, and regularly scheduled food trucks. Do yourself a favor and pop in the next chance you get and, if possible, walk or bike there to get a discount!
Our first Arkansas brewery visit back in May (2014) was to Vino’s Brewpub in Little Rock. We met with Josiah Moody who was the head brewer at that point in time, but he has since moved on to his own project as a gypsy brewer under the tag Moody Brews. Josiah informed us about all kinds of cool things Vino’s has done, like hosting live music multiple times a week from local bands as well as bigger acts like Queens of the Stone Age. A cream ale, pale ale, IPA, and stout are the four year-round beers they offer for you to enjoy with their excellent pizza, but they also have specialty releases such as the blood orange saison we tried. The environment at Vino’s is top notch and we highly recommend a trip there next time you’re in Little Rock!