Written by Arkansas Real Estate
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According to the Northwest Arkansas Council, the region's craft beer production has grown 778 percent since 2011. This rising industry not only attracts tourists and young professionals, but also provides opportunities to entrepreneurs who are thirsty for new ventures.
Evan McDonald moved to Northwest Arkansas with plans to establish a brewery. Today he co-owns Apple Blossom Brewery in Fayetteville, one of 10 local microbreweries in Benton and Washington counties.
Before breaking into the local brewing scene, McDonald partnered with Sammie Stephenson, Joe Utsch and Al Schaffer to open Smoke & Barrel, a top-shelf whiskey bar and music venue on Dickson Street.
“This area has showed great support for local business and local beer makers,” McDonald told the City Wire in a 2013 interview. Apple Blossom’s head brewer Marcus Ward agrees, saying the Northwest Arkansas brewing culture is “all about community.”
Ward, who has been with Apple Blossom for a little over a year, began his professional brewing career at West Mountain Brewing Company with Andy Coates, who now owns Ozark Beer Company.
Long before Ward was a brewing professional, he experimented with home-brewing in college. His educational background in Civil Engineering also gave him skills for making beer.
“It’s a similar process to treating water – even the tanks are shaped the same way. It’s practically the same as brewing beer, there are only a few different steps,” he says.
The grains and yeast used in the beer recipe determine the flavor and complexity of the finished brew. Apple Blossom is fully-equipped with an on-site, from-scratch kitchen that toasts the malts and spices, and a pastry chef with an established sourdough yeast strain.
You can find Apple Blossom brews at several area restaurants and bars, including their flagship restaurant on Zion Road. Although Apple Blossom beer is not sold at liquor stores, the brewery has just released a limited edition bottled series. The first run is a 22oz. bottle of Thai basil and grapefruit infused brew named The Trouble with Tripels.
“We don’t have a bottling line, so every one is hand poured,” Ward says. "There will be very small runs produced, probably less than a dozen cases per run."
If you don’t get a chance to try the limited edition series, you can always find house brews on tap at the Zion Road brewery.
For a staple beer, Ward suggests the APA, but says the seasonal Oktoberfest brew is also a winner.
As part of its passion for good brew and community, Apple Blossom collaborates with a local brewery each month for a special-release brew. Some of these local creations find a revival on the Apple Blossom menu.
Today’s draft menu features the inaugural collaboration between Apple Blossom and J.T. Wampler of Tanglewood Branch Brewing Co. -- The Nitro Applewood Smoked Belgian Stout. Described as a rich, dark brew with ‘a unique smoky caramel flavor…aged on organic cocoa nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, and locally made blackberry’ this may be another beer to add to your sample list.
This month Apple Blossom is collaborating with West Mountain Brewing Company on a Double IPA that will be the second of a series.
At Steve Fineberg & Associates, we are passionate about exploring, discovering and sharing the things that make Northwest Arkansas great. Join us during the month of October as we chat with people in our community who are passionate about the Northwest Arkansas craft beer culture.