It took seven hours and 1,009 miles in the rain to get it, but Rob Long and Joe Hodson of Indianapolis finally got a beer – three of them, actually – from Arkansas.
The neighbors embarked on a mission on January 1, 2020 to sample a craft beer made in each state. They reached this destination in a matter of hours and returned to Indiana from Memphis around 6:00 p.m. Thursday to sample a selection of hard-earned Diamond Bear beers from Little Rock.
“Arkansas was our last,” Long said on the way home Thursday. “We started in January and turned off the Midwest, California and Colorado pretty quickly, and even Florida, but we couldn’t get Arkansas beer.”
They were hoping to find an Arkansas-made beer in Nashville that is closer to their home and would have saved about four hours total of driving time. But sadly, Memphis was the closest town they could buy an Arkansas-made beer.
“It was the furthest time we’ve traveled specifically for a beer,” said Long.
On a family trip to North Carolina in July, Long was able to tick off several hazy IPAs on the east coast as well as the Hopsecutioner IPA from Terrapin Beer Co. of Athens as the Georgia beer he took home to share with Hodson.
Shortly before December 31st, beer seekers had one more loophole on their menu: Arkansas.
A long day was spent looking for a beer made in Arkansas – as close to Indianapolis as possible. Long called Diamond Bear Brewery in Little Rock and the owner put them in touch with the dealer who, in turn, took them to the nearest location to get a Diamond Bear: Joe’s Wine & Liquor in Memphis.
“You were really great there with Joe,” said Hodson. “We went back at 8:00 am today to get some growlers for the street.”
The trip was about beer. The two brothers, willing to go 14 hours there and back for a beer, took their time for an old-fashioned stop at The Peabody. As homebrewers, they have built up their patience. It takes a month to six weeks – or more – from the time you mix in and turn off to serving and sipping.
One of the most memorable beers for Long and Hodson across the country was a blackberry, plum, and raspberry sour called “Braaaaaaaains” from Drekker Brewing Co. of Fargo, South Dakota. He said they drank this right on Halloween.
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Most of the beers they received – from friends traveling to sell online – were various Indian pale ales. Long said he got around to enjoying the hazy IPAs on the east coast more last year.
Last year, Hodson’s beer mission was to drink 100 Indiana-made beers. Next year, the two plan to try a beer from each beer style featured at the Great American Beer Festival. That’s about 91 categories plus a few sub-categories.
For Long and Hodson, they could have chosen from any number of breweries selling in Arkansas: Lost Forty, Core, Ozark, Bike Stand, New Provence, Fossil Cove, and Flyway. There are roughly 45 breweries in Arkansas, but just over half of them are considered “nano-breweries,” brewing only for taproom sales or distribution in limited space, says Brian Sorensen, author of Arkansas Beer: An Intoxicating History. and an Arkansas beer columnist for the Fayetteville Flyer.
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Some of those smaller Arkansas breweries that can’t be found outside of state lines include Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Co. near Subiaco, Hawk Moth in Rogers, and SQZBX Brewery & Pizza Joint in Hot Springs. A small brewery was also recently started in the small town of Scranton, which is now the third in Logan County with Country Monks in Subiaco.
Russ Melton, owner of Diamond Bear, said he remembered a conversation with one of the Indianapolis beer travelers earlier this week and was happy to put them in touch with his dealer in Memphis.
Although he receives requests from time to time to send beer out of the state, he has to decline because it’s illegal in Arkansas.