Arkansas’ demand for craft beer isn’t letting up, and that’s leading to noticeable growth for Central Arkansas breweries. Just this year, Flyway Brewing started canning its creations, Bubba Brews Brewing Company in Hot Springs opened its second and third locations, Lost Forty greatly increased its capacity, and Blue Canoe Brewing Company opened a new brewing warehouse and taproom in addition to its downtown location. But lest you think that Blue Canoe has shifted all its focus to 15th Street, the taproom and restaurant in the River Market area has come out with a new food menu designed to keep its customers coming back throughout the winter.
Blue Canoe’s new menu was designed by general manager Macie Fellows, who made sure to listen to her diners before she got to work. Fellows realized that Blue Canoe’s biggest strength was in keeping everything simple, and she brought that philosophy to the food.
“A lot of people over time have told us that we have an Americanized beer menu, where it’s very approachable for most American drinkers,” said Fellows. “So we went with a very American style comfort food menu, and just incorporated the beer into it to make sure every single thing is our own.”
That approach is evident in Blue Canoe’s new app: Smothered Sweet Potato Fries. There’s nothing complex about it. Blue Canoe takes some crispy sweet potato fries, dusts them in brown sugar, tops them with marshmallows and serves them beside a pale ale caramel drizzle. The texture of the fries and the right amount of salt keep this from becoming too sugary. Instead, it’s a sweet starter with enough depth to keep things interesting.
“That one is for someone who is dropping in who might have a little bit more of a sweet tooth and just wants a couple of bites to go with a good pale ale,” said Fellows.
Speaking of interesting, Blue Canoe has really swung for the fences with its signature entrée called Sliders and a Float. All four of Blue Canoe’s sliders are represented here: Grilled Portabello, Rye Reuben, Buffalo Chicken and Beer Cheese Burger. What’s more, this one pairs each slider with Blue Canoe’s “float,” or a flight of four beers. This one could catch on; I particularly enjoyed the Reuben and the Buffalo Chicken, which had a clean kick to it.
“It’s more of a sharing thing, though I’m not going to judge anybody who has it by themselves,” said Fellows. “But it’s the total package, getting to try four different beers and four different experiences with the food there. It’s something that’s very unique that we wanted to do.”
No matter what you try, please save room for dessert. Those who know me best know I’m not a dessert guy, but one bite of Blue Canoe’s Beer Holes and I was ready to change my stripes. These fritters are just perfect, with a crispy bite that quickly dissolves into sweet fried goodness on your tongue. The sugar, the texture, the chocolate beer sauce, all of it works together perfectly. This is one of the best desserts I’ve had this year, and it fits ideally with what Blue Canoe wants to achieve with this menu.
“When I sat down to do this menu, it was around the time of the state fair,” said Fellows. “And I was smelling all those foods, and I just thought this was a dessert we have to do. There’s nothing more American than some fried batter covered in powdered sugar with chocolate beer sauce.”
The Beer Holes are so good they justify a trip to Blue Canoe all by themselves, but you should definitely give the rest of the menu a shot as well. Blue Canoe is a brewery and a restaurant that have a good sense of how their identities work, and those ideas have led to a vision that comes through in the beer and the food. If recent growth is any indication, Blue Canoe will have many years ahead to continue its American way of business.