If all goes according to plan, Rebel Kettle Brewing Company could very soon be the largest brewer in the state of Arkansas. The company has signed the lease a monstrous warehouse on 17th Street and is testing the location’s viability as a production brewery. While it’s still very early in the game for Rebel Kettle, the fact that there’s a lease signed means the company is serious about this. Head brewer John Lee tells me the space has enormous potential.
“It probably has about 50,000 square feet of usable brewing space,” said Lee. “It’s definitely bigger than that, but that’s about what we could use to brew. The idea is to start with four 30-barrel tanks and hopefully expand as we need to.”
While the national craft beer scene has begun to slow somewhat, here in Little Rock breweries are still experiencing near constant growth. That’s led Rebel Kettle’s team to work on this massive expansion project, which would finally (finally!) see the brewery canning on a regular basis, regular enough to begin distribution.
“At the start, we plan to can Working Glass Hero (blonde ale), Easy Roller (IPA) and Rob Gnarly (tart saison) year-round. We plan on canning three or four seasonal beers each quarter, beers like Moontower (stout) and Dirtbag (double brown ale) and stuff like that. And of course we want to can some of our fun rotators, too.”
Under Rebel Kettle’s plan, the existing brewery and taproom would remain open. The taproom and restaurant would operate as usual, while the brewing space would be what Lee calls the “fun factory,” where the team would create rotating brews and the eclectic one-offs that Rebel Kettle is known for. The bulk of Rebel Kettle’s brewing operation would move to the new production space, along with a new barrel-aging room and sour room.
“Sour production. That’s what I’m most excited about,” said Lee. “We just don’t have enough space to really do a big sour program right now. The rest of it is awesome, the amount of space we would have and the barrel aging, but sours are what I’m looking forward to.”
While the new space would be strictly for beermaking to start, Lee envisions opening it up for tours and possibly a sour tasting room in the future. Right now, there is no timeline for putting these plans into action; Rebel Kettle is still awaiting lab results of tests to make sure the warehouse’s concrete floor can take the weight of the brewing equipment (which has not yet been purchased). But to say the future looks bright for Rebel Kettle would be a bit of an understatement.
“The space is so big, we could literally do about 50,000 barrels a year out of it. I doubt we would ever need that much, but it’s there if we need it. It’s just a really exciting time.”