Yes, beer made in Arkansas is booming, but also the availability of great craft beer has exploded over the past few years. Beer from neighboring states like Wiseacre from Memphis, Lazy Magnolia from Mississippi, or Mother’s from Springfield Missouri have really added to the craft scene in Arkansas. Now it is time to add Great Raft Brewing from Shreveport to the list.
Louisiana has lagged slightly behind Arkansas in brewery numbers, although that is changing with an additional 28 breweries in planning or opened since last year’s numbers. For the few breweries in the state, they do produce some exceptional beer, and given the number in planning things are clearly going to get a lot more creative. However few beers aside from Abita ever travel across the state’s borders.
Great Raft has been a popular leader in this next wave of Louisiana beer. They began brewing in 2012 and are one of the fastest growing craft breweries in the South. Recently they made plans to add increases to the capacity and quality through with an additional 140 barrels of capacity and a state-of-the-art GEA centrifuge.
All this will help Great Raft expand to Texas and Arkansas while maintaining quality.
“Growing to neighboring states feels very organic. We’ve always said we would take care of Louisiana first, and that isn’t changing. It’s time to start serving new markets who routinely express interest in our beer,”said founder and President Andrew Nations. “Despite the temptation to share our beer with as many people as possible, we will continue to take a relatively slow, methodical approach to growth.”
As for the beer, there are some really excellent options coming to Arkansas. The black lager, Reasonably Corrupt, is currently ranked the #7 dark lager in the world by RateBeer. If you are not familiar with a black lager, it is a is an under-rated style that is consistent and delicious, even in warmer months. Keep an eye on the Grace and Grit Double IPA and a couple of outstanding saisons.
The big gem from Great Raft will be a very rare barrel aged Baltic Porter, Old Mad Joy. It is extremely boozy at 10% ABV, and is barrel aged in a Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrel. This is obviously their most sought after beer, and the limited supplies go quick. Don’t expect much of this to come north, but we have been promised that a few special release beers like this will make their way to Arkansas, likely in the form of special events and beer dinners.
Great Raft should be hitting shelves and taps the week of September 19th. Expect a strong roll out and launch event details popping up over the next few weeks.