I spend my life in and out of coffee shops and beer taprooms. Some of those coffee shops serve beer, but usually with a small selection. Some taprooms and breweries try to get that warm and cozy vibe of a coffee shop, but usually fall short. Then one day I swung into the Craft Beer Cellar in downtown Hot Springs and found the perfect mix of the two.
We first heard about the Craft Beer Cellar last summer before the September opening, and based on the description sent to us it seemed more like a liquor store dedicated to craft beer. The liquor store type section is certainly there, but it only scratches the surface of what the space is about. Owners Jen and Justin Schalow focused heavily on a comfortable environment for drinking on location more than grabbing beer to go.
“When we came into town, we really wanted to open a coffee shop,” Jen tells us. “We loved the feel of a good coffee shop, but we started noticing all the coffee shops around the area. What Hot Springs didn’t have at the time was a good spot right there to hang out and drink a good variety of craft beers. So we married the two ideas and the Craft Beer Cellar became a reality.”
Inside you find the typical coffee shop feel. A good mix of comfortable tables and chairs, a section with a sofa and chairs that you sink into, and a small stage for open mic nights and small music acts. In fact if you ignore the 24 tap handles at the bar in the back and the small section of beer bottles on the shelf, it could easily pass for a coffee shop. They even plan to run a tap with cold brew coffee on nitro soon.
The beer selection though is second to none in Hot Springs. Nearly every brewery in Arkansas is represented, from the local Bubba Brews and Superior Bathhouse brewery, to Little Rock brews like Lost Forty and Flyway, even a good selection of NWA beers like Core, Ozark, and the occasional Black Apple Crossing Cider.
They also feature a good variety of regional beers like Lazy Magnolia (Mississippi), Wiseacre (Memphis), Goldcrest (Memphis), and Leaky Roof (Missouri). They also have the bigger name craft offerings like Lagunitas, Founders, and Rogue. The most unexpected comes from a strong selection of German craft brews that are next to impossible to find around the state like Weihenstephan.
“We offer a huge selection of bottles along with our tap beer. We try to carry almost every craft beer we can get our hands on in Arkansas in either bottles or cans,” Justin says. “We even worked strongly with local distributors to try to bring in some new brands that were not previously distributed. Even with the huge selection, people still love to drink beer in the shop. Our inside sales are much higher than people taking drinks to go.”
The vibe of the place is easy to see why people love drinking here. There is also plenty to keep a regular entertained. They have game nights, brewing classes, beer education events, open mics, bands, and even the seemly dangerous religious discuss nights. Here a wide variety of different denominations come in to drink beer and talk politics and religion.
“It seems like it could get out of hand, but really people stay open minded and respectful of other people’s opinions,” Justin continues. “Beer seems like a great way to bring people of different ideas together. We have even had a few Souther Baptist come in.”
The space has taken off with the locals. The Schalows are looking to expand to the second floor of the building for a rentable party room and do some basic renovations to the downstairs area. There is also plans for a patio on the front of the building and a roof patio as well in the future. They are also working to bring food trucks at night into the alley beside the building to offer more food options for customers.
It feels like exactly what a revitalizing downtown Hot Springs needed. Check them out next time you are in town.
120 Ouachita Ave, Hot Springs