As the founder and owner of Superior Bathhouse Brewery in Hot Springs, Rose Schweikhart is a woman who gets things done. When the brewery opened, it broke barriers: it’s the only one located in a national park, and it is the first to utilize thermal water in beer. Schweikhart has never stopped evolving. In seven years of operation, Superior’s sales increased each year, and Schweikhart has continued to add new facets to the business.
It started in 2011, when Schweikhart was planning a move to Hot Springs after falling in love with beer in Europe. Schweikhart got in touch with the National Park about making beer commercially with the spring water. The park’s superintendent suggested she consider the Superior Bathhouse, a historic building that had sat vacant on Bathhouse Row for almost 30 years.
“It was like a door opened,” she said. “This whole story is doors opening, one after another, but sometimes with a long period of time in between.”
Schweikhart signed a lease agreement in 2013, starting with a restaurant and a beer tasting room. It took a year and a half to get the brewery open, and Superior Bathhouse Brewery released its first beer in January 2015.
“Hot Springs didn’t have much of a craft beer scene when we opened. It was quite the educational process for our customers and me,” Schwiekhart said. “We told customers, ‘No, we don’t sell Bud Light, but you might like this one,’ or ‘Here’s a crazy quadruple IPA’ or ‘Here’s a Belgium sour.’ It was an interesting exercise.”
Over the next couple of years, Schweikhart kept growing her business, adding a private event space and an elevator to the building. She also replaced the original brewing equipment to expand capacity by 50%, which allowed Superior to distribute its brews around the state. Today, restaurants in Little Rock, Fayetteville, Springdale and even Magnolia and Jonesboro carry Superior beer.
“It’s really cool to be at a restaurant or bar in Arkansas and see my green tap handle. It’s something I’m really proud of. It’s like my little army of soldiers out in the world,” Schweikhart said. “It’s a little advertisement for us. I hope that if they have the beer, they may come in the restaurant next time they are in Hot Springs.”
Not one to rest, Schweikhart is currently working on a kitchen renovation, adding new equipment that will quadruple the restaurant’s output. She said the next development is an outdoor patio that will add another 100-150 seats.
“We are still not done,” she said. “There’s always a project looming on the horizon that I plan and hoard the cash for. After each phase of expansion, I want to settle in and get comfortable with it. As soon as that happens, I’ve got other plans cooked up for growth It’s very satisfying to put a puzzle piece into place. That’s my favorite thing to do. Come up with a vision for something or an idea and put it in place. To see things that seemed impossible five years ago actually happening is exciting. That’s what gets me up every day. I wish 2013 Rose could see 2020 Rose. I’ve grown as a person through this experience.”
Schweikhart believes part of her role is promoting beer to everyone, and she strives to reflect this in Superior’s marketing.
“In our society, women and beer has a weird history,” said Schweikhart. “When beer is marketed to women, it’s either fruit beer or ‘this beer is low in calories.’ We’re not supposed to like beer because it’s fattening. Our culture tells us that beer is for men. People assume women don’t like IPAs or dark beer. I feel like it is my job to say everyone can drink whatever they want.
“In Arkansas, there’s a strong female presence in almost every brewery. That says something about Arkansas. I think Arkansas is a place you can be yourself. Is it hard to be a woman in the beer business? No. I do whatever I want. I don’t care what people think. But I do think our society thinks that beer is for guys, and we need to change that.”