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One of the most revered breweries in Arkansas turns ten this weekend. Ozark Beer Co. is throwing a party in the taproom on Friday and Saturday (Nov. 3-4) to celebrate the occasion. Festivities will feature food trucks and special beer releases, including an old fan-favorite, Double IPA.
Also available will be the annual barrel bomb known as BDCS, which was released a couple of weeks ago. Barrel-aged Double Cream Stout was first brewed in 2014 and is Ozark’s most celebrated beer.
The birthday bash comes on the heels of the brewery’s first-ever medal at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. In September, Ozark won bronze for Paper Game, its American-Belgian farmhouse ale. It joins a select few from Arkansas that have earned medals at the nation’s preeminent beer competition. Past winners include Bosco’s, Diamond Bear, Lost Forty, Natural State and Vino’s.
There were only about a dozen breweries in Arkansas when Ozark opened in November 2013. It was the first brewery in Benton County, which went wet by popular vote just a year earlier. Demand for locally-made beer was just starting to pick up in Arkansas, so Ozark launched with a modest plan and a do-it-yourself attitude.
A lot has changed in a 10-year span.
There are now more than 50 breweries in the state, with 10 in Benton County alone. Ozark has grown into one of the top 2-3 breweries in the state in terms of production volume. It expects to brew more than 5,000 barrels in 2023, which puts it back near pre-pandemic levels.
Most of Ozark’s beer is distributed in Arkansas, though the product started shipping to southwest Missouri in 2020. Entering out-of-state markets has not been a priority thus far. But the Arkansas-Missouri state line is as close to the brewery as Fayetteville is to the south, so it still feels like home up there.
The public face of Ozark belongs to power couple and business partners Andy Coates and Lacie Bray. They have led the brewery through a successful launch, significant growth and the unforeseen challenges brought on by Covid-19.
I spoke with Bray earlier this summer to reflect on Ozark’s first decade in business. She was upbeat about the brewery’s approaching anniversary.
“A lot of businesses don’t make it this far,” said Bray. “I’m grateful for the team that we have, and I’m grateful for the community that keeps showing up for us.”
Ozark was a concept that was years in the making. Coates, whose previous stops included Goose Island in Chicago and Denver’s Great Divide Brewing Co., was working at West Mountain Brewing Co. in Fayetteville when the finishing touches were put on the business plan.
Ozark’s first home was a retrofitted warehouse in east Rogers that was barely big enough for a taproom and a few mismatched dining room tables and chairs on the brewery floor. The place was a labor of love, with Bray and Coates handling most of the day-to-day duties themselves.
“It was so much work,” said Bray. “We started out small, so we worked all week and the weekends, too. It was more than six months before we brought on an employee. That’s one of the reasons we went with ‘Hard Work, Honest Beer’ as our slogan.”
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