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story.lead_photo.caption Ozark Beer Company has moved into new, bigger digs in downtown Rogers. The company has also increased its production of beer and ranks fourth in the state in the amount of barrels brewed. - Photo by J.T. Wampler

ROGERS -- Beer lovers stepping into Ozark Beer Company's new taproom and brewery in downtown Rogers are greeted with bright yellow tables and benches, a bar featuring custom signs that tout the company's signature suds, and the crisp smell of fresh paint.

Owner Lacie Bray said she was happy the beer company has finally moved into the new space after a yearlong process of buying the building, tweaking the space to meet the beer company's needs and moving tons of brewing equipment.

"We're getting away from that daunting feeling and getting into the exciting feeling," she said as she sat in the building's first-floor taproom at one of its bright yellow picnic tables that once graced a German beer garden.

Ozark Beer's new digs, at 109 N. Arkansas St., was built in 1884 and was once the site of a flour mill. Today, it sits in Rogers' picturesque and walkable downtown, a short hop away from the city's recently renovated Lake Atalanta Park and its popular mountain bike trails. The taproom is open for business and the brewery side of the operation is expected to be running soon with a grand opening scheduled for April 22.

Bray said that in 2016 Ozark Beer produced about 3,400 barrels of beer, an increase from the year earlier. A barrel of beer holds 31 gallons. She said the move will allow the company to brew even more beer and to can more of its products.

"We now can really showcase our beer," she said.

According to annual production numbers provided by Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control, the most recent figures available, in 2015 Ozark Beer ranked fourth in the state for beer production with 2,385 barrels. The state's top brewer by production for the year was North Little Rock-based Diamond Bear, with 3,985 barrels; Lost 40 Brewery in Little Rock came in second with 3,710 barrels; and Springdale-based Core Brewing and Distilling was third with 2,749 barrels.

At the beginning of April there were 23 small brewery permits held in Arkansas, along with 16 microbrewery restaurant permits, according to documents provided by Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control. That's about a 10 percent increase in both categories from the same time last year.

Arkansas ranked 37th nationally in the number of craft breweries per 100,000 adults over 21 for 2015, up two places from the year prior, according to a survey by the Brewers Association, a trade group. The state's brewers produced 24,623 barrels of craft beer in 2015, up from 14,641 barrels for the previous year, ranking 46th for total production in the United States, up from 48th in 2014.

Nationally for 2015, craft beer production was up 13 percent, to 24.1 million barrels, according to the association. Craft beer controlled a 12 percent market share in the nation in 2015, a 1 percent increase from the year earlier. The number of operating breweries in the nation was up 15 percent to 4,269, the most in the nation's history.

Ozark Beer cans three of its craft brews -- Belgian Gold, American Pale Ale and Cream Stout -- which are distributed primarily in Benton and Washington counties with some beer making its way to central Arkansas.

The company's old brewery and taproom, at 1700 First St., which opened in 2013, is about a mile away, as the crow flies. At the time Bray, along with the company's other owners, her husband and the head brewer Andy Coates and Jefferson Baldwin, expected to be there for five years.

Bray noted, as with most fledgling brewers, the company's first location was selected primarily for low cost and the need for space, which typically dictates a location in an industrial district. The old site was 8,000 square feet with a small tasting room and most of the area dedicated to making beer.

"You go where you can afford to go," Bray explained.

The new location is 50 percent larger than Ozark Beer's old home. The downtown brewery has 3,000 square feet of retail space, which includes first- and second-floor taprooms; 1,200 square feet dedicated to office and storage; and 10,000 square feet for production.

The tall ceilings at the downtown location, about 20 feet or so, allow for larger and taller brewing tanks. The company will shift from 30 barrel tanks to 60 barrel tanks that take up the same floor space.

Shey Bland, director of Mainstreet Rogers, said while the brewer has been a part of the community since it opened in 2013, it will be great to have it closer to downtown proper. She said the new location will draw visitors and complement downtown's existing restaurants and shops. Also, it will be a treat to be able to walk to Ozark Beer to have a beer or meet friends, she said.

"They already fit into our downtown," she said. "They are really in our hearts."

SundayMonday Business on 04/09/2017

Print Headline: Ozark Beer raising the bar in Rogers

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