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story.lead_photo.caption Jerry Gorman cleans fermenting tanks Wednesday at Lost Forty Brewing, where two new 90-barrel fermenters will help produce more specialty beers. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

Beer lovers who want to drink more of Lost Forty Brewing's specialty brews will soon have a chance to raise their mugs of suds in gratitude.

The Little Rock beer maker recently added capacity to produce more of its popular but scarcer specialty beers, including Trash Panda, Blackberry American Wheat, Easy Tiger Mexican Lager and Wild Barrel beers.

Lost Forty added two 90-barrel fermenters last week that will be used primarily to boost production of some of the more popular specialty beers, according to owner John Beachboard. As soon as the tanks are up and running, the brewery plans to start producing more of the popular specialty beers in both cans and kegs.

"We wanted to make more of the specialty beers we just didn't have the ability to do it," Beachboard said.

The additional capacity likely will allow Lost Forty to remain comfortably as the state's largest craft beer producer.

According to data provided by the Arkansas' Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, Lost Forty Brewing, working under a microbrewery restaurant permit, produced 9,298 barrels, or 288,223 gallons of beer in 2016. There are 31 gallons in a barrel of beer. Springdale's Core Brewing and Distilling, operating under both small-brewery and microbrewery restaurant permits, reported producing 4,240 barrels or 131,453 gallons in 2016, holding second place, and Ozark Beer Co. in Rogers, under a small-brewery permit, made 3,039 barrels or 94,209 gallons of beer to take third place.

Statewide, Arkansas brewers produced 28,543 barrels of beer in 2016, according to Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control records. The state has 26 active small-brewery permits and 17 microbrewery restaurant permits. The Brewers Association, a trade group supporting craft breweries, said Arkansas ranked 38th in the nation in the number of craft breweries and 41st in the U.S. for breweries per capita for those over 21 years of age.

Overall beer production was flat for 2016 at 196.7 million barrels, but craft beer production took a greater share with an increase of 6.2 percent to 24.1 million barrels. Total U.S. beer sales for 2016 were $107.6 billion, of which $23.5 billion was attributed to craft beer, a 10 percent increase.

Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association said there are several reasons brewers produce specialty beers, including building excitement in a brand and to cover for low sales periods but they often are looking to gauge consumer interest in particular specialty offerings. He said when brewers find they've hit upon a beer consumers really enjoy, its typically simple enough to scale up production if they have the capacity to do so.

Lost Forty's Beachboard said the brewery's 2017 production stood at about 13,000 barrels or 403,000 gallons, and he predicted the brewery would make 15,000 to 18,000 barrels this year with the new equipment. He said plans are for even further expansion in the near term to keep up with demand.

"These two, nineties [90-gallon tanks] will be a quick fix," he said.

SundayMonday Business on 02/18/2018

Print Headline: LR brewery gearing up for specialty push

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