Pridgin Household Brewery joins rising listing of small-town Arkansas beermakers


One of many peculiarities of the Arkansas beer business is its break up character. The biggest breweries by quantity are positioned in Northwest Arkansas and the Little Rock metro, the 2 most populated elements of the state. But lots of the latest breweries are in cities and cities with extra modest census counts. It’s an urban-rural divide that’s onerous to not discover.  

New Arkansas breweries embody Level Take away Brewing Co. in Morrilton (with an estimated inhabitants of 6,645), Ouachita Brewery in Mena (pop. 5,490) and Native Canine Brewing Co. in Camden (pop. 10,749).

Of the 48 breweries working (or on the cusp of working) in Arkansas, 25 are in cities with populations of 40,000 and higher — Little Rock, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, North Little Rock, Bentonville and Pine Bluff. The remainder are in cities and cities that fall beneath that threshold. In lots of circumstances, far beneath that quantity.

The smallest integrated neighborhood in Arkansas with its personal brewery is Huge Flat (pop. 23), house to Gravity BrewWorks. StudDuck Beers is positioned in Lonsdale, which isn’t a lot greater at 142.

Arkansas’s rural breweries are unfold all through the state. It’s uncommon to see them cluster collectively in a rustic setting. One exception is Logan County (with an estimated complete inhabitants of 21,466), the place three breweries have opened inside a couple of minutes of one another: Nation Monks Brewing in Subiaco, Prestonrose Farm & Brewery close to Halfway and Pridgin Household Brewery in Scranton.

To an outsider, Logan County is an in-between place. It’s positioned between the Ozarks and Ouachitas, with the mountains on both facet of the county framing fertile farmland that may in any other case resemble the Arkansas Delta. It’s additionally between Fort Smith and Little Rock — two main inhabitants facilities alongside Interstate 40. Vacationers not often detour from the freeway to go to the sleepy farm cities of Logan County. It’s a disgrace, too, as a result of there’s some good beer to be discovered there.

Stephen Koch wrote about Nation Monks and Prestonrose for the Arkansas Instances in 2019. His story has in-depth details about every brewery. For sure, the historical past of the beer-making monks at Subiaco Academy is fascinating. And simply 5 miles to the east, a peaceable farm backdrop makes consuming beer at Prestonrose a particular expertise.   

Pridgin opened close to Scranton (pop. 241) in August 2020. Youngest son David Pridgin Jr. pitched the concept to his dad and mom, David and Reba Pridgin Sr., after falling in love with craft beer whereas understanding of state. Though mother and pop don’t drink beer themselves, they noticed a enterprise alternative price an funding.

Reba Pridgin mentioned the enterprise goes with the territory. Her grandparents immigrated to close by Morrison’s Bluff from Germany, and he or she remembers her mom and others making homebrew when she was a toddler. “It was one thing that a variety of households did round right here,” she mentioned. “They made their very own wine and their very own beer.”

David Pridgin Jr.’s brother-in-law Heath Spillers, a science teacher at close by Subiaco Academy, joins him as co-brewer. The pair beforehand homebrewed collectively. The three Pridgin sisters (Mary Jane Spillers, Lori Garvey and Kari Tedford) additionally contribute to the enterprise by working within the taproom and dealing with bookkeeping and scheduling.

Opening a brewery was of venture for the Pridgins. Even with Nation Monks and Prestonrose seeing success, beer tastes nonetheless tip in the direction of low-cost industrial lagers (e.g., Bud, Miller and Coors) in Logan County. Combating with native officers to safe obligatory governmental go-aheads was one other early fear for the household.

“We have been so involved in regards to the politics that could be concerned in getting permits, however everyone was actually good,” Reba Pridgin mentioned. “They got here to the conclusion that what we have been going to do was improve the native financial system. So, they have been on board with us.”

The Pridgins constructed their brewery on the household’s property on Rodeo Area Highway, to the northwest of city. It has the appear and feel of an previous farm constructing, however was designed and constructed with brewing in thoughts. “It’s neat seeing breweries in previous buildings,” David Pridgin Jr. mentioned. “However realizing the challenges of plumbing and kitchens, we thought it might be higher to do it this manner.”

Repurposed barn wooden is used all through the taproom, and numerous farm instruments and tools are on full show. The 4,000-square-foot constructing has an open really feel, with giant home windows trying throughout the farm valley to the north. A wraparound porch with out of doors seating shares the identical view. “Mother and pop painstakingly developed and noticed this place put collectively, they usually did a very good job,” David Pridgin Jr. mentioned.

The brewhouse is a three-barrel system bought from a defunct New York brewery. A Brewmation management panel automates key brewing processes. There are 4 three-barrel fermenters and two seven-barrel fermenters in the primary brewing area. A big walk-in cooler behind the bar holds kegs and two brite tanks filled with conditioning beer. Altogether, it’s a well-assembled set of brewing tools.   

Gross sales are taproom-only at this level. The thought is to begin slowly and later resolve if sufficient beer may be made to distribute past the brewery. “All of us have full-time jobs, so we wish to restrict how typically we brew,” David Pridgin Jr. mentioned. He additionally works at Entergy’s Arkansas Nuclear One in Russellville. “We don’t wish to be right here all day day-after-day. We wish to make sufficient to serve right here within the taproom, and as soon as we get our ft below us, we’ll work out what’s subsequent.”

Beer kinds have been chosen with native tastes in thoughts. The lineup is stuffed with approachable beers that will probably be acquainted to most individuals by identify, if not by style.

“Round right here you’re speaking a couple of Busch Gentle or Bud Gentle sort of crowd,” David Pridgin Jr. mentioned. “We wish to attraction to anybody that wishes to come back right here, together with people who find themselves not used to craft beer. As a gateway beer, I often recommend a wheat or the cream ale.”

Choices embody Nook Put up Cream Ale, Haymaker IPA, 9 Pin Wheat, Full Pull Wheat, Homestead APA, Tough Rider Pale Ale and Bluff Ferry Porter. The brewery additionally has native wine and cider accessible for these in search of non-beer choices.

Ultimately there will probably be extra adventurous choices on the brewery. The brewers purpose to make hazy IPAs sooner or later, they usually additionally wish to attempt their hand at brewing a kettle-soured beer. “We’ve discovered so much, however on the similar time, we all know now we have fairly a bit extra to study,” David Pridgin Jr. mentioned. For now, he and Spillers will concentrate on extra customary fare.

It wasn’t way back that the considered a contemporary craft brewery having success in rural Arkansas appeared loopy. There have been neither the headcount nor the palates to assist such a factor. But increasingly more, we see entrepreneurs taking the craft beer plunge in locations like Scranton.

All throughout the state, folks just like the Pridgins are proving craft beer to be essentially the most egalitarian of drinks — celebrated by city-dwelling urbanites and small-town nation of us.

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