In my mind’s eye, Saddlebock Brewery was going to be one of those trendy, hipster-influenced breweries I had seen in my time in the Pacific Northwest. Instead, here I was driving down winding, tree-lined country roads more reminiscent of my rural childhood than my years as executive chef. In fact, I had just wondered if my GPS had taken me in the wrong direction when I saw what looked to be a barn and a sign that read, “Sadlebock Brewery.”
Housed in a big, red barn, this brewery combines deep Arkansas country roots with the international feel of a village pub and some amazing beer. A long, hand written list of variations sits next to the bar where you can choose which beers to try before choosing your pint. The brew is all unfiltered with no carbonation and served at a perfect cool temperature. The Irish Red I ordered was delicious as was the Java Dark my companion savored. In fact, after finishing my pint, I began taking sips of the dark roast coffee bean flavored beer sitting in front of her.
As with any brewery or winery experience, those you meet and hear are a large part of the experience. Around the tasting room you’ll hear a smorgasbord of accents. On my Friday evening visit, there were visitors from England and Germany, their accents weaving in and out of the southern influenced twang in the accents of other guests. The stories they told were as varied as their accents and the life experiences that led them to this place. My advice is to go between 3 and 5 to enjoy half off pints.
Open for three years as brewery only, I was told Saddlebock’s kitchen will be opening soon to offer food to go along with the brew. Growler filling is another option for those looking to enjoy local craft beer. A quick (and scenic) drive will get your growlers filled so you can enjoy Saddlebock’s fine brewed beer while watching a game or from the privacy of your patio.
Finally, if you’re interested in the many local beers of NWA, ask about a passport. This booklet, modeled after a real passport, has information about many of the local NWA breweries and has a place to be stamped when you visit each one.