A Tale of Two Breweries: Craft Beer in Eureka Springs
They’re four miles apart, each set back a ways from U.S. Highway 62, adjacent to open land and pine forests. Eureka Springs Brewery is four miles east of downtown, Gotahold Brewing a mile-and-a-half west. This pair of establishments represent the nascent craft beer scene in Eureka Springs.
Neither is fancy. But both are loads of fun, and have been garnering enthusiastic reviews about the beers they brew in-house. Their rustic taprooms have built reputations as welcoming hangouts, with lots of elbow room and adjacent outdoor space. Neither serves food, but customers are welcome to bring their own.
They’re part of an Arkansas craft beer scene that, compared to hotbeds elsewhere, is still in its infancy. In 2018, the state produced 46,000 barrels, 48th most in the United States. Since then, growth has happened fast, with a slew of new microbreweries opening constantly. Eureka Springs Brewery drew its first draft in June 2019. Gotahold Brewing opened on July 2, 2020. They were predated by Eureka Springs Ale House, which lasted from January 2015 to April 2016.
This is a tale of two breweries. Both are family-owned and driven by the deep and abiding passion its operators have for creating bold, original beers served in a relaxed environment.
Eureka Springs Brewery
Jeff Joseph always hoped one day to run a brewery with his son, Matt. Jeff — who grew up in Springdale, Ark., about an hour southwest of Eureka Springs — is a fourth-generation homebrewer. He honed his sudsy craft while working as a mechanical designer for an engineering firm.
Matt took up beer-making near the end of high school. After stints in Colorado and Alaska, he heeded his Dad’s call and returned home to establish a microbrewery in Eureka Springs, where the family regularly vacationed when he was a kid.
Father and son chose to set up shop on five pine-laden acres. A large sign on 62 points the way. ESB is housed in an unassuming metal building, with the large brewing operation on full view for taproom patrons.
Matt is the brewmaster, in charge of producing the six regular flavors (Topless Blonde, Ace Pale Ale, Wild Wheat et al) and creating a consistent flow of new seasonals and small-batch beers. He’s an experimenter. He once brewed an IPA with rosemary and a blonde ale infused with basil.
While in Alaska, he became enamored with a beer made with spruce tips, so he had spruce tips shipped to Eureka Springs and made his own IPA version.
Jeff assists in the brewing process, and focuses on the business and taproom duties. When it was time to scale up production, his engineering background came in handy.
ESB has an array of picnic and aluminum tables for open-air drinking. It also offers recreational endeavors like cornhole, horseshoes and even a nine-hole disc golf course — perfect for when you really want to work up a thirst.
While people love ESB’s vibe, the beer is the real draw. A Yelp reviewer enthused, “I personally tried the Stout and IPA, and both were literally some of the best crafts I had!”
96 Ridgeview Road, Eureka Springs
Tues.-Sun, 12-9 p.m.
When Dave Hartmann and Wendy Reese Hartmann visited a friend in Eureka Springs, the town really “got a hold” of them. As it happened, the couple were looking for a place to start a craft brewery — and found a location and a name at the same time.
Dave Hartmann is a highly credentialed, well-traveled beerologist. A native of Long Island, he first learned to brew from one of his professors at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. He was so smitten with it that he decided to make it a career and landed a job with Long Trail Brewing Co. in Vermont.
Determined to raise his game, he then studied brewing science at University of California, Davis under renowned beer educator Dr. Michael Lewis, and afterward worked at breweries in California, Wisconsin and New York. He even worked at one in Germany for a year. He returned to Long Trail as a brewmaster, and that’s where he met Wendy Reese.
A native of Oklahoma, her background is in health and fitness, as well as social activism. She studied exercise science at Northern Arizona University and at one point taught a wellness class at a community center in a Mexican-American barrio in Phoenix. Wendy runs the taproom, does the marketing, and books the music and events among other tasks.
After growing weary of large-scale brewing, Dave decided to use Gotahold to flex his beer muscles, experimenting with barrel-aged beers, sours and foeder beers. The taphouse beer menu includes Red’s Strut lager, Dancing Barefoot sour, Quotidian Pint German pilsner, and Groove and Temporary Ripple IPAs. He supplements his regular list with an ongoing series of small-batch brews.
Gotahold is situated in a converted house just off of 62. The taproom features a large, simple wooden bar and wood floors. A spacious backyard area, adjacent to a pine forest, is outfitted with Adirondack chairs and tables. You may see a deer or two idling nearby. Gotahold presents live music on a small outdoor stage on weekends. Check their Facebook events page for a schedule.
The brewery gives back to the community with its #TipsForTransformation program. The gratuities collected on Thursdays go to one of 11 North Arkansas nonprofits. Wendy, who is on the Arkansas Brewers Guild Board of Directors, says they usually give in the neighborhood of $1,000 a month.
Gotahold’s owners are excited about making beer in Eureka Springs — and Arkansas overall. “From my perspective, coming from the east coast, it feels very early here,” Dave told the Fayetteville Flyer in August 2020, “maybe 10 to 15 years behind other areas of the country. That’s great in a way because there’s lots of room for growth, and a lot of cool things are going to happen.”
Come say hello and experience some cool things for yourself!
409 W. Van Buren, Eureka Springs
Wed-Thurs., 4-8 p.m.
Fri., 4-9 p.m.
Sat., 12-9 p.m.
Sun., 3-7 p.m.
Hours are seasonal.