The third annual Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival promises a good time coupled with lively libations and fabulous fare.
By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Sara Reeves | Shot on location at Superior Bathhouse Brewery & Distillery
There’s always something brewing in the Spa City. From the world-renowned thermal springs to arts and entertainment, Hot Springs offers unique attractions infused with Southern hospitality. The Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival promises a good time coupled with lively libations and fabulous fare.
Rob Pratt, who’s called Hot Springs home for 14 years, attended a beer festival and realized the recent trend in craft beers would pair well with Hot Springs. “I’ve been involved with the Spa City Blues Society for years, so when I’m at festivals I’m always thinking of things we could do better in Hot Springs,” he says. “And I thought Hot Springs would be the ideal spot for a craft beer fair, especially since we have two local breweries.”
Featuring craft beer from as far away as California and New York, the festival also attracts attendees from around the country. Organizers are anticipating participation from 100 breweries this year. More than 20 local breweries operate in Arkansas, Rob says, noting that he hopes Arkansas will become nationally recognized for its beer. “We’re 47th in craft beer consumption, and I would love to see that number on the rise.”
The festival is a fun, social thing for the community, Rob says, that provides the perfect opportunity for a weekend in the Spa City. “Our goal is to have people check into their hotel on Friday and not get back in their cars until Sunday – so they spend a good weekend in Hot Springs.” The majority of attendees come from Little Rock, Northwest Arkansas and the Texarkana area, he notes. “We really appeal to all types of people, not just ‘beer geeks.’ For $70 two people can come eat, have beer and enjoy live music.”
The visibility local breweries garner at the festival is invaluable, Rob says. “The marketing exposure is unique for local and bigger out-of-town breweries because it gets them in front of an audience who want to try their products.” The breweries have the opportunity to engage and attract new patrons. “This interaction allows the consumer to go beyond just seeing a label on a store shelf; they really get the story behind the making of the beer and it becomes a more meaningful experience.” VIP tickets are available for $55 each, which includes access to more specialty beers and food.
The festival continues to gain popularity. About 800 people attended the first festival and about 1,200 last year, notes Rob, who maintains the guest experience is a top priority for event organizers. “We keep growing and want to make sure people are enjoying themselves,”
An addition to the weekend’s festivities is the “Five Beer Five K” – which is really just a good old-fashioned pub crawl, Rob explains. The course consists of locations that offer a beer to each participant. “We’re hoping to attract some different folks,” he says. “A lot of people like to run small races and a lot of runners like to drink beer, so we thought this would be the perfect event to kick off the weekend.”
Light or Dark Beer: dark
Imported or Domestic: local, craft beer
Brew your own? “I attempt on occasion, and when I do, it’s a labor of love I enjoy.”