Guest Post: Diamond Bear Brewery Bound for Prestigious Event in D.C.
By Zoie Clift
Some of the best brewers in the country are highlighted at Savor, a premier craft beer showcase in Washington D.C. This year, Arkansas-based brewery Diamond Bear is among them.
“It’s a huge deal, it sells out every year,” said Russ Melton, who (along with his wife, Sue) founded Diamond Bear in 2000.
The event is an opportunity to spread the word about Diamond Bear and get face time with not only beer enthusiasts but colleagues from breweries like New Belgium and Sierra Nevada.
“This is big,” said Melton. “It’s putting Arkansas’s little brewery right in there with well known ones.”
During the popular festival June 3-4 (which has already sold out again this year), attendees will sample craft beers from 72 independent craft brewers from across the nation. The event is known as the biggest national gathering of gourmet beer and food – each craft beer is paired with its own dish.
Diamond Bear, the only production brewery in the state, produces several types of beer and has won seven national and international awards to date. It plans to expand soon to a much larger facility.
This will be the brewery’s first showing at Savor, where it will showcase its Two Term Double IPA and Paradise Porter.
So how did the brewery land the invite?
“It’s based on our track record of producing great beers, winning many medals, and being one of the premier breweries in the South,” said Melton.
Diamond Bear beer is hand brewed in the state. It’s produced via the traditional methods of European brewers using ingredients that include two-row malted barley, hops, yeast and Arkansas water. The Pale Ale is the signature beer of the company and has won gold medals at both the Great American Beer Festival and (twice) at the World Beer Cup.
Other big news for the brewery includes an upcoming relocation to North Little Rock. The new site (on the Arkansas River a couple of blocks west of Dickey-Stephens Stadium) will nearly triple its square footage and capacity. Plans include a much larger tap room, a brewseum with a rundown of the history of beer in Arkansas and the U.S., a small restaurant, a deck overlooking the river and public weekend tours of the brewery. Melton said at the moment the company is in a transition phase in anticipation of the big move. Currently the brewery is located three blocks east from the State Capitol at Fourth and Cross streets in Little Rock.
So how did Diamond Bear come to be? It started in 1979 when Melton, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army at the time, was transplanted from his home in rural Arkansas to West Germany. It was here that Melton’s interest in craft beer started. Years later an employer transferred him to Kansas City, Missouri, where he became impressed with a brewery there: Boulevard Brewing Co., now the biggest specialty brewery in the Midwest. Melton made it back to his home state and over the next several years one question kept popping into his mind, “Why not Arkansas?” Shortly after, the Melton’s began the process of starting the brewery.
The name also has an interesting back story. Arkansas has had a number of official nicknames since becoming a state in 1836. The first was the “Bear State”, due to the state’s frontier reputation and large population of bears. After diamonds were discovered in 1905, the “Diamond State” became the new nickname. So “Diamond Bear” was the result of combining these first two nicknames.
Business seems to be booming in the field. According to the Brewers Association, the number of breweries in the U.S. last year was 1,753-the highest total since the late 1800s. Diamond Bear beer is distributed throughout Arkansas and Mississippi. Other breweries in Arkansas include Hog Haus Brewing Co. in Fayetteville and Vino’s Pizza Pub Brewery, Bosco’s, and Refined Ale Brewery in Little Rock.
For more information about Diamond Bear and brewery tours call 501-708-BREW (2739) or visit www.diamondbear.com. Now in its fourth year, Savor is presented by the Brewers Association, organizers of the Great American Beer Festival. Visit www.savorcraftbeer.com for more details.
Zoie Clift is a travel writer for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.