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Belt’s Beer Garden: ArCANsas Brews

Arkansas Breweries take over BBG with Lost Forty’s Crystal State Rockhound and Diamond Bear’s Two Term

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Arkansas, like a lot of those southern states, has been a late bloomer in the craft beer community. They have just 1.3 breweries per 100,000 people which puts them 41st out of 50…but hey, at least they aren’t Mississippi; who came in dead last at just .4 breweries for every 100,000 people!!! (Fun fact: Vermont led the way with 10.8)

In 2011 there were only SIX breweries in the whole state of Arkansas…but by the end of 2016 there were 28! So, when my friend went down there, he knew better than to not bring me home some beers from a few of those new breweries popping up all over the state. And, because of that, I can finally review a beer from The Natural State on BBG.

One of those new(er) breweries is Lost Forty, a Little Rock brewery that opened up their doors just over three years ago – December 26th, 2014. Lost Forty has since expanded to distributing to all (wet counties) of Arkansas and now has a core lineup of five brews.

My buddy, knowing me quite well, grabbed me their staple IPA – Crystal State Rockhound. Six-packs cost a mere $9 and each 12-ounce can comes complete with a 6.2% ABV and 60 IBU.

Crystal State Rockhound poured a cloudy orangish amber color with just over a finger of white head settling atop the beer. Quickly it faded down into a mere dusting across the top with just a small accumulation of bubbles collecting around the edge of the glass.

On the nose the hops were prevalent but soft and featured a slew of tropical fruits as well as some earthy and pine notes. Among the tropical aromas were pineapple, mango, and grapefruit and, sitting behind it all, was a light bready malt sweetness that added to the juicy characteristics.

My first swig began with a moderate rush of carbonation that immediately gave way to those great tropical flavors. The pineapple took the lead and charged at my taste buds while the grapefruit and a slight lemony zest followed suit.

Mid sip, the malts eliminated almost all of the hoppy bitterness and added a sweet white bread/crackery quality that balanced and smoothed out the beer really well.

Then, as everything began to fade, the hops once again emerged…but this time it was with a resinous pine flavor (along with some lingering pineapple) that took the taste to a close.

Rockhound finished super clean with just a hint of dryness and no real lingering aftertaste (on some sips the pineapple stuck with me but for the most part it ended crisp and cleanly).

As the beer vanished from my glass (albeit quicker than I anticipated), there wasn’t a ton of lacing – a few splotches of clouds here and there but nothing much – and the 6.2% alcohol was hidden entirely; as were the 60 IBU.

This was my first encounter with Lost Forty…but I’m going to make sure it’s not my last.

This is a great starter IPA…one that doesn’t have the sharp bitter bite, only a smooth and flavorful body with lots of citrus with some malty sweetness and incredible balance. But, even if you’re a hop-snob like me, this beer is still very enjoyable.

If you find yourself in Little Rock, get yourself some…and maybe pick me up a six-pack too.

Next up, a beer from Diamond Bear.

Unlike Lost Forty, Diamond Bear was one of those rare OG Arkansas breweries that started before the boom a few years ago.

Diamond Bear, also in Little Rock, is located just two miles north of Lost Forty – but across the Arkansas River – and opened their doors way back in 2000. Since then they have expanded over the years and now distribute to four states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee) with more to come shortly.

My friend decided it would be best to get me a hop-bomb…so he choose their Two Term, their year-round brew that started off as a limited run that was too good to let go of.

Two Term is a big, bold double IPA made with Warrior hops that packs a whopping 9.9% ABV and 90 IBU. A six-pack runs a little cheaper than average at just 8.99.

It was very cloudy in the glass when I poured the lightly copper color beer into my tulip glass. Topping off the liquid was a finger or so of slightly off-white head that lingered momentarily before faded away into a slight accumulation around the edge of my glass.

On the nose, the hops were quite present. There were big, hoppy citrus notes that gave off the scent of Lemonheads candy – sweet, tangy lemon and sugar. A bready malt and some caramel undertones added more sweetness to the aroma but, make no mistake, I could tell this was a powerful beer just from the scent.

My first taste began with some moderate carbonation that quickly fizzled out on my tongue and made way for the flavors that followed.

It started with a caramel malty sweetness with a white bread quality right behind the caramel. Then, it was the citrus’ turn to pop. My tongue was quickly assaulted with a hoppy barrage of orange, grapefruit, and that sugary sweet Lemonheads flavor.

The malts and hops continued to share the stage throughout most of the sip. But, as things began to die down, the hops were left standing with a bitter bite that doesn’t kick in until the end. With the sting of hops comes a slightly piney, slightly spicy flavor that took me by surprise initially, as it didn’t fit in with the rest of the taste.

As the beer is emptied from my glass, there is some solid lacing left behind. The side of my cup was covered with stringy lines of bubbles and a few connected clouds that coated around 70% of my glass or so.

I was surprised that more of the booze didn’t come out in the flavor. There is some at the end and the more you drink the more you can feel it in your cheeks but, at nearly 10%, this is a monster brew that doesn’t taste as strong as it is. Sure, you know there’s alcohol in there…but I wouldn’t have guess it to was more than 8%.

Another surprise was just how cleanly it ended. A lot of big, boozy DIPAs end with a massive bitterness or some dryness…but not Two Term. It ends crisp and clean, with just the smallest lingering piney aftertaste that fades away momentarily.

This is a solid, balanced double IPA…for most of the majority of the taste anyway. The hop bite that ends it with a spicy bitterness wasn’t my favorite, nor was the big bready malt quality that started Two Term off. But there’s a reason this started as a one-off beer and became a staple…it’s pretty good!