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Craft Beer, Community and Great Times at the Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival

Nestled among the lush peaks of the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs is a beautiful and relaxing destination for your next Arkansas getaway. It’s unclear how long people have been utilizing the world famous hot springs of the city, but they have played an integral role in the growth and development of the area. From the original Native American settlers to the Europeans searching for riches, the hot springs here have always been a huge draw to the area. In fact, President Andrew Jackson named the Hot Springs as the first federal reservation in 1832. This was essentially the first National Park in the US, receiving its designation 40 years before Yellowstone. It was officially named a National Park in 1912.


Not only is Hot Springs a historic location, it is filled with a plethora of fun things to do for all who visit. If you're an outdoor enthusiast, you're in for a treat. You’ll encounter parks, golf courses, horse racing tracks, lakes, rivers and more, each offering its own set of great outdoor activities. The city is also home to great family activities like amusement and water parks. History buffs will love the museums and historic locations covering everything from the history of the hot springs themselves to the notorious gangsters who hid out in the city almost a century ago. To get the full Hot Springs experience, you need to visit during one of their great local festivals or events like the Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival.


Newer to the local festival scene, the Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival has already established itself as one of the top beer celebrations in the region. Held at the Hot Springs Convention Center, this 21+ festival will feature more than 90 different exhibitors and brewers, who will be showcasing their great custom craft beers.  There will also be at least 10 different food vendors serving up a spectrum of tasty food for attendees to purchase and enjoy. New to the festival this year is a 5K fun run before the event. The run is a perfect way to get to know the town, its people, and afterwards you’ll get to drink great craft beers. We got the chance to interview Rob Pratt, Representative for the Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival, to talk about this great event.


RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.

RP: This is the third year we’ve held the Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival (HSCBF). There were just under 1,200 people in attendance in 2015. Our goal for this year is 1,500. This is a 21 and over event, and we get attendees from both ends of the age spectrum. The core group would probably be 35-45 year old couples, but It’s proven to be popular with those both older and younger.


RAL: What makes the festival unique?

RP: We set our festival up with the attendee’s comfort in mind. There is a significant amount seating available. Three hours is a long time to walk around, and people typically like to sit and talk. So we have large round tables, smaller four-tops, and lots of bar tables. This really increases the interaction of our guests.


People also like the large space. While there are a lot of people in attendance, the indoor climate-controlled space allows us to offer a space that doesn’t make you feel crowded or hurried. On top of that the floor plan is based on a pod/island approach. We try to vary the size of these and not put them in straight lines. This results in more wandering and discovering new things, instead of walking up and down the line.


RAL: What can people expect during a typical day at the event?

RP: When someone enters the HSCBF, they walk into Beervana. Without the straight lines of other festivals, they walk into a warm inviting sea of friendly faces and beer stands. Their ticket gives them a sample glass and access to over 400 beers from 90 different breweries. From there you can set out on a trek to discover different and exciting beers. Sample however many beers you wish, in 2oz sample size. There are also opportunities to visit with many of the brewers themselves and learn how the beers are made.


We put emphasis on the availability of food. While making a beer journey, you can stop for a slider and chips, chicken wings, Irish stew, or a multitude of other food offerings. These are also sample sized, but there are a lot of samples available.


While enjoying the food and beer, you’re also treated to live music from the John Calvin Brewer Band and can also enjoy a friendly game of beer pong or Baggo. Share and enjoy the fellowship of other craft beer lovers.


RAL: What can attendees expect to find for local lodging?

RP: While there are many hotels within a short range of the beer festival, the Hotel Hot Springs is the host property. With their multi-million dollar renovation, they are able to accommodate the festival attendees in style and comfort. There are also special room rates available for beer fest folks. Those not staying at the Hotel Hot Springs can choose from The Arlington Hotel Spa & Resort, The Springs Hotel and Spa, or The Embassy Suites.


FYI next year there will be at least three boutique hotels open in downtown Hot Springs. A couple of Bed & Breakfasts, Lookout Point Inn and Hilltop Manor, are located just a short drive from the event.


RAL: What does this festival mean to the community?

RP: The Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival is growing rapidly and becoming a destination for out of towners. It was named The Best New Festival in Arkansas by the Arkansas Events & Festivals Association in 2014. People come from as far away as Fayetteville, Texarkana, and El Dorado.  A large number come over from Little Rock as well.


RAL: Does the festival have an impact on the local economy and are any special causes supported by the festival?

RP: Yes, it has a major economic impact on the city. Situated in downtown, many of the attendees stay and enjoy the nightlife in places such as The Ohio Club (The oldest bar in Arkansas), The Copper Penny, and Maxine’s.


The festival raises funds to support the Spa City Blues Society helping their efforts to promote blues music and encourage local youth to become involved.


RAL: Why should people come?

The big draw, and reason people like the HSCBF, is not so much the beer, but the people. Yes, they do enjoy the beer and food, but what they really enjoy is the socializing. They enjoy seeing their old friends and making new ones. They enjoy discussing the characteristics of a new beer with someone they’ve never seen before, and talking about the old beers with their old friends. Yeah, it’s about the people.

For more information about the Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival, please visit their website.