SUBIACO, Ark. (KNWA)- Breweries in the Natural State are dripping with history and economic promise for the communities around them.
From riding around with a beer brewing monk to hearing the tales of a town set free of prohibition, it’s clear that some small towns take their beer seriously.
But it’s not just the taste that attracts Arkansans, it’s how it makes their city grow and prosper.
“As far as monastic breweries in the U.S., there’s only three and we’re one of them,” said Brother Basil Taylor from Subiaco Abbey.
Stretched over 2,000 acres of land, Subiaco Abbey is the home of Catholic monks, a boarding school, and now a brewery.
Br. Basil said, “We had to get out of the cattle business because it was too labor-intensive for us and so that kind of freed up us younger monks to do other things.”
The monastery was founded 140 years ago in 1878.
Country Monks Brewing is relatively new to the holy grounds, only five months old.
“We brew probably five batches a week,” Br. Basil said.
While the monastery/brewery combo might be rare to us, it’s actually not unusual.
Br. Basil said back in the day, every monastery housed a brewery as a way to generate clean drinking water.
“It was a way to get the western world out of the plague,” he said.
Fast forward 800 years and this monastery is supporting the city of Subiaco in the same way.
“We’re actually the water treatment for the whole town of Subiaco,” Br. Basil said. “The monastery is.”
But, it doesn’t stop there. He said the town is built around the institution.
“We’re one of the largest employers here in town. There’s another manufacturing corporation, but we’re probably one of the bigger reasons the town is still around nowadays,” said Br. Basil.
To make sure they aren’t losing sight of what’s important, Country Monks Brewing is only open to the public one day a week.
Br. Basil said, “Our main job here is to pray. It’s not to make beer, it’s not to raise cows, it’s to pray.”
But, the beer business still supports their way of life.
It takes care of the young and the old; supporting the education of 7th-12th graders at their boarding school and the retirement of the elder monks.
Country Monks Brewing has five different unique beers: an amber, a stout, an Irish red, a pale ale and a raspberry wheat beer.
The same year Br. Basil started brewing beer on the holy grounds of Subiaco Abbey, Brick and Forge in Harrison opened its doors.
This Boone County brewery opened in 2012 shortly after the county became wet, giving residents a taste of what they had been missing since the 1940s.
Kenny Peden, the head brewer at Brick and Forge Brew Works said they “kinda came in right on the front end of the little alcohol boom here in Harrison.”
And it’s the only one of its kind.
“Before prohibition, every town had a brewery. That’s where you got your beer. There were no refrigerated trucks and what not so if you wanted a beer, you went to your local pub. After prohibition, that kind of all got shut down and most of the breweries didn’t open back up,” said Peden.
Kenny Peden is the head brewer here and has five different core beers he’s created.
“You don’t have to drink can, factory-made beer,” Peden said. “You can drink something that’s truly unique and special through your community.”
His beers include Broken Hammer IPA, Peacepipe Pale Ale, Troubled Horse Porter, Dirty Sally Brown Ale and Brick and Forge Blonde Ale.
“It’s just what I really love to do,” he said.
But just like Country Monks Brewing, what Peden does serves a bigger purpose.
He said, “Everything we do here is putting money right back into the community.”
Most profits from their events go to a local charity.
“We’ve supported everything from the library here to the historical society, our convention and visitors bureau is a great partner of ours,” Peden said.
To him, breweries are just as vital to the community as any other staple.
“You got a baker, you got a butcher, why not a brewery?” Peden asked.
Brother Basil Taylor said, “It might be a little hard to find, but it’s worth your while.”