- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

HARRISON, Ark. (AP) - Kenny Peden is a busy guy. In addition to putting in 40 hours a week as a welder, he devotes several more to crafting another product.

Peden is the brew master at Boone County’s first microbrewery, located at Brick Oven Pizza.

“I always liked drinking good beer,” said Peden, who also has been home brewing for more than eight years.

According to manager Nathan Patton, Brick Oven has been crafting its own beer for about two years now, but it wanted to keep it low key while the brew has been perfected.

Brick Oven has two systems in place, the original equipment, which can make 12 to 15 gallons at a batch, and a new tank, which can make about 140 gallons. The stainless steel tanks are out in the open, and customers can watch as Peden goes about his work adding ingredients, checking burners and temperatures and the other steps that go into making beer.

It takes about four weeks, Peden said, for a batch to go from mixing the recipe to be poured into a customer’s glass.

A fermenter and an old coffee grinder, to grind hops and barley, round out the microbrewery’s equipment.

The shiny, sparkling tanks in front of him brought another comment from Patton.

“It’s amazing how clean you have to be,” he said. “One small bit of dirt can ruin a batch.”

The Harrison Daily Times (https://bit.ly/1LZOyZp ) reports that the Brick Oven microbrewery orders its ingredients through Prairie Market, which is located near the restaurant. For a small batch, Peden said, he will use 20 to 30 pounds of grain and a pound of hops.

Peden makes two main types of beer, pale ale and brown ale, but he is always “dabbling” with other recipes, such as amber ale, red ale and oatmeal ale.

“The recipes are always evolving,” Patton said.

He went on to say that a brewing batch of beer had a sweet grain aroma that reminded him of Grape Nuts cereal.

The variety is what makes his product so appealing, according to Peden.

“That’s the great thing about craft beers,” he said. “It doesn’t always taste the same.”

Peden went on to add that he would like nothing better than to go full-time as a brew master, but so far the operation hasn’t reached the size necessary to make that possible, so he keeps his day job as a welder.

The microbrewery has the solid support of Brick Oven owner Scott Stevens, whose passion, Patton said, was beer. Stevens, who lives in Cabot, owns 10 Brick Oven restaurants, six of them in Arkansas. Whenever he visits the Harrison location, Patton said, Stevens will ask about sales, store appearance and other business-related areas. There is always one other question.

“How’s the beer coming along?”

Patton hopes that within a year or so, the Brick Oven microbrewery can supply all the other restaurants with beer. There are also plans to eventually bottle the beer. Making its own root beer is still another goal.

The craft beer craze has resulted in numerous microbreweries popping up. Patton said that numerous beer lovers have stopped at Brick Oven to sample its offering to the world of craft beers.

Regular customers have also taken to the local product.

“They drink it faster than we can brew it,” Peden said.


Information from: Harrison Daily Times, https://www.harrisondaily.com

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