Sometimes, as providence would have it, something cool can happen in the middle of nowhere. In this case, the “something cool” is craft beer.
You may have read about Bubba Brews Sports Pub & Grill. The oasis of a bar/grill based in Bonnerdale is expanding to a lakeside location in Hot Springs and the locals here are very excited to have a boat-in restaurant coming to the west side of town. I however, was more interested in what they are doing in the back room of the OG location. So, I gassed up my little Kia & traveled west out of the Spa City. After about 25 minutes of driving and then cursing at my GPS (which was telling me “You have arrived” in front of an empty field), I FINALLY arrived at my intended destination. The pub/brewery lies 14 miles down Airport Road where log truckers and farm land makeup the majority of vistas, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an open and welcoming rustic haven. The sports theme is strong with place, but the memorabilia decor actually works pretty well. It feels casual, definitely not stuffy like some breweries can.
Upon arriving, I met Jonathan Martin, the brewmaster and part owner of the Beer-side of the business. He treated me to commiserate anecdotes about how every reporter get’s lost and immediately offered to ease my stress with a flight of craft beer. How could I say no to that?
“As far as brewing ethos, balance is something else I am really big on.” Martin told me, over our drinks. “Malty beers have their place, hoppy beers have their place but I want something that’s going to balance that equation.”
The brewery currently has 16 beers in it’s arsenal and keeps about 12 at a time on tap.
I tried several but here’s a few that really stood out.
Mogs Od Red Ale, an Irish Red (5.9 ABV) is “dusky amber” and I found it darker than your typical red. I really enjoyed the complexity and ease of drinking this beer. It is unpretentious, malty, and easy to drink with a smokey twang from the roasted barley they use.
I also quite enjoyed the Sandbar Pilsner (4.9 ABV), a Bohemian Style Pils modeled after Pilsner Urquell. Martin uses traditional European style hops and 100% pilsner malt to give this beer a balanced dryness and a subtle but refreshing crispness that I predict will be perfect at Bubba’s new location. But if you can’t wait to paddleboard or boat in, check out the Bonnerdale location in the meantime. I mean, do you really need an excuse to go wanderlusting after craft beer some saturday afternoon? Didn’t think so. Bubba’s has outdoor seating galore so you can get that vibe with tasty food included and the “cool-kid” cred of drinking craft beer in the middle of nowhere before the rest of Hot Springs (read: “the tourists”) finds out. The restaurant makes a mean basket of fried frog legs and yes, I tried them and yes they went perfectly with this beer.
Another good warm weather beer that I’ll be trying again is the Great Wit, a belgian witbier which was very smooth and lightly hopped with a tangy bite of orange peal and coriander. This beer finishes like a champ, it’s got just enough lemony buzz to it from the soft white winter wheat (say that 3-times fast) Martin uses. At 5.0 ABV, it’s great for summertime pairings with the spicy and delicious stuffed shrimp they serve.
For the IPA fanatics (you know who you are) I give you- Hop Wolf Imperial. The newest addition to the brewery’s line-up, Hop Wolf is a high-gravity (8.9 ABV) son-of-a-gun that packs 6 different hops into the boil and and then is dry-hopped for 5 days after that. That is an insane amount of hops and makes for a very bitter and yet still complex buzz-maker of a beer. I’ll be honest here, I am no fan of IPA’s but not only was I able to drink it without making the “IPA face,” I was actually able to taste the depth of all those hops mixing together. Warning- this is a very “boozy” beer, one whiff of it and I got a 30-second buzz. If you are coming to Bubba Brews specifically in search of this really unique IPA, bring a friend like me who will still be able to drive and explain to your boss that you accidentally just fell into a bathtub full of rubbing alcohol and that you did not in-fact play hooky for 3 hours to go “drinking.”
And for the straightforward amber bock drinking people like me – “10 Point Bock” (amber bock Lager/ 6.2 ABV). This medium ‘bock recipe was developed by Martin over a couple years. It’s the brewery’s flagship beer for a reason- it’s malty, smooth with just a taste of sweetness but most of all, this beer seems to reflect Martin’s ethos the best- a balanced & complex but unfussy beer that has a wide-range of appeal. Pro-tip: Drink this while you eat the Bologna sandwich. Just trust me.
Bubba Brews Sports Pub & Grill
8091 Airport Rd, Bonnerdale, AR 71933 (Keep going)