First drinks served from Arkansas Brewery
to Open in Dry County
A historic moment in Polk County sold for $1,000 Friday, Oct. 30 at Ouachita Brewery, the newest addition to the growing brand of The Ouachitas, which has a product line including coffees, pastries, pizzas, and now beer and wine.
“Opening went really well,” Ouachitas owner Derek Campbell said. “We had a lot of great community support show up to take part in all the festivities we had to offer, all had a great time.”
Campbell said the first beer legally brewed and sold in the county was a momentous occasion, one for which the community showed a vast amount of support.
“I think people understand what we are doing here. Everyone has been pleased with what we have to offer and what we are trying to bring to downtown.”
The vision Campbell is executing through his business brings people together in a welcoming environment.
“Our main goal here is hospitality and community building. We want to provide a place for people to gather and enjoy themselves. No matter the time of day – breakfast or evening. So a range of items is provided to meet those needs and we are providing later operating hours so people can gather,” he said.
To accomplish this task, the entrepreneur, his staff and supporters have risen to the challenge of maneuvering through new state policies and hurdles.
“A huge first step was to approach the city council for approval,” Campbell said.
At that meeting, a tied vote among council members was broken by Mena Mayor Seth Smith, which resulted in the approval Campbell needed to pursue state licensing.
“The room at that meeting burst out in applause at the tie break, and that was such a great expression of a desire from the community for what we are doing.”
From that moment, additional obstacles, such as the remodel and renovation of the building, have been overcome.
“Because this is a new permit available in Arkansas, each department in the state has to familiarize with it. There were not clear steps for us to follow. So we were on the frontier of the permit, which has been difficult.”
Despite the challenges, Campbell said he was not deterred to realize his vision.
“I’ve had plenty of help from several people who helped me in the ways each of them could,” he said.
Now that the permit for the first microbrewery in a dry county in Arkansas has been secured, Campbell said the success is not his alone.
“Many efforts were made and strides taken, that show it is possible. That is a success that belongs to us all,” he said. “We don’t want this to just be our thing. We want Mena to have other nightlife opportunities. We want people to step out in their own ways and be creative to offer more in the ways of entertainment to make Mena, as a whole, a great place to live and visit.”
Campbell acknowledges serving alcohol in Polk County has the potential to be a divisive issue.
“Different opinions and ideas are what make our county great. Different ideas are what keep things moving forward. It is necessary and does not offend me in the least,” he said.
“People need to have their own opinions and convictions. What they believe what is right or wrong is personal. My only request is, that while holding those convictions, ask yourself why. Be willing to receive and encounter something new and see the potential growth for the community and that it can be healthy.”
Campbell’s welcoming attitude exudes throughout the environment at the Ouachitas.
“Our floor plan is one that doesn’t require you to be assigned a table and you stay there for the duration of visit,” he explained. “Sit where you like, on the sofa or community style table and meet someone new. Come to one of our events for live music, trivia and movie nights to be social. This all builds on our goal of hospitality.”
In addition to making service and hospitality a trademark quality, educated and knowledgeable staff are a cornerstone, he said.
Ouachitas currently offers four to five beers of their own brew, while offering a wide variety of additional Arkansas brewed beers, as well as having a great wine collection.
“We don’t offer bottom-of-barrel wine, or anything else for that matter, at a fair price point. We want to offer opportunities for people to try good things, from meeting new people to trying good food and coffee.”
Broadening horizons is a goal that seeps through Ouachita’s products and environment.
“I’m attempting to better lives and the community. That’s the big picture. That goal has caused me to broaden my horizons, and that bleeds over into everything we do.”
For more information about The Ouachitas, visit theouachitas.com or find them on Facebook @ouachitacoffee.