Blue Canoe Brewing Co. is poised to open a beer garden and expanded brewery at 1637 E. 15 St. in Little Rock sometime this month, says its co-owner, Patrick Cowan.
It will retain its taproom at 425 E. Third St. in the River Market District, though all the brewing equipment will be moved to the new location in east Little Rock.
The addition of three seven-barrel fermenters and a seven-barrel bright tank will essentially double Blue Canoe’s production, from about 300 to 400 barrels a year to 600 to 750 barrels annually.
The additional capacity — housed in a 20,000-SF former warehouse — will move Blue Canoe from microbrewery status to small brewery status.
In addition to the beer garden on the east side of the 15th Street building, Blue Canoe will be offering tours and tastings and plans to coordinate with area food trucks to have food available.
Cowan, who owns Blue Canoe with his business partner, Laura Berryhill, declined to put a dollar figure on their investment.
Gradual growth since the company’s opening in December 2014 led to their decision to expand, Cowan said. “We’ve done at the Third Street location — I can’t remember how many expansions at this point, three or four,” he said. The initial location of their brewing equipment was in a 10-by-10-foot space.
The decision to keep the taproom open was an easy one. “We love that taproom because we love that area,” Cowan said. “They keep building more and more hotels around it. The hotel traffic alone is fantastic, not to mention kind of the captive audience of the people who live upstairs from us, plus the two River Market Towers, plus the Block 2 Lofts.”
The former brewing area in the Third Street taproom will become a new kitchen area, Cowan said. “Once we get everything up and running over here, then we’re going to try and focus a little bit more on food options.” But, he added, “Our main focus is and always has been beer. The food will always be a complement to that, but it will never be our main focus.”
Cowan said tours and tastings at the east Little Rock location will be offered on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Cowan, a lawyer, has transitioned from his legal career to full-time work operating Blue Canoe. He and Berryhill are Blue Canoe’s brewmasters.
With the expansion, the partners have a goal of eventually canning their beer. They’d like to be able to get their products, which currently can be found not only at their business and growler stations but at local restaurants and bars, into area grocery stores and liquor stores.