Bosco’s hits it Big in Little Rock

8 Mar

Well, on our last day in town, the whole family headed to Little Rock to hang out in downtown before they dropped Michael and I off at the airport. In all the times I have been to Arkansas to visit my sister, we’ve actually never made it to downtown Little Rock, so I was really excited. Like almost every historic downtown in a moderate to large city in this country, it was a place you didn’t go in the 80’s. All investment had moved to the suburbs. But in the last ten years there has been reinvestment in our cities, including Little Rock, and they have done a really nice job.

We saw the Clinton library (but didn’t go in this trip), walked along the riverfront path/park, and perused the shops and farmers market in the River Market. There is a cool mix of architecture downtown – 19th century brick, row-style buildings, art deco, and modern – and they’ve resurrected an old streetcar line. It has the feel of an old main street, nice to walk along with lots of places to explore. It was a beautiful day and a very lively and vibrant downtown. Next trip I think we definitely need to make plans to get down there again, and my nerdy urban planner self will probably read up on the history of the city in the meantime. But you are probably here because you are interested in the beer we drank while we were there.

Our first stop was for lunch at Bosco’s, which advertises itself as “the restaurant for beer lovers.” It is actually a small chain of brewpubs in the south, including Little Rock, and Franklin, Memphis, and Nashville Tennessee. Michael Jackson recommended at least one of their beers as worth seeking out. So, among the three Little Rock breweries I had found on the interwebs, we were most interested in visiting Bosco’s. Inside it was a spacious, but typical brewpub. We were seated right next to the windows that look into the brewing facilities, which was cool to check out, and it made it easier to answer my 7-year old nephew’s question “how do you make beer?”

We ordered the taster tray, which typically comes with eight different beers, but they were out of one and had no other seasonal offerings at the time of our visit. Both Michael and I agreed that this was the best sampler of the trip, and some of the best beers we drank while we were in Arkansas. We didn’t think they nailed everything, but there were very drinkable and more complex beers on their menu. We split the tasting, so this is a mixed review from both Michael’s and my notes. Here’s what we had to say:

Boscos Famous Flaming Stone Blonde: Bosco’s has two of only three breweries making a commercial steinbier, or stone beer, in the world. Here is a short description from their website:

“Boscos is the first North American brewery regularly making a stone beer, the original being Rauchenfels in Neustadt, Germany. Boscos began brewing Famous Flaming Stone Beer in 1993. Red-hot pieces of pink Colorado granite are heated to 700 degrees in Boscos wood fired oven and lowered into the wort (unfermented beer) during the brewing process. The resulting steam and sizzle caramelizes sugars in the wort. The result is a sweeter, softer tasting beer with a caramel undertone.”

This was an extremely light beer, with a bright finish, and a faint, pleasant cinnamon aroma. I am normally not one for blondes, but this finished dry enough to be refreshing. Not bad for a backyard barbecue on a hot summer day.

Downtown Brown: a very classic English-style brown. Well executed, with enough hop to balance the nutty chocolate malt, and a nice dry finish. There could have been a little more body, but it was really flavorful and easy to drink. One of my favorites of the line-up, I debated ordering this, but decided the IPA would go better with my Muffaletta. That’s right y’all, they had a Muffaletta on the menu! Sha-zam! Anyway, everyone at the table enjoyed the brown, and my sister ordered a pint.

Stock Ale: this beer had a little sweet caramel malt that finished with a good amount of hop to balance the beer nicely. The hops were earthy, planty, and grassy – not citrusy. And it finished nice and dry. This was one of the best balanced beers I had down in Arkansas, and one of my top three in their line-up.

Isle of Skye Scottish Ale: this ended up being one of the most complex beers of the trip. It had been a while since we had a beer that was that interesting, and it was really nice to take the extra time to think and banter about it. It poured a dark brown and had a nice roast aroma. The rich malt added caramel and roast flavors, which were accompanied by nice buttery notes from the yeast. There may have been a tad too much hop, making it almost too balanced for a scotch ale, which should be heavier on the malt and a little sweeter. So, I’m going to call it a good English bitter.

East India Porter: a little thin for a traditional porter, this felt more like a black ale to me. It had the strong roast, but it was thinner and did not have as much chocolate, coffee, or chew to it. However, given the name, this might’ve been more what they were aiming for in this beer. I definitely enjoyed it as a dark ale, but I won’t be adding it to my “favorite porters of all time” list. And yes, Terry Porter is on that list: the original, the Trail Blazer, not the beer brewed by HUB.

Ice Age Pale Ale: my first impression was a bit of Skunk on the nose. But on the palette there was a straightforward bitter with English hop upfront making it an okay pale ale at this point. However, it finished with just enough sweetness to ruin this beer for me. This was my least favorite of the line-up.

Bombay IPA: had a light bitter aroma and a light golden color. This was bitter, but well-balanced with an easily distinguishable citrus from the cascade hop. This was our first Arkansas IPA and it was the best of the whole trip. We also thought it was the best of the tray, so we ordered a pint to go with our meal. It was fantastic paired with the Muffaletta.

We also went to Flying Saucer a nice beer bar in downtown Little Rock. It is also a chain, but I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t read it. It is a spacious bar that feels like a mix between brewpub and beer hall (because of the high ceilings). It is right on the main street with the streetcar passing by the large front windows every 10 to 15 minutes. It was a great location and it definitely felt like a bar focused on beer. They had a long list of beer options both on draft and by the bottle with a lean toward imports from Europe. We did find it interesting that the only Oregon beers available were all from Rogue.

I ordered the Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat from Manhattan, Kansas, a stout I really enjoyed. I would say it was their take on a Guinness-style stout, and it was really well executed. So after that, we went ahead and ordered their IPA, which was also a very solid brew. Two in a row that had a good amount of hop and didn’t overdo the caramel malt! That said, an IPA still might be the first beer I drink as soon as I get home. We were happy my sister and brother-in-law took us here, and I’m sure we’ll be back again.


One Response to “Bosco’s hits it Big in Little Rock”

  1. Mike March 9, 2012 at 9:10 PM #

    Thanks for the nice stuff about the renewal of Little Rock. The wife and I will make there some day, to visit your Sister amongst other things, and to do some tastings. Maybe Bob will come around by then and do some IPA’s..

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