Hot Springs is known for the magical thermal waters flowing from its mountains, but today we’re going to dive into a few other types of magical liquids originating in the Spa City. After visiting three breweries, a distillery, a coffee roaster and a casino with its own Woodford Reserve label, I’ve got the spill for the local must-go’s to get whatever your fix is — from root beer to moonshine.
Just like my days, I’ll start with coffee. Red Light Roastery Coffee House, located at 1003 Park Ave., roasts 300 to 500 pounds of imported coffee beans per week just a few doors down from its shop. From cold brew to drip to crafted lattes; no matter what concoction you get at Red Light it’s guaranteed to be fresh from beans roasted that week. When I went to Red Light I tried a healthy mix of everything, and enjoyed every last drop of that drip.
The bean types change regularly, but on the day I went I got to try the Medium Roast Ethiopia Wash on the drip and the Mexico Veracruz cold brew. I drank them pure, adding no creamer or sweetener, to give an authentic review, and for two pure black cups of joe they were good. Now let’s talk about what was great. I had a mocha latte with oat milk, made with Kyya Chocolate, which is a local bean-to-bar chocolate out of Northwest Arkansas. It was warm, creamy and topped off with a cute little foam heart to let me know it was truly made with local love.
Next, I ventured on to beer. The first brewery I visited was Superior Bathhouse Brewery, located at 329 Central Ave. Everything is unique about this place, starting with the fact that it’s in a historic bathhouse. Superior has 18 different beers on tap, all brewed with Hot Springs’ thermal waters. And of these beers, there is a wide variety, of which I tried many.
Superior’s number one seller, Space Force, which is a blood orange hazy IPA, was good if you like your IPA’s on the sweeter side, but I personally enjoy mine more bitter, therefore the Northwoods, which is a “west coast-style” IPA, was deemed my favorite, possibly out of all 18. But there were many flavors unique to Superior that I had a lot of fun tasting, some of which include: Spicy Ride, a jalapeno ale brewed with 10 pounds of jalapenos giving it a genuine taste; The Beez Kneez, a light and refreshing blonde ale with hints of honey and basil; Jess’ Big Dill, a pickle sour; and Mango Ate My Baby, a fresh and fruity mango seltzer I would be remiss not to mention.
In addition to beer, Superior also brews its own delicious root beer that is a must-try whether you’re a root beer enthusiast or not, because how many times in your life can you say you’ve delighted your palate with root beer brewed with 4,000-year-old "magical" water?
After Superior, I traveled up the street to SQZBX Brewery & Pizza, located at 236 Ouachita Ave. With four to six beers available at any given time, on the day I went I was able to try an adequate variety. My favorites were the Welder’s Sunburn, an oddly accurate name for this hearty red ale, and the Hard Cider. This hard cider deserves some explanation, because it’s unique in that it’s totally live. What this means, as Brewmaster Zac explained, is that unlike most ciders, which have their yeast shocked prior to being re-sweetened, his cider is unpasteurized. This method results in a cloudy cider with a clean, dry flavor profile. In other words, it won’t leave you with a sugar-induced headache if you decide to have a few.
Now, I’m not a light beer drinker, but for those who are I should mention The Perfecta American Light Ale available at SQZBX. It’s better than any Bud, Coors, Natty and even Michelob Ultra. Don’t come for me on this claim, you’ll just have to go try it for yourself.
My last stop on my list of breweries was Bubba Brews Sports Pub and Grill. I went to its 1252 Airport Road location, which has an incredible view of Lake Hamilton from its patios (some might even say it’s the best spot in town to watch a sunset over the lake), but for our friends down the road there is another location at 8091 Airport Road in Bonnerdale. Of their 12 different beers, the Bubba’s Bloodhound Blood Orange Pale Ale won out as my favorite. Brewed with over 80 pounds of blood orange, it was refreshing and the perfect pair with that perfect view. However, the 10-Point Bock, which is a medium amber bock-style lager, is their number one seller, and for you light beer-lovers there’s the Bubba’s Dirty Blonde.
Now I’d like to switch the topic of conversation to something a little harder. Allow me to first tell you about my “sips from the creek” taken at Crystal Ridge Distillery, located at 455 Broadway St. We’re talking moonshine, baby, and lots of it. With flavors like apple pie, salted caramel, maple bacon, pecan pie, grape, peach, pineapple and strawberry (just to name a few), there’s bound to be something that tickles your fancy at this down-home distillery. The Pecan Pie 70-proof moonshine is their most popular served straight. To begin, it has a buttery pecan taste on the front, followed by vanilla crust on the exhale. What they do with these spirits is a work of art that only gets better when they start mixing them. My favorite concoction was a tie between the “peach tea,” which mixes peach moonshine and sweet tea, and “grape lemonade,” which mixes grape moonshine with lemonade and huckleberry syrup. For a more seasonal beverage, I recommend the espresso moonshine mixed with hot chocolate, pumpkin spice moonshine mixed with eggnog and cinnamon moonshine mixed with apple cider.
My last stop was Oaklawn Racing Casino and Resort, located at 2705 Central Ave., to try their fairly new Woodford Reserve Signature Blend. As the first-ever signature label for Oaklawn, I must say they picked a winning one. Of the three batches that come from Woodford Reserve, they chose batch B, which is described as having rich aromas of oak, tea leaf, dark sorghum molasses and burnt caramel mixed with light hints of smoke, dark chocolate and apple. It’s incredibly smooth, and makes one hell of a Barrel Aged Manhattan and Old Fashioned, both made with house-made orange peel and coriander bitters. I was told this label is a start to many more signature labels to come.
Made and served with local love, each stop on my drinking journey served their crafted beverages with a side of southern hospitality, making it every bit enjoyable as it was delicious. The hot springs may be what draws people into our little oasis, but allow these businesses and their creations to keep you a little while longer. There’s a lot not to miss when coming to visit Hot Springs, and these six spots should definitely make your itinerary.
Cassidy is a Hot Springs-based freelance journalist. She spends most of her time exploring and writing about the city for her online platform The Hot Springs Post. In her freetime she enjoys skating, swimming, car camping and spending time with her nieces and nephews. Cassidy aspires to create a positive impact with her writing, be it fun or informative.