SALINE COUNTY, Ark. — A Bryant family is finally fulfilling their dream of opening their very own brewery, and the best thing?? It’s in the heart of Arkansas, Saline County.
Burks Brothers Brewery is coming to Saline County in 2020, but where did this idea start?
Let’s take it back a bit..
Jesse and Catherine Burks lived in Austria with their two sons in a little place on top of a restaurant/pub.
Jesse tells me that it was just easier to go downstairs and get something to eat then to go out. Because of this, they really got to know the couple who owned the pub and that is where they really started to love beer.
They then started collecting beer mugs from different places they visited in Austria. Once they moved back to the United States, Jesse built a homemade kegerator (keg) to start with, and that was when Diamond Bear Brewery opened up.
His kids started to get bigger, and the couple had another son. Life got in the way, but Jesse still brewed on the side. He told me that about three years ago, they got really serious about it.
They started making the rough logo and thought “Hey, I really think we should start doing this.” They started learning more, and not only about brewing, but about the business itself and how to run a brewery.
Jesse is the mastermind of this whole operation.
Jesse tells us that he prefers “whiskey over beer BUT agrees that it is still pretty tasty.” He will help out with brewing, growing, and malting in all aspects that the family needs. A really cool fact about Jesse is that he is also a foot surgeon and a horror film auteur. If you like horror films, talk to him.
Now, as you can see Jesse is pretty busy, so I asked him.. How are you going to do this??
Jesse explains that most likely they won’t be open 7 days a week just yet, but they will be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a lot, but it really does work, because Catherine and the boys are night people and I’m very much a morning person. I may not be the one that’s working till 11 o’clock on a Saturday night because that’s a little late for me, but I usually get up around 4 in the morning even on Saturdays, so I could’ve already been up here and brewed two batches and had them chilled, ready for the next few weeks.”
He adds “We’re all just going to have to work together, and hopefully if everyone really supports it then it would be great for us to be open more and to bring more people on.”
Jesse tells me that once they get their building permit, not only will they have their own beer but all of the furniture inside the brewery will be handmade.
“My dad, who’s done construction for years will be helping us out and everything that’s going to be built in here is gonna be all of us by hand,” says Jesse.
He wants this brewery to be kept in the family for a long time, especially for his boys. He explained that by making this furniture, they can come here and remember the memories that were made by actually making the furniture.
“I want them to come in and tell stories like, ‘I remember I smashed my hand putting that nail in that table.’ You know, there’s a lot to be said about sweat equity. You know when you sweat, when you build it yourself, I think you own it a little bit more, and you’re proud of it.”
Speaking of the family, lets meet them!
Caterine Burks is a mom of three boys, she is quick to tell you that “football, MMA fights, and beer brewing and drinking are enjoyed by women just as much as men. She says that she enjoys brewing and drinking Belgian-style fruit beer, and her family will put big money on her beating almost anyone at shot-gunning a beer.”
Harley Burks is the oldest of the three brothers. He is currently a junior studying psychology at the University of Central Arkansas. He graduated early from Bryant High School to go live and study acting in Los Angeles for 6 years. He also worked at The Stalking Horse Brewery & Freehouse in LA, where he says he experienced the best food and beer he had ever tasted. He really enjoys IPA’s (India Pale Ale) and will be brewing his very own IPA for the brewery.
Gunnar Burks, the middle brother is a senior at Hendrix College studying Health Science. Gunnar has been playing football since pre-school and continued up into college. He likes the light beers, the type that you would enjoy drinking on the lake. He wants to make that light cold beer that you crave on a hot day, and that’s exactly what he is going to be brewing.
Jaegar Burks is the youngest of the brothers, and is a senior at Bryant High School. Jaegar will be helping out in a lot of the important, non-brewing related activities until he turns 21. Since their beer will be sourced, as much as possible, from Arkansas he will be working at the family’s small hop farm in nearby Avilla and helping the family malt the barley grown on a small farm near England (Lonoke County). The family didn’t want to leave Jaegar out of the brewing aspect though, so his father tells me he will be brewing his very own Root Beer.
Now I know what you’re thinking… What beers will they have? Good thing I have the answer.
Jesse tells me that they will be starting out with four of their very own beers, but just for now, and then they will have a couple of guest taps. They are going to rotate those from other Arkansas breweries.
“That’s what’s great about the craft brewing industry is that even on our social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) all of the other breweries are so supportive. It’s really like it’s not competition, you just want to see everybody do really well,” says Jesse.
He’s really excited to not only get his beers out there. He wants to help other local breweries as well.
“By offering other beers from Arkansas, you know it helps support them, but at the same time it helps our beer go a little bit farther, because it’s not bad if people come in and drink the other breweries beer. That still helps us and it’s not going to offend us.”
On their Kickstarter page Burks Brothers Brewing, LLC they say that “For centuries, brewpubs have been the places to gather. They have been small, community centered rooms, buildings, or homes – or places in a field – where locals could meet, talk, laugh, and drink. Where friends, families, and countries were forged.”
The mission of this family-owned local brewery “is to be THAT kind of gathering place,” as stated above. “A place where friends, neighbors, and strangers can come together to know one better. A place where a beer can facilitate friendship and bring up new ideas.”
They don’t care that they aren’t in some major grocery or liquor store. They just want to be a part of the community and if they’re in a neighbor’s fridge, then that’s what they want.
“If you run to our brewery for anything, then you’re helping us be part of the community,” they say.
Speaking of their Kickstarter… They did a really cool thing to include the people who were helping them with their dream. About a week ago, Jesse told me that they had $1,168 raised so far, since then it has gone up to $1,335 and is growing.
Jesse told me that their goal was $30, that’s not a joke. It really was $30.
Why did they put their goal as only $30?? Good thing I asked that question.
“It was really just to get people involved.. and give them a place to go look and read a little bit more about what we are doing.”
Their Kickstarter is helping them raise money to build, brew and serve their beer quicker, and just as a reminder they want you to know that not all of the funds raised are going to the brewery.
Like I said before, they have a really cool way of including the people who donate.
If you give $5 or more your name will be on the #BEERMEBURKS wall, which is optional but if you really want it there, it’s there. They are doing this to be reminded of all of the people that helped them make the brewery happen. They would like anyone that wants their name on the wall to donate by April of 2020, and please (no inappropriate names).
If you give $30 or more you will get a Burks Brothers Brewing T-Shirt, and I must say, they’re pretty cool and you definitely want one.
A $100 donation will get your name on the #BEERMEBURKS brick bar. The design includes an Acme brick facade bar… and yes you guessed it, THEY ARE BUILDING IT THEMSELVES.
If they raise nothing with their Kickstarter the brewery will be open to the public around October of 2020.
If they raise $3,000, it will open in September of 2020.
At the $6,000 mark, it jumps up to August of 2020.
If they raise $9,000 with their Kickstarter, they will be opening in July, just in time for Independence Day.
But you get the point right? The more that is raised, the faster they can bring this local brewery to you and the entire state of Arkansas.
They already have done a lot for the brewery. They bought barrels a couple of weeks ago from the Gibbs Brothers Cooperage in Hot Springs. It’s another family-owned local company.
Jesse tells me that they have already started testing the White Oak barrels they bought from the Gibbs Brothers Cooperage.
Why Saline County?
The Burks family is not only excited to be bringing locally-sourced beer to Arkansas but especially to Saline County.
The family is from Saline County, the brothers were raised there, and their family and friends are there. Even their grandparents and great-grandparents are from there. Their family is in the history of Saline County, and they want to keep it that way.
Another reason they chose Saline County is because there isn’t a brewery in Saline County. Theirs will be the very first one.
Jesse explained to me that he doesn’t want to become a big corporate brewery..
“I want people to be able to come back in and see stuff on the wall from 20 or 30 years ago that they remember, I just hope it’s part of the community, and part of Saline County,” he explains.
On their Kickstarter page they have answered all of the questions that you might have. If you scroll towards the bottom you can find all of those questions and answers there.
I personally will be following their journey and progression towards opening, so keep an eye out for more.