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story.lead_photo.caption Liz Preston scoops mash grains for beer brewing as her husband Mark Preston watches at the Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Co. in Paris in November. - Photo by Charlie Kaijo

PARIS -- Beyond the churches, factories and bed-and-breakfasts that pepper this rural town sits Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Co., an organic vegetable farm and trailer-sized brewpub that can accommodate about 25 people, comfortably -- for now.

Expansion is on the horizon for owner and brewer Liz Preston. But her plans flow beyond a typical taproom and production site. Prestonrose Farm and Brewing sells beer and food, but long-term she sees the place as a hub where concepts like farm-to-table meals, artisanal food production and agritourism intersect.

"They all have parallels; they're all connected. You know, the business of making food, and the business of making beer and the business of making a place for people," Preston, 47, said.

Originally from California, the Prestons, Liz and husband Mike, 52, came to Arkansas by way of New York. The couple found the land at 201 St. Louis Valley Road for sale on Craigslist. The property had once belonged to the Rose family.

On the property are traces of the Roses, from the old farm structures and tiny custom cabinets in the Preston home, to the more obvious, like the name of the brewpub and the seasonal beer and food. After purchasing the land, the Prestons said they wanted to honor the history and contributions of the Roses with their business.

"Frequently, you'll see something on the menu that's, you know, Maxine's garden herb rage," Liz Preston said.

Maxine and husband, Houston Rose, farmed the land from 1952 to 2002. However, farming wasn't their main profession. Houston was a school bus driver and Maxine would babysit and clean houses. Liz Preston said they often grew more than they needed, sweet potatoes, purple hull peas and other vegetables, and then sold them in town.

Outside, Liz walked around the farm of certified organic vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, and celery root. Their son, Noah, was helping harvest peppers before a threatening freeze that night. To the east were basil, olives, figs, squash, muscadine, and traces of pawpaw. They also grow some of their own hops for beer.

"We try to find ways around the limitations of living in Arkansas to grow the things we like," Liz Preston said.

"We're working on some allspice bushes over there so that we can grow our own spices and seasonings for things that we make," she said. "The goal is to kind of have everything available as a restaurant, as a tourist destination that doesn't have to be brought in from somewhere else. Obviously some of the things like sugar, we're not there yet."

Agritourism has been an option for those who want to generate farm revenue without having to be commercial farmers. Instead, they transform orchards into a u-pick operations, operate demonstration farms, rural bed-and-breakfasts, or a combination of those options. Petting zoos also fall under the agritourism umbrella.

Examples in Arkansas include Dogwood Hills in Harriet, a guest farm where travelers can do morning chores, get a closer look at small-scale food production, and unplug from their data-filled lives among the cows, goats and chickens. Holly Springs Homestead in Mena grows and sell seasonal fruits and vegetables, offers a corn maze and hay rides in the fall and raises and sells pine trees at Christmas.

The beer

What sets Prestonrose apart is the beer.

The brewery, just north of the taproom, sits on top of the Rose family's old burn pile. There are three large cylinders inside for the beer, one for hot water, one for the mash and one for the drinkable results. An oven, slow-cooking Hatch peppers for the weekend, was next to the beer.

Obstacles the Prestons say they often run into include inadequate parking, and not having enough beer for their customers.

For perspective, Liz Preston reportedly brewed 280 barrels, or roughly 8,680 gallons of beer last year, state production data show. A drop compared to other "small batch" producers like Flyway, Ozark and Core. By comparison, each produced 119,271; 121,462 and 131,453 gallons of beer last year, respectively.

West Mountain Brewery in Fayetteville and Blue Canoe Brewing in Little Rock are the most similar in output to Prestonrose. The Paris operation follows a trend of small craft breweries cropping up the past few years in small town Arkansas, including Gravity Brew Works of Big Flat near Mountain View, Rapp's Barren Brewing of Mountain Home and Slate Rock in Amity in western Clark County.

Plans for the Prestons include a taproom extension for more seating, a commercial kitchen, a lodging room for guests, and a larger brewery in an old barn on the property.

"Right now, she can make about 15 barrels a month," Mike Preston said. "Up there, she'll be able to make 15 barrels in a day."

Traditional and funky variations of saisons, ales, stouts, porters, and blondes are available on tap. Some of them feature seasonal ingredients like peppers or bitter orange. And Liz Preston, a microbiologist by trade, brews them all.

Mike Preston said that's a big deal that's often overlooked.

"There's not a lot of chick brewers," he said. "And there's definitely not a lot of chick-owner brewers and you know, she was a home brewer for like ten years."

The year before opening Prestonrose, Liz Preston moved to Vermont and took a year's worth of classes to get a certificate of craft brewing from the American Brewers Guild.

When she returned, Preston said she had made four or five beers and they wanted to sit on them a few months. After getting some calls from the owners of Fossil Cove Brewing in Fayetteville, they instead premiered a coffee porter, a hoppy blonde and a brown ale at the inaugural Frost Fest in Northwest Arkansas in 2016.

"After she saw people actually liked her beer she says 'OK, we can open next week,'" he said. "And we've never had a day where we were open where there hasn't been people here."

Inside, the place glows warmly on a dark rainy evening in November. Two Logan County brothers sat at the end of a wood-carved table swapping stories.

One of them, Tyler Varnell, turned and joked about the California-raised owners, the operation and his first impressions of the place.

"We wrote it off as if it wasn't going to work," Tyler Varnell said, sitting across from his brother Jamie.

"The only church right down the road was an Assembly of God church. We were raised in that church. We knew the community and when we came up here the first time, I was like ... that won't last a month."

Yet this year marks its third year in business for the Prestons. The first year, regulars say, you couldn't order a pint. The owners offered samples and guests had to bring their own growler jugs with them if they wanted beer. Now, Prestonrose has at least five beers on rotation at all times with a food menu on Saturdays and Sundays. Pints are also available. Hours are Thursday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m.

Liz Preston said she would eventually like to teach food classes, host events with area chefs and distribute Prestonrose products statewide.

"I find that beer making is split down the middle," she said. "The engineering and science side of it is crucial to producing a quality product. But the creativity side is just as important as the science and engineering side."

Prestonrose beer is also available at beer festivals, Fort Smith Coffee Co. on Rogers Avenue in Fort Smith and Dos Rocas Beer and Tacos on Main Street in Little Rock, while supplies last.

"It's all really the same philosophy," she said. "If you do things that are genuine, and creative and smart, you know those three things can kind of get you pretty far."

Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Mindy Albanese of Mount Magazine (from left), Dedra Tepe of New Blaine and Nichole Burkett of Subiaco try the beer at Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Co. in Paris on a Thursday in November.

SundayMonday Business on 12/02/2018

Print Headline: Brewer looks ahead to other ventures

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