Standards of Quality
ONF has the best little Beer and Wine Department in any grocery store in the Northwest Arkansas area. We strive to supply our owners and customers with the highest quality beers that we can find with the cleanest ingredients and that are brewed by independently owned breweries. As for our wines, we do extensive research to find those that are made from grapes sustainably grown and harvested and that are also produced with the cleanest ingredients possible.
View our Beer Selection.
Beer and Wine laws in Arkansas
The State of Arkansas allows grocery and convenience stores to carry beers and wines, but with certain limitations. For beers, we are only able to carry those that are 6.3% or less in alcohol by volume (ABV). This means we cannot carry a lot of the latest craft beers that are pushing the limits of alcohol content. But that’s okay, because we can focus on the quality beers that are crafted to go well with food.
We can only carry wine that is produced by ‘Small-farm wineries,’ meaning those that produce less than 250,000 gallons per year. While that may seem like a lot, it actually limits us from carrying most all wines from Europe and most all currently Certified Organic wines. But it also means we can focus on those local wineries and small family-operated wineries from elsewhere in the country that focus on sustainable practices.
Additional Arkansas State laws restrict us from selling beer or wine on Sundays. Also, if we were to sell alcohol to a minor, both the cashier and the store would be fined, and we would risk losing our permit to sell. Therefore, the store policy is to protect our cashiers and limit their liability by requiring an I.D. for absolutely all alcohol purchases, no matter the person’s apparant age.
Ales and Lagers
For most of beer’s 6,000 year history it was brewed in the ale style—using top-fermented yeasts—and without hops. Hops were introduced to beer-making around 700 A.D. but became more prevelant in the later Middle Ages. Around the same time Germans began storing, or lagering, their beers in cooler conditions, thereby beginning the lager style of beer which uses a bottom-fermenting yeast. Lager beers tend to taste cleaner and crisper and are the world’s most popular style, especially in the Pilsner tradition.
Ingredients and Vegan Beers
Beers have four primary ingredients: water, malted grains, hops, and yeast. The infamous Bavarian Reinhotsbegot (Purity) Law of 1514 ensured that German beers would stick to those four ingredients for centuries and is still today a standard that many breweries proudly follow. However, there are many beer styles that will incorporate other tasty ingredients such as fruits or herbs for flavoring.
Another set of ingredients are used to clarify, or reduce the cloudiness, of beer. Some of these clarifiers are not vegan-friendly, such as isinglass which is derived from gelatin. Other ingredients or production methods may not be considered vegan friendly.
This is simply a wide-open market. There are very few breweries that use organic ingredients, let alone get their products certified organic. The few I’ve been able to find so far are from Samuel Smith in England and Pinkus in Germany. Availability is also dependent on the distributors carrying such beers. If you know of any organic beers that you’d like for us to carry, let us know and we’ll research it.
Gluten-Free Beers & Ciders
We’re very happy to be able to carry several gluten-free beers and gluten-free ciders. Each of the gluten-free beers and ciders that we carry are independently certified as gluten-free, but we strongly recommend that if you have celiac or any other gluten-type intolerance to please consult with your physician before sampling them.
We’re very lucky to be living in a state with a strong local wine production tradition. Arkansas actually has many wineries, and if we included all the Ozarks as our region (such as Missouri), we could count many more wineries as local. Of course, the laws regarding distribution affect what we can carry; but also quality of production will influence what we carry.
We are very happy and proud to carry three local wineries: Keels Creek Winery in Eureka Springs, Mt. Bethel Winery in Altus, and Post Familie Winery in Altus. If you know of another winery that produces large enough volume at a high enough quality for us to consider selling, please let us know and we’ll research them.
We’ve had the pleasure of visiting each of the local wineries during the month of February 2012.
Keels Creek Winery is a relative newcomer to Arkansas’ winemaking community, but they have a strong vintage. Edwige comes from France and has a history of being a foodie and wine connosieur, while her husband comes from a chemist’s background that he has ably transferred to the complex chemistry of winemaking. Besides growing their own grapes, they also buy from local growers, including grape growers in Lowell, Hindsville, and extreme southern Missouri. They are focusing on remaining small producers with high quality, and include in their lines Vivant, Franc’N Zin, and La Row Red.
Mt. Bethel Winery comes from a long tradition of grape growers and wine makers from the Altus region since the 1800s. Their whole family continues to be involved in every step of the process. They have a whole range of offerings including the traditional wines like Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc; they also have the varieties indigenous to Arkansas and the South such as Muscadine and Cynthiana. But in my opinion they really shine with their fruit wines: Elderberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Strawberry, and Wild Plum. Mt. Bethel Winery both grows and buys these fruits from farmers across Arkansas (some fruit wines such as Blueberry and Raspberry may include fruit brought in from out-of-state, depending on the year’s weather conditions).
Post Familie Winery also comes from a long tradition of grape growers and wine makers from the Altus region since the 1800s. They actively support the state’s grape growers so much that they buy about 80% of the state’s grape output, including grapes from several farms in Northwest Arkansas. Post Familie makes traditional wines as well as less tradional wines that grow well in this region of the country, such as Vignoles, Chambourcin, Muscadine, and Ives Noir. These wines are excellent and go especially well with locally-grown foods found in our Produce Department and Meat Department. Also, Post Familie makes downright delicious juices, including Red Muscadine Juice and Grape Juice, both made from Arkansas grapes—not concentrate—with no sugar added.
Wines also use various ingredients besides the grapes in their production, including fining agents or clarifiers. Because there are so many wineries in the world, it will be difficult to get a comprehensive list of vegan-friendly wines, especially if they are small-farm wineries such as what we carry. You can refer to Barnivore for a fairly good list of vegan wines.
Like organic beers, this field is wide open. There are some large wineries that are proudly certified organic, such as Frey and Bonterra, but they are too large for us to carry due to our restriction to small-farm wineries. But we are very happy and proud to carry Orleans Hill wines, which are certified organic and very tasty.
I have extensively researched the other wines available to us so that we can carry only those wines made from grapes that are sustainably grown and harvested. In many cases I speak directly with the wine grower, in other cases the winery’s web site will state explicitly what their sustainable practices are.
Please let us know of any other small-farm wineries in operation that have high quality wines, and I will research their availability to us.
Sulfites in Wines
Sulfites occur naturally in grapes and are also used in growing grapes to inhibit mildew. According to Orleans Hill—the winery that produces organic and sulfite-free wines—any naturally occuring sulfites will disappear in the fermentation process, only to be added in later. Wineries add sulfites to wine to help inhibit oxidation and microbial growth, which in turn means they can last longer in shipment and storage.
While robust red wines can last reasonably well without sulfites, lighter reds will last just a few years, and whites basically need to have sulfites in them if they are going to make it past a couple of months.
So far the only winery we can find that is certified sulfite-free is from Orleans Hill; however, I’ve spoken with or researched the other wineries we carry and they all assure me that they add the minimum amount needed. For instance, Post Familie does not ship their wines overseas or out-of-state, and they bottle frequently through the year, so they can add the very smallest amount necessary.
Terminology for sulfites:
“Sulfite Free”: no sulfites detected in parts per million (ppm, or less than 1 mg/liter); must be third-party certified.
No statement: less than 10 ppm (or 10 mg/liter) of sulfites are present, but most wineries will want to show that fact off and will state something like: “Contains naturally occuring sulfites, no sulfites added”.
“Contain Sulfites”: contains over 10 ppm (or 10 mg/liter) in sulfites; most wines fall into this category. They cannot have over 350 mg/liter.
The U.S. is the only country thus far requiring any labeling of sulfites.
To put this all into perspective, according to Andrew L. Waterhouse of UC Davis, California, the human body produces 1000 mg of sulfites each day. A typical glass of wine has about 10 mg of sulfites. And finally, there is yet no medical study supporting the hypothesis that sulfites cause headaches. There is, however, a yet undetected compound in red wines that do cause an adverse reaction in some people.
We list more specific food pairings with the specific beers and wines, but there are general principles that can be followed as a guide:
- Pair light meals with light wines and beers.
- Pair subtle meals with more delicate wines and beers.
- Pair acidic or sour foods (tomato dishes, vinagrettes) with wines at least as acidic, or use dry wines; pair with hoppy beers.
- Pair bitter foods (walnuts, eggplant dishes, grilled dishes) with tannic wines or bitter beers like IPAs.
- Pair salty foods with acidic wines or sweet wines; just about any beer will do.
- Pair desserts with wines or fruity beers that are at least as sweet as the dessert, if not sweeter.
- Likewise, pair rich foods with rich wines and beers.
- For beers, think of Ales as red wine and Lagers as white wine.
Another general approach:
- For fish, vegetables, boiled or steamed foods, and sauces with lemon or vinaigrettes pair with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Vivant, and lagers or wheat beers.
- For pork, poultry, foods that are baked, sauteed or roasted, and butter, cream or olive oil based dishes, pair with Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, bocks, and pale ales.
- For beef, lamb, deer, or foods braised, grilled, or stewed, or cooked with meat stocks such as hearty soups, pair with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, brown ales, porters, and stouts.
For cheeses, try this simple guide from Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of The Brooklyn Brewery, and the American Dairy Association (ADA). I got it from the great website called Beer Advocate:
- Sharp Cheddar with Pale Ale
- Feta with Wheat Beer
- Mascarpone with Fruit Beer
- American Cheese with Pilsner
- Colby with Brown Ale
- Gorgonzola with Barleywine
- Gruyére with Bock Beer
- Swiss Cheese with Octoberfest Beer
- Parmesan with Amber Lager
- For that special class of beer, the IPA, pair it with sharp cheeses, nutty cheeses, curry dishes, and fish dishes.