UACES Facebook Arkansas-grown berries used in Arkansas blackberry beer pilot project
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July 8, 2022

Arkansas-grown berries used in Arkansas blackberry beer pilot project

By Rebekah Hall
U of A System Division of Agriculture 

Fast Facts:

  • Blackberries come from Ritter Farms in Judsonia
  • Beer can be sampled at Stone’s Throw Brewing tasting on July 22 and Block on Rock event on July 30
  • Trial batch is part of University of Arkansas’ Share Grounds project

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LITTLE ROCK — For blackberry lovers, the sweet, tart fruit is the star of many summer dishes. One Arkansas blackberry producer, Ritter Farms, is teaming up with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Arkansas Brewer’s Guild and Stone’s Throw Brewing to create a flavorful batch of blackberry beer, made with berries bred through the UA System blackberry breeding program and grown in Arkansas. Blackberry – and beer – fans can sample the results at a tasting on Friday, July 22.

Blackberries and beer
BLACKBERRIES & BEER — Amanda Philyaw Perez, extension associate professor of food systems and food safety specialist; Theron Cash, co-founder of Stone's Throw Brewing; and David Hill, extension program associate for food systems and food safety enjoy the fruits of their labor: a trial batch of Stone's Throw Brewing blackberry beer using berries bred in the University of Arkansas blackberry breeding program. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

The July 22 tasting will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Stone’s Throw Brewing at 402 East 9th Street in Little Rock. Attendees will be able to try beer made in one of two ways: one with whole, fresh blackberries and the other with juice and puree from fresh blackberries. The blackberry juice and puree were processed at the Division of Agriculture’s Share Grounds at Three County Fairgrounds in McCrory. The program connects Arkansas growers and food entrepreneurs with the technical assistance and infrastructure needed to start or scale-up food businesses.

Amanda Philyaw Perez, extension associate professor of food systems and food safety specialist for the Division of Agriculture, said Ritter Farms in Judsonia primarily sells their blackberries for wholesale, fresh markets. Ritter Farms estimates that each summer they have more than 200,000 pounds of excess blackberries that cannot be sold to these markets.

In an effort to use these excess berries and create a value-added food product, Ritter Farms is working with the UA System and Stone’s Throw Brewing to evaluate the use of these Arkansas-grown blackberries for beer production. Philyaw Perez said she hopes this pilot project will help expand blackberry beer production in breweries around the state, as the brewing industry has shown to be a valuable source of support for local food systems in other states.

 “It’s worked in other communities around the country,” Philyaw Perez said. “Where the beer flows, the food, culture, art, entertainment, local agriculture and economic development follow.”

Amanda McWhirt, extension horticulture crop specialist and Renee Threlfall, research scientist, both for the Division of Agriculture, have worked on a project to support the Arkansas brewing industry with Arkansas-grown hops.

“The Arkansas fresh-market blackberry industry is growing, so finding ways to use locally grown fruit in local industries supports our blackberry growers as well as our consumers,” Threlfall said.

Theron Cash, co-founder of Stone’s Throw Brewing, began the brewing process for the blackberry beer early on the morning of July 6. First, he steeped water and malt, boiling that mixture with hops before cooling and draining it. Next, he combined more than 60 pounds of blackberries with boiling water to sanitize and filter the berries.

The blackberry mixture was then cooled down before being piped into a large fermenter, along with the hops and malt mixture. Here, it will ferment for the next two weeks before it’s ready for a taste. Cash will also complete this process using juiced blackberries.

After the tasting on July 22, the blackberry beer will also be available to sample at Stone’s Throw Brewing’s Block on Rock event on Saturday, July 30. To learn more about Block on Rock, visit its event page on Facebook.

For more information about the Share Grounds project, visit the Share Grounds webpage. For more information about the Arkansas blackberry breeding program, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station’s Fruit Breeding website. For food entrepreneurs interested in potentially participating in the Share Grounds project, contact your local extension county agent or David Hill, extension program associate for food systems and food safety, at 501-671-2048.

This project was made possible with support from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant, USDA Local Food Promotion Program, Southern Risk Management Education Center, Arkansas Community Foundation, Arkansas Rural Development and County Fair Association’s.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact:
Rebekah Hall