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Brewing hobby turns to business for Pridgin family in Scranton

Alex Gladden
Times Record
Pridgin Family Brewery co-owner Reba Pridgin welcomes guest to the Scranton establishment. Pridgin said that the wood from a century old barn that was on a family farm was used in construction of the window and door facings of the taproom, as well as the hand crafted tables and bar that are the centerpiece of the rustic decor.

At Pridgin Family Brewery in Scranton, each family member has a role to play. Everyone takes a turn as a bartender. The youngest brother and a brother-in-law make the beer. The sisters tackle taproom operations and scheduling. 

The staff is one big family, literally. They all pitch in to help at 1328 Rodeo Arena Road.

Brewing started as a hobby for the family when David Pridgin, Jr., the youngest brother, and Heath Spillers, a brother-in-law, started making their own beer. 

“After a little while we felt like we were making good enough beer that we could sell beer,” David Pridgin, Jr. said. 

The brewery opened in Scranton amid the pandemic in August 2020. Because of the pandemic, the crew put extra thought into how to keep people safe.

“It’s really important to us during the pandemic to try to keep ourselves and everybody safe,” said Lori Garvey, another sister. 

The brewery has patios that line the sides of the building and enough space to spread people out in the building, Garvey said. The brewery, at about 4,000-square-feet, has the feel of a neighborhood bar.

Tap handles are hand-crafted from recovered barn wood, making each unique.

The Pridgins also offer curbside pickup of their growlers. 

To teach himself how to brew, David Pridgin, Jr. said he researched and read a lot of articles on the internet about making beer. He also picked the brains of other brewers, particularly working with Steve Arnold, a homebrewer out of Fort Smith.

“Brewing’s been around for a lot of years and being able to pull information from people that have done it for years and years is pretty helpful,” David Pridgin, Jr. said. 

The Pridgins have developed relationships with other brewers in the area, said Reba Pridgin, the mother. 

“Brewers like to share information. There’s sort of a camaraderie there,” Reba Pridgin said. 

Arkansas beer writer Brian Sorensen of Fayetteville said breweries in small towns such as Scranton become community spaces and places for people to come together. 

“It’s a place to connect with friends, exchange ideas, do business and just feel like you’re a part of the community,” Sorensen said. 

The Flight Boards offered at the Pridgin Family Brewery allow visitors an opportunity to sample PFB beers on tap. Beer names are reminders of area history and the rural heritage. The darkest beer on tap, Bluff Ferry Porter, is reminiscent of the ferry that was used to cross the Arkansas River between Morrison Bluff and Spadra and was operated by Reba Pridgin's grandparents. The Nine Pin Wheat is named for the lawn bowling league that was prominent in the community in the late 1800s and the  Rough Rider ale is named for the local riding club that sponsored rodeos on the southern part of Rodeo Arena Road.

Sorensen said there are about 45 breweries in the state, a number that has skyrocketed from 2010 when there were only a few. 

He estimated that about half of those, similarly to Pridgin, only provide beer in-house. Many of Arkansas’ breweries are in rural areas. 

“In my mind it’s just a hallmark of our state’s brewing industry,” Sorensen said. 

Within 10 miles of Pridgin Family Brewery, Preston Rose Farm and Brewing Co. and Country Monks Brewing also make and sell beer. 

“Which is amazing, it’s a small area. Who would’ve thunk?” Sorensen said. 

Arkansans have embraced craft beer, he said. 

“They are not only supporting these breweries, but they’re allowing people to thrive,” Sorensen said. 

Ox Bend Brewing in Ozark, about 24 miles from Scranton, opened Dec. 1, 2018, said Karra Busch, the owner of the business.

The brewery tries to keep on hand a stout, a light beer and an IPA, Busch said. She has eight beers on tap, including a seasonal cinnamon donut beer, and will soon have some of her beers available in liquor stores. 

“We like to have a lot of fun with the beers that we keep on tap,” Busch said. 

Those other breweries, such as Preston Rose and Country Monks, work with Pridgin Family Brewing, sending customers there while they’re only providing take-out, Heath Spillers said. 

The Pridgin family is passionate about beer. David Pridgin, Jr. started developing this passion when he was first introduced to craft beer.

“I pretty much nerded out on it and wanted to learn everything I could and keep learning,” David Pridgin, Jr. said. 

He started with a wheat beer, which he called “kind of a gateway beer.” 

It takes all day to make the beer and then three weeks to ferment it, Reba Pridgin said. 

The word the family would use to describe the beer-making process is meticulous. For them it ensures consistency in the beer. 

“When there’s a beer from us, I feel like when people come back for that beer, it’s like very consistently that beer that they’re looking for,” Garvey said. 

This consistency is important to the family, Reba Pridgin said. 

“A lot of people will brew, and it won’t be the same, so they just call it a new beer,” Reba Pridgin said. She continued, “These guys are able to produce a good beer consistently.” 

The Pridgins are still perfecting the artistry to making their beer, David Pridgin, Jr. said. 

“Our goal, in the beginning, was to have beers that would appear to the masses ... we wanted to make beer people would drink,” Heath Spillers said. 

Although the family doesn't have plans to bottle or can their beer in the near future, it might be something the Pridgins do in the future. They would need to be sure of the demand for it before beginning the project, Reba Pridgin said. 

The brewery offers complimentary popcorn and a charcuterie tray for sale but does not offer a full restaurant menu. The building that the Pridgins have now wouldn't support a commercial kitchen. 

Reba Pridgin said the family has considered offering food through a caterer or food truck and she encourages people to bring their own food if they'd like. 

The business has seven beers on tap with the promise of new beer variations coming soon, David Pridgin, Jr. said. 

The most customers the family has ever had was 150 on a Saturday, Reba Pridgin said. On a good day between 20 and 25 people visit the brewery. 

“A lot of what we try to do is create an atmosphere where our neighbors and friends and people from all over can come and sit and enjoy themselves,” Reba Pridgin said. “It’s generally a pretty happy place especially after the first beer.”