Meet the Family Behind Natural State Beer Company

Natural State Beer Co

Getting to Know NSBC

While not all related, Natural State Beer Company (NSBC) owners and employees consider themselves family with a deep love for the Northwest Arkansas (NWA) community. Mark Smith, President & Co-Owner, and Dan Clous, Vice President & Co-Owner, are longtime home brewers who met through the local home brew club. Mark grew up in an Air Force family, moving every 3 to 4 years across the West, but has made Rogers his home for 25 years, with his wife Kat and 4 children. Dan was raised in Michigan, currently resides in Chicagoland, but lived in NWA for 15 years and considers it his “home”. They would not have dreamed of opening a business anywhere but Northwest Arkansas; it was the perfect spot for NSBC. They both love what the city of Rogers offers; making it an easy decision for them to find a location for their business within our city.

The pair were having a beer one night after a local home brew meeting and the topic of lagers came up in conversation. Their discussion revolved around the fact that lagers are the number one style of beer in the U.S., but few craft brewers focus on quality lagers, creating an untapped market opportunity in the Northwest Arkansas area. Putting pen to paper, Mark and Dan developed their business plan over the next year and began speaking with friends in the beer brewing industry. While several local brewery owners invested time with Dan and Mark, one of those friends, Andy Coates at Ozark Beer Co. was an extremely generous resource supporting them by vetting their business model and providing guidance regarding equipment and staffing. The spirit of the craft beer industry is one of friendly support amongst the local craft brewers that in any other industry would traditionally be considered competition.  Dan dubs it “co-opetition.” The collective goal for all the brewers in NWA is to appeal to more beer enthusiasts across the U.S. and drive more traffic to the area through beer tourism.

Natural State Beer Co patio

Working with a longtime friend, Dusty Graham with Willow Crossing Development Co., the duo indeed found their future home in Rogers. A small parcel of land that was once earmarked to be a pool behind what was once the Village on the Creeks Athletic Club (now ATLAS), and Dusty was able to help them build to suite. When Mark and Dan saw the location in Village on the Creeks, they knew it was where their dream would come true. Being right off the trail and near the water they initially estimated that  10 to 15% of their traffic would be from the Razorback Greenway. Little did they know, almost 60% of business would come from the trail during the pandemic and now brings much more than they ever estimated. Dan says, “Village on the Creeks provided us that “sweet spot” that was near the mall, entertainment, housing, a growing business community, events, and several new restaurants. Our exit is nestled perfectly between Bentonville and neighboring Springdale and Fayetteville along the I-49 corridor. Village on the Creeks has so many great businesses here as well; doctors’ offices, banks, vendors, restaurants, yoga…you name it, it was a great fit for our business. However, the trail has provided us continuous life.” NSBC opened their doors on November 13, 2019.

Natural State Beer Co

The brewing community is very tight knit. Mark and Dan believe the saying “a rising tide lifts all boats” works well among the businesses. Everyone cheers for one another, especially as the community grows and the amenities of the cities in Northwest Arkansas expand. Visitors coming to one brewery almost always check out the next one. NSBC has been able to continue to grow their business largely due to the support of other brewers, friends, family, business partners, and huge support from the community along our “ale trail”. NSBC has a phenomenal presence on social media thanks to Kat Smith, Mark's wife and Vice President of NSBC. Kat has a knack for social media and works hard to promote the community, events, amenities of the brewery, and more. Be sure to give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Mark and Dan reference their “DNA” for NSBC which guides their business ideas and decisions as well as underpins their marketing strategy. They believe in the dreamers, fellow workers, family, and friends who support them and know that some of the best ideas come from their customers. They feel the connectivity to their patrons and love being a part of the community that they live, work, and play. It truly is all about investing in the very community that supports their business every day. For those lucky enough to move to NWA, it provides such a robust and healthy opportunity for large and small businesses alike. This is what “Where Possible Lives”, our city’s tagline, means to Mark and Dan.

Natural State Beer Co pint glass

The Beer

Like most breweries, NSBC’s menu originated from recipes that the owners had homebrewed over the years. Unlike most homebrewers, Mark and Dan both have an affinity for home brewing lagers. As Mark honed his craft and developed his recipes over 16 years of home brewing, he won several awards for his recipes; several now being brewed at NSBC. While both owners love to brew, they entrusted the back of the house production to the experience of Will Sonneman, their Head Brewer, who joined the team from Fairwinds Brewery in Lorton, Virginia in January of 2019. Will went to school for Culinary Arts and then returned to focus his education on brewing. Will’s expertise has taken their simple home brew recipes to a much higher level of quality and he keeps improving them, which is why patrons should expect something new and better with each visit.

The German Purity Law of 1516, Reinheitsgebot, is NSBC’s standard for the primary lagers on tap, using only malt, hops, water, and yeast. They gravitate towards lagers as they are often experientially simpler than ales, crisp and refreshing. NSBC also aims to keep alcohol content lower for many of their beers, allowing them to be what the industry calls “sessionable”; highly drinkable without making the consumer full. There are 8 primary beers on the menu that will always be available, with 3 seasonal beers rotating. Guests often try the variety of colors and flavors through flights of 6 to 8 beers to identify their favorites. Beers that do not conform to the German purity law are dubbed NSBC’s “Unnatural Series” and are rotated in occasionally. Also, beers above 6.5% ABV are dubbed their “Supernatural Series”.

natural state beer co beers

NSBC wants their patrons to feel like they are learning and understanding about the beer. They traditionally do not name their beers, so patrons focus on and better recall the style of beer they are drinking. However, this past Spring, they broke their own rule, and launched the first named beer called the Greenway Light Lager; a tribute to the patrons that frequently purchased “to go” beers as they came off the bike trail. This lager is 3.6% ABV | 15 IBU with fewer calories and is highly sessionable!

Unlike brewpubs, NSBC cannot not serve food; however, they partnered very early with Chef Brent Hale, owner of Big Sexy Food.  Big Sexy has a food truck that sits just outside the brewery’s front door. Patrons can order food at the truck window, hop inside to get tableside service for their beer (something unique to NSBC), and their food will be delivered when ready. The food menu includes over 14 types of burgers, 10 types of “stuffies” chock full of ingredients, 13 types of deep-fried bacon wrapped hotdogs, and a variety of snacks such as cheese fries, mac-n-cheese (veggie option available), brussels sprouts, and more. Mark recommends the El Guapo Stuffie with the NSBC Kölsh and Dan loves the EIEIO burger with their seasonal Oktoberfest beer.

The Taproom

The NBSC owners embraced the German concept of Gemütlichkeit, when designing the taproom, to provide a warm, friendly atmosphere and good cheer.  Their goal was to provide the ultimate drinking experience for the community, friends, and family, which included the sensory experience of smells, taste, sight, and even sound. NSBC enhances that experience with “elegance through simplicity”, enabling patrons to connect with the beer, while also connecting with nature. They invite their patrons to an outdoor experience on the patio overlooking the Razorback Greenway and viewing pond; or to relax inside the taproom featuring luxurious wood bars and tables rescued from trees that were once storm damaged on the University of Fayetteville. The taproom team, led by Brantley Wright, are knowledgeable of the beers, their profiles and how they pair with certain foods.  They are quick to welcome you when you enter, and happy to take your order at the bar, tableside, or even from the patio window!

natural state beer co interior

Giving Back

NSBC was excited to announce their “Match Tip” Mondays program early this year. “If not for the Rogers and NWA community, we would not have survived 2020 and it is only right that we invest right back into it! We know there is much philanthropy that takes place here, however, many of the donations go to large national charities where we do not see the local impact. That is why we select local charities supporting local interests so we can see the impact right here in NWA. Each owner has selected a “pet” charity based on their own experience. “Match Tip” Mondays is an easy way for our employees and patrons to participate. The more generous our patrons are to our employees via tipping, the more we give to local charities that we select each Monday through an equal match from NSBC. Our employees strive to provide stellar service, the patrons are generous, and we invest back in the community. It really is a win-win-win!”, says Dan. 

natural state beer co staff

This program started in early 2020 prior to the pandemic and one of the first organizations to receive funds was Autism Involves Me (AIM), which is a local organization here in NWA. Mark and Kat’s oldest son, Ryan, who works at the brewery and taproom has Asperger’s so this organization hits close to home for them and they wanted to support the local chapter. They were able to present AIM with a donation and Ryan was right there with him to help present. NSBC had to close the taproom for a short period, stopping the program temporarily, but they are very close to relaunching the initiative again and are looking forward to giving back to the community through it.

Brewery Tours & Events

If you would like to see how they brew their beer, head brewer, Will Sonneman, gives free tours of the brewery on Sundays from 2pm to 6pm. NSBC can also be contacted for private parties and special events. For more information, you can reach out at (479) 202-9454 or by email naturalstatebeer@gmail.com. 

natural state beer co beer vats

Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.