Plenty of college buddies dream of starting a business together, but not everyone takes the plunge.
Jess McMullen and Matt Foster are two buddies who’ve built a business that’s taken flight. As the founders of Flyway Brewing and its sister gastropub Brood and Barley, both based in North Little Rock’s Argenta district, they have carved out a unique space in craft brewing and specialty fare that includes an impressive selection of wild game dishes.
In the seven years since Flyway opened, they’ve faced some challenges – particularly when the two-year-old Brood and Barley was led to close for several weeks as the Covid-19 pandemic forced indoor restaurants to close their doors. But according to McMullen, business has since rebounded, and patrons have flocked to both outlets as beverage and dining destinations.
“The original idea at Flyway was just to have food trucks along with the bar, but business grew so fast that we opened the kitchen and our menu is now extensive,” said McMullen. “Our most popular beers are Blue Wing Berry Wheat and Peregrine Pale Ale IPA- and on the food side- gumbo along with tater tot poutine are leading the way.”
Flyway’s original menu first focused on bar staples like burgers and sandwiches, but due to its being named after the Mississippi Flyway, McMullen and Foster extended the menu to include plenty of migratory birds. Its 68-seat indoor space proved to be so popular that Flyway quickly moved to add lots of outdoor seating under tents in a parking lot on the north side of the building as well.
While Flyway focuses on beer, Brood and Barley offers higher-end drinks including an array of cocktails and full menu of wines. They serve up larger portions of Flyway favorites including nachos, sliders and flatbreads, but also offer everything from a “giant” Philly cheesesteak to inventive plates such as tuna and tentacle, which combines panko-coated ahi tuna paired with an octopus tentacle in a surprisingly tasty combination.
Flyway also sells its craft beers in stores and gas stations across Arkansas and Oklahoma, but their intention is to focus on further expanding within this region rather than planning a nationwide presence. They now craft just over 70 styles of beers, and have trucks delivering kegs to bars and restaurants statewide.
“The biggest reward is having a team and bunch of employees that work well together, coming in every day and creating things together,” noted McMullen. “We have a lot of longtime employees that care about our company and it’s really become a growing family.
“The greatest challenges were caused by the pandemic, as we had to flat out close Brood and Barley for a couple months, but also supply chain issues,” he explained. “Like everyone else, we had some issues getting all the needed ingredients for our food and beers, and we also had to be careful about keeping price changes reasonable for our customers. Giving patrons what they want is our top priority.”
Flyway Brewing is located at 314 Maple St., North Little Rock. Hours are 3-9 p.m. Mon.-Wed.; 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Thu.-Sat.; and closed Sun. Call (501) 812-3192 or visit flywaybrewing.com.
Brood and Barley is located at 411 Main St., North Little Rock. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon.-Thu.; 11 a.m.-mid. Fri.-Sat. and closed Sun. Call (501) 400-8967.