Most people in Little Rock haven’t even heard of Joe Mains or Leap of Faith. And that’s to be expected; Leap of Faith doesn’t have a taproom or even a brewery to call home right now. But that doesn’t mean that Mains isn’t important to Little Rock’s beer scene. Indeed, you could argue people like Mains are exactly the reason Little Rock’s beer community is quickly growing strong.
Mains has been brewing beer for most of his life. When he was 15 years old, Mains and his father would make beer in their kitchen at home. The brewing bug stuck with him through school and into his service in the United States Navy, then later in the medical industry where he worked for 20 years.
“I just decided I had enough of it,” says Mains. “People kept telling me to build a brewery and sell my beers, so that’s what I’m doing.”
I caught up with Mains at Flyway Brewing where he was brewing his own beers alongside Flyway’s Tim Burkley. Right now, Mains is what is known as a “gypsy brewer,” building his craft at breweries around Little Rock that welcome him in to get his beer going.
“It’s so typical of the Little Rock beer community,” says Mains. “Matt (Foster) and Jess (McMullen) and Tim here, and Stone’s Throw has been great about that, too. They were the first ones that let me do this. Ian (Beard) and Theron (Cash) just called me up and said we should do some collaborations. And that’s how this all started.”
Of course, gypsy brewing isn’t the final goal for Mains. He has teamed up with fellow upstart brewers Blood Eagle Brewing as they finalize plans for a new taproom (two previously announced locations did not pan out). But since those plans could be in development for more than a year, gypsy brewing allows Mains to get his beer out now and build up the Leap of Faith brand.
And it will only be a few weeks until the public can taste Leap of Faith’s first taproom beer. Flyway is putting Mains’ Righteous Indignation Belgian abbey beer on tap when it is ready in a few weeks. Mains is also in discussions to get some of his half-dozen beers on tap at two other Little Rock restaurants in the months ahead. He credits the helpful nature of the city’s brewers and restaurant owners in helping him get started up.
“I love this community,” says Mains. “I say it all the time, and I preach the gospel that it’s a rising tide that lifts all boats. We all support each other, and you see how the community has grown in this city. That support and that camaraderie in the community, you can call anyone in town and they’ll help. That’s the absolute best thing about being in this business right now.
I’ll never be able to repay all the help that I got. All I can do is hope that somebody will come to me wanting to build a brewery, and someday I can let them gypsy brew on my gear.”
This would all be a good story about a brewer chasing his dream if it just ended here, but there is so much more to Mains that makes him one of the most beloved characters in the city’s beer scene. You can find him at almost all the beer events around town, supporting his fellow brewers. His friendly disposition and relaxed attitude make it easy to become friends with him. And lest you think this is all some show, Mains is making it his mission in life and in brewing to help others. That’s why all profits from Leap of Faith Brewing Company will be donated to charity. It’s an inspiring gesture that Mains says comes from the heart.
“I want to break even, pay the bills, and give whatever is left away,” says Mains. “I do fine with my pension, I’m not in this to make money for me. I’m in it for Little Rock, for Arkansas as a whole. Just whatever charity hits us, we just want to have that flexibility to give where the need is.”
It’s that mission that makes Mains truly unique in both Little Rock’s food and beer scenes, and it’s the reason so many in the beer community are willing to help him succeed. While the name Leap of Faith contains any number of religious connotations, it’s the surface definition that so perfectly describes what Mains is actually doing. It’s a true act of self-sacrifice. At the end of the day, he says it’s not too difficult to do, because there’s more than money driving his work.
“I’ve just been blown away to the reaction. It’s humbling. When somebody lifts their beer and goes, ‘Man, you made this? This is really good!’ That’s all the pay I need. I’m just humbled every time anybody says that. I’m blown away.”