Great Flood Brewing co-owner Vince Cain recalls that when he and his business partners opened the doors to the business nearly a year ago, one of the primary goals was for each of them to quit their full-time jobs to focus on the brewery within a year and a half.
“We’ve been working here together full-time since July,” he says.
Call it the little brewery that could as it nears its first birthday in its cozy spot at 2120 Bardstown Road, a birthday it will celebrate on Saturday, April 11, with a limited release of four bottled beers and a birthday party featuring a full tap lineup of 16 Great Flood beers (usually there are roughly seven or eight with guest drafts balancing out the taps).
Plenty has happened during that first year of business. Cain reminds that they were in the brewery space working on Christmas Day 2013, so for he and co-owners Matt Fuller and Zach Barnes, the timeframe is actually closer to a year and a half.
Upon opening, local beer enthusiasts famously drank Great Flood nearly completely out of beer the first weekend, forcing the owners to close up shop that first Sunday to regroup. But regroup they did, brewing the 100th batch of beer as a collaboration with Grind Burger Kitchen back in December. Along the way, the beer kept getting better, and the owners invested in some barrels and a new brite tank.
And with the beginning of 2015, the brewery began opening seven days a week, versus four when it started out. The demand was there. And in January, the Flood Liars Club, a 100-member exclusive mug club, was announced and sold out within days.
Of course, it wasn’t all rosy; earlier this year, one of the major music publishers, ASCAP, came calling: Great Flood had become a popular place for local and even touring bands to perform, something ownership wanted to do to help support local arts (the brewery has gone out of its way to be an active community contributor, from hanging local art on its walls to hosting charity events). But ASCAP demanded money, claiming the original artists that local performers covered needed to be paid.
It forced Great Flood to not only cancel a number of shows, but to stop hosting live music altogether. Cain noted that the brewery never profited – it never charged admission, and bands always got paid. (Unfortunately, publishers strong-arming small venues for publishing fees isn’t something new, as evidenced by a coffee house in Missouri that was forced to stop featuring live music due to such tactics.)
“They are asking for outrageous amounts of cash,” Cain said at the time, “and if we pay them we have to stop paying bands. I think what hurts me is I feel bad for our customers and the many local artists who were relying on us, frankly, for part of their income. I viewed it as more of a service to the neighborhood. And it’s just gone now because of the greed of whoever these people are.”
But luckily, quality beer keeps customers coming back, even without the live music. And the latest round of special-release brews is no exception.
There are a limited number of four-packs available of the four bottled beers, which include Tribulation, a bourbon barrel-aged stout made with coffee and oats; Double Eclipse, an imperial brown ale aged in bourbon barrels; Old Imperial ’37, an imperial porter made with vanilla and barrel aged; and Velvet Racer, an imperial red ale aged in bourbon barrels. Each bottle is 750ml, and once the four-packs sell out, the remaining individual bottles will go on sale.
Each of the high-gravity beers has its own delicious character, but Old Imperial ’37 especially satisfied, with its intense vanilla nose and chocolaty balance on the palate with a hint of oak in the finish. The beer feels like velvet in your mouth. Fuller said it was finished with Madagascar vanilla beans – this is not extract vanilla from a supermarket, evidence these beers got plenty of time and attention in the brewery.
Interestingly, Fuller also says the bottled versions of the beers are somehow even better than the draft versions poured for the Flood Liars Club in an exclusive preview on April 1.
“There’s nothing different,” he says, “but I swear to god they’re better somehow.”
Great Flood isn’t stopping with its one-year celebration, as Cain says the ownership trio is “actively pursuing a second location” that would be a production brewery that would serve not only the tap room but guest taps around town with 30- and 60-barrrel fermenters. He says he hopes that will be up and running “conservatively, by the end of 2015.” More bottles and possibly canning would potentially follow in 2016.
Asked if he expected Great Flood to succeed to the level it has, Cain says, “We had dreams it would go this well, but we didn’t have expectations.”
Great Flood will open for business at 5 p.m. on April 11 for its one-year birthday celebration, and four packs of the new brews will go on sale immediately.
This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.