Pairing brews with ebola: Beer with a Scientist at Against the Grain Nov. 12

People in America are scared poopless of Ebola, the deadly virus that is currently in its largest breakout in history — in West Africa, at least.

But a handful of cases have made their way to U.S. shores, and therefore panic ensues. So, should we be working feverishly on a vaccine? Holing up in our underground bunkers that previously were being reserved for the Zombie Apocalypse?

Separating the science from the sensational is what’s on tap for the November Beer with a Scientist program, “Ebola! — What is it, How is it Treated and Should We be Worried?” It happens Wednesday, Nov. 12, at Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse.

Jeremy Camp and Rachael Gerlach of University of Louisville’s Microbiology and Immunology laboratory will speak to the topic while attendees drink beer.

Camp and Gerlach know what they’re talking about, too: The research from the lab examines highly pathogenic RNA viruses — those capable of causing disease — including investigations of hantaviruses, influenza viruses, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus known as SARS-CoV and retroviruses.

The Beer with a Scientist program is now in its seventh month and is the brainchild of U of L cancer researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D. Once a month, regular folks from all walks of life are invited to Louisville’s Against the Grain brewpub for exactly what the title promises: beer and science.

“We lose sight of the fact that most people have never even met a Ph.D., never talked to one,” Beverly said. “(However) whenever I go someplace, if I strike up a conversation at a bar and I tell someone what I do for a living, they always have questions. It leads to a whole conversation.”

Admission is free and the program starts at 8 p.m. Against the Grain is located at 401 E. Main St. Hazmat suits are optional (Against the Grain runs a clean brewery).

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

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Mayor Fischer to announce initiative to promote Louisville beer at press conference Monday

Photo by Cassie Bays.

Photo by Cassie Bays.

Just under a year ago, Mayor Greg Fischer announced an initiative to boost Louisville’s bourbon and dining culture as a major tourist draw.

“They think of Napa Valley for wine,” Fischer said at the time. “We want them to think of Louisville for bourbon.”

The committee charged with driving the initiative was made up of representatives from the bourbon, dining and tourism industry. Even the coffee segment was represented. Brewing was not. And many in the brewing scene took exception.

Not long after, John King was appointed executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, and one of his first orders of business was to right this perceived slight that had left the brewing community scratching its collective head.

King “pissed and moaned” – his words – to Fischer’s office, managed to set up a meeting, and the Mayor’s Beer Work Group was born. The committee brought together King, area brewers in Louisville and Southern Indiana, brewery representatives and others in the growing local beer community to enlighten Fischer on what’s happening and what’s needed, and to make some recommendations.

King, which has called bourbon the “big brother” to Louisville’s brewing scene, said, “Sometimes I check Twitter and it’s ‘bourbon this, bourbon that’ in regards to Louisville.  I wish I could reach through the screen and hand those people a Louisville-made beer as an eye opener to what else is going on in the city.”

The group convened in early summer and met several times. It reached a conclusion on five goals to pursue; the full findings and recommendations will be revealed Monday at a 10 a.m. press conference at Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse, located at Slugger Field. The public (supporters of local beer especially) is invited to attend and have a beer with the work group.

Here is a preview of the five goals:

  • Develop an official beer trail/map that will help promote all of the breweries in the city. This project also involves creating a web presence with promotional videos for each brewery. There also will be printed versions distributed at the breweries and other places around town.
  • Work toward changing Alcohol Beverage Control laws to be more beer friendly. Most don’t realize it, but currently it is a difficult and complicated process to open a brewery and for established breweries to hold special events, conduct tastings and pursue other promotional activities.
  • Represent local breweries and their products in more city-owned and city-sponsored events, functions and venues. Since alcoholic beverages must run through distributors as part of the post-Prohibition three-tier system, it can be difficult for smaller, local breweries to be represented at large events.
  • Create a signature bourbon-barrel event that will be recognized nationally and/or internationally. This helps marry beer to its “big brother” and tie brewing into what Louisville and the rest of the state is primarily known for, and further establishes the city as a beer destination as well.
  • Reconnect Louisville with its brewing heritage. Many in the city are unaware of the rich history of brewing and beer culture in Louisville. Louisville was once a thriving brewing hub, and a beer style was actually invented here in the 1800s. Paying tribute to this history can help further promote current breweries and beers.

More than anything, this initiative is a step toward raising the awareness across the city that the brewing culture in Louisville is thriving. There are currently seven breweries operating in the metro area (more, depending on how you count the various Bluegrass Brewing Company locations, which have varying ownerships), with several more in the works. And this also helps bring the beer full circle to join the local bourbon and dining scene as draws to the city.

“The growth of the Louisville metro brewing industry coincides with the locavore food movement we are seeing now,” King said. “We, as brewers, want to show our Louisville residents that we can provide world class beer in their own back yards. Kentucky may be bourbon country, but our limestone water makes pretty damn good beer too.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Against the Grain Brewery announces major expansion in Portland

ATG expansionA brewery only three years old that has expanded into 38 states and several countries in Western Europe will now expand physically. Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse will open a brewery operation in Portland, increasing its production by more than 400 percent by 2015, according to an announcement this morning.

Currently, the brewery’s operation at 401 E. Main St. at Slugger Field produces about 1,500 barrels of beer annually. The off-site brewery location is 25,000 square feet and will not only expand the amount of beer produced, but will allow the brewery to increase the amount of barrel-aged beers, a staple of Against the Grain, by more than 10 times.

“So you will see more production of barrel aged favorites like Kentucky Ryed Chiquen, Bo & Luke Imperial Stout, and Mac Fanny Baw Salted Rauchbier,” co-owner Sam J. Cruz said in a press release.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.7 million, Cruz said, with brewing potentially beginning as soon as December. The first phase of production will be focused entirely on draft beer. After that, 22-ounce “bomber” bottles will be added, followed by a canning operation for certain AtG brands sometime in 2015. But when the brewery opens, it will be brewing at close to 100 percent capacity. Cruz said he expects the expansion to create approximately 20 new jobs.

“The approach and direction AtG has gone since they started is impossible to characterize,” said John King, executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers. “Their confidence, innovation and work ethic has made them an established name in Kentucky and now worldwide.”

“We don’t and haven’t ever operated in first gear,” Cruz said in an interview with Insider Louisville.

The new addition is located in a warehouse at 1800 Northwestern Pkwy. in the Shippingport/Portland neighborhood, not far from Nelligan Avenue and 16th Street. It was formerly occupied by FischerSIPS, which builds and distributes structural energy panels.

Soon, however, the structure will hold a new three-vessel, 30-barrel brewhouse, along with an undetermined number of 30- and 60-barrel fermenters/tanks, which will provide capacity for an initial annual production of 6,500 barrels of beer. The equipment will be manufactured by W.M. Sprinkman, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer that has been in business more than eight decades.

“We have chosen to work with Sprinkman as we share core values relating to a commitment to quality and the fact that all of the materials and fabrication will be done in the U.S.A.,” Cruz said in the release. “As much as we are committed to Louisville and supporting the quality of our local economy, we must also carry this commitment when choosing our global suppliers.”

Further expansion will include a centrifuge and packaging lines for kegging, bottling and even canning Against the Grain beers.

The expansion follows a trend of local companies taking their business to the Portland neighborhood, including Peerless Distilling Co., Gelato Gilberto and Hillbilly Tea. In addition, there’s the nearby 502 Winery on West 10th Street; Falls City Beer recently moved its tap room and base headquarters to the winery’s facility as part of a merger and plans to re-open its brewing facility there sometime in the future.

“Ultimately, it was by chance” that Against the Grain chose Portland, Cruz said. “We weren’t really looking for any particular neighborhood. It just so happened that, frankly, the perfect space for what we were going to do was in the Portland/Shippingport neighborhood. There were a few other equitable options in Louisville, but none fit the bill quite as well as that did.”

Specifically, he said, the size of the existing bay doors and the access to I-64 were key factors in choosing the location.

Additionally, part of the expansion plan is to eventually open a tap room and retail space at the new production facility, although a timeline has not been decided.

“It doesn’t make sense to develop that portion of the plan until the neighborhood can sustain it,” Cruz said, adding that if the situation dictates it, the consumer-facing portion of the new facility may come sooner rather than later.

The press release notes that the forthcoming expansion actually marks the second such expansion for the brewery – the first was an unannounced “annexation” of the old Park Place restaurant at Slugger Field for the installation of more product tanks as well as a production increase via contract brewing at Pub Dog Brewery in Westminster, Md.

The new expansion has been in the works for some time, with owners Cruz, Jerry Gnagy, Adam Watson and Andrew Ott working for several months to secure the right location and funding. Against the Grain touts itself as Louisville’s first brewer-owned and operated brewery; Cruz, Gnagy and Watson are brewers who have worked at other breweries, while Ott is a veteran restaurateur.

“With the recent expansions of West Sixth and Country Boy (in Lexington), AtG’s new production facility is another progressive movement by a Kentucky brewery,” King said. “Their new facility will allow them to get more beer out to more people and also open up for more experimentation at their Slugger facility. What AtG has accomplished in three years is what every home brewer dreams about. Except, AtG just accomplished their goals in a lot faster manner.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

What’s on tap for Louisville’s beer scene?

louisville beer - leo weeklyMatt Fuller, Vince Cain and Zach Barnes are working their butts off these days. On a recent Saturday afternoon, Fuller and Cain, along with a couple other helpers, were busy building out a 3,000-square-foot space in the Highlands in preparation for opening Great Flood Brewing, their new craft brewery.

They were hoisting a roof piece they’d put together themselves onto what will soon be a walk-in cooler where precious kegs of their beer will be tapped. And even though the space, which is just a few doors down from Twig and Leaf, looked like so many piles of lumber mixed with a few ladders on that Saturday, they remain confident they’ll be open sometime in late February.

Such work is going on all around town. Red Yeti Brewing is building out a space in downtown Jeffersonville and hopes to open by late January; another local brewer, Cory Riley, is eyeing April 1 as an opening date for his Bannerman Brewing in the Clifton area. And Beer Engine, based in Danville, Ky., has been working furiously to open a location in Germantown. In addition, five more breweries are planning to open in 2014 in and around the area.

Add those to six established local breweries and brew pubs — Bluegrass Brewing Company, Cumberland Brews, New Albanian Brewing Company, Falls City Beer, Apocalypse Brew Works and Against the Grain Brewery — and the supply of local craft beer is about to more than double. And that doesn’t even include Gordon Biersch and BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, two chain breweries with locations in Louisville. Nor does that include craft beer destinations such as Sergio’s World Beers, Louisville Beer Store, Buckhead Mountain Grill, Tony Boombozz Tap Room and plenty of others that offer craft brews from around the region and the world.

So how much craft beer can Louisville consume? Sure, there are a lot of hipsters here, but even they spend a ton of their drinking money on PBR. How will a new brewery survive? In talking to a few of them, they express varying levels of confidence.

Barnes, of Great Flood Brewing, says, “We think the demand is going to be great. If (the market for craft beer) grows, the demand will be so great we won’t have to force it. The general market for craft beer is still growing, and that’s fantastic considering the economic market.”

The national Brewers Association reports that there are just fewer than 2,500 craft breweries — which are defined in part as having an annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less — currently operating in the United States. But consider this: There are another 1,500 or so lined up and preparing to begin operations. So, Louisville is not an exception. In fact, Louisville is outpacing the overall trend.

Will the market hold?
The good news is that growth of the craft-brewing industry in 2012 was 15 percent by volume and 17 percent by retail dollars; 13.2 million barrels of craft beer got brewed in 2012, compared with just fewer than 11.5 million in 2011.

Craft beer now represents 10.2 percent of the domestic beer market, according to a recent story by Business Insider; meanwhile, a study by IBIS World predicts the craft beer market will grow to $3.9 billion this year.

A few recent studies have shown a decline in beer consumption as wine and mixed drinks grow in popularity, but it’s the Big Suds breweries — Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors — that seem to be losing favor in the market.

That’s all good news, right? Local brewers feel confident, despite the inherent challenges. In the case of Red Yeti, Paul and Brandi Ronau ran into problems with the building at 256 Spring Street that delayed the opening. If and when it does open at the end of this month, head brewer Paul Ronau says the beer on tap will be guest crafts. Original beers probably won’t be ready until spring, but still they move forward.

At Great Flood Brewing, much research was done to ensure a good chance of success. “We hope we’re not close to a saturation point,” says Cain.

But how will they differentiate from other brewers around town or, heck, just down the street?

“We have such a small capacity size,” he says of Great Flood Brewing’s two-barrel system, “and we’re going to brew so frequently that we’re going to have something new all the time.”

Experimentation will be the order of the day. They are even tossing around ideas of ways to get customers involved in helping out with recipes.

Leah Dienes, co-owner and head brewer at Apocalypse Brew Works, believes there is room in the market for more breweries. Bannerman will open just down the street in April, but she fully believes the two breweries can co-exist.

“As long as beer is coming in from out of state, there is room for more local breweries,” Dienes says. “Buying local is a growing trend across many cities in the U.S. And we are part of that trend.”

Dienes keeps overhead down by operating a taproom that opens only on Friday and Saturday. Many of her sales come in the form of growlers, often to regulars who live in the neighborhood. Apocalypse also brings in food trucks every weekend and hosts special events, creating foot traffic. Poorcastle, a daylong concert series in July, and Yappy Hour, a Kentucky Humane Society benefit as part of Louisville Craft Beer Week, were two events that brought in big crowds in 2013.

Speaking of Louisville Craft Beer Week, it’s also a positive sign that such events and efforts not only exist, but that they keep growing; there are more and more craft beer events popping up each year and enjoying success, from Brew at the Zoo to the Highlands Beer Festival to the forthcoming debut of Tailspin Ale Fest, set for Feb. 22 at Bowman Field. Louisville even has its own website dedicated to the local beer scene in LouisvilleBeer.com.

But all that still doesn’t mean the market couldn’t top out.

Dave Stacy, the head brewer at Gordon Biersch on Fourth Street, believes a saturation point is ahead. Still, if a customer comes to his place and can’t find a beer he likes, Stacy will direct that person to BBC, Apocalypse or Against the Grain. Will there come a time when there is too much of a good thing?

“Beer being the product that it is, I think we’re getting close to that (saturation) point,” Stacy says. “But I still think it’s better to keep that door open.”

It’s a good point. Why panic when the market is still growing? Stacy points out that differentiation is an important factor. Gordon Biersch specializes in German-style beers, and there is no other brewery in Louisville doing that specifically. If you want a Marzen-style beer, well, Gordon Biersch is a good place to look for one.

At the same time, Blue Stallion opened last year in Lexington and also specializes in German lager-style beers. Sure, it’s a good 70 miles down the road, but it’s still down the road. How long before another brewer follows that lead? And for Gordon Biersch, there is also the specter of how beer snobs eschew chains.

“Our challenge is how people view us,” he admits.

Bubble in the beer market?
Roger Baylor, owner of New Albanian Brewing Company, has been in the business of craft beer for quite a few years; his business model with Rich O’s Public House and Sportstime Pizza hinged on it from the word “go” when those side-by-side concepts launched in 1990. Later, he was the first one in town to eliminate sales of corporate beers like Bud Light. New Albanian as a craft brewing entity was founded in 2002.

“Saturation point depends on the capacity of the new breweries, their level of debt service and what size territory they need to get by,” Baylor explains. “What happens when everyone decides to play the game the same way?”

He added that if the amount of beer local breweries need to produce to stay ahead is more than a local market can absorb, then it must be bottled or canned and shipped further and further away, “which tilts the advantage toward larger and better capitalized entities.”

Pat Hagan has been in the craft-brewing business for more than 20 years as owner-operator of Bluegrass Brewing Company. BBC survived a 1990s market that claimed local breweries such as Pipkin and Silo, and also outlasted Ft. Mitchell-based Oldenburg.

“Where is the bubble in the beer market?” he says. “I don’t know whether it’s a saturation point. There are just so many (new breweries) popping up all over country. Somewhere along the line, something has got to give.”

Hagan wonders aloud what the new brewers’ aspirations are. BBC, like NABC, bottles and distributes outside the Louisville market and has a presence in taps around the area. Breweries like Apocalypse can also be found tapped around town. But how big is too big?

“I guess everybody would like to get as big as they could,” he says. “Apocalypse Brews makes good beer and is getting some distribution out. You take small ones like that, (and) I think we can handle a few more. I keep looking at (the demand) and wondering, but it keeps going.”

Like others, however, he’s simply happy the demand has become so big. That has created room for all these craft brewers’ aspirations and promises plenty of new beer in 2014 and beyond.

“At least consumers are more aware of it and more willing to try it,” Hagan says.

Cory Riley of Bannerman Brewing noted that Michigan Brewing Company entered Chapter 7 bankruptcy earlier this year; it is a mid-size craft brewery. A handful of other craft-brewing companies have suffered similar fates over the last year and a half. Is that evidence of saturation in that market, or are these isolated situations?

“In the next couple of years, we’ll hit that saturation point,” Riley says. What will happen then? “The beer will get better.”

Once again, differentiation may be key. Riley says he plans to feature sour beers and Belgian-style beers at Bannerman, which is different than a BBC, a Cumberland or a New Albanian. He also believes people who drink local craft beer will drill down in their support of local products.

“You’ll find that people who live in certain neighborhoods will go to their local brewpub,” he says. Also, he points out that many will avoid drinking and driving by walking to their local brewery for beer.

Of course, that notion takes us back to the days when distribution channels were smaller and refrigeration wasn’t as advanced as it is today. It wasn’t all that long ago that buying a six-pack of Corporate Light at the liquor store wasn’t even an option, so you went to the corner pub with a bucket and got it filled up with whatever was on tap. The return of the local brewer and the growler is obviously a good sign, both economically and socially.

Baylor believes one of the keys may be to remain as local as possible. Five years ago, New Albanian began brewing beer for bottling and distribution outside the Louisville area. But he believes broader isn’t necessarily better.

“It has been a success, but just barely,” he says, “and NABC’s ‘export’ growth is slowing.”

While that doesn’t mean NABC will stop bottling and distributing, what it does mean is a re-focus on maximizing what’s happening in-house, “and be even more ‘local’ than before,” Baylor says.

The problem is that with more small breweries trying to distribute, that means more craft brands for liquor stores to put on their shelves. “But the shelves don’t get any bigger, do they?” Baylor says. “If craft beer is 10 percent or 15 percent (of the market), it still means much of the shelf space has to go to mass market (stock).”

Additionally, the local and regional craft brewers are still competing for that space with established brands like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and even pseudo-craft beers like Blue Moon, he says, and at price points the smaller breweries can’t hope to match.

“So, where’s the market?” Baylor asks. “It’s there, I think, but in places that get ignored. We know they’ll come to our buildings and drink our beer there, and because of that and deep roots, we’ll be OK. But who is our customer elsewhere? And will the new start-ups have time to grow roots?”

All good questions, with unknown answers.

Meanwhile, however, the beer boom is on, and how big the bubble can manage to get is still anyone’s guess. It sure isn’t going to stop those who believe the market has plenty of room to expand.

“You don’t know where a lot of food you eat comes from,” says Barnes of Great Flood Brewing, “or the clothes you wear. I know where (local beer) comes from. It’s a social activity brought down to a natural scale. As long as we keep that dynamic as we’re brewing, I think it’s a permanent trend, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Drink up, Louisville.

This post was originally published in LEO Weekly.

exBEERiment at Louisville Science Center

louisville beer - exbeeriment louisville science centerEveryone knows there is a science to beer; most people just don’t know how it works. The making of beer has fascinated us for centuries, and exBEERiment is here to keep that fascination alive.

This second annual event at the Louisville Science Center happens next Wednesday, Oct. 17, and will offer not only tastings but sessions on the science of home brewing, ingredients and how to cook with beer. You’ll also see a few familiar faces, as exBEERiment partners include New Albanian Brewing Company, Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse, My Old Kentucky Homebrew, Pauly’s Schnitzelburg Pub, Nachbar, Bluegrass Brewing Company and Cumberland Brewery.

Also, exBEERiment will feature free ice cream samples made with beer and liquid nitrogen (???). In addition, adults can take advantage of a kids-free Science in Play exhibit where adult visitors can build rollercoasters, maneuver through a rope maze and play hide-and-seek in the Noodle Forest. Oh yeah, there will also be hydrogen balloon explosions and liquid nitrogen induced ping pong ball volcanoes.

Last but not least is the Brewseum, by My Old Kentucky Homebrew. If you missed this at Louisville Brewfest last month, you really should check it out. Oh yeah, and DJ Matt Anthony will spin some tunes as well.

Tickets are $20 for non-members, $15 for members and business partners, and $10 for designated drivers.

Against the Grain Rolls Out More Goodness

louisville beer - against the grain logoEveryone is buzzing about the Bo & Luke release on Sept. 14, but let’s not forget that Against the Grain rolls out good stuff constantly. I love stopping in to see what’s new. In my two recent visits, I tried a few different styles – one of which didn’t even yet have its clever name up on the board.

Black Pale Ale (6.2% ABV, “just over 40” IBU) – The bartender simply called this one a “black pale ale,” and as I noted, there was no description for it next to the “Dark” label on the tell-all ATG chalkboard. But this beer, whatever it’s called, is a really nice blend of hops and roasted malts. It’s like what might happen if an APA and a nut brown had a love child. I really enjoyed this one.

Pale Pattern Boldness (5.7% ABV, 40 IBU) – This is an american pale ale with a finish that is almost sour. In fact, it really caught my taste buds off guard, because the bitterness was oddly tempered. Otherwise, it’s about what you’d expect: a cloudy, dark orange ale with light head, medium body and plenty of legs. Solid, but not my favorite ATG brew.

Bitter As Appropriate (3.4% ABV, 30 IBU) – “Yes, please” is what I wrote in my notes. That pretty much sums it up: This is an easy-to-drink, light-bodied ale with just enough bitterness to let you know it’s there. A classic summer session ale, not unlike New Albanian Brewing Co.’s Houndmouth.

A Chat With Gordon Biersch Brewer Dave Stacy

louisville beer - taps at Gordon Biersch 1When I took my seat at the bar at Gordon Biersch downtown at 4th Street Live, I was struck by the pure beauty of it. The bright taps, the vibrant colors – not to mention the friendly bar staff who were quick to greet me and ask if it was my first visit.

OK, so Gordon Biersch is a chain; that much we know. As such, my expectations when meeting brewer David Stacy was that he would be buttoned-up and corporate, a man toeing the company line, wearing a bright GB button-down and speaking the corporate lingo. Imagine my surprise when I heard, “Are you Kevin?” and turned to be greeted warmly by a thin man with a graying, medium-length beard, and wearing a baseball cap and overalls.

Turns out, Dave Stacy is just a beer guy like the rest of us. As such, we sat and casually talked about the Louisville beer scene as I sipped on my Gordon Biersch sampler.

To start, GB is a lager house that brews based on German principles using ingredients almost exclusively from Germany. Which is to say, similar to the new Blue Stallion Brewing in Lexington or Hofbrauhaus in Newport, the products tend to be unfiltered, lighter-bodied creations than one normally finds at a smaller brewery. In addition, its 31 locations are all based on the original concept of offering quality food as well as freshly-brewed beer – meaning that the food is just as much the focus as the brews. Not your usual microbrew, in other words.

Nevertheless, while a beer snob may be quick to turn up a nose at GB brews, Stacy makes no apologies. The quality in ingredients and brewing processes is high, regardless of how some might view the concept. He sees that perception as a challenge on one hand, but an advantage on the other.

louisville beer - David Stacy of Gordon Biersch“Our challenge is how people view us,” he said. “We started as one store, and we just grew beyond that. … I realize we are considered the Starbucks. I know there are guys that look down on me because of what I do. But it’s not because of our production standard.”

He pointed out that while most microbreweries situated in neighborhoods rely on regular customers for a fairly large chunk of their business, being located at 4th Street Live means a lot more walk-in traffic from out of town people, or those who are downtown for reasons other than going to the brewpub. This makes being a lager house an advantage, because a larger percentage of the palates who taste his beer aren’t necessarily looking for high gravity or a hop explosion.

And he’s fine with that.

“I’m from a small German community [in Texas],” he said. “I love the origins and traditions of German style production.”

Not that he doesn’t enjoy a bold-flavored beer. In fact, he praises the Louisville beer scene and always keeps other local beers available in his guest taps. He is particularly fond of Falls City, in part because his grandparents drank it often when he was growing up, but he is also quick to sing the praises of the others and to keep them on tap on a rotating basis.

He went so far as to say that when someone comes in and can’t find anything he or she likes, “I send them to ATG or BBC,” both of which, obviously, are nearby. (In fact, he wishes he had more time to visit other local breweries himself, but long hours and being a dad to a toddler make that difficult.)

But with new breweries opening in the area seemingly every couple of months and more on the way, where is the saturation point?

“If you want to compare it to bourbon, there is no saturation point,” Stacy said. “But beer being the product it is, I think we’re getting close to that. But I think it’s better to keep that door open and have [breweries find] success at what they do.”

And while the recipes and brewing standards are GB-wide and are somewhat constrictive, he also has some latitude and gets to come up with outliers referred to as “Brewer’s Select.” Later this year, he said, he plans to brew a red ale, something big and malty (similar, we discussed, to BBC’s Irish Rover Red). That would really throw off the taste buds of the 4th Street Live dwellers.

Here’s an overview of the beer tasting:

louisville beer - Gordon Biersch 2Golden Export (5.0% ABV, 17 IBU) – This is lightest beer available at GB, and is specifically geared toward people who fear anything without the word “light” in the name. Bottom line, if you’re a Bud Light or Miller Lite drinker, and you can’t drink this? There’s something wrong.

Hefeweizen (5.5% ABV, 12 IBU) – This one’s a classic German wheat beer, unfiltered and light orange in color, with lots of banana and clove notes and a smooth texture. Not my thing, but this is a well done version of it, and easy on the palate for people who fear hops and may fancy something fruitier.

Czech Pilsner (5.6% ABV, 36 IBU) – By far the hoppiest of the GB regulars, this one still has only a mild bite. It’s light- to medium-bodied, and made with Saaz hops from the Czech Republic for a tiny bit of spice and a nice tingle at the back of the palate. As a hop guy, this one’s easily my favorite.

Marzen (5.7% ABV, 18 IBU) – At first glance, this could be mistaken for a pale ale with its auburn color, but it’s a Bavarian lager that relies on malts for its flavor. Stacy said this is GB’s top seller, at least here in Louisville.

Schwarzbier (4.3% ABV, 21 IBU) – This is the one that trips people up. Despite a light nutty flavor and light body, the darkness of this lager can be deceiving. This could be why it’s the lowest seller of the regulars. “People confuse it with a porter or stout,” Stacy said. “They see the color and are afraid of it.” It’s unwarranted, but what can you do?

Blonde Bock (7.0% ABV, 26 IBU) – This seasonal is golden and may look light, but has surprising body and flavor. Stacy said it is 90 percent pilsner and is an anniversary celebration beer of sorts for GB. The finish is surprisingly malty, which may belie the kick. “People sometimes forget this is almost equal to two Jack and Cokes for a 20-ounce pint,” Stacy said, smiling.

SummerBrau (4.8% ABV, 25 IBU) – Another annual  brew, this is a Kolsch-style beer, and is one of Stacy’s favorites. Truly, while it’s relatively light, it’s crisp and surprisingly flavorful with a blend of pale-malted barley and malted wheat. I enjoyed this one quite a lot myself. “There are subtle characteristics in this beer that I find fascinating,” Stacy said. “I’m very happy how it came out this year.”

Toward the end of our chat, we further discussed the divide in beer people’s preferences, not to mention the resulting beer snobbery that sometimes ensues.

“A lot of times, I think it’s a cluster of people patting themselves on the back,” he said. He then paraphrased a traditional German saying: “Beer is the every-man’s drink, and it’s only done right if every person can enjoy it.”

He continued by astutely noting that “beer is a common denominator,” because we often enjoy it while sharing our lives and emotions with friends and family. If someone prefers a light beer? So be it.

He concluded: “I like a lot of exotic beer, I like a lot of plain beer. I just like beer, period.”

Against the Grain Ionic Blonde Bridges a Beer Gap

louisville beer - against the grain logoI was at Against the Grain with friends over the weekend, chatting and watching the movie “Rocky Balboa” on the screen behind the bar (odd choice, but whatever), when I was gifted an unexpected smile.

I was sipping a New Albanian Hoosier Daddy (guest tap), and my buddy was drinking an Against the Grain Ionic Blonde, when a guy on the other side of me ordered a pint of the latter.

He said, “Yeah, I’ll take one of those craft beers,”  he said. “The one that’s real light.”

No, there wasn’t anything inherently humorous about him ordering a beer – it just struck me as interesting that he made it a point to call it “one of those craft beers.” You know, as if it was some foreign oddity, perhaps brought to earth by interstellar travelers.

Clearly, this is a guy who normally drinks Corporate Light from a vented can, but he seemed more than happy to join in the fun of enjoying a brew of better quality. When in Rome, and all that. To me, it seems illustrative of how far the craft beer movement has come – even those who default to Bud Light are at least aware of the craft brewing movement, and many of them are curious. I sure hope it keeps going in the same direction.

By the way, I also tried the Ionic Blonde (4.8 ABV, 14 IBU), and it’s a great summer Belgian-style ale: easy to drink, sessionable, and with a slightly dry finish. Highly recommended for sitting outside on the patio on a Sunday afternoon. And way better than a Corporate Light.

(Also, don’t forget to make your submission to my Name This Blog contest. You can win free Louisville beer!)

Against the Grain Boom Gose the Dynamite

louisville beer - against the grain boom gose the dynamite

Thank you, sir, may I have another?

Yep, I tried another Against the Grain beer over the weekend. What a surprise, right? This time it was from the “Whim” tap: Boom Gose the Dynamite.

From the word “dynamite” in the name, I would have expected something extremely hoppy and high ABV, but I got quite a surprise from this very smooth brew. It’s citrus-y and crisp, even a bit sour. In fact, it actually reminded me a bit of a savignon blanc wine. No mind-blowing hop experience here.

ATG calls it a “modern interpretation of an ancient top fermented saline sour ale.” So there you go.

Anyway, it comes highly recommended. I liked it so much that I had a second. Cheers to weekends. And to this refreshing, perfect-for-summer beer.

ABV: 4.2 percent. IBU: 18.

Against the Grain Brunches it Up

against the grain louisville beerThis drinking at 10 a.m. on Sundays thing has been pretty popular so far. The Louisville breweries are getting in on it along with all the chic cafes and hipster hangouts, in fact.

Against the Grain unleashed its new Sunday brunch menu this weekend, including a bloody mary bar. House-cured bacon on a stick? Chorizo biscuits and gravy? With a make-your-own bloody mary option? Sounds delicious.

Of course, New Albanian Brewing Co. over in New Albany, unaffected by the previous no-alcohol-until-1 p.m.-on-Sundays silliness, had been doing its bloody mary bar/brunch thing for a while. They will even make you a mimosa using Huber’s sparkling wines.

Anyway, thanks, Louisville lawmakers, for finally opening the door for some Sunday morning fun.