Akasha Brewing revs up Pintwood Derby charity event Jan. 24

Logo created by Kentucky Brushes.
Logo created by Kentucky Brushes

If you were ever involved with Cub Scouts, chances are you had the Pinewood Derby experience wherein you built your own miniature car, painted it and raced it against other Scouts in your region.

My car didn’t win a thing, but being involved in an actual race was quite a thrill. Hey, I was 9. And if you share a similar childhood memory, Akasha Brewing has just the thing: the Pintwood Derby, which will happen Sunday, Jan. 24.

Just imagine your childhood Pinewood Derby, but with craft beer. Not bad, eh?

Here’s how it works: Any local business, club or organization can sponsor a car in the Akasha Pintwood Derby for a mere $20. The sponsor then builds and decorates its own car from a kit supplied by Akasha, and the top three finishers receive monetary donations for a charity of their choosing based on the total amount of the entry fees. Winners also get a commemorative trophy.

The idea for Pintwood Derby came from Paul Young’s own experience with Scouts.

“I thought this would be a fun idea for local businesses,” says Young, who coordinates events for Askasha. “I wanted to do a twist on an old concept.”

Akasha is teaming up with Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA) for the derby, which Young hopes will become an annual event. In addition, expect at least one, maybe two, food trucks, and possibly guest beers from other local breweries such as Monnik Beer Co. Young has been organizing special events on Sundays at Akasha, from local brewing history to game nights to movie screenings.

“That little pocket of NuLu is not very active on Sundays, so we wanted to do something to help draw people over to us,” he says.

Competitors for each heat will be randomly drawn, with double elimination, and races will continue in elimination fashion until the top three remain. Donation prizes will be 50 percent of entry fees for first place, 30 percent for second place and 20 percent for third place.

The entry deadline is Friday, Jan. 15, and teams are responsible for bringing their own cars to the Pintwood Derby. Teams may design their cars however they like, but each car’s weight must not exceed 5 ounces, the overall width of the car should not exceed 2¾ inches, and the overall length of the car should not exceed 7 inches (they must be able to fit on a standard Pinewood Derby track).

As far as modifications, entrants can modify as much or as little as they want. The Pinewood Derby car kits come race-ready other than paint and/or decals. Of course, there are ways to make the cars faster, if an organization wants to get competitive.

“I think it’s more about making the car part of the organization’s identity,” Young says. “If they want to do faster cars, there are probably people they could talk to in engineering who might know more about the aerodynamics. I think the main focus is to have fun and make a car that is identifiable to their organization; really, beyond that, people can shape it however they like it.”

Young, who previously owned and operated My Old Kentucky Home Brew, now works at both Akasha and Monnik. He wanted to remain active in the local beer scene, and he’s carved out a new niche.

“I spent seven years selling hypothetical beer, so it’s really nice to be able to say, ‘Here, taste this,’” he says.

Akasha is located at 909 E. Market St. in NuLu; doors will open at 1 p.m. on the 24th, with races beginning at 2 p.m. To enter or for more information, contact Young at paul@akashabrewing.com. Entries should include the following information: business, club or organization name; street address (for car kit delivery); phone number; email address, and charity.

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Akasha Brewing opens for test run; regular hours coming soon

Akasha peopleThe latest Louisville brewery opened its doors Saturday for a NuLu Fest soft opening. Akasha Brewing Company co-owner Rick Stidham said he anticipates the brewery will begin opening for regular hours this coming weekend.

Akasha, located at 909 E. Market St., had four house beers on draft Saturday along with a few guest taps. The spacious taproom is an inviting space, with plenty of tables and about 18 bar seats at a long, L-shaped bar.

A window looks into the brewery, trimmed in barn wood provided by Kentucky Wisewood and installed by Drunkwood; the body of the bar and other trim is also made of reclaimed barn wood, which is an interesting contrast to the otherwise modern decor.

Akasha opened at 11 a.m., and by 1 p.m. the bar seats were full and several people had gathered around a few of the tables in the bar area. Some even brought food to eat at the bar from nearby Feast BBQ.

The entire wall behind the bar is a chalkboard, where bartenders scribbled the available beers along with a list of available merchandise, from growlers to glasses. The four beers available on Saturday included an American pale ale, a gose, a saison and a sour-meets-hoppy “American Pale on Brett.” All Akasha beers were $5; most were 16-ounce pours, but higher gravity beers come in 12-ounce pours.

The American pale ale is a moderately hoppy, crisp and easy to drink beer with an unexpected hint of tartness; balance-wise, it was right on the money for the style. Meanwhile, the gose is another tart, easy-to-drink beer with a mildly earthy tone to it. The saison is a classic Belgian-style ale with plenty of fruit character. All the beers I tried were crisp, clean finishers.

Akasha glassBut the American Pale on Brett was the talk of the taproom. It had a beautiful aroma and an acidity to the lightly sour flavor that had the place buzzing — including Stidham, who said the beer was simply a batch of the American pale that was moved into a tank that had held a bretted beer, which refers to a beer that has been brewed with brettanomyces, a form of yeast that tends to create a sour or “funky” flavor. (These beers are also sometimes called “wild ales.”)

While the beer was a single batch, Stidham said, “We’ll have something like it again.”

He also said likely the next beer to be tapped will be a cherrywood smoked porter, he has a pair of dark saisons currently aging in barrels, and another gose is on the way. Stidham has said he will focus on funky beer styles as a way of differentiating Akasha.

The brewery has 24 taps, so there is plenty of room for more beers. One of the guest taps available on Saturday afternoon was a Moody Tongue Sliced Nectarine IPA, and later in the day the Akasha Facebook page reported several others, including a Dark Horse Fore Smoked Stout.

Stidham said Akasha will likely be closed every Sunday and Monday, with weekday hours probably being something like 4:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the brewery will be open until 11 p.m., and Stidham said he anticipates opening earlier on Saturdays as well (possibly 1 p.m.).

However, don’t expect Akasha to be open again until Friday at the earliest.

“We’re playing it by ear,” Stidham said. “We still have some work to do on the brewery.”

Nevertheless, Akasha makes one more place in town where beer lovers can get a fresh brew. The brewery’s location in NuLu is almost a sure bet to make it a well-traveled location for NuLu diners.

Five new Louisville breweries to watch out for in 2015

Donum Dei Richard OteyThe national Brewers Association reported a 17.1 percent rise in craft beer sales in 2013, despite the fact beer sales were down overall.

Louisville, of course, bears the mark of this popularity surge we’ve been watching the last few years: For instance, Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse is distributing around the country and into western Europe, and announced a $1.7 million expansion in Portland.

Meanwhile, Great Flood Brewing opened to much fanfare in the spring, Apocalypse Brew Works is quietly working on expanding its brewing operations, Bluegrass Brewing Company released a new product called Louisville Lager, Falls City is again brewing in town and, across the big watery divide, New Albanian Brewing Company soldiers on, Red Yeti has begun brewing (finally) and Indy’s Flat 12 Bierwerks has opened a taproom in Jeffersonville that will next year turn into a full-fledge brewing operation.

Heck, even tiny Cumberland Brews shows no signs of slowing down in its cozy Highlands location. Good food and good beer are always a winning combination.

And as Louisville Beer Store, Holy Grale and Sergio’s World Beers keep pushing the goods, LouisvilleBeer.com keeps the hardcore beer nerds informed. It is with that we’ll take a quick look at five new breweries that are either on track for or are working toward opening in 2015. (You can check out a full list of breweries-in-progress around the region and state at the aforementioned LouisvilleBeer.com.)

Akasha logoAkasha Brewing Company: We caught up a few weeks back with co-owner/brewer Rick Stidham, who was originally eyeballing a December open date. Looks more like early 2015 at this point, but Stidham continues to burn the midnight oil to get his space in NuLu (and the beer it will produce) ready for consumption.

Located at 909 E. Market St., Akasha will be close neighbors with Feast BBQ, which opened recently in the same complex. Stidham has a collection of seven-barrel fermenters, plus he’s building out a barrel room, an open fermenting space and, of course, a cozy taproom with a bar and plenty of taps.

Right now, it’s a matter of getting the space built out and getting the brewing started, both of which have been delayed, but construction continues.

“I literally have people working night and day,” Stidham said. The target opening right now is late January, and the smart money is on this brewery to be the first one to open in the new year.

Beer Engine: Ian Luijk and Brian Holton, owners of this Danville-based brewery, deserved better. They bought the old Zeppelin Café (1036 E. Burnett Ave.) in 2012 with the plan to open a Louisville location, and they’ve been battling zoning issues, construction problems and just plain bad luck ever since. But you know what? They’ve persevered, kept a positive attitude and stayed active in the Louisville beer scene. Hell, they may even beat Akasha to open the doors in 2015.

Armed with a 10-barrel system and plenty of good beer recipes, Luijk and Holton appear poised to open in early 2015, perhaps around the same time as Akasha. Look for 10 or 12 house brews as well as some deftly chosen guest taps. The space is about 10,000 square feet, which will include a brewery, barrel-aging room, a patio, a stage, a kitchen and plenty of seating for around 250 thirsty people.

“Things are still moving along,” Holton said recently. “We were hoping to brew by the end of this month, but that’s not going to happen.”

Holton said a chef has been selected to build the menu and run the kitchen, but that his or her name won’t be announced anytime soon. He also doesn’t have a target open date, although March “is a fine guess.”

He added, “Man, I never thought it would take this long.”

Donum Dei new logoDonum Dei Brewery: Over in New Albany, at 3211 Grant Line Road, just a stone’s throw from the original New Albanian Brewing Company location, is another brewery in waiting. Richard Otey is brewing in his new space, which is nearly complete. However, he still is yet to offer a target opening date.

Originally, he told us he had planned to open sometime around Derby 2014; that prognostication later changed to summer, and then to Thanksgiving. Now, early 2015 looks most likely. But Donum Dei already has a batch of its pale ale brewed and ready to drink, as well as an enkle. Up next is wee heavy.

Kegs have been purchased, and the buildout seems mostly complete. Otey is doing most of the buildout himself, using reclaimed materials whenever possible, from rescued wood to 1940s-era mirrors to chairs from an old Wendy’s restaurant.

I stopped by recently, and the place looks within reach of opening. Still, Otey hesitates to throw out a deadline.

“Every time I try to make a deadline,” he told me, “it’s just that — it’s dead.”

He did tell me how he acquired his reclaimed brew kettle, which was purchased from a brewery in Vancouver Wash. — he found it on Craigslist.com on a Friday, left in his truck to pick it up on Saturday, and had it back at the brewery by Wednesday. He called it a five-day “turn and burn.”

Otey gave me a sample of the Donum Dei pale ale, his first test batch, that sure tasted better than a test batch — moderately hopped, it was well balanced and right on the money. He also gave me a sample of a roast beef panini that will be representative of the future food menu — another thumbs up. Expect sandwiches, soups, hummus and other such small eats once Donum Dei opens.

When will that be? Hard to say, although he admits February should be doable. Of course, as noted, last February he began construction hoping to open by Derby.

“I didn’t say which year,” he clarified with a smile.

Bannerman Brewing: Located in Clifton, just down the street from Apocalypse Brew Works on Mellwood Avenue, Bannerman was brewing small batches, waiting on more brewing equipment and working hard at building out its rather large space late last year, with talk of an April 2014 grand opening. In fact, at one point, a Bannerman representative estimated to LouisvilleBeer.com that it was 90 percent finished. And then everything went quiet.

Having tried a couple of brewer Cory Riley’s beers, I was pretty bummed out. In fact, I had nearly given up, but then in November, this post appeared on the future brewery’s Facebook page: “It’s been a long while since we’ve updated the page … Rest assured we’re still chugging away at the project so that you guys can be chugging away on some Bannerman brews soon!”

The last previous post was in January, nearly a year ago. So, maybe Bannerman is going to be a reality after all, which is why it is included here. I reached out to brewer Riley, and he confirmed things are still moving forward, if a bit slowly.

“Same as it ever was,” he said in a Facebook message. “Going well. No target dates.”

If my samples of Riley’s high-octane brews are representative, Bannerman will be worth the wait.

Old Louisville Brewing Company: This is one that is just getting its ducks in a row, with brothers Ken and Wade Mattingly having procured a property at 615 Magnolia near Gallery House and across from (duh) 610 Magnolia, and begun construction. Based on photos posted on Facebook, Old Louisville Brewing has a ways to go before it starts brewing and serving beers, however.

But it sure appears there’s a lot of hard work going on down there since the building was procured in August and a building permit was issued in late November. Issues with the building’s foundation seemed to confound the Mattingly brothers at first, but work continues on. On its Facebook page, Old Louisville says its goal is “to be a destination place that is a community hangout.”

Hey, if there’s freshly brewed beer to be had, then “destination” and “hangout” are solid goals to have.

The original target date for Old Louisville’s opening was early 2015, but that appears to have been overly optimistic. It would be a fair bet that this one will drag on into the summer or maybe even the fall. Here’s hoping things go smoothly from here forward.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Akasha Brewing eyes long-planned opening in NuLu

Akasha logoOpening a new business can be a frustrating process. That’s a big reason why Rick Stidham has taken it slowly with Akasha Brewing.

Stidham, a longtime home brewer, is a fixture in the local brewing scene but has spent well over two years planning his project, which he hopes to open by early 2015.

“I think it’s time,” he says. Heck, it took him two full years just to find the right space for his brewery. But he wanted to do it right as opposed to right now. And when he found the right location, he pounced.

“I had all kinds of ideas in my head of what the brewery and tap room would look like,” he says while standing in the mostly unfinished space at 700 E. Market St. in NuLu. “We walked in here and it was apparent this is where we should be.”

He, along with business partners Matt Meurer and Jerry Nawrocki, are now building out the 5,100-square-foot space with plans for a 16-barrel hot-side brewery operation, cooler, barrel room and open fermentation room, to go with a tap room and an L-shaped bar backed by 24 taps.

The big, open space was formerly a garage, with a bay door on the side perfect for loading in equipment, kegs, etc. Stidham says he will construct a floor-to-ceiling wall to separate the tap room from the brewery, and he plans to create a new entryway as well as a second bay door in the front of the building that can be opened during warm weather.

The tap room will consist of couches, chairs and tables — “I love the back room at Rich O’s, so I have to have that,” he says — as well as the bar, which will back up to the cooler and extend down one wall. The beer will be cooled by a pair of 18,000 BTU air conditioners; the cooler was nearly complete during a recent visit, but plenty remains to be done. It’s all part of the process.

“I think the approach I’ve been taking is when I flipped the switch in my head and said, ‘Yes, I’m doing this,’ I started buying used equipment,” Stidham says. “I just waited for the right deals to come up for what we needed.”

Stidham also studied what other breweries were doing and asked a lot of questions. Not surprisingly, the other brewers around the region were helpful. Stidham notes that Country Boy Brewing in Lexington was a model for him — that brewery also bought used equipment to get started.

“Not only did we follow their model of buying used stuff,” Stidham says, “we bought their used stuff. I know they didn’t make any money when they sold it to us, and we won’t either” when they eventually sell it and upgrade.

Stidham shared a couple of sneak preview tastes with me, highlighted by a cherrywood smoked porter that portends good things. His focus is on funky, soured beers, but he’ll also have the requisite styles craft-beer lovers crave, such as IPAs, stouts and such.

Akasha 6“We’ll always have an APA on — something hoppy,” he says.

Asked how many Akasha beers will be on tap at a time, Stidham promises “as many of our own as we can,” but he also cautions that the types of beers in which he will specialize take weeks or even months longer than basic styles to brew. Expect plenty of guest taps at first, with the house brews filling in as time goes by.

Currently, there are five other breweries in the process of opening in the Louisville Metro area: Beer Engine (Germantown), Old Louisville Brewing (Old Louisville), Bannerman Brewing (Clifton), Flat 12 Bierwerks (Jeffersonville) and Donum Dei (New Albany). There are several more in the works for late 2014 or early 2015.

But Stidham feels confident Louisville’s interest in craft beer is growing at an even faster clip.

“I know there’s not enough in town for me,” Stidham says with a grin.

And most other breweries aren’t focusing on the sour beers Stidham prefers. But the samples I had were more subtle than extreme, and that’s how Stidham seems to approach it.

“You don’t have to knock people over the head with weird things in beer,” he says. “Most of the time, balance is appropriate. Every time you do something weird, it doesn’t have to be extreme.”

Look out for the smoked porter (there’s also a pepper version), some sours and beers with names like Wicked Weed (get ready for hops), Jester King and Jolly Pumpkin. There’s also Twelve Foot Fall Lager, which was named for a deck collapse that nearly cost him a keg of that very beer and also cost him some pretty severe burns when the CO2 tank became disconnected, sending him to urgent care.

“I did manage to save the beer,” he says.

Meanwhile, it’s work, work, work — he’s working through weekends and every evening to try and open before the end of 2014 if possible. After a long wait, now he’s going full-throttle.

“I’m not excited and terrified anymore,” he says. “I’m excited and impatient.”

This post was originally posted by Insider Louisville.