Derby City BrewFest set for May 6, adds bourbon barrel beer competition

Derby City BrewFest banner

Going into its second year, Derby City BrewFest will graduate to the next level — this year, in addition to beer tastings and live music, the Oaks Day festival also will hold a bourbon barrel beer competition.

This competition, which will be judged by certified BJCP judges, will include 20 area brewers who have created a beer and then aged it in Four Roses bourbon barrels. (Four Roses is the sponsor of the contest and this year’s BrewFest.) Beers will be judged prior to the festival, but attendees will be able to sample the beers and vote in a People’s Choice category.

“The bourbon barrel competition seemed to be the next logical step,” Pat Hagan, Derby City Brewfest founder and Bluegrass Brewing Company (BBC) owner, says of the May 6 event. “Few things are more representative of Kentucky than bourbon, and to do it on a weekend when the world is focused on Louisville thanks to horse racing makes it even more logical. We even have Four Roses Bourbon as a sponsor.”

“We are honored to play a role in BrewFest again this year, and we’re really excited to taste the Four Roses Bourbon-inspired beers the brewers create,” said Brent Elliott, Four Roses master distiller, in a press release.

The festival, which takes place on the KFC Yum! Center Plaza, also will pay homage to Kentucky Common, a beer style that was invented in Louisville in the 1800s and was the brew of choice for 80 percent of Louisvillians for decades. Several breweries will have their versions on hand for tasting.

In addition, the event will feature more than 100 beers from 28 local and regional craft brewers, including all Kentucky Guild of Brewers (KGB) members. Wine samples will be available to attendees from Little Kentucky River, and Four Roses will provide bourbon sampling. Once again there will be live local music all evening, including Quiet Hollers, Jericho Woods, Carly Moffa, the Uncommon Houseflies, Hot Brown Smackdown and Whiskey Bent Valley Boys.

Another addition to Derby City BrewFest this year will be locally made trophies for bourbon barrel contest winners by local artist Wayne Ferguson, whose work ranges from Gallopalooza to brewery tap handles. Ferguson also designed and sculpted the Worthog mascot for BBC, which is on display at the brewery’s St. Matthews location.

Hagan points out that Derby City BrewFest is one of the more affordable beer festivals in the region, with ticket prices starting at $15 for general admission. Tiered pricing goes as high as $75 for VIP tickets, with the varying levels including different perks — from a souvenir glass to varying numbers of food and drink tickets. For example, the online order special for $20 includes admission as well as $20 in food and drink tickets along with a tasting glass and souvenir lanyard.

Hagan calls it a “party for the people.”

“Not only is Brewfest a great way for people to sample some of the region’s finest craft beers,” Hagan says, “it’s an Oaks night party for the people, where they can relax after a long day of racing, drink some really good beer, listen to great music, and enjoy a laid-back, casual evening.”

For those wanting the full-bodied experience, the VIP package will include access to two VIP areas, 50 drink tickets, indoor and outdoor seating, plus indoor restrooms, with early entry at 4 p.m. (general hours at the festival are 5-11 p.m.). Food in the VIP area will be provided by World of Beer, and there also will be tastings of limited-edition and pre-release beers, wine and spirits.

There is a “Thurby” kick-off party on Thursday, May 5, at BBC Bourbon Barrel Loft, 300 W. Main St., featuring an evening of food, drinks and live music. The party will feature hard-to-find beer, Four Roses bourbon and Little Kentucky River wines, plus a door-prize drawing.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

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Brewer David Pierce leaves NABC to return to BBC

David Pierce. Photo by Rick Evans.

David Pierce. Photo by Rick Evans.

Sometimes you can go home again.

David Pierce, Louisville’s senior commercial brewer, confirmed he has returned to Bluegrass Brewing Company, the brewery where he worked from 1993-2009, after six-plus years at New Albanian Brewing Company in Southern Indiana.

During those six years, Pierce worked with New Albanian co-owner Roger Baylor, another mainstay in the Louisville beer scene; recently, Baylor announced he was selling his stake in the Indiana brewery.

Meanwhile, Pierce started back to work at BBC this week, but he will continue to help New Albanian owners Kate Lewison and Amy Baylor during the transition as they continue to learn about brewing and distribution. He said his reason for returning to the brewery where he helped to make Louisville a brewing city again has less to do with Roger Baylor leaving and more to do with timing and simply wanting to come back home.

“I live 2 miles that way,” said the Clifton resident, pointing down Shelbyville Road toward Frankfort Avenue.

He said when the group that owned the BBC production brewery re-branded that brewery to become Goodwood Brewing Company, he began talking to BBC owner Pat Hagan about possible collaborations as a way to help boost interest in BBC. Since the re-branding took place, Hagan and Chef Sean Haggerty have launched a line of retail food products.

Pierce said he and Hagan discussed bringing back some of the original beer recipes Pierce had brewed at BBC in the 1990s when the brewery was still young as a way to re-ignite interest. That led to them talking about a reunion, and he agreed to make the change.

BBC St Matt“It’s a homecoming kind of thing,” he said.

Pierce had worked as the original brewer at the short-lived Silo Brewpub before teaming up with Hagan to open BBC in 1993. He helped brand the business and worked there as head brewer until 2009, when he joined New Albanian. During his time at BBC, he brewed staples such as the Dark Star Porter, Altbier, American Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale and others, and variations of many of his beers remain on the menu today.

In a prepared statement, Hagan said, “I am very pleased to have David back. He put Bluegrass Brewing Company on the map back in ’93 and will help us move forward with our expansion plans.”

Roger Baylor noted that his opportunity to work with Pierce at New Albanian was somewhat of a bucket list fulfillment.

“Back in the ’90s, a few of us pioneers used to drink beer at BBC and NABC, and talk about working together some day,” Baylor wrote in a Facebook post. “For a while, a few of us did, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Meanwhile, Josh Hill will take over brewing duties at New Albanian, where he previously worked; Hill left NABC to take a job with the yet-to-open Floyd County Brewing Company, and then returned after that venture didn’t pan out.

The future of New Albanian brewing, at this point, will depend on what Lewison and Amy Baylor decide to do in terms of how much they want to focus on brewing versus the restaurant businesses. They previously had said the plan is to keep both the Bank Street Brewhouse brewing operation and the brewhouse at the New Albanian pizzeria.

The New Albanian owners released this statement: “[We] wish David all of the happiness at his BBC St. Matthews home brewery. He has taught all of us so much about this craft of making beer. We are equally as excited about our future, as Josh Hill and Ben Minton get to spread their New Albanian wings.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

BBC releases line of retail food products and bloody mary mix

BBC food 6 Sean

Sean Haggerty.

When the Bluegrass Brewing Company production brewery on East Main Street rebranded to Goodwood Brewing back in May, the longtime Louisville beer brand suddenly found itself no longer on retail shelves or on local guest taps. Owner Pat Hagan said it would likely be months before bottling production would resume.

But in the meantime, the original BBC is focusing on getting its beer back into draft lines outside its own brewpubs, and now there’s a new line of BBC products hitting retail shelves. They’re beer-centric, but they’re not beer. And they sort of underline the old BBC slogan that “Beer is Food.”

The four products include BBC Premium Porter Mary Bloody Mary Mix, BBC Beer Cheese (which has long been available for dine-in at the brewpubs), BBC Cajun Relish, and BBC Spicy Remoulade. Developed by Hagan and catering chef Sean Haggerty, the products not only contain (or pair well with) BBC beer, they focus as much as possible on other local ingredients.

The products are being produced for retail by Pop’s Pepper Patch, a Louisville food manufacturer, while one of the distributors is Fish Marker Inc.

I stopped by the BBC location in St. Matthews for a taste of all four products, and they were happy to oblige. It was lunchtime when I arrived, and I didn’t necessarily want to drink vodka, so I asked the bartender if he would make me a virgin bloody mary with the new house mix, and he gladly obliged.

He added the usual suspects, such as hot sauce and Worcestershire, plus olives, a pickle slice and celery, but left the mix front and center. It’s an interesting and unique concoction, to be sure, smoky and lightly spiced, with just a hint of the BBC Dark Star Porter in the flavor profile. Most importantly, it’s miles away from the generic mixes that seem to be just glorified tomato juice.

Mixed with the other ingredients, it showed fantastic potential and is fairly priced at $7 for a 750ml bottle (you have to buy your own vodka, of course).

BBC food 2“It will have a bit more kick with vodka in it,” the bartender said. I would imagine so. The good news is that the flavor is bold enough not to fall away in the face of ice and other ingredients. If you’re drinking a bloody mary that looks pink, you’re probably using the wrong mix (or putting in too much vodka — but that’s up to you). Haggerty even said it is great when used for sauce, which doesn’t surprise me a bit.

The beer cheese is made with BBC’s Altbier with an unspecified processed cheese and “local spices” — mustard powder, aged peppers and garlic powder are all listed, but it’s impossible to tell what’s local — and packaged in a 12-ounce plastic container for $6.

The bad news is the seal was really hard to open (thank goodness I found a screwdriver); the good news is the beer cheese compares favorably to what is served in the brewpubs. It’s thick and tangy, slightly sharp, with only mild spices. The peppers and garlic do take a step forward after a few bites, however. It’s a solid beer cheese that goes great with the house-made potato chips. The fact that I had a hard time stopping even though I’d already had lunch was telling.

The relish and remoulade will be available soon, according to BBC marketing director Kathy Ogburn, but the product testing has gone well.

“The response has been incredible,” said Ogburn. “We started sampling during Derby week and the Kentucky Derby Beer Festival and the Derby City Brewfest. People have been asking for (the products) ever since.”

But it’s the two sauces Haggerty was especially happy to see hit the market. He had released the relish roughly eight years ago, around the time Big Dave’s was a staple in the Highlands, selling out 40 cases in six weeks. A deal to get that and the remoulade into Kroger fell through at the last minute, and the sauces have been in limbo ever since.

He signed on with BBC a few years ago and brought the idea to Hagan, who jumped on board. For Haggerty, it represents the culmination to a lot of hard work.

“Eight years I’ve been working on this,” he said. “I’m just ecstatic. This has been a goal of mine for years and years, and to hold the product in my hand, my babies, is incredible.”

BBC food 5The BBC Cajun Relish is tomato-based with local habaneros, bell peppers, garlic and herbs; for me, it smells and even looks quite a bit like an intense salsa, ready for chip-dipping. It is a deep, blood-red color with a creamy texture and crunchy vegetables with a lightly sweet flavor that gives way to a high dose of habanero that leaves behind a lingering heat. Really tasty stuff, especially if you like habanero peppers. (Haggerty likes it with shrimp.)

Meanwhile, the BBC Spicy Remoulade is a mayo-based aioli made with roasted red bell pepper and garlic puree, adding basil and other spices to form a spread that pops with onion and garlic, and adds a subtle cayenne heat to the mix. This would be a great sub for bland mayo on pretty much any kind of sandwich.

For BBC, it’s a great boost at a time when the Theater Square location has closed and beer distribution is back to the drawing board.

“It’s keeping our logo alive,” Haggerty said. “We wanted to show we are still growing. If anything, it’s a good way to keep our brand in someone’s fridge at home.”

The products will be available at BBC brewpubs, Liquor Barn, Diamond Pub and Billiards, Theater Square Marketplace, Dragon King’s Daughter, and Barret Avenue Liquors, with more expected in the coming weeks. They will also be available for order online.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

BBC production brewery to re-brand as Goodwood Brewing Company

Goodwood logoWhen the current owners of the Bluegrass Brewing Company production brewery at 636 E. Main St. bought the facility in 2005, they considered renaming the business, removing it from under the longtime BBC umbrella. They didn’t, but the idea never came off the table.

Amidst a remodeling project already under way in the brewery’s tap room, owners have revealed that in the coming weeks the business will be renamed – and totally reimagined – as Goodwood Brewing Company. Doe-Anderson was brought in as a branding consultant, and the tap room will be expanded and completely remodeled to reflect the new direction.

The small museum of local brewing artifacts has been removed, and the space will be converted from what co-owner and president Phil Dearner calls a “grandpa’s basement” feel to a modern environment that will be more like a welcome center, including not just 12 taps and packaged products, but also wine and even boutique brand bourbon.

One reason for the re-boot is because while the brewery features the BBC brand, it has long been a separate entity. But most in Louisville don’t understand the divide. The brand has been around since 1993 and hasn’t changed much in that time.

“We were craft beer before craft beer was cool,” says Ted Mitzlaff, CEO of Goodwood. “We’re taken for granted in a lot of ways.”

The tie-in to the brand, Mitzlaff says, creates “confusion in the marketplace” to the point that at times the taproom and brewery receives calls for hours or reservations at one of the brewpubs around town, all of which are under another ownership group. With new brands getting recognition with beer enthusiasts, Mitzlaff and Dearner said they felt it was time to find their own identity.

While they wouldn’t reveal the full reason for the name Goodwood Brewing, they did say that once the final product is unveiled, it will be apparent that the name says plenty about the brewery and the products. In fact, coming up with a name that worked was perhaps the most difficult part. One hint: These guys love barrel-aged beer, so it makes sense the name would reflect that.

“It was kind of like naming our child,” Dearner said. “The name says a lot about who we are going to be.”

BBC taproomThe tap room will be the face of the brewery, in a way. The original bar will be replaced with a longer, L-shaped bar, and the floors will be re-laid with limestone; the bar top also will be a matching limestone surface. A large archway in the façade facing Main Street will become a window, while an existing front door will be replaced with a large glass entrance that also will welcome natural light into the room. There will be yet-to-be-revealed features that, Dearner says, will make the space unique.

In short, the goal is for the tap room to become less an afterthought and more a destination.

“If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times,” Dearner says. “’I pass this place every day, and I never knew it was here.’”

A new walk-in cooler that will be like a giant beer case is being installed and will be attached to the tap room, as well, but the renovations aren’t just aesthetic in nature. Over the past few months, roughly $250,000 in quality control improvements have gone into place, from improvements to the bottling line, to water and filtration. One new key development will be the use of limestone water in the new beers, a feature traditionally associated with bourbon.

The brewery currently has a capacity of 16,000 barrels of beer annually, and in 2014 produced about half that, Dearner says. Part of the change will be to produce more beer and garner more widespread distribution, starting with North Carolina, Illinois and Florida. Basically, the brewery feels the improved product merits a wider audience.

“At any time in our history, we’ve never made better beer than we do today,” Dearner says.

In addition, in the not-too-distant future, canning will become part of the brewery, starting with mobile canning and ultimately with an on-site cannery.

In addition, food will be added to accompany the beer and spirits, although there won’t be a kitchen. Dearing and his team plan to work with downtown restaurants to have rotating food offerings available. As time goes by, food trucks will be added into the mix.

No target date has been set to open the new tap room, but Mitzlaff says, “It’s probably going to be a month, realistically.”

Meanwhile, the BBC face of the tap room continues with its usual beer selections, occasional events and twice-monthly yoga on Saturdays. Soon, however, the Louisville beer community will have a new player with a new name, but with plenty of familiar faces behind it. Mitzlaff and Dearner feel certain it will be welcomed.

“The Louisville beer community is a wonderful community,” Mitzlaff says.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Crescent Hill’s Craft House opens Monday, Aug. 25 – here’s a first peek inside

Craft House 3Brad Culver has long worked in the food and beverage business. In fact, for five years he worked as a bartender at the Dark Star Tavern, a welcoming and beloved local dive bar that existed for a decade and a half at 2634 Frankfort Ave.

“There was a time,” Culver says, standing and peering at that space, “I sat here and thought, ‘I would like to own this place someday.’”

Mission accomplished. Culver, along with partners Beau Kerley and Pat Hagan, bought the old Dark Star space and have turned it into the Craft House, a restaurant and bar dedicated to local craft beer and local, fresh food. It opens on Monday, Aug. 25.

Insider Louisville got a sneak peek yesterday – suffice to say, it appears at a first glance that the Craft House is destined to be a hit. Almost all hints of what was once the Dark Star are gone, as the place has been completely stripped and rebuilt. The natural brick walls now contrast with a minimalist, industrial feel. Fifty taps sit behind a black bar, ready to serve up Kentucky-brewed beer (with some Indiana brews as well). A spacious dining room awaits diners who will enjoy farm-to-table specialties.

In back of the space sits a smoker and a large deck (or, heck, courtyard) with metal tables and chairs, also ready for diners who hope to enjoy some al fresco fun on a summer evening. A brand new, expanded kitchen awaits its first dinnertime rush.

Back in the bar, one wall sits unadorned by décor but rather emblazoned with the 50-member tap list by way of an overhead projector. It gives the distinct illusion that the draft selection is painted on the wall, making it a permanent and final list. Instead, the list will be an ever-rotating selection that will be reflected on the wall with no paint remover or scraping necessary.

As Pat Hagan, a Bluegrass Brewing Company founder, is involved, expect a liberal helping of BBC beers, but the kickoff tap list also has Lexington’s Country Boy and West Sixth, local brews from Cumberland Brews, Falls City and Apocalypse, as well as Indiana’s New Albanian Brewing Company and Flat 12 Bierwerks beers.

The menu features a lengthy list of regional farms and suppliers from which ingredients will be sourced, from Blue Dog Bakery just down the street to Ambrosia Farm in Finchville, Ky. Chef Tim Smith (Napa River Grill, 60 West Martini Bar) has put together a menu with sandwiches and entrees starting at around seven bucks (fried bologna) and topping out at $19 (Kentucky Fried Quail), with plenty of appetizers, soups and salads.

A weekend version of the menu promises some tasty brunch options from Craft House Pancakes to Kentucky Eggs Benedict.

“What’s even better,” says Hagan during a discussion of Smith’s fare, “is that it tastes even better than it sounds on the menu.”

Craft House 2The idea behind the Craft House is unique, even visionary. Imagine someone pops into town for Derby or a convention and wonders aloud, “Where can I get something local?” Rather than be another brewpub – which was an original thought when the Craft House concept was simmering – it will be a friend and champion to local brewers and farmers alike.

“We’re going to be the place that has all the local beers,” Culver said.

This effort will include meet the brewer nights, beer dinners, beer releases and other events to help promote local breweries.

That the Craft House would wind up in the longtime home of Dark Star Tavern is somewhat serendipitous. As Dark Star operator Bob Fischer told Insider Louisville recently, he had been eyeing a location for a restaurant and bar on Harrod’s Creek. Around the same time, Culver, Hagan and Kerley were looking for spots for the Craft House. The investors bought the building in April, bought out Fischer’s lease, and both places are now a reality.

Hagan and Culver decline to disclose how much has been invested in the Craft House, although published reports state the property was purchased for $500,000. When pressed about renovation costs, Culver says, “When people come in, they’ll know money was spent.”

Will they ever. And from the looks of the place, as well as the impressive draft list, bourbon list and menu, they’ll come back. In fact, Culver, who lived in Crescent Hill for a decade, says what they want more than anything is for the Craft House to become as much a part of the neighborhood as Dark Star was, just with a different feel.

In fact, he and Hagan mused that if the concept works out, they could consider other locations, which would make the original possibly default to being referred to as the “Crescent Hill Craft House.” In fact, they went so far as to title the restaurant’s Facebook page “Crescent Hill Craft House.” It does have a ring to it. And it sure looks and feels like it’s going to be around for the long haul.

The Craft House opens at 4 p.m. on Monday, and will be open seven days a week.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

BBC 20th Anniversary Ushers in Heine Brothers Coffee Stout

louisville beer - BBCIt’s just as tasty as you remember, that Heine Brothers Coffee Stout from Bluegrass Brewing Co. BBC unveiled it, along with a handful of other new beers, yesterday as part of its 20th anniversary celebration and third annual Dogtoberfest event at the St. Matthews location.

My buddy Nick and I stopped in for dinner and to take advantage of some throwback pricing, meaning $2.50 pints between 6 and 7 p.m. And the first brew we ordered was the aforementioned coffee stout brewed with Heine Brothers coffee. As expected, it is thick, rich and wonderful, with a big coffee nose and a nutty flavor. In short, it’s an enduring classic. We didn’t get around to trying the Stout Toby Bourbon Barrel Stout, but we can only guess that one is just as delicious and with a potentially more complex character.

We also tried a pint each of Rye IPA, a medium-bodied ale with a big rye flavor and plenty of hop bitterness. In fact, the rye bite might have even outdistanced that of the hops. This is great stuff, and went well with the chili I enjoyed for dinner.

BBC has a couple of other seasonals on tap right now at the St. Matthews pub, including Cream Ale and Rough Service IPA. Maybe next time …

BBC to Celebrate 20 Years

louisville beer - bluegrass brewing company logoThis was originally published by Insider Louisville; here are a few paragraphs to get you started, along with a link to the rest of the article.

The popularity of craft beer grows ever stronger, with new microbreweries popping all over the United States and around Kentucky and southern Indiana. But only one local microbrewery can claim to have been at the forefront of that growth: Bluegrass Brewing Company.

Pat Hagan found himself traveling all over California back in the late 1980s, where he fell in love with the hoppy beers brewed by places out west such as Sierra Nevada. When he returned to the Louisville area for good, well, he started getting the itch to move beyond home brewing.

And so the original BBC, in St. Matthews, was born.

Did he envision it still thriving after 20 years?

“No, I didn’t, really,” Hagan said. “At the time, that was really the first time I was getting into the restaurant/brewery business. I probably didn’t know exactly what I was doing or what I was getting into.” …

Read the Full Story.

BBC to Put Homebrew Contest Winner on Tap

louisville beer - bluegrass brewing company logoAttention homebrewers: Bluegrass Brewing Company is serving up the opportunity for some serious bragging rights on Sept. 15 with its American Homebrewers Association rally and brew-in. Not only is it the first AHA rally in Kentucky, but if your brew wins the accompanying competition, BBC will brew  your concoction in its commercial system and put it on tap for the next full year.

That’s pretty freaking cool.

The theme of the competition is session IPA, and BBC will mash one common wort of 12 Plato (1.048) from domestic pale malt to serve as the base for everyone’s beer. According to the rules, brewers may add up to three adjuncts, specialty or steeping ingredients.

This rally is designed to promote homebrewing in the local community and to drive membership for homebrewing clubs and the AHA. The event is, of course, part of Louisville’s Craft Beer Week, and is free and open to the public. Find out more at the official Facebook event.

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.”

Brewer Jeremy Hunt Moving on From BBC

louisville beer - bluegrass brewing company logoStumbled upon this today: Bluegrass Brewing Company brewmaster Jeremy Hunt is moving on — he will become head brewer at Deep Ellum Brewing Company in Dallas.

Hunt had been at BBC just shy of two years, previously brewed for Red Hook Brewery and was later the head brewer at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. He landed at BBC in 2011 following his stint at Dogfish Head.

“I’m open to suggestions from everybody,” Hunt told the Dallas Observer. “I like to riff back and forth. I come up with an idea, throw it out to someone else, they put their spin on it. In the end, we come up with something that is better than the sum of its parts.”

I never met Hunt, but I drank a lot of his beers. Best of luck to him. And let the search commence for BBC’s next head brewer.