Monnik Beer Co. hopes for long-awaited soft opening in September

20150812_180257Brian Holton, who co-owns Monnik Beer Co. — a sister brewery to Danville’s Beer Engine — doesn’t seem interested in looking back on the journey he and business/brewing partner Ian Luijk have traveled to arrive at their current position.

The pair originally wanted to open another Beer Engine location in the building at 1036 E. Burnett Ave. that once housed the Zeppelin Café. That all started back in 2013, and a variety of setbacks caused one delay after another. Most recently, they decided to switch the name to Monnik after learning there were other breweries using the term “Beer Engine” in their names.

And now they sit on the cusp of a soft opening. Finally. The goal is to open the doors quietly in early September.

“There’s a lot to do still,” Holton says while sitting at the bar in the brewery’s taproom. He stares down 20 taps. The front door and windows are covered by brown paper, and the space is cluttered with ladders, tools and other signs of ongoing construction. He says that while there certainly have been setbacks, there also has been a keen attention to detail.

“That’s part of why it’s taken so long,” he continues. “We want it to be right.”

With a huge walk-in cooler, a deck for outside seating in back and a 10-barrel brewhouse purchased from a brewery in Michigan, Holton and Luijk know they have a great space. The kitchen is huge and ready to be built out with brand new equipment the owners have already purchased. Upstairs in what used to be a karaoke room, there is a stage and plenty of space for a private events area. Holton may actually be most happy that he has office space for the first time ever.

0812151725bAnd while the food menu is still under construction (expect mostly pub fare), the beer is already brewing. In fact, there are kegs upon kegs of the stuff in the walk-in waiting to be sipped by customers. And there will be plenty of Monnik beer for the drinking — Holton and Luijk say most of those 20 taps will be pouring Monnik brews rather than guest drafts.

They also offered up a sampling of what customers can expect in a few weeks. There’s a beautifully floral, Mosaic-hopped IPA (my favorite of what I tried) as well as a citrusy ginger saison that is dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace. There’s a rich milk stout that is almost like drinking a brownie, and there’s an English-style bitter pale ale.

There also will be a brown ale and a mild ale that, at 3.5 percent alcohol, might just be the perfect session beer. It’s dark in color but light in body, with a toasty nose and flavor that is vaguely reminiscent of soda bread. In fact, Holton says that’s the one he enjoys most when he is brewing or working on getting the space ready.

“It’s good with lunch,” he says. “It’s good with anything.”

But possibly the future hit of Monnik will be Hauck’s American Pilsner, a nod to Hauck’s Handy Store just a few blocks away. The store is, of course, a neighborhood institution and has been since 1910. Many games of Dainty have been played on the streets nearby. Holton and Luijk secured the blessing from longtime owner George Hauck.

The beer will be an accessible, classic Czech pilsner style that will satisfy those whose palates prefer a lighter, crisper beer, but Holton says, “We also want it to be interesting enough for craft beer lovers.”

20150812_172104Beers will be priced according to style, but expect most of them to be in the $4-$5 range, with growler fills costing $13-$16. Of course, there will be more on tap than the basic styles that have been brewed already; Holton likes to experiment, so expect some funky sour beers.

“I want to go as far as I can,” Holton says of his experiments with different yeasts and bacteria. “To me, it’s the future of creativity in beer.”

Oh, and there is also a space for a barrel room in the basement, and barrels have been secured from Corsair Distillery, which is based in Bowling Green/Nashville.

As for the new name, even though it sounds like it means something, it actually doesn’t — much. They wanted a name they could take to a regional or national level. It is actually the Dutch word for “monk,” which, of course, is an easy connection to brewing tradition.

“We want to grow the business to be a bigger brand,” Holton says. “And the word looks kind of cool.”

While the space still needs a lot more work during a recent visit, it’s clearly in the home stretch. Painters were putting a coat of gray on the old building last week. After nearly two-and-a-half years of planning, problems and hours upon hours of hard work, Monnik Beer Co. is actually just a few weeks away from opening.

And then the real work begins.

“I don’t think we can rest on our laurels,” Holton says. “We have to show people we can make the best beer and the best food, and set it up in a way that will be impressive to everybody.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

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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.

Beer Engine to finally open in Germantown … in 2020?

beer engineBy way of our pals over at LouisvilleBeer.com, apparently Brian and Ian at Beer Engine issued a press release (while I was out of town!!!) about the opening of their location at the old Zeppelin Cafe. Yes, it’s finally going to happen! (And fair warning, this stuff sounds straight out of Germantown Times.)

Here’s the press release, as posted by LouisvilleBeer.com:

We here at the Beer Engine stand by one true philosophy when it comes to our beer, our lifestyle, and our philosophy. Taking our damn time.

We’ve went through some zoning issues, some weather issues, heck, even some raccoon and opossum issues while trying to turn the Old Zep into our lifelong dream. As fans of Louisville craft beer, we greatly appreciate your patience throughout the whole process. The process has been a difficult one to say the least. After our Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and GiveMeMoneyCusIDon’tHaveIt ventures all failed, we really had second thoughts about opening Beer Engine here in Germantown. We even dabbled the idea of opening up in Valley Station or HiPo to appeal to that market. Regardless, we stayed true to our values and beliefs, and have decided to stick it out in Germantown for the next six years until we’ve achieved perfection for our facility and product.

With that, we’d like to formally announce that Beer Engine will open soon in 2020! We are excited for you to try some of the new beers we will be producing once we know what’s going to be popular in six years. Knowing todays society, it will probably be the styles everyone disliked today. We are excited bout it!

Outside, we plan to have open seating where you can cruise up on your hoverboard and yell across the street to your parents at Checks. Inside, we’ll have both an upstairs (ten taps) and downstairs (12 taps) featuring all local beers from your favorite Kentucky Breweries. We are even going to include a section on the history of beer and what is was like to share a beer with your friend/significant other when you weren’t staring at your phone the whole time. We believe this educational experience will make Beer Engine the premier place to go in Louisville!

We understand six years might be a long time to some, but just like an imperial stout, we plan to get better with age! Once again, thank you for you patience and see you in the next decade!

Brian & Ian

Beer Engine

Meet Kentucky’s new King of beer …

KGB LogoWhen nine Kentucky breweries got together nearly two years ago to form the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, the goal was a unified organization that would provide a singular voice with which to promote their beers, breweries and events.

They’ve found that voice in John King, who recently was named executive director to lead the guild’s board. And his voice speaks to the very unity Kentucky’s breweries seek. It isn’t about who can sell the most beer, King says, it’s about helping each other.

“People think [Bluegrass Brewing Company] is competing against Against the Grain,” he says. “The breweries are working together. It’s a good ol’ boy system where, if they run short on malt, they get malt from another brewery.”

But King has longer vision for his – for now – unpaid position, and that is to organize the breweries around the state into action.

It’s a hell of a good time to be doing it because there are new craft breweries springing up everywhere. Louisville alone is awaiting the launch of roughly a half dozen, with Great Flood Brewing set to open in the Highlands soon and Danville-based Beer Engine eyeing a summer opening in Germantown.

King points to Mayor Greg Fischer’s initiative to make Louisville a bourbon and dining touring destination as all the motivation he needs. When Fischer’s announcement came down at a bourbon-drenched press conference, many brewers in the city were left wondering, hands open and mouth agape, why no brewer (beer or coffee) was asked to join in on the action plan.

“I took it as a kick to the balls,” King says. “For beer geeks, Kentucky is a craft beer destination.”

And so, priority No. 1 for King is to build relationships with Fischer, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Danville Mayor Bernie Hunstad, to help raise the profile of the state’s breweries. Priority No. 2, he says, is to increase membership – and not just to include breweries, but suppliers, retailers, distributors and anyone else involved in the business of beer.

Ultimately, King wants local businesses of all kinds to be more connected to local breweries.

And priority No. 3 is to connect with the people who make it all possible, the enthusiasts. Or, as King puts it, “The common beer drinker that loves to drink Kentucky-made beer.”

John KingInterestingly, King, 31, insists he came by all this beer business mostly by accident. His “real job” – his words – is in education. He also makes furniture hand crafted from oak and bourbon barrels.

His path to becoming a craft-beer aficionado started with enjoying non-Kentucky craft beer, by way of Dogfish Head, a brewery based in Delaware. Next came Sierra Nevada Harvest, a wet-hop ale. He would get away from hoppy beers for a while, and then it was a local beer that snagged him and reeled him back in. That beer was Hoptimus, brewed by New Albanian Brewing Company in New Albany.

“As soon as I had it, I kind of fell in love,” King says.

Not long after, he began home brewing. Not long after that, he began communicating with New Albanian head brewer David Pierce, who also is involved with the guild.

From there he began testing his palate, finding out what he liked and what he didn’t. He began to plan his vacations around beer (and who doesn’t?). And soon he was blogging and podcasting for LouisvilleBeer.com.

“It was,” he says, “sort of a snowball effect.”

He was named executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers at the guild’s first official meeting in January. The upcoming Halfway to Louisville Craft Beer Week, April 16-20, will be the guild’s “coming out party,” King says. That’s when things will truly begin to ramp up, and a membership program will ultimately be put in place.

His vision is that for a membership fee, beer enthusiasts will get a VIP card good for discounts at every guild-member brewery. Members will also get a T-shirt and a regular newsletter.

“And you can celebrate the fact you are paying tribute to the great beer that is made in Kentucky,” he says. “I am personally going to sign every membership card and mail out all the T-shirts, so people can become members of what we call ‘the KGB.’”

He even envisions that one day, instead of corporate mega-beer sponsoring mega-events around town, it will be local breweries, and asks the question, “Why are we drinking Coors when we should be drinking BBC?”

It’s a question he hopes to answer in due time; make way for the new King of beers, Kentucky.

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.