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.

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Lance’s Brewery Tour: Making one man’s dreams come true, with more to follow

Lance at Great Lakes Brewing in 2013.

Lance at Great Lakes Brewing in 2013.

Lance Rice likes beer. He is obsessed with the science behind brewing and its history, in fact. But until last year, he had never visited a brewery.

Because Lance is on the autism spectrum, he struggles with social interaction, preferring instead to interact with science or technology while amassing vast amounts of knowledge in his brilliant mind. That’s how Lance’s Brewery Tour was hatched.

His nephew, Aaron Rice, and a crew are taking Lance to dozens of destinations across the United States while directing a film about Lance’s journey and passion. Meanwhile, Lance himself is writing a book that promises to be “a beautiful written and photographic encyclopedia of American beer culture past and present,” according to Lance’s website.

The project is more than just a chronicle of Lance’s knowledge and his journey. The film and book will also help create a charity called Lance’s Room, dedicated to making similar dreams come true for those with autism. What so many don’t realize about people diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum – people like Lance – is that their communication difficulties and social awkwardness often belie deep sensitivities, passion and intelligence.

That’s Lance. His parents noticed him having troubles with communication and socialization when he was just 4. Now in his 50s, Lance grew up in a time when autism was far less understood. He was institutionalized at one point. He became afraid to even leave his house and, unable to fit in, developed a number of phobias.

But one thing always made Lance smile: beer. And as he grew into an adult in northeast Ohio, he began to develop communication and socialization skills most thought he never would possess. He now takes bike rides and walks alone and does volunteer work in his community.

And, of course, he tours breweries. In fact, he has traveled tens of thousands of miles touring breweries. Earlier this month, he was in St. Louis. His long-time dream was not just to take this tour but to share his passion and knowledge in a book. It’s going to happen after nearly four decades of wishing.

We had a quick Q&A with Lance in between stops recently. Here’s the conversation:

Alcohol Professor: When did you first start to become interested in beer? How old were you?

Lance Rice: July 8, 1974. I saw an old Burger Beer can in the trash and I picked it up .My younger brother and his friends started collecting beer cans that summer and I liked looking at them, they were so interesting. I thought it would just be a summer hobby.

AP: What is your favorite thing about brewing?

LR: Drinking the beer. I also like that [beer is] a living organism. I’ve always had an interest in microbiology and the science of brewing.

AP: What has been your favorite brewery so far and why?

LR: I like them all. Each one has something different, interesting and special about it. Brewing people are the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

AP: Are there any breweries you haven’t visited yet that you would like to visit?

LR: Oh, I’d love to visit them all! There are so many fantastic breweries I haven’t been to yet. It never gets old.

AP: What was it like when you went to your very first brewery? Which one was it?

LR: My first one on this trip was Great Lakes in Cleveland. It was fantastic. They were so nice and showed me so much.

The impressive list of breweries Lance has visited is online, but the tour includes stops in 18 states, from New York to California, as well as brew festivals, schools, hop farms and other special events.

The journey is being chronicled as it happens in preparation for the book, the film and the charity foundation.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

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

Death of the beer growler? ‘Crowlers’ have come to Kentucky

Crowler_with_pint-225x300They called it a “Crowler.” To me, it just looked like a big ol’ 40 of delicious West Sixth Brewing beer. But as a loyal growler user from way, way back, I’ll say this right up front: I think this Crowler thing has real potential. It may even unseat the generations-old growler one day.

Can-plus-growler, that’s where the Crowler name came from. Pretty simple, right? It may seem so, but the folks at Oskar Blues Brewing in North Carolina and Ball Corp. have taken the beer can to a new place by creating this system that is on-the-spot sealable. And West Sixth is the only brewery in Kentucky and one of only a handful of breweries in the U.S. to have this system. At least, so far.

Ben Self, co-owner of West Sixth, said their Crowler system went into use a couple of weeks ago. Looks like there’s no turning back.

“We first saw it demonstrated by Ball at the Craft Brewers Conference this year, and knew from the beginning that it was going to be game changing,” he said.

That was my first reaction – it really changes everything. Growler users know that beer will only keep for a couple of days in a glass growler because carbonation dissipates, and oxygen creeps in to slowly but surely spoil the flavor. Meanwhile, most growlers also allow light to get to the beer, which can “skunk” the beer out.

But a Crowler is a can that is filled and sealed at the brewery, locking out oxygen and locking in freshness – at least for far longer than a traditional glass jug or growler. Self said the bartender seals the can with what he referred to as a “seamer” (which is basically the same device home canners use to seal their jars), checking to make sure there is foam on top of the can to ensure no oxygen is left inside. Then he or she uses a Sharpie to write the beer name, date and other info on the side of the can, and you’re off.

When I bought two from West Sixth recently, the bartender told me I could count on about four days of freshness. But Self said theoretically it should last much longer – he said Oskar Blues has tested them for up to a month and found the Crowlers to hold the beer’s flavor.

He added, however, “We do recommend people drink them as soon as possible though because beer is always better fresher.”

Besides, the whole point of having beer is to drink it.

I waited two days to open a West Sixth Crowler of Bogan’s Walkabout ISA; it was crisp and fresh just like the pint I’d had sitting at the bar of the brewery. I also bought a Crowler of Summer SMaSH and waited four days to pop that one open. Same result: delicious, fresh-tasting beer.

There are other advantages over the traditional growler. For one, many people don’t properly clean their glass growlers, and risk affecting the taste of the beer. For another, given the short freshness life of beer in a growler, you’re under the gun to get that beer drunk quickly. For still another, it’s fairly easy to forget to bring a growler to the brewery, or to be caught without one when you happen across a beer you simply must have more of. At that point, you are stuck spending five or six bucks for another growler, even though you have a cupboard full at home.

Crowlers are one-time use. It really is just a big ol’ can of craft beer with a traditional top. You drink the beer – 32 ounces, or two proper pints, which is much easier than knocking off a full 64-ounce growler – and then recycle the can.

The key downside is that the price is higher per ounce. For instance, a growler refill at West Sixth is $11 for those 64 ounces. A single Crowler is $8, which comes out to $4 per pint, saving you a dollar off the $4.50 pint price at the bar. By comparison, the price per pint in a growler is about $2.75. So, theoretically, if you know you’re going to quaff that growler tonight with a friend, you’re probably better off drinking it old school.

But if you know you’re going to want a couple pints of that ISA in a week and can’t get back to the brewery, the Crowler is the obvious choice.

The Ball Corp. website lists a number of advantages that may be less obvious, including:

  • Cans cool down faster than any other beverage container resulting in fresher, better tasting beer.
  • Cans are more portable.
  • Cans don’t shatter into a million shards when dropped.
  • Spraying the insides of the can and lid with a water-based polymer ensures no contact between the beer and the aluminum. Think of a can as a mini-keg for craft beer.

And Self pointed out that aluminum is more likely to be recycled than glass. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency figures show that in 2012, 41 percent of beer and soft drink bottles were recovered for recycling. The number for aluminum beer and soda cans was 55 percent.

Jeremy Rudolf is the guy at Oskar Blues who helped bring the Crowler into the fold there.

“We get off on pushing the limits, doing things differently,” Rudolf said in a press release, “and the Crowler is another step of innovation to take advantage of what the can package has to offer from behind the bar. More beer options in more cans, we’re working on creating one big glasshole.”

In other words, the growler may just be an endangered species. Self looks for the Crowlers to keep selling, and for brewery demand to keep growing.

“Everyone loves them,” he said. “I see every brewery having one of them eventually.”

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.

West Sixth Brewing to can fourth year-round beer: Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter

w6 porter2A fresh press release from the fine folks at West Sixth:

West Sixth Brewing announced today the fourth beer that they will can and produce year-round: the Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter.
 
This beer, which is an American robust porter, has been brewed with Organic, direct-trade Cocoa nibs. Nearly opaque with a tan head, this beer clocks in at a 7% ABV and is dominated by roasty malts and a strong aroma of chocolate.
 
“We’re very excited to announce that this fall, we will begin canning one of our most requested beers: the Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter”, said West Sixth founder Brady Barlow. 
 
The Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter was first made available on draft in 2012 for the launch of the Good Giving Guide put on by the Blue Grass Community Foundation. That challenge, which raised more than 1.5M for local non-profits in 2013, was the inspiration for its name. Since then it has been available on draft in the taproom, it has always been a crowd favorite.
 
In addition, West Sixth is launching a new charitable program along with the beer.  Founder Joe Kuosman said “From the very beginning, West Sixth has been not only about brewing great beer, but also about making a difference throughout the communities we’re a part of”.

“In order to live up to its name as the Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter, we are committing to giving $.50 per six pack to a local non-profit doing great work in the area the beer was sold in.” said founder Ben Self. “Those non-profits will be selected on a quarterly basis and will be chosen based on input from our fans and supporters.”

w6 porter 1“One other thing we’re very excited about with this beer is that we’re able to source such great fresh Cocoa nibs to use when we brew the beer.” said co-founder and head brewer Robin Sither.  “By working with some great partners at Taza Chocolates, we can guarantee not only were the growers in Central and South America paid a fair wage for growing the beans, but also they were grown in an organic and sustainable manner, and are sent to us incredibly fresh.” 
 
The beer will be available throughout West Sixth’s distribution area in kegs and cans beginning in September.

SYNEK: Can This New Beer Dispenser System Replace the Growler?

Synek1-1Few things make a beer nerd happier than a growler full of fresh beer from his or her local brewery. The problem is, if you pick up that growler on Friday after work and enjoy a couple of pints from it that night, the clock is ticking – because what’s left is more than likely going to go bad by Sunday.

A stock market analyst named Steve Young believes he has an answer in a product called SYNEK. It replaces the traditional growler as a beer vessel with a system that dispenses beer from cartridges that are specially designed to keep your brew fresh. It’s almost like a Keurig coffee dispenser for beer – you can set the self-refrigerated dispenser on your kitchen counter and simply restock it with one-gallon cartridges that can be filled with literally any kind of beer.

Young felt there simply is no good method of packaging beer currently, and backed up this notion by interviewing countless brewers. Cans and bottles limit what a brewer can distribute, and kegs are similarly restrictive. We’ve already addressed the inherent problem with a growler, and Young believes SYNEK is a universal answer.

As such, Young has launched a Kickstarter campaign, and has made an interesting vow – to not sell out to the beer monopolies. The SYNEK press kit contains an interesting quote: “Every great innovation in the beer industry has been acquired by the dominant mass breweries and shelved to prevent progress in reaching the craft breweries.”

The press kit attributes this quote to a former Anheuser Busch Executive in a private review of the SYNEK system. This sounds like the kind of thing that could leave someone sleeping with the fishes.

But it also sounds like a pretty fantastic contraption if it indeed works as claimed. Apparently, Young has a patent pending on a device that will make it possible to fill the cartridges (which actually contain a bag specially made to store the beer) straight from any keg, tap, or holding tank. So, that small batch beer that never gets bottled could theoretically go into a SYNEK cartridge for you to take home – and it would last until you’re finished drinking it.

Also, for home brewers (and small breweries and home drinkers), it creates a situation where you don’t have to meticulously and continuously wash bottles.

“Our ultimate vision is that SYNEK would replace all growlers, everywhere,” Eric Stoddard, director of business development with SYNEK. “The packaging is simply a more advanced technology – so it’s an easy sell to brewers.”

Stoddard said Young and his team have partnered with 300-plus breweries so far that have committed to utilizing the cartridges, “and that list is growing very quickly.”

On the SYNEK team are head engineer Jeff Macler, who the press kit identifies as “the best flexible packaging engineer in the world,” and someone who has four times more patents filed than Anheuser Busch-InBev. Macler does most of the packaging design/testing for large companies like Hormel, Sara Lee, and others.

There’s also mechanical engineer Mike Young, who is an electrophysicist at Boeing, designing top secret parts and systems for defense projects.

Of course, one of my first questions was: What are you going to tell the hipster beer snob who insists the beer tastes different from a SYNEK dispenser (and we all know that’s going to happen)?

Synek2

“Our chief engineer, who was previously in charge of quality control on a navy nuclear submarine, has run extensive tests both on the molecular level and through blind taste tests to make sure that the beer is unaltered,” Stoddard said.

Hey, if these guys think they’ve developed something to combat hipster snobbery as well as bring us fresh beer, then we probably should be taking note.

“This is a technology that can benefit everyone in the industry if everyone rallies behind it,” said founder Young. “Brewers can engage more customers, distributors save on reduced shipping costs, retailers fit more product on shelves, and customers can get a wider variety of the freshest beer in the world.”

But it’s designed to help the little guy, first and foremost, he added.

“It’s about giving the tools to the home and craft brewers to help spread their creation and make more money while doing it,” Young said. “The best beer deserves to reach the consumer in the freshest form possible.”

Could SYNEK spell the end of the traditional growler? We’ll see in a few weeks, as the Kickstarter campaign hopes to have $250,000 raised by late July. Heck, if it really means fresher beer that actually lasts as long as you need it to, as well as a leg up for the small craft brewers, I’d be happy to turn my old growlers into vases or water jugs.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

People’s Brewing and NABC to team up

nabc-peoplesHere it is, straight from the horse’s mouth:

People’s Brewing Company of Lafayette and New Albanian Brewing Company in New Albany are pleased to announce a revolutionary Hoosier brewing collaboration, an exercise calculated in accordance with the interests of the vast majority of Indiana’s craft beer drinkers.

The People’s Republic of New Albania.

These two artisanal breweries at opposite ends of the state are longtime friends, and comprise a mutual admiration society. They’ve always shared a fraternal interest in craft beer for the people. It seems entirely fitting that they combine their brewing expertise and sloganeering into one unified vision, according to the beer style known as Zwickelbier, which gets its name from the sampling valve on a lagering tank.

On July 16, NABC’s brewers will venture northward to brew People’s Republic of New Albania with People’s Brewing Company in Lafayette. The collaboration beer will debut during Lafayette Craft Beer Week (beginning August 17) and also be prominently featured at the Beers Across the Wabash festival in Lafayette on August 23.

In addition, People’s Republic of New Albania kegs will be tapped at NABC’s two locations in late August, and will be available in very limited quantity statewide through Cavalier Distributing.

If you feel so inclined, you can get the rest of the details over at NABC’s website.

Red Yeti Brewing opens in Jeffersonville to big crowds

0524141504cThe good news is, when I walked into Red Yeti Brewing for the first time since it opened May 19, the place was buzzing with activity. The bad news – for me, at least – was that there had been such a lunchtime rush that I arrived just as the kitchen was being forced to shut down to prep more food for dinner.

So, I decided to just hang out at the bar, have a beer from the 10-tap craft menu, and take in the surroundings. And even without getting to try the fare, just based on my fairly brief and foodless visit, Red Yeti looks and feels like a winner right out of the gate.

The harried staff were friendly, even if they were clearly distracted by everything being thrown at them. Friendly bartender Caitlin, cousin of Red Yeti owner Brandi Ronaur, was apologetic and patient when informing disappointed would-be diners that the kitchen was closing temporarily.

I ordered a Founder’s Pale Ale – pricey at $7 for a pint – and chatted briefly with a woman sitting next to me who’d arrived in time to order a “briskit” sandwich and a bowl of cheese and ale soup. She was impressed by both, noting that the “soup” really ate more like a gravy. It nearly looked like actual beer cheese. Bring on the big pretzel.

When I first stepped into the old building – which at one time was a mortuary, according to Caitlin – back during winter, it was barren. The Ronaurs (Brandi’s husband Paul is the brewer) did quite a job with the décor, adding a striking black and red theme to mimic the distinctive logo, which plays nicely with the natural brick and a few rustic touches. It truly is a cozy place. On this sunny spring day, the al fresco seating outside the main entrance was hot real estate.

My beer came accompanied by an ice water in stemware (nice touch) and a request to see my I.D. In fact, the bartenders were carding everyone, so if you go, make sure you have identification. I witnessed a couple of people being turned away.

The menu, created by Chef Michael Bowe, is compact, but seems a cinch to be ever-evolving – when Red Yeti posted an image of it on Facebook on May 20, it noted, “Check out this week’s menu.” Hmm. That bodes well for more interesting dishes.

The briskit and burger come topped with an intriguing condiment called “bacon jam,” while the menu also offers tantalizing options like smoked pork belly and buttermilk fried chicken with bourbon and rosemary glaze with braised kale with bacon and onions, and grilled Indian corn.

There are also grilled wings with either honey bourbon barbecue sauce or spicy adobo, as well as hand-cut fries with Parmesan and roasted garlic aioli. The crab cake bites looked intriguing as well. Entrees are roughly $10-$15, while starters and salads are in the $5-$11 range. You can cap off your meal with funnel cake or a beer float made with Brooklyn Brewing Chocolate Stout.

On draft, there are plenty of Indiana beers rotating through, from New Albanian Brewing Company to Flat 12 to Tin Man to Oaken Barrel, along with a nice variety of others. Most drafts are $5 or $6, but some high-end pints run as much as $9. There are also eight more taps awaiting installation. (There are no corporate light swills to be had, just so you know.)

0524141503bCaitlin said Red Yeti won’t start brewing for a few months, pending federal inspections, and then dotting and crossing the requisite I’s and T’s. However, she said she tasted some of Paul’s beers at last year’s family Christmas party and assures me they will be worth the wait. The brewing equipment, a one-and-a-half-barrel system that apparently will be expanded to an eight-barrel system, is in place and appears ready to go, which is promising.

A few minutes later, it didn’t help my rumbling belly when a server brought out two burgers, presumably among the last orders of the lunch rush that day. They looked and smelled delicious. Caitlin noted that everything on the menu is sourced locally and fresh – even the buns for the sandwiches are made from scratch, which, along with having a thin staff as the restaurant gets its bearings, helps explain why Red Yeti ran out of prepped food.

Heck, I’m not even sure what I want to try first when I return. So I asked Caitlin what the best thing on the menu is.

“Hands down, the brisket,” she said. Hmm.

Guess I’ll try the brisket.

Next time, however, I’ll make sure I get there earlier.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Flat 12 Jeffersonville Update: Few Details, But Progress Nevertheless

flat12BierwerksIndianapolis-based Flat 12 Biewerks released a very brief update on the progress of its forthcoming Jeffersonville brewery and tap room. In fact, it was just a couple sentences in an e-mail.

There was also a link to an update page, which includes this quick statement:

“Plans sent to the state have been approved. The myriad utility requirements, interior drawings and other details have been identified and finalized. That’s the behind-the-scenes stuff. You should begin to see the visible changes beginning to take place that will transform the building into a taproom and brewery. We thank everyone who has expressed interest in the project and as the build-out progresses this summer, we’ll post pictures.”

So who will be serving locally-brewed beer in Jeffersonville first? Flat 12 or Red Yeti, which is open but not yet able to brew?