Falls City celebrates summer with release of German tradition Berliner Weisse

Falls City Berliner Weiss promo

It was Conrad Selle, local brewer and beer historian, who stopped by Over the 9 one day to show the Falls City Brewing Co. team a vintage bottle opener from his collection.

The opener dated back to around 1915 and had the names of four different Falls City beer styles that were being brewed at the time. One of them was Berliner Weisse, a traditional German sour beer made with wheat that dates back to the 16th century.

“We were shocked,” said Dylan Greenwood, master brewer at Falls City. “We had no idea Falls City was making a Berliner Weisse 100 years ago. It makes sense, though, because our head brewer (Otto Doerr) was from Germany.”

So, last year, Greenwood decided to brew a version of the beer with unfermented grape juice, partially aged in Old 502 Winery red wine barrels. But with Falls City’s shift in focus to seasonals, new bottled releases and what the brewery calls its “Seven-Barrel Series,” Greeenwood went back to the basics and created a traditional, unflavored Berliner Weisse that was released this August.

He’s not the only brewer to dig into the past for fresh brewing ideas — Berliner Weisse is a rising throwback style for many craft breweries around the United States.

Brewed with half wheat and half pale malts, the new Berliner Weisse at Falls City is fermented with Lactobacillus for souring. However, it isn’t exactly sour as much as it is tart. With just 4.0 percent alcohol by volume and virtually zero bitterness, it’s a hot-summer pleaser that is actually more like champagne than what many consider beer to be.

Dylan

Dylan Greenwood.

“It’s not super-sour; it’s not mouth-puckering sour,” Greenwood said. “Like any German wheat beer, it’s meant to be refreshing.”

Enjoyed straight, it possesses a light body with plenty of carbonation and a tart finish, with only minor sweetness and a touch of acidity. Imagine drinking an extremely bubbly piece of SweeTart candy, and you’re getting close.

Traditionally, if one orders a Berliner Weisse, the syrup is poured into a glass or bowl first, and then the beer is poured over it. At Falls City, it is served already mixed.

Add woodruff syrup, and the beer takes on a green tint. It suddenly becomes complex, with an aroma and flavor Greenwood described, for lack of any better term, as “botanical.” Indeed, woodruff, a classic German additive to this style of beer, creates a unique flavor, one that evoked lavender on my palate. It begins slightly sweet, then swirls into the familiar tart finish. Imagine an Ale-8 on steroids.

“It’s tough to make an accurate description and still make it sound good,” said Greenwood. “And it’s really good.”

Falls City berliner 2 vert slantThe other syrup Over the 9 is using, yet another German tradition, is raspberry, which is more straightforward and might be the best choice for the uninitiated. The raspberry flavor is one most palates understand instinctively, and in this beer, it takes on just the right presence to make the now-pinkish beverage not only refreshing but fruity and familiar.

Of course, these two classic syrups are just the beginning of what can become a flavoring for the agreeable Berliner Weisse. Greenwood noted that blackberry and watermelon also work well. Bartenders can actually play around with any number of flavors on hand.

The foray into this classic style has Greenwood looking into other such historical styles brewed by Falls City back before beer began its unfortunate evolution into the light American lager it became by the 1960s. Another style that appeared on Selle’s keychain was a “strong lager,” which is identified in the book “Germans in Louisville” by C. Robert Ullrich and Victoria A. Ullrich.

The book pays passing attention to Falls City’s history, noting, “The brewery produced many interesting products in its early years, including Salvator (a strong lager), Extra Pale, Cream Beer and Berliner Weisse.”

Falls City currently produces a British-style pale ale as its flagship beer, and its spring rollout Kentucky Common is a classic dark cream ale that was invented in Louisville in the mid-1800s. Old records also show beers with names like Peerless and Life Saver, and Falls City also brewed bock — a dark, German beer — for many years.

Berliner Weisse will be available through September, and probably into October, at the Over the 9 taproom, 120 S. 10th St., as well as a few other select locations around Louisville, including Hilltop Tavern and RecBar.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Falls City Brewing Co. Creates Colonel’s Kolsch for GonzoFest Louisville

louisville beer - falls cityDirect from the press release’s mouth:

LOUISVILLE, KY (March 21, 2016) – Falls City Brewing Co. has brewed a new, limited release beer for GonzoFest Louisville called, Colonel’s Kolsch, a smooth finish ale. The Colonel’s Kolsch is named after Colonel Hunter S. Thompson, who was named an official Kentucky Colonel by Julian M. Carroll, the 1976 Governor of Kentucky. Appropriately enough organizers of GonzoFest Louisville were named Kentucky Colonels during the 2015 festival. This year during GonzoFest Louisville, Will Thompson, son of Juan Thomson, and grandson of Hunter S. Thompson, will also be named a Kentucky Colonel.

The Colonel’s Kolsch is revered as a smooth, easy-drinking ale the malt is mostly Pilsner with a little biscuit malt. The hops are Northern Brewer and Cascade. This style is fermented at lower temperatures than most ales and cold conditioned for 5 weeks to prepare for a smooth beer that will please everyone one from the veteran beer connoisseur to the rookie beer drinkers. The Colonel’s Kolsch is a good gateway style beer for American light Pilsner drinkers. The German yeast and the hops provide an interesting flavor that you won’t find in other beers. Fourteen kegs of The Colonel’s Kolsch were produced and will be available at GonzoFest Louisville, The Monkey Wrench, and The New Vintage.

“When I asked the Hunter experts if Hunter preferred a certain type of beer they said he basically drank whatever he could get his hands on, so I think he’d enjoy a few of these with us if he were still around,” says Dylan Greenwood, brewmaster at Falls City Brewing Co.

GonzoFest Louisville is on Saturday, April 16 at The Big Four Lawn of Waterfront Park, from 1:00 p.m. to11:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online through the GonzoFest Louisville website or Eventbrite. Additional information about GonzoFest Louisville can be found at http://www.GonzoFestLou.com. Proceeds from the festival will support the creation of a life-size bronze statue of Hunter S. Thompson. GonzoFest Louisville is sponsored by Falls City Brewing and Four Roses Bourbon.

Falls City Beer to Celebrate WFPK 20th Anniversary with Specialty Brew

Direct from Falls City:

louisville beer - falls cityThe 20th anniversary of Louisville’s beloved independent radio station, 91.9 WFPK, will be toasted with a one-of-a-kind beer collaboration of an independent Louisville craft brewer and a local coffee shop favorite.

To celebrate WFPK’s two decades, Falls City Beer will serve a limited edition Quills Coffee Brown at the Jan. 9 All Star Jam concert, with a portion of sales supporting the local independent music station. The anniversary concert takes place this Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Brown Theater and will feature Ben Sollee, Wax Fang, Twin Limb and more.

Also, a portion of sales of Quills Coffee Brown at the craft brewer’s bar and restaurant location, Over the 9, will benefit WFPK while supply of the limited edition brew lasts.

Falls City’s Quills Coffee Brown is a collaboration with Quills Coffee, the Louisville-based coffee shop and roaster recently dubbed “America’s Best Coffeehouse.” The beer is brewed with chocolate and crystal malts to complement but not overwhelm the coffee addition, and then infused with Quills Inkwell Blend coffee using a cold-extraction method. At 6.8 percent ABV, it’s a well-balanced beer that will complement the high-energy of the concert.

“WFPK rocks and we want to toast them with a beer that rocks as well and that celebrates Louisville’s independent spirit,” said Cezary Wlodarczyk, president of Falls City Beer. “We’re thrilled to be part of an event that toasts a local radio station that is a critical part of the Louisville cultural fabric.”

Falls City Master Brewer Dylan Greenwood will also be on hand at the event to talk craft beer with fans, and to provide inspiration for attendees to take #FallsCityBearded selfies with handheld beard cutouts.

Falls City Beer will also offer Kentucky Common on draft. Kentucky Common is an easy-drinking ale brewed with corn, barley and rye – similar to a bourbon mashbill. The beer style originated in Louisville and, at one point, most beer consumed in Louisville was in the Common style before it disappeared during Prohibition.

Hipster Repellant IPA, a piney, citrusy IPA with a caramel and toffee malt bill available year round, will also be on offer in bottles.

Tickets to the WFPK 20th Anniversary Celebration All Star Jam can be purchased in advance at www.kentuckycenter.org.

Falls City Brewing CEO sees bright new history ahead

Cezary Wlodarczyk

Cezary Wlodarczyk

Cezary Wlodarczyk understood the good news and the bad news when he agreed to become CEO of Falls City Brewing Company a few months back.

On one hand, Falls City is a brand many people in Louisville remember as a beer their parents or grandparents drank. In that way, brand recognition is built in.

“I’ve met hundreds of people, whenever they see me, they recognize the logo, they walk up and they say, ‘You work for Falls City?’” Wlodarczyk says. “’Oh, I have a piece of something, an old bottle, an old can, an old piece of marketing or something at home.’ It’s fantastic. They have memories. Many of them have very good memories.”

Other people remember Falls City differently.

“Unfortunately, many have not so good memories of the quality of the beer,” he continues. “It wasn’t that good in its very late stage of life. It really hurts to hear that. But it is part of the history, and we have to face it.”

And so, Wlodarczyk, a native of Poland who has long worked in spirits branding and marketing, has the task of redefining a brand that literally is more than 100 years old in a beer marketplace that is as competitive as it’s ever been. Falls City is not the first brand that comes to mind when one conjures good beer, and Wlodarczyk knows that has to change.

His commitment to this change starts at the ground level, by encouraging people to try the beer with an open mind. In addition, he is working feverishly to get the retail and distribution channels to commit to the brand. For him, however, the hard part is already done: Falls City, he believes, is already making top quality beer.

He just has to build that buy-in elsewhere.

“We are trying to revive the brand,” he tells Insider. “We have started it from scratch. The brand used to be here, and many people remember it, but we are moving the business from scratch at a very low level. We’re influencing people, trying to convince distributors to buy into our plan, to treat us as part of their portfolio. In order to do that, they have to buy into the future of the brand.”

This isn’t the biggest challenge of the ever-positive Wlodarczyk’s career, and certainly not of his life. He was an integral part in branding the Jack Daniels brand for Brown-Forman. (As he puts it, anytime you order a Jack and Coke on the rocks, “I had a big piece of sweat, time and effort in this.”) His career in spirits came after seven years living in Mexico and marketing products for Procter & Gamble.

But those aren’t challenges. Wlodarczyk grew up in communist Poland at a time when his family would wait in line for five, six, seven hours almost daily “just to get a piece of meat.”

People would wait, only to be routinely turned away empty-handed. There was zero freedom of speech, and paranoia reigned because secret police were everywhere. Each person got two coupons per year that were good for a pair of shoes — poor quality shoes, at that.

“It was better than going barefoot,” he says. “That was daily life.”

Selling good beer is a blessing by comparison.

Wlodarczyk is eager to tell his story, and he is quick to engage anyone he meets. During an interview at Over the 9, the new-ish restaurant and bar in Portland that also serves as the headquarters for Falls City and Old 502 Winery, a Falls City employee approaches him to offer a sample of some treats she’s brought in.

He eagerly accepts and tells her, “You always look beautiful, but today you look more beautiful than ever.”

Falls City barThis is a man who is enjoying life and his place in it. He sips a Kentucky Common, one of 10 brands Falls City brewer Dylan Greenwood is making consistently, and raves about its drinkability and history. He talks of a focus on quality and a three-year plan to expand on-site brewing operations so that all production happens in Louisville (currently, much of Falls City’s beer is brewed in Nashville under Greenwood’s supervision). He sees a bottling line and possibly a canning operation in the future.

Over the 9 has already transformed the space; a complete makeover from gift shop and tasting room to restaurant is complete, and an overhauled menu will debut in early November. Colorful, branded imagery splashes on monitors above the bar. Wlodarczyk sees all this as progress for the business. He sees progress for Falls City.

More than anything, he sees a brand that will return to past glory, but for different reasons than in the past. He envisions Falls City as a regional go-to brand, one that is now currently in every Kroger store in the city. The Falls City Kentucky Common is already hitting taps around town and in Indiana. And with new brews like Imperial IPA, Session IPA, Red Wine Barrel-Aged Cream Ale, Barleywine, Downtown Brown and Berlinerweiss joining its flagship Falls City Pale Ale and the popular Hipster Repellant, Wlodarczyk feels many are about to be surprised.

Greenwood is just as hopeful, praising Wlodarczyk’s energy and leadership.

“He’s a fun dude,” Greenwood says. “I think we’re going to grow exponentially; we’ve got everything going for us.”

Wlodarczyk knows it won’t happen overnight. He’s been there before, when the stakes were much higher, so he has patience to go along with his confidence.

“We’re taking it one pint at a time,” he says. “It’s a slow process; talk is not enough. We have done enough damage in the past that people remember that. After we talk now, we say, ‘Now, try our beer. Hopefully you are convinced by the quality and not by our voice.’ It’s working in 99 percent of the cases. We’ve invested and we’ll maintain the investment in the quality of our beer.”

He mentions the Louisville Independent Business Alliance’s “Keep Louisville Weird” campaign, and says he fully supports it. He also says he speaks with LIBA director Jennifer Rubenstein on a regular basis, and is quick to remind her of one thing: “We’ll not only keep Louisville weird,” he says, “but also well hydrated.”

Believe it. Wlodarczyk certainly does.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

BoomBozz Launches Signature Craft Beer Line

louisville beer - boombozz taphouseThis isn’t a new concept, obviously, but for a local pizza chain that serves up some of the city’s finest pizza and also keeps an impressive list of craft beers, it makes total sense. And hey, that means more beer for us. Here’s the press release direct from Tony Palombino:

LOUISVILLE, KY (July, 2015) – BoomBozz is celebrating the opening of its seventh taphouse restaurant in St. Matthews by launching its own line of signature craft beers. The first brew is called 16.5 Hefeweizen. It’s an American wheat beer inspired by Founder and CEO Tony Palombino’s favorite beers, and locally brewed by Falls City. 16.5 refers to the number of years that the BoomBozz chain has been serving great food and brew in Louisville.

“I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying beer from all over the world and now I can bring the best of those tastes to BoomBozz customers,” noted Tony. “For sixteen years we have consistently worked to bring the very best food and beverage experience to our customers and this is the next big step. Wheat beer is growing in popularity and with 16.5 Hefeweizen we have a fantastic locally brewed wheat beer.   Cutting edge beer, it’s what we do at BoomBozz.”

BoomBozz will be partnering with other local brewers to create a variety of Seasonal Collaborations.  Local brewer [Goodwood] has already begun creating a special barrel age beer for BoomBozz.  The barrel was chosen by BoomBozz customers and Knob Creek employees. Look for other tasty collaborations in the future with Country Boy, Rhinegeist, Schlafly and other talented local brewers.

Through 19, 16.5 Hefeweizen will be available for just $3.99 a pint at participating BoomBozz locations.

BBC to unveil new Louisville Lager Aug. 20 on tap and in bottles

Louisville LagerYour grandfather drank Falls City, Fehr’s or Oertel’s ’92 beer back in the 1950s and ’60s. Those were lager-style beers brewed right here in the River City.

Locally brewed lager returns Aug. 20 when Bluegrass Brewing Company Taproom unveils Louisville Lager, a beer the company’s principals believe will reach out to a larger audience than many craft beers on the market.

The reasoning? In spite of the growth of craft-brewed beer popularity, BBC president Phillip Dearner says, the vast majority of people are still drinking “yellow beer.” As such, brewmaster and vice president of operations Joel Halbleib concocted a crisp, malty, lightly hopped and ever-so-slightly sweet lager to basically show people that craft beer can be accessible to almost all palates.

“We wanted to find a way to reach a different crowd than we were reaching,” Dearner says. “Ninety to 95 percent of Americans are still drinking light lagers. I imagine there is a large percentage of that segment that wants to support local. Why not give these people something they can get behind and have it be local?”

I got to try a few unfiltered and un-carbonated ounces of Louisville Lager, and it sure tastes like something people will get behind. It’s a beer by which a Bud Light drinker won’t be scared off, but it also has a distinctive malt character and just the tiniest hop bite on the finish.

Another interesting point about the beer is that it is branded quite differently than most BBC beers, which bear the familiar (to Louisvillians, at least) BBC script, sunburst and hop logo. Louisville Lager bears an eye-popping red, white and blue logo that hints at vintage. Frankly, it simply looks all-American. What Dearner said he wanted to avoid, somewhat ironically, was the familiarity to people who have tried more flavor-intense BBC beers and did not enjoy them. The approach is similar to how Sam Adams has marketed its Rebel IPA, distancing it from the parent brand intentionally.

“BBC has been around 21 years now and that sunburst that’s on all of our packaging, that sends the message to most people that, ‘This is a Louisville craft beer,’” Dearner says.

But if they’ve had BBC Stout or APA, well, they may be expecting anything but a crisp, drinkable lager.

When Halbleib first began developing a recipe, he focused on creating a Vienna-style lager. Dearner was quick to warn that the minute an exact style was identified, the beer snobs would begin nitpicking. So Halbleib changed course and ended with a lager that features aspects of both Vienna and Munich lagers, but which technically is neither. It is its own thing.

As for introducing it to beer drinkers, it’s a pretty simple approach.

“I would generally ask, ‘What do you normally drink?’” Halbleib says. “If they say Coors Light, Miller Lite or Bud Light, or any of the domestics, I would say, ‘We developed this beer for you.’”

“’What do you like?’” Dearner asks rhetorically. “’What’s your comfort zone?’ With this, we are now offering the full spectrum of beers.”

It speaks specifically to the folks who don’t believe they like ales or, god forbid, “dark” beers. But the truth is that baby boomers were weaned on yellow beer.

“I think the guy who is 50 and above who has drunk nothing but lagers feel so safe with that style,” Halbleib says.

But what it boils down to is that when Louisville was a big brewing city, there were two styles the city’s beer drinkers quaffed most often: Kentucky Common, a dark cream beer, and lager. The reason for this is because of the influx of German immigrants in the mid-1800s; they found Louisville to be an ideal place to start a new life, and they also found the climate and resources ripe for brewing. Lager is decidedly German, and as such, it became extremely Louisvillian as well.

Louisville Lager, in a way, pays tribute to Louisville’s history, adding another aspect of the beer both Dearer and Halbleib believe will help sell it. You can’t get Oertel’s ’92 at the liquor story anymore, but Louisville Lager will be there for the asking.

Louisville Lager 1Interestingly, one reason local brewers don’t make lagers more regularly is that it takes twice as long to ferment. With most local breweries having limited production capacities, making a lager becomes a more difficult proposition than making an ale. BBC’s production facility expanded about a year ago, adding three new fermenters, and brews about 14,000 barrels annually.

But another reason many avoid lager brewing is that it’s simply not easy.

“A lot of people shy away from it,” Halbleib says. “A stout, porter or anything dark hides all our mistakes. This is the complete opposite. Everything must be perfect or it’s going to show in big way.”

“You’ve got to baby it,” Dearer adds.

Halbleib says he went through three or four batches before green-lighting the final recipe. But he feels it’s just right.

Armed with tap handles made from rejected Louisville Slugger bats (you can’t get much more local than that) and the splashy new branding, Louisville Lager will begin popping up all over town later this month beginning with kick-off events Aug. 20 at the BBC Taproom, 636 E. Main Street; Thursday, Aug. 21, at Mellow Mushroom and Molly Malone’s in St. Matthews; and Friday, Aug. 22, at Drake’s at the Paddock and St. Matthews, and Highland Tap Room.

Price points will be $8.49 for a six-pack and roughly $4 to $4.50 per pint, depending on the location. Dearer feels it will soon be a Louisville mainstay, and will be available not just in craft beer locations but even places like Applebee’s or O’Charlie’s.

“I think this beer will open up this avenue for us,” Dearer says. “We have [BBC] Nut Brown at Applebee’s, but it’s not doing all that great. That customer feels a comfort for this lager and this lighter style. I would also think the BoomBozz’s and the Molly Malone’s and the OShea’s, these craft houses, still have a huge crowd that wants a lager.”

Heck, your grandfather may even give it a try.

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.

A Falls City Sneak Peek: Hipster Repellant

louisville beer - falls city hipster repellant

The “Hispter Repellant” IPA was, indeed, a little angry.

I took my dad to the Falls City Beer tasting room over the weekend and got a nice surprise: As if free samples of good Louisville beer wasn’t enough, we also got a tour of the brewing facilities and a sneak-preview taste of a new IPA that is, at least internally, being dubbed “Hipster Repellant.”

Hipster Repellant (which may or may keep its name when released to the public) is a special brew made to be available at Louisville-area Liquor Barn locations. While it had just been kegged and therefore was a tad over-carbonated when Falls City’s Rob Haynes poured the samples, the nose on this beer is outstanding.

“It’s a little angry,” he said, referring to the over-foam. When I mentioned the nose, he said, “I just want to huff it.” Indeed. It has less of a hop bite than the nose suggests, but there is still plenty there — I’d guess it at around 60 or 65 IBU. It’s crisp and smooth, with a creamier mouthfeel than I expected — although that very well could have been pushed along by all the foam.

We also tried a couple of other new-ish ones now on tap at the tasting room:

Kentucky Waterfall APA (6.6 percent ABV, 40 IBU): Straw-colored, mildly cloudy and crisp, this drinks like a great summer beer. My dad isn’t what you’d call a hop-head, and he really liked this one. It’s surprising this one is 6.6 percent alcohol, because on the palate and nose it could pass for a session beer. It’s a solid entry.

502 APA (5.5 percent  ABV, 55 IBU): Of course I had to try this one, simply because of the name; maybe this can be the official beer of 502Brews.com. Made with Amarillo hops, this one is a brilliant orange color, very dry on the finish, crisp and lager-esque. I could drink this stuff all day.

Here are some pics I shot of the brewing equipment and other odds and ends:

Falls City Beer at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium

louisville beer - falls cityI’m not a University of Louisville Cardinals fan, but I am a fan of Louisville beer. Therefore, I am quite happy that Falls City Beer is now available at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

I haven’t been to a game this season, so I didn’t even realize it until Falls City sent out the announcement via its e-newsletter and a tweet this morning. But you need to know where to look: You can get Falls City Pale Ale near Gates 9 and 1 (Stands 1 and 23) during football games.

Usually, the stuff being carried around in tubs and even on draft at the concessions stands consist of corporate swill and corporate swill light, so this is a fine development. Cheers to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Speaking of Falls City Beer, another new brew has been unleashed. Here’s the description from the Falls City e-newsletter:

Falls City Kentucky Waterfall APA: This new APA features Cascade and Simcoe hops giving it a piney and citrusy hop character.  A mild malt backbone adds hints of caramel and toffee.  6.6% abv, 40 IBUs.

New Louisville Beers at Apocalypse, Falls City

apocalypse brews - louisville beer blogHad a couple pints at Apocalypse Brew Works over the weekend. Leah Dienes just keeps on brewing up tasty Louisville beer.

ABW Hop Project: Cluster (4.6% ABV, 42 IBU) is Apocalypse’s APA of the moment. It’s another classic summer ale that has just enough bitterness to let you know it’s there, but is smooth-bodied and sessionable. This one pours a cloudy, dark orange – it was almost red. Of course, I drank it from a plastic cup in the not-too-well-lit Apocalypse tap room, so that probably influenced my vision. I liked it so much that I had two of them.

Speaking of APAs, while I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet, Falls City announced the release of 502 APA. If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m an APA guy, and this one sounds pretty nice.

Here’s the description from Falls City: “This American Pale Ale is the next beer in our single-hop APA series.  We used only Amarillo hops in this beer giving it strong citrusy characteristics with hints of orange peel and grapefruit.  A mild, toasty malt backbone helps to balance out the bitterness.”

Kenny Rogers returns with his new album You Can’t Make Old Friends released on October 8th

Digital review copies available upon request

Grammy-award winning Kenny Rogers continues his brilliant creativity with his new album You Can’t Make Old Friendsset for release on October 8th. Being the first country album since Water & Bridges in 2006 he stretches his artistry into new musical territory. He brings these fresh new tracks with his classic sounds by collaborating genres to tell his great stories through rock and roll, soul, gospel, southern rock, zydeco, and sounds of the Southwest.  Rogers even ads those old friends to the record like Dolly Parton, collaborating a brand new duet.

 

Kenny Rogers continues to bring year 2013 with a bang, after the announcement of his induction into theCountry Music Hall of Fame this fall.  Rogers also performed on the main stage at this year’s Glastonbury Festival to a colossal audience on the grounds and around the UK as it was televised on BBC.  His Through The Years World Tour has included stops in Morocco, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada and the U.S.

This fall and winter, Rogers’ tour will roll on with more U.S. and Canadian dates, including the Christmas & Hits Through The Years Tour, his annual holiday performances, in late November and December.  In addition, a novel Rogers co-wrote with Mike Blakely, What Are The Chances, is being released today (September 3rd) and Rogers’ New York Times Best Selling autobiography, Luck Or Something Like It, will be released in paperback on September 27th.

 

 **Kenny Rogers – You Can’t Make Old Friends – Track Listing**
1.    You Can’t Make Old Friends (Duet With Dolly Parton)
2.    All I Need Is One
3.    You Had To Be There
4.    ’Merica
5.    Turn This World Around
6.    Dreams Of The San Joaquin
7.    Don’t Leave Me In The Night Time (Featuring Buckwheat Zydeco)
8.    Look At You
9.    Neon Horses
10.  When You Love Someone
11.  It’s Gonna Be Easy Now

 

Also, if you see that Kenny is touring in your area and you would like to interview Kenny about the upcoming show, please let me know. 

 

KENNY ROGERS 2013-2014 THROUGH THE YEARS TOUR DATES
09/14  Oxford, ME – Oxford County Fair – Oxford, ME
09/25  Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium – Concert for Cumberland Heights – Nashville, TN
10/10  University, MS – Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts – University of Mississippi
10/11  Branson, MO – The Oak Ridge Boys Theatre
10/20  Charleston, SC – Southern Ground Music & Food Festival – Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island
(Special Guest of Zac Brown Band)
10/26  Pocola, OK – Choctaw Casino
11/09  El Dorado, AR – El Dorado Municipal Auditorium
11/10  Branson, MO – The Oak Ridge Boys Theatre
01/23  St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles – The Country Music Cruise 2014
01/13  Carmel, IN – The Center for the Performing Arts – The Palladium

 

KENNY ROGERS 2013 CHRISTMAS & HITS THROUGH THE YEARS TOUR DATES
With Special Guest Linda Davis
12/01  Concord, NH – The Capitol Center For The Arts
12/02  Verona, NY – Turning Stone Resort Casino – Event Center
12/03  Englewood, NJ – bergenPAC
12/05  Newark, NJ – Prudential Hall, New Jersey Performing Arts Center
12/07  Newport News, VA – Christopher Newport University’s Ferguson Center For The Arts
12/08  Morgantown, WV – West Virginia University – Creative Arts Center
12/12  Paducah, KY – Carson Center
12/14  Sault Sainte Marie, MI – Kewadin Casino – DreamMakers Theater
12/16  New Philadelphia, OH – Performing Arts Center at Kent State Tuscarawas
12/21  Naperville, IL – Pfeiffer Hall – North Central College

Abbey Stanerson

Regional Publicity Manager

Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah & Washington

Webster & Associates, LLC a public relations & marketing company
office:
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