Blue Stallion Brewing Announces Expansion, Distribution

lexington beer - blue stallionBlue Stallion Brewing sent out word that it is adding a new cooler in its brewery, which will allow for local distribution sometime in February. At right is a pic Blue Stallion sent out with its press release, which is below.

If you haven’t been, you should go soon. I took a drive there when the brewery first opened and had a great afternoon hanging out enjoying their German-style beers.

Congrats, Blue Stallion!

And now the press release:

LEXINGTON, Kentucky, January 14, 2014 – Six months after opening the doors for business, Blue Stallion Brewing Co. is in the midst of their first brewery expansion. The project will add enough cooler storage capacity to begin distribution of beer to the surrounding region in February.

The expansion will add a 367 sq. ft. cooler in the brewery portion of the building. Currently, the only cooler servicing the brewery is the one behind the bar and at only 190 sq. ft. it’s barely large enough to handle the demand for kegs in the taproom.

“The size of our current cooler is the biggest bottleneck we face with beer production. We’ll no longer have to keep finished beer in the conditioning tanks simply because we don’t have room to store the kegs. This new cooler will triple our current cold room capacity” says co-owner Xavier Donnelly.
Completion of the new cooler is planned for the end of January. It will allow Blue Stallion to begin distributing beer to local restaurants and bars in early February.

Co-owner Kore Donnelly adds, “We’re ready to start distributing our beer in the market place and we’re excited the new cooler will make that happen. We started conversations with some local establishments and our distributor and the demand is there. Once it’s finished, we’ll be able to meet that demand.”

The owners plan to begin distribution with four of the brewery’s most popular beer styles: Hefeweizen, German Pilsner, Helles and Munich Dunkel. Distribution will start with roughly 7 barrels of beer (14 kegs) per week and grow from there. Seasonal and limited release beers, like Blue Stallion’s Smoked Lager, will also see distribution.

Establishments serving Blue Stallion beer will be listed on the company’s website.

A Chat With Gordon Biersch Brewer Dave Stacy

louisville beer - taps at Gordon Biersch 1When I took my seat at the bar at Gordon Biersch downtown at 4th Street Live, I was struck by the pure beauty of it. The bright taps, the vibrant colors – not to mention the friendly bar staff who were quick to greet me and ask if it was my first visit.

OK, so Gordon Biersch is a chain; that much we know. As such, my expectations when meeting brewer David Stacy was that he would be buttoned-up and corporate, a man toeing the company line, wearing a bright GB button-down and speaking the corporate lingo. Imagine my surprise when I heard, “Are you Kevin?” and turned to be greeted warmly by a thin man with a graying, medium-length beard, and wearing a baseball cap and overalls.

Turns out, Dave Stacy is just a beer guy like the rest of us. As such, we sat and casually talked about the Louisville beer scene as I sipped on my Gordon Biersch sampler.

To start, GB is a lager house that brews based on German principles using ingredients almost exclusively from Germany. Which is to say, similar to the new Blue Stallion Brewing in Lexington or Hofbrauhaus in Newport, the products tend to be unfiltered, lighter-bodied creations than one normally finds at a smaller brewery. In addition, its 31 locations are all based on the original concept of offering quality food as well as freshly-brewed beer – meaning that the food is just as much the focus as the brews. Not your usual microbrew, in other words.

Nevertheless, while a beer snob may be quick to turn up a nose at GB brews, Stacy makes no apologies. The quality in ingredients and brewing processes is high, regardless of how some might view the concept. He sees that perception as a challenge on one hand, but an advantage on the other.

louisville beer - David Stacy of Gordon Biersch“Our challenge is how people view us,” he said. “We started as one store, and we just grew beyond that. … I realize we are considered the Starbucks. I know there are guys that look down on me because of what I do. But it’s not because of our production standard.”

He pointed out that while most microbreweries situated in neighborhoods rely on regular customers for a fairly large chunk of their business, being located at 4th Street Live means a lot more walk-in traffic from out of town people, or those who are downtown for reasons other than going to the brewpub. This makes being a lager house an advantage, because a larger percentage of the palates who taste his beer aren’t necessarily looking for high gravity or a hop explosion.

And he’s fine with that.

“I’m from a small German community [in Texas],” he said. “I love the origins and traditions of German style production.”

Not that he doesn’t enjoy a bold-flavored beer. In fact, he praises the Louisville beer scene and always keeps other local beers available in his guest taps. He is particularly fond of Falls City, in part because his grandparents drank it often when he was growing up, but he is also quick to sing the praises of the others and to keep them on tap on a rotating basis.

He went so far as to say that when someone comes in and can’t find anything he or she likes, “I send them to ATG or BBC,” both of which, obviously, are nearby. (In fact, he wishes he had more time to visit other local breweries himself, but long hours and being a dad to a toddler make that difficult.)

But with new breweries opening in the area seemingly every couple of months and more on the way, where is the saturation point?

“If you want to compare it to bourbon, there is no saturation point,” Stacy said. “But beer being the product it is, I think we’re getting close to that. But I think it’s better to keep that door open and have [breweries find] success at what they do.”

And while the recipes and brewing standards are GB-wide and are somewhat constrictive, he also has some latitude and gets to come up with outliers referred to as “Brewer’s Select.” Later this year, he said, he plans to brew a red ale, something big and malty (similar, we discussed, to BBC’s Irish Rover Red). That would really throw off the taste buds of the 4th Street Live dwellers.

Here’s an overview of the beer tasting:

louisville beer - Gordon Biersch 2Golden Export (5.0% ABV, 17 IBU) – This is lightest beer available at GB, and is specifically geared toward people who fear anything without the word “light” in the name. Bottom line, if you’re a Bud Light or Miller Lite drinker, and you can’t drink this? There’s something wrong.

Hefeweizen (5.5% ABV, 12 IBU) – This one’s a classic German wheat beer, unfiltered and light orange in color, with lots of banana and clove notes and a smooth texture. Not my thing, but this is a well done version of it, and easy on the palate for people who fear hops and may fancy something fruitier.

Czech Pilsner (5.6% ABV, 36 IBU) – By far the hoppiest of the GB regulars, this one still has only a mild bite. It’s light- to medium-bodied, and made with Saaz hops from the Czech Republic for a tiny bit of spice and a nice tingle at the back of the palate. As a hop guy, this one’s easily my favorite.

Marzen (5.7% ABV, 18 IBU) – At first glance, this could be mistaken for a pale ale with its auburn color, but it’s a Bavarian lager that relies on malts for its flavor. Stacy said this is GB’s top seller, at least here in Louisville.

Schwarzbier (4.3% ABV, 21 IBU) – This is the one that trips people up. Despite a light nutty flavor and light body, the darkness of this lager can be deceiving. This could be why it’s the lowest seller of the regulars. “People confuse it with a porter or stout,” Stacy said. “They see the color and are afraid of it.” It’s unwarranted, but what can you do?

Blonde Bock (7.0% ABV, 26 IBU) – This seasonal is golden and may look light, but has surprising body and flavor. Stacy said it is 90 percent pilsner and is an anniversary celebration beer of sorts for GB. The finish is surprisingly malty, which may belie the kick. “People sometimes forget this is almost equal to two Jack and Cokes for a 20-ounce pint,” Stacy said, smiling.

SummerBrau (4.8% ABV, 25 IBU) – Another annual  brew, this is a Kolsch-style beer, and is one of Stacy’s favorites. Truly, while it’s relatively light, it’s crisp and surprisingly flavorful with a blend of pale-malted barley and malted wheat. I enjoyed this one quite a lot myself. “There are subtle characteristics in this beer that I find fascinating,” Stacy said. “I’m very happy how it came out this year.”

Toward the end of our chat, we further discussed the divide in beer people’s preferences, not to mention the resulting beer snobbery that sometimes ensues.

“A lot of times, I think it’s a cluster of people patting themselves on the back,” he said. He then paraphrased a traditional German saying: “Beer is the every-man’s drink, and it’s only done right if every person can enjoy it.”

He continued by astutely noting that “beer is a common denominator,” because we often enjoy it while sharing our lives and emotions with friends and family. If someone prefers a light beer? So be it.

He concluded: “I like a lot of exotic beer, I like a lot of plain beer. I just like beer, period.”

Blue Stallion Brewing Opens in Lexington

louisville beer - blue stallion german pilsner lexington

German Pilsner.

Took a mini-road trip with my girlfriend Cynthia on Saturday to check out the newly-opened Blue Stallion Brewing in Lexington: beautiful tap room, lots of German-style beers, a few guest taps and a welcoming feeling.

Oh, and would you believe this? Before they even opened, they were forced to change their logo by the local convention bureau. Maybe Blue Stallion and West Sixth could start a support group in Lexington for embattled logos. More on that in a moment, though.

Blue Stallion’s beers are of the German variety; pilsners and dunkels are the order of the day, but all the beers are lagered and filtered. In addition, a few ales make their way into the mix. But the main point at Blue Stallion is that the beers are, according to the brewery’s website, “approachable.”

At Blue Stallion, they “no longer accept that a casual beer needs to be yellow with no character or flavor.”

So if you’re looking for an Imperial IPA, well, know that the hoppiest beer brewed at Blue Stallion is the Pilsner, at 45 IBU (although they do have a few guest taps for hopheads). But it opens the door for a lot of people to find a beer they enjoy. Here’s a brief rundown:

Hefeweizen (3.8% ABV, 14 IBU): This one is smooth and fruity, with a hint of banana. Light body with a floral nose, it also offers up hints of clove. Imagine if Blue Moon didn’t suck, and you’re in the ballpark.

Scottish 70 Shilling (3.2% ABV, 20 IBU): Seriously? Only 3.2% alcohol by volume? Talk about sessionable – I could drink 10 of these and probably still be going strong. Actually, this is a very light brown ale with just a hint of caramel and malts, and as such was Cynthia’s favorite. It got its name because a pint of it would have cost 70 shillings back in mid-19th century Scotland.

louisville beer - blue stallion sampler lexington

Sampler and the “uber-bar.”

Munich Dunkel (5.4% ABV, 25 IBU): A mild version of a classic dunkel, this one has plenty of malt character and a bit of sweetness. In fact, Cynthia referred to it as “adult root beer,” which isn’t far off. This one packs a bit more punch than the Hefe or 70 Shilling. Solid.

Smoked Lager (5.7% ABV, 19 IBU): This one is smoky, as you’d expect, but not offensively so. If you’ve had the smoked beers at Against the Grain, for instance, you know a strong smoke flavor. This one is not nearly as bold; in fact, the smoke presence is just enough to wake up the taste buds. It also leaves a nice tingle on the palate. According to the Blue Stallion website, this beer is based on a German legend: “An accidental fire in a small regional brewery exposed the stored malt to the smoke for several hours. Because the brewer did not have the money to afford a new batch of malt, he was forced to use the smoked malt in his beer production.” People liked it, and it stuck. It may not be true, but it’s still a good story.

Wee Heavy (9.5% ABV, 28 IBU): Appropriately named because while it’s easily the heaviest beer currently on tap at Blue Stallion, it’s surprisingly light bodied. In fact, I was shocked when I learned it packs 9.5% ABV. The Scotch ale has flavor reminiscent of molasses. Be careful with this one, kids.

German Pilsner (4.9% ABV, 45 IBU): My favorite of the day, this is a classic German-style pilsner, with just enough hop bite to let you know it’s there. Crisp and slightly bitter, it features two different kinds of noble hops. More, please.

louisville beer - blue stallion logo lexington

Note the new logo.

While there, I spoke to co-owner Jim Clemons, who told me the tap room was basically built out by hand, taking about nine months to complete. The bar, I noted, is quite high – so high that when one sits there on a bar stool, it puts the bar level at about chest high, leaving you eye to eye with your beer.

Clemons referred to it as the “uber-bar,” and said it was only designed that way due to piping that had to run under the bar and needed to be at a certain height. The bar itself is made from barrel slats, which gives it a rustic-meets-modern look.

Clemons said Blue Stallion may be the smallest brewery in Kentucky, at least based on output. He said whereas most brewers can get a batch of most beer styles ready for tapping in two or three weeks, it takes six weeks to finish a Blue Stallion beer, due in part to the lagering process and also due to the step mash process they use, which slows the heating process but also helps the brewers avoid using any acids or chemicals in the brewing process.

“We’re very proud to do it the old-fashioned way,” Clemons said.

There’s no food menu at the tap room, but people are free to order pizza delivery or bring whatever they like. One couple who sat at the bar and watched sports on the flat screens brought a bag of salsas and other dips from Trader Joe’s, and casually snacked as they sipped their beers.

louisville beer - blue stallion original logo lexington

Blue Stallion original logo.

Oh, and note that the logo on the glasses and at left is different than the one used on the website (bottle photo, above). That’s because the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau took exception to the original logo since it resembled their own. It wasn’t exactly a West Sixth vs. Magic Hat situation, though.

“They asked us to change the logo, and we did,” Clemons said. “We wanted to be accommodating.”

It’s commendable. One logo lawsuit in Lexington is plenty.

‘Banana Stand’ Coming Friday to Apocalypse Brew Works

apocalypse brews - louisville beer blogApocalypse Brew Works announced via social media that it will tap a new brew on Friday, May 23. It’s a collaboration with My Old Kentucky Homebrew, called “Banana Stand.”

Obviously, we at Louisville Beer Blog are happy it isn’t called “Banana Hammock.” But what’s the skinny on this new interestingly-titled beer?

Per co-owner and brewmaster Leah Dienes, Banana Stand is “a German-style Hefeweizen with cocoa nibs … [which draws] Banana flavor (from the yeast) and a little toastiness from the malts, with a hint of chocolate.”

Sounds like a fine way to start the Memorial Day weekend. Apocalypse opens Friday at 5 p.m.