Great Flood Brewing celebrates year two by announcing new production brewery

Great Flood 2 facility

Great Flood Brewing Company celebrated its second birthday on Saturday by announcing to its Flood Liars Club members it will open a 13,000-square-foot production brewery in Shelby Park. The new brewery will increase Great Flood’s capacity by ten-fold, according to a press release.

Co-owner Vince Cain made the announcement during a quarterly event for club members that had the brewery’s taproom full with fellow co-owners Matt Fuller and Zach Barnes. He said the new brewery will be a 15-barrel facility able to produce an estimated 4,000 barrels annually. The current two-barrel brewing system tops out at about 300 barrels per year.

The new facility also will feature a canning line and tasting room, and will eventually offer brewery tours. There will be space for private events as well. Cain declined to disclose the address of the facility, however, saying only that it is in the Shelby Park/Germantown area.

The current brewery and taproom will continue operating as usual. Cain wouldn’t say what he and his co-owners would be paying for the new facility, but said it will be funded through “traditional bank financing” and not from outside investors.

Great Flood 2 Vince“We will 100 percent remain local brewer-owned,” Cain said.

Great Flood will primarily use the new brewery to distribute its beers locally so area bars and restaurants can carry the brewery’s beers on draft. According to the press release, “While the Highlands brewery focuses on experimentation, the Shelby Park/Germantown brewery will facilitate large-scale production and distribution.”

In addition, the canning line will produce 12-ounce cans of Great Flood beers for retail sale in area liquor stores, convenience stores and supermarkets. Cain also said arrangements are “in place” for statewide and regional distribution when brewing capacity allows for such.

No announcement was made in terms of what beers will be distributed or canned. When asked, Cain said, “We’re going to expand on existing successful Great Flood brands. Expect to see grown-up versions of beers you already know well.”

Cain, Fuller and Barnes had spent several months in late 2015 and early 2016 looking for a space to house the brewery before finally finding the Shelby Park neighborhood location.

“It’s been in the works for a while,” Cain said. “This location has been our target for some time.”

For the brewery’s two-year celebration, it had 16 house-made beers on tap, including some new brews such as Oaked Scotch and Dark Raspberry Sour, as well as favorites such as ’37 Coffee Porter

Great Flood opened two years ago to a welcome reception at its location at 2120 Bardstown Road, with the beer selling out before the end of the first weekend. It has remained a popular location. The popularity of the brewery surprised even the owners.

“There was, in our minds, less than a 1 percent chance it was going to be like that,” Cain said at the time. “We blew more kegs on Friday than we expected to blow the whole weekend.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

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Great Flood Brewing Commemorates Year One with Celebration, Limited Bottle Release

Photo courtesy of Great Flood Brewing.

Photo courtesy of Great Flood Brewing.

Great Flood Brewing co-owner Vince Cain recalls that when he and his business partners opened the doors to the business nearly a year ago, one of the primary goals was for each of them to quit their full-time jobs to focus on the brewery within a year and a half.

“We’ve been working here together full-time since July,” he says.

Call it the little brewery that could as it nears its first birthday in its cozy spot at 2120 Bardstown Road, a birthday it will celebrate on Saturday, April 11, with a limited release of four bottled beers and a birthday party featuring a full tap lineup of 16 Great Flood beers (usually there are roughly seven or eight with guest drafts balancing out the taps).

Plenty has happened during that first year of business. Cain reminds that they were in the brewery space working on Christmas Day 2013, so for he and co-owners Matt Fuller and Zach Barnes, the timeframe is actually closer to a year and a half.

Upon opening, local beer enthusiasts famously drank Great Flood nearly completely out of beer the first weekend, forcing the owners to close up shop that first Sunday to regroup. But regroup they did, brewing the 100th batch of beer as a collaboration with Grind Burger Kitchen back in December. Along the way, the beer kept getting better, and the owners invested in some barrels and a new brite tank.

And with the beginning of 2015, the brewery began opening seven days a week, versus four when it started out. The demand was there. And in January, the Flood Liars Club, a 100-member exclusive mug club, was announced and sold out within days.

Of course, it wasn’t all rosy; earlier this year, one of the major music publishers, ASCAP, came calling: Great Flood had become a popular place for local and even touring bands to perform, something ownership wanted to do to help support local arts (the brewery has gone out of its way to be an active community contributor, from hanging local art on its walls to hosting charity events). But ASCAP demanded money, claiming the original artists that local performers covered needed to be paid.

It forced Great Flood to not only cancel a number of shows, but to stop hosting live music altogether. Cain noted that the brewery never profited – it never charged admission, and bands always got paid. (Unfortunately, publishers strong-arming small venues for publishing fees isn’t something new, as evidenced by a coffee house in Missouri that was forced to stop featuring live music due to such tactics.)

“They are asking for outrageous amounts of cash,” Cain said at the time, “and if we pay them we have to stop paying bands. I think what hurts me is I feel bad for our customers and the many local artists who were relying on us, frankly, for part of their income. I viewed it as more of a service to the neighborhood. And it’s just gone now because of the greed of whoever these people are.”

But luckily, quality beer keeps customers coming back, even without the live music. And the latest round of special-release brews is no exception.

Great Flood Four TulipsThere are a limited number of four-packs available of the four bottled beers, which include Tribulation, a bourbon barrel-aged stout made with coffee and oats; Double Eclipse, an imperial brown ale aged in bourbon barrels; Old Imperial ’37, an imperial porter made with vanilla and barrel aged; and Velvet Racer, an imperial red ale aged in bourbon barrels. Each bottle is 750ml, and once the four-packs sell out, the remaining individual bottles will go on sale.

Each of the high-gravity beers has its own delicious character, but Old Imperial ’37 especially satisfied, with its intense vanilla nose and chocolaty balance on the palate with a hint of oak in the finish. The beer feels like velvet in your mouth. Fuller said it was finished with Madagascar vanilla beans – this is not extract vanilla from a supermarket, evidence these beers got plenty of time and attention in the brewery.

Interestingly, Fuller also says the bottled versions of the beers are somehow even better than the draft versions poured for the Flood Liars Club in an exclusive preview on April 1.

“There’s nothing different,” he says, “but I swear to god they’re better somehow.”

Great Flood isn’t stopping with its one-year celebration, as Cain says the ownership trio is “actively pursuing a second location” that would be a production brewery that would serve not only the tap room but guest taps around town with 30- and 60-barrrel fermenters. He says he hopes that will be up and running “conservatively, by the end of 2015.” More bottles and possibly canning would potentially follow in 2016.

Asked if he expected Great Flood to succeed to the level it has, Cain says, “We had dreams it would go this well, but we didn’t have expectations.”

Great Flood will open for business at 5 p.m. on April 11 for its one-year birthday celebration, and four packs of the new brews will go on sale immediately.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Great Flood Brewing Busts Out New Mug Club

Great Flood mugGreat Flood Brewing is now selling memberships to its new Flood Liars Club, a mug club that will get members discounts on beer pints and other cool perks. Hey, is there a better holiday gift for the beer nerd on your list?

The Liars Club nets members a numbered, 18-ounce mug from Louisville Stoneware, similar to the prototype pictured, along with a T-shirt and sticker, a buck off all house brew pours and more.

Great Flood co-owner Vince Cain said there will be exclusive specials for club members every Wednesday, plus quarterly private events such as beer tastings and brewing school, and a Liars Club email list for exclusive offers and beer releases.

The initial cost is $75; annual renewal fee is $35 to start with. Basically, Cain said, based on just the value of the mug and shirt alone, all a member has to do is drink 25 beers in a year’s time to come out ahead. (Heck, some beer drinkers can do that in a month. Maybe even a week.)

The club officially launches in January, but you can sign up now at the brewery, which is located at 2120 Bardstown Road in the Highlands. Space is limited, so don’t drag your feet.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Lock, Stock & Smoking Barrels promises to be ‘unique, special’ brew fest

Lock Stock barrel picWhen Louisville Craft Beer Week commences on Sept. 12, there will be a new event in town – one that is a fully new concept.

That concept is called Lock, Stock & Smoking Barrels, and on Saturday, Sept. 20, it will feature a dozen barrel-aged beers – using brandy barrels, mind you – brewed just for the event by local and regional breweries. It was the brainchild of John King, executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers. While Louisville breweries often use bourbon barrels to age beer, brandy-barrel beer is a new concept locally.

He ran into Joe Heron, co-founder of Copper & Kings Distillery in Butchertown, and pitched the idea.

“This has never been done before during craft beer week,” King said. “We’re so bourbon focused. … I had this idea; there is a local brandy place that’s brand new. Why don’t we become friends with them? Let’s be the first ones to use their barrels.”

King pitched the idea to Heron, who works out at the same gym, and discussions commenced regarding logistics.

“I initially thought, ‘They’re so busy, they might not go with it,’” King said. But he was wrong. In fact, Heron had a similar idea in mind already.

“We always imagined beer being aged in brandy barrels,” Heron said. “This was always on our agenda. That John enabled us to do it in concert with all the regional brewers was simply serendipitous, as all the greatest things always are.”

The beers sound, well, delicious. The barrels are Copper and Kings apple or grape brandy barrels, by way of fresh bourbon barrels from Woodford Reserve. Here are a couple of the entries:

  • Barreling In, by Great Flood Brewing, is a Belgian golden strong ale aged in a brandy barrel. This one packs a 9.0 percent alcohol by volume wallop. (King said he had a pre-taste and that it is coming along nicely.)
  • Never Be Gold, by Beer Engine, an English barleywine aged in a brandy barrel. This will be another big one.
  • Mild Davis, by Bluegrass Brewing Company in St. Matthews, an English mild aged in a brandy barrel.
  • Takashi, from Against the Grain, which is an imperial stout aged in a brandy barrel. Named after the lovable character from “Revenge of the Nerds,” this may end up tasting like the distant cousin to the brewery’s popular Bo & Luke series.

That’s just a small taste of what’s in store. There will be other beers available as well, but you won’t want to miss these limited-edition brews. Heron certainly is looking forward to tasting them.

Lock Stock“The beers are still aging,” he said. “The concepts are all terrific – but still in the barrels, so I am going to have to taste them all on the day” of the event.

The event is broken up into two sessions – one during the afternoon, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and one in the evening, 4-7 p.m.

Lock, Stock & Smoking Barrels also will help raise funds for the Kentucky Waterways Alliance. In addition, there will be live music by the Kentucky City Boys. Of course, you’ll want to have something to wash down with these beers, so Feast BBQ will be having a pig roast.

In addition, there will be Copper & Kings brandy and special brandy cocktails available, and attendees will be able to take tours of the distillery. There also will be copies of “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” available at the evening session.

Heron said he is “really excited about the ambitious and expansive nature of the entire ‘smoking barrel’ concept – sublime beers aged in brandy barrels, cask strength brandy straight from the barrel, and also the rain barrel program from the Beargrass Creek Alliance. This imaginative scope says a lot about where we live.”

“It’s very unique,” King said. “And for a lot of these breweries, it’s the first time they have used brandy barrels, especially locally owned ones.”

Tickets are $45 per session, and for a limited time can be purchased at a discount online (discount code: brandyrocks). Discounted tickets ($15) are available for designated drivers.

King urged people to enjoy the unique beers while they can.

“A lot of these beers, you’ll never get to drink them again,” he said. “A lot of them, this is it – the rest, they’ll be going to out-of-state festivals.”

“I’ve been a to a lot of beer fests around the country … and tried some very cool beers and ciders,” Heron added. “But this is about as unique and special as I have ever seen.”

Drink up.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

The New Domains Are Here – What Will Your .beer URL Be?

dot-beerBeer is taking over the world. As early as this September, you will even be able to register a domain name with the suffix .beer. This is not a joke.

Just go to the .beer Registry and get ready to sign up for your URL. Got a new brewery in the works? You no longer have to mess with some silly .com address – and let’s face it, all the good URLs in that domain have already been claimed. (Even GetDrunk.com is taken – I checked.)

Seriously, though, one of the more recent small breweries to open in my home city of Louisville, Ky., is Great Flood Brewing. How cool would the URL GreatFlood.beer be for the owners of that business?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been rolling out these product- or industry-specific vanity names since last year; they are known as known as “generic top-level domains,” or gTLDs.

Late last year there were maybe a couple dozen of these domains. Currently, more than 1,300 gTLDs are in queue to be “delegated,” meaning they then become part of the Internet’s “root code.” That means they are recognized by the Internet.

For instance, .gifts has been delegated, so if your Aunt Edna is opening a local gift boutique, she may want to consider Ednas.gifts. And if you’re a motorcycle dealer in Philadelphia, you may want to consider Philly.suzuki. (Suzuki is also the Japanese word for “striped bass,” so if you’re in the sushi business, you know what to do.)

But .beer? For a beer writer and all-around beer enthusiast, it staggers the imagination. I have a beer blog at 502Brews.com, but what could I have named it if I’d known .beer was available? 502.beer would be perfect.

The folks at ICANN know beer is taking over.

“.beer stands out from the generic .com websites,” ICANN said in a press release. “.beer offers businesses outstanding new sales and marketing opportunities, such as rebranding to an outstanding .beer name instead of a long and confusing .com name; creating new promotions/product launches; or simply adding another virtual door to their existing website.”

If this catches on, think of what’s about to happen in the world of corporate beer. Marketers starving for ideas – at least based on the silly commercials I see during football games – have a whole new toy at their disposal.

Think about it: KingOf.beer. FindYourBeach.beer. TheLightBeerThatInventedLight.beer. YouAndYourFriendsWillBeCoolerIfYouDrinkThisSwill.beer. (Man, it could get really ugly.)

But these domains won’t be open to so-called “squatters,” or people looking to steal a brand name. If your name is Joe Miller, you can’t automatically register Miller.beer because, clearly, that suggests a brand name that Joe Miller from Somewhere, U.S.A., doesn’t have a trademark to.

Beer Registry screen capAccording to the .beer Registry website, specific URLs will actually become available to specific parties at different times and prices. Trademark holders will need to register with the Trademark Clearinghouse for authentication.

Once the process of handing out trademark .beer URLs is complete, then comes a “landrush auction,” in which a URL claimed by more than one party would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Open registration – which is first come, first served – would begin after that.

“When you might be able to officially register a new .beer domain name,” the site says, “will depend on whether you hold trademark rights, or are a member of a ‘beer’ community, if one exists, and sometimes, how much you are willing to pay.”

For those who want a specific URL – Brooklyn.beer, anyone? – there is also a watch list. The timeline on how this all plays out isn’t clear, but it’s coming.

It’s an interesting concept, and it was inevitable when you stop to think about it. It will be even more fascinating to see if these new domains grow. In five years, they may be fair game to us all, for all we know. Heck, maybe even sooner. I’m already envisioning my URL as being OneMore.beer. Or hell, maybe just Mmmm.beer.

And in case you are wondering – yes, .wine is one of the many gTLDs coming available, along with .bar and .pub. Can .booze be far behind?

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

Beer roundup: Three brews to honor World Cup; live music at Great Flood

New Albanian Brewing Company has a lot going on in June. The busy month is highlighted by the release of three new beers honoring the three national football squads facing the USA in Group G of the opening round: Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

new-albanianNABC’s World Cup Trilogy series will be rolled out one by one over the course of 10 days at both Bank Street Brewhouse and the Pizzeria & Public House, beginning Monday, June 16, with Citra Passion Ale for the USA vs. Ghana match.

“Super Bock” will be tapped Sunday, June 22, at the Brewhouse when USA takes on Portugal. It will be available the following day at the other location.

For the USA vs. Germany contest on Thursday, June 26, Sticke Alt will be on tap at both locations. Get them while you can, because when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Great Flood Brewing‘s Sunday Soundwaves music series is off and running, and this Sunday’s entertainment is Drew Miller and His Internet Friends, starting at 6 p.m. On Father’s Day,  June 15, the J Band will perform.

The tap list beginning on Thursday, June 5, includes four Great Flood brews — Citra IPA, Brown Ale, Wit and Oatmeal Stout — with several guest taps as well, including Cumberland Red. Coming soon (possibly this weekend) are Great Flood APA, 2IPA and Amber .

Gordon-Biersch1• Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant at Fourth Street Live welcomes summer on Wednesday, June 4, with SommerBrau, a Kölsch beer made with authentic yeast imported from Cologne, as well as a special pairing menu.

SommerBrau, a golden and slightly fruity thirst quencher, will be on tap through July 13. The limited-time menu includes a Coconut Shrimp (shrimp dipped in tempura batter, rolled in coconut and served with fresh grilled pineapple salsa) starter and three steak entrées: Tenderloin Salad, Tenderloin Filet & Coconut Shrimp, and New York Strip & Coconut Shrimp.

There will be a tapping party for SommerBrau Thursday, June 5, with beer and food samples.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Great Flood Brewing opens to a flood of customers

They were three and four deep at the bar all night.

They were three and four deep at the bar all night.

After months of working and waiting, the three owners of Great Flood Brewing opened the doors of their highly anticipated brewery to the public on Friday.

Predictably, it was packed.

Doors opened at 4 p.m., and there was a line of people on Bardstown Road waiting to get in the front entrance. By the time I got there around 8 p.m. with my friend Laura, the back parking lot was full, people were stacked three-deep at the bar, and every seat in the place was taken.

Great Flood kicked off its run at its cozy spot at 2120 Bardstown Road in Douglas Loop with seven house-brewed beers: a hoppy IPA that packs an 8.6 percent alcohol by volume punch; a milder but still plenty hoppy APA with a unique finish; a malty, delicious brown ale; Hoppy Irish, a red ale with a hop kick at the back of the palate; a citrusy wit; a thick oatmeal stout with plenty of coffee tone; and a surprisingly tasty and tart (but thankfully not too sweet) blackberry wheat beer.

If you haven’t been, you should go. The warm atmosphere features an art wall opposite the bar, with a row of tables down the wall ending in a lounge area containing black leather couches and chairs just inside the front window. Down the center of the space is a long, wood standing-bar where you can chat with friends and also have a place to sit your beer while you socialize.

Behind the ball is a pair of chalkboards, one displaying the beers on tap, along with their ABV content and IBU (International Bittering Units) rating. There’s also a flat screen TV showing sports.

On the wall nearest the bar is a huge mural featuring images from the 1937 flood, along with more tables and seating. In the midst of it all is a large orange sign bearing a pledge that ends with, “I dare you to catch me not smiling.”

Matt Fuller and his partners in beer were busy guys this past weekend.

Matt Fuller and his partners in beer were busy guys this past weekend.

There were plenty of people smiling during the Great Flood opening on Friday night. In fact, the throngs were so happy about Great Flood’s beer that by Saturday night, very little beer remained; as a result, a planned full weekend — including Sunday full-day hours — was cut to just Friday and Saturday.

“There was, in our minds, less than a 1 percent chance it was going to be like that,” said Vince Cain, who founded and owns Great Flood along with partners Matt Fuller and Zach Barnes. “We blew more kegs on Friday than we expected to blow the whole weekend.”

Saturday was not nearly as busy as Friday, Cain said, but there was “a steady stream from noon to midnight. There was never not somebody buying a beer.”

On Sunday, the Great Flood guys were busy brewing four new batches, including a rye IPA, a citra-hopped IPA, coffee porter and a double IPA. Those will be on tap for upcoming Halfway to Craft Beer Week celebrations, along with some guest taps including New Albanian Brewing Company’s Community Dark and Bluegrass Brewing Company’s bourbon barrel stout.

They are also working with BBC on a collaboration beer: a barrel-aged Kentucky common.

The clear crowd favorite for grand opening weekend was the brown ale, Cain said, which was a bit of a surprise. And while all the beers seemed to go over well, Cain cautions that they’ve only just begun to brew.

“These were our first batches on this system,” he said. “We are far from perfecting it. It’s only going to get better.”

And while Cain looked every bit as tired as he felt on Sunday afternoon as the new batches were being created, there wasn’t a complaint to be heard about how the weekend went.

“We’re tickled to death,” he said. “I’m tired. I’ll give you tired. But I’m not going to give you frustrated.”

Great Flood will be open Thursday and Friday 4 p.m.-midnight, Saturday noon-midnight, and Sunday 1 p.m.-10 p.m. (Unless they run out of beer.)

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Great Flood Unveils its Taproom and Brews with Soft Opening

It’s been a long wait, but Great Flood Brewing is about to open to the public. Be there this Friday to get your taste at a special grand opening.

The guys hosted an invitation-only soft opening last night at their Highlands/Douglass Loop location, and it was quite a success. The space is big and inviting, the vibe is both modern and nostalgic, and the beers are solid. Impressive indeed.

They had five brews on tap last night, including an APA with an outstanding  hop finish; a double IPA that ???; a surprisingly bold brown ale; a hoppy Irish ale that I couldn’t get enough of, and a solid wit.

My congrats to Vince, Matt and Zach. Looking forward to drinking their brews for a long time to come. Meantime, check out some pics from last night’s event.

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.

Great Flood Brewing on Track for Late February Launch

louisville beer - great flood brewing

Just wait ’til it’s full.

Checked in with Vince, Matt and  Zach at Great Flood Brewing, and they are hard at work building out their Highlands space in anticipation of opening sometime in mid- to late February.

While the place looks like it has a long, long way to go (see pics below), the guys say the build-out is actually going more quickly than expected. They said in an interview a couple months back that the target was late March, but apparently they’ve sped things up. In fact, they say due to some mixups with ABC licenses they’ll actually be ready and functional weeks before they are able to open to the public.

The capacity will be about 120, with 15 or so bar seats, standing tables in the bar area and plenty of open space in the front of the room — facing Bardstown Road — for couches and the like. They want to present an inviting atmosphere to the folks passing by, which makes a ton of sense.

Anyway, I am proud to say I helped them hoist the top of the walk-in cooler into place during my visit. They even gave me a very cool Great Flood pint glass for my efforts. It may not be enough to make me an honorary partner, but hey, I’ll take it.

Looking forward to tasting some Great Flood brews in the coming weeks.