Falls City Beer unveils new product line, re-branded look

Falls City beer lineup

Surrounded by case after case of Falls City Beer, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer proclaimed March 1 as “Falls City Beer Day” in recognition of the brand’s new product line and look. The announcement was made a press conference at the brewery in Portland.

The announcement includes two new immediate releases in Kentucky Common and Easy Goer Session IPA, as well as three other new seasonals that will be sold in bottles and taps: Heather Ale, which will be available in late winter; Harvest Ale, available in the fall; and Red Rye Lager, available near the end of the year. In addition, Falls City representatives introduced redesigned packaging.

Fischer talked of his youth growing up in Louisville when Falls City was still a widely available beer. The original Falls City was founded in 1905 in response to a local monopoly on brewing, but it folded in 1978 following the failed release of Billy Beer. In 2010, it was revived by a local businessman, and last year was sold to a group of investors who also owns Old 502 Winery and Over the 9, a restaurant in the brewery/winery complex at 120 S. 10th St.

Kentucky Common is a beer style that is indigenous to Louisville and was being brewed here by the mid- to late-1800s. A dark, cream beer, it was a cheap and fast beverage to produce and take to market. It also was easy to drink and contained low alcohol, making it a favorite in Louisville’s taverns. It is estimated that about 80 percent of beer-drinking Louisvillians prior to Prohibition drank what became known as “common beer” or “komon beer.”

Falls City FischerFischer called it “a real milestone” that Falls City is rolling out the beer style as part of its core product line, pointing to a craft beer committee he formed two years ago to help promote brewing in Louisville. He noted that one of the key initiatives was to “reconnect Louisville with its distilling roots and its brewing roots.”

Falls City brewer Dylan Greenwood talked briefly about the history of the beer, which is made with similar ingredients used in distilling whiskey.

“We’re happy to bring it back to the masses,” he said. “Not only does it have a good history, but it’s a good beer.”

Easy Goer Session IPA is a lower-alcohol version of a currently popular beer style. Made with Palisades and Citra hops, it is less bitter than most standard IPAs and checks in at just 4.5 percent alcohol by volume.

“At 4.5 percent ABV, you don’t have to feel bad about drinking more than one,” Greenwood said.

These beers join Hipster Repellant IPA, which by comparison is 6.3 percent ABV, and Falls City Pale Ale, which was the first new beer the brand released in 2010. Much of Falls City’s brewing is currently brewed out of state, but the local facility will continue to brew limited monthly releases as part of the Falls City 7-Barrel series. These will be available only on draft at Over the 9, beginning with a Maibock, a malty German-style beer, and another beer style that was historically popular in Louisville.

While versions of Kentucky Common can be found periodically at other area breweries, Falls City CEO Cezary Wlodarczyk believes making it part of the brand’s base product line puts the brewery in “a unique position.” He specifically stated his goal to make the beer available at Churchill Downs and other iconic spots that are uniquely Kentucky.

“Falls City Beer is a brand that is totally connected to Louisville,” Greenwood said, “so not only is this a huge day for the brewery, but for the city as well. You can still see old Falls City signs on buildings around town. With new bottled beers like our Kentucky Common, we’re saluting local history but also producing well-balanced craft beer with the quality and variety beer fans now expect.”

Fischer added, “Falls City is iconic to Louisville, and watching its growth in the last handful of years is very exciting and meaningful to our city’s Renaissance of craft beer and spirits.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Oertel’s beer returns to Louisville by way of Apocalypse Brew Works

Oertels coaster 1950s Marvin GardnerA century ago, most Louisvillians were drinking a beer then known as “common,” a dark, drinkable cream beer that was quick to ferment and thus quickly sold by local saloons on draft.

The style, which originated right here in Louisville, is known as Kentucky Common, and it has been making a comeback with versions being brewed recently by Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse, West Sixth Brewing in Lexington, and in a recent collaboration brew involving Bluegrass Brewing Co. and Great Flood Brewing.

But Leah Dienes at Apocalypse Brew Works is working from an actual recipe with her forthcoming release, called Oertel’s 1912. Why? Because unlike most modern Kentucky Common reproductions, this beer was brewed using a recipe from the long-defunct Oertel Brewing Company, which was based in Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood beginning in the late 1800s.

This is the stuff your great-great-grandfather was drinking –assuming he wasn’t drinking common beer or lager made by Fehr’s, Falls City, Phoenix Brewery or one of the many other Louisville breweries that thrived before Prohibition. Oertel’s actually carried on into the early ’60s, and Oertel’s 92 remained a staple here until the brewery closed in 1967 after having been owned briefly by Brown-Forman. The brand was brewed by other breweries into the 1970s.

Oertel’s 1912 is a different beer style than Oertel’s 92, however, which was a lager and much lighter in color. Working with fellow brewer Conrad Selle, Dienes did research regarding the types of hops grown in the United States at the time the 1912 recipe was in use. In fact, the recipe they used is one that was brewed at Phoenix Brewery, which was located on Baxter Avenue near Irish Hill, following a fire at the Oertel Brewery in 1908.

Here’s the back story of how Dienes came into possession of the recipe: The Oertel brand was briefly revived in the early 1990s when a group of investors recruited former Oertel’s brewmaster Friedrich W. “Fritz” Finger Jr. to create a new recipe; the goal was to open a microbrewery in the old Oertel’s bottling building at the corner of Webster and Story in Butchertown, but the venture fizzled when a proposed restaurant partnership with another group of investors fell through.

Jan Schnur was part of the ownership group that attempted to bring Oertel’s back, and she has owned the trademark ever since. Schnur called the failed venture a “heartbreak,” and even though she has paid annual fees to keep the trademark current and active, no proposals she has received to bring Oertel’s beer back has interested her.

She has considered various opportunities over the years to revive the brand, but the sting of the first failed venture and the money she and her family lost in the deal has made her hesitant.

“I’m 75,” she says. “I thought, ‘Life is good again. I don’t want to get into that.’

“But When Leah contacted me, something just clicked. I really felt this was the time and the place. She’s passionate about what she’s doing, and she’s good at what she’s doing, so I gave her my blessing.”

Dienes had long wanted to brew an original Louisville recipe.

Leah Dienes

Leah Dienes

“I’ve known Conrad a long time,” Dienes says. “I said, ‘I want to do a historical beer recipe from this time.’ He said, ‘Guess what I have?’” You guessed right – he had Schnur’s phone number.

The two brewers worked on the recipe for about seven months, Dienes estimates. A first batch didn’t quite achieve the color they wanted; this particular beer, based on vintage photographs, was darker than the first batch. So Dienes says she steeped the grains longer, providing a darker look while maintaining a smooth, creamy body.

At about 4 percent alcohol by volume, it’s drinkable and pleasant – lightly tart, almost leaning toward a light sourness, but not quite getting there. In short, it’s likely to be a hit when it is unveiled to the public on May 10 at the Apocalypse Brew Works second anniversary celebration.

“You could drink this stuff all day,” Dienes says, sipping one of the first pours of the beer last week at the Apocalypse tap room.

If Oertel’s 1912 is a hit, Dienes is considering brewing other Oertel’s recipes, assuming Schnur is willing to share.

“Louisville loves it,” Schnur says of the Oertel’s 92 brand. “Especially the old timers. We still have people call and ask if we sell T-shirts and stuff. I have spent money every year to keep it active, waiting for just this type of thing.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.