Goodwood Brewing begins canning Louisville Lager

Goodwood Cans 8Goodwood Brewing created Louisville Lager, a beer made with Kentucky grains, to provide a crisp, drinkable beer that wouldn’t sacrifice quality. It’s a brew craft beer lovers can appreciate and “light” beer drinkers can enjoy as well.

To put that beer in a can seemed like a natural fit for the Goodwood team. On Tuesday morning, it happened for the first time, as Goodwood canned roughly 780 cases for distribution in Louisville and across Kentucky.

Rather than install an expensive canning operation, Goodwood opted for an offsite canning company to come in, set up a mobile canning line on premises, can the beers, then dismantle the line and move on. The practice has become more and more common with the popularity growth in craft beer.

“It’s busy,” says Mo Oelker, founder of Toucan Mobile Canning. “Business is good. That’s why we got into this business, because of the craft beer explosion.”

Oelker actually is associated with Logan Aluminum, a company based in Russellville, Ky. While the golden yellow cans being filled with Louisville Lager this morning were manufactured in Guadelajara, Mexico, much of the aluminum was produced in Kentucky — appropriate, given the contents.

Goodwood cans1Can manufacturers in the United States are “maxed out,” Oelker says, forcing many operations like Goodwood to employ a company called Envases Universales to provide the can manufacturing. The empty cans are shipped to the brewery, which is when Toucan comes in. Oelker, whose company owns two mobile canning lines based in Nashville and Atlanta, says Toucan does several canning jobs per week across the Southeast.

This is the first canning job for Goodwood, but the brewery’s plan is to can roughly once a month going forward; that will increase if sales are good.

“We’ll continue to ramp it up and see where demand takes us,” says Goodwood CEO Ted Mitzlaff. “Let the market dictate.”

Goodwood president Phil Dearner says other Goodwood brews ultimately will be canned as well. Asked which ones, both Dearner and Mitzlaff fall silent and look at each other.

“I’ve always had an infatuation with a 16-ounce pub can of Bourbon Barrel Stout,” Dearner finally says, but adds that the popularity of the Walnut Brown may demand that one will come first.

Against the Grain Brewery became the first Louisville craft brewer to start canning its beers earlier this year when it included a canning line in an expansion in Portland. Currently, it cans staples like Citra Ass Down, the Brown Note and Sho’ Nuff Golden Ale in 16-ounce cans that are sold in four-packs across the country. Louisville Lager will be sold in 12-ounce cans as six-packs for a retail price between $9.49 and $10.99, depending on the retail outlet. Cans are expected to hit stores later this week.

Goodwood Cans 5The Toucan mobile canning unit actually was set up Monday evening, after which is was sterilized. Before canning, it was again cleaned, rinsed and sterilized.

“We came in this morning at 7 a.m.,” Oelker says, “and we were putting beer in cans by 8:15.”

The machine feeds empty cans straight from palates into a “twist rinse,” which turns the cans upside down for rinsing, and then sends them through the line to an automatic fill machine. The filled cans are then sealed, after which they are returned to their cases and plastic six-pack holders are applied by hand. The machine was running about 36 cans per minute this morning, or about 100 cases an hour.

The Goodwood team was hard at work and quite excited for this next step in the brewery’s growth, envisioning people enjoying canned Louisville Lager on golf courses and boat outings.

“A crushable yellow lager in an aluminum can?” Dearner says, and shrugs. “Seems like a perfect fit to me.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

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.