Akasha Brewing revs up Pintwood Derby charity event Jan. 24

Logo created by Kentucky Brushes.
Logo created by Kentucky Brushes

If you were ever involved with Cub Scouts, chances are you had the Pinewood Derby experience wherein you built your own miniature car, painted it and raced it against other Scouts in your region.

My car didn’t win a thing, but being involved in an actual race was quite a thrill. Hey, I was 9. And if you share a similar childhood memory, Akasha Brewing has just the thing: the Pintwood Derby, which will happen Sunday, Jan. 24.

Just imagine your childhood Pinewood Derby, but with craft beer. Not bad, eh?

Here’s how it works: Any local business, club or organization can sponsor a car in the Akasha Pintwood Derby for a mere $20. The sponsor then builds and decorates its own car from a kit supplied by Akasha, and the top three finishers receive monetary donations for a charity of their choosing based on the total amount of the entry fees. Winners also get a commemorative trophy.

The idea for Pintwood Derby came from Paul Young’s own experience with Scouts.

“I thought this would be a fun idea for local businesses,” says Young, who coordinates events for Askasha. “I wanted to do a twist on an old concept.”

Akasha is teaming up with Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA) for the derby, which Young hopes will become an annual event. In addition, expect at least one, maybe two, food trucks, and possibly guest beers from other local breweries such as Monnik Beer Co. Young has been organizing special events on Sundays at Akasha, from local brewing history to game nights to movie screenings.

“That little pocket of NuLu is not very active on Sundays, so we wanted to do something to help draw people over to us,” he says.

Competitors for each heat will be randomly drawn, with double elimination, and races will continue in elimination fashion until the top three remain. Donation prizes will be 50 percent of entry fees for first place, 30 percent for second place and 20 percent for third place.

The entry deadline is Friday, Jan. 15, and teams are responsible for bringing their own cars to the Pintwood Derby. Teams may design their cars however they like, but each car’s weight must not exceed 5 ounces, the overall width of the car should not exceed 2¾ inches, and the overall length of the car should not exceed 7 inches (they must be able to fit on a standard Pinewood Derby track).

As far as modifications, entrants can modify as much or as little as they want. The Pinewood Derby car kits come race-ready other than paint and/or decals. Of course, there are ways to make the cars faster, if an organization wants to get competitive.

“I think it’s more about making the car part of the organization’s identity,” Young says. “If they want to do faster cars, there are probably people they could talk to in engineering who might know more about the aerodynamics. I think the main focus is to have fun and make a car that is identifiable to their organization; really, beyond that, people can shape it however they like it.”

Young, who previously owned and operated My Old Kentucky Home Brew, now works at both Akasha and Monnik. He wanted to remain active in the local beer scene, and he’s carved out a new niche.

“I spent seven years selling hypothetical beer, so it’s really nice to be able to say, ‘Here, taste this,’” he says.

Akasha is located at 909 E. Market St. in NuLu; doors will open at 1 p.m. on the 24th, with races beginning at 2 p.m. To enter or for more information, contact Young at paul@akashabrewing.com. Entries should include the following information: business, club or organization name; street address (for car kit delivery); phone number; email address, and charity.

Monnik Beer Co., finally open, is well worth the wait

Monnik Beer 4Well, it took almost three years, but Monnik Beer Co. is finally open in Germantown, just across the street from Check’s Café. And you know what? It was totally worth the wait.

The space at 1036 E. Burnett Ave., the former home of Zeppelin Café, is clean and inviting, there are plenty of taps pouring fresh beer, and there is already a buzz that is helping make the brewery and taproom a place to be. The food menu is brief but deliciously diverse, and the beer is not just on point, but outstanding.

There have been times when the delay has dragged on so long, it has been joked about; owners Brian Holton and Ian Luijk were never joking, however, and they have delivered.

I went to Monnik twice over the holiday weekend, and the first thing I am going to say is this: Monnik’s IPA, to my palate, is probably the best in the city right now. I have tasted most of the Monnik beers, and they all are excellent, but that one really nails it for me. (Case in point: They had run out of the stuff by the time I made my second visit, so I guess I’m not alone.)

I also tried three of the menu items and was impressed by all three. No, this is not a fine cuisine experience — it’s a brewery and taproom — but what is better than a cozy room that serves fresh beer and good pub food? Not much. Monnik has already leaped to the top of the heap in that regard.

Monnik Beer 3Friends told me the beer cheese and spent grain bread was a highlight, so when my girlfriend Cynthia, our friend Jessica and I went, that was what I insisted we order. The beer cheese was mild, thick and rather basic, almost resembling pimento cheese without the pimento. But the bread? Yeah, it’s delicious, soft and would taste good by itself or with just about anything else spread on it. Spent grains usually go to local farms to feed livestock, but this is a great way to repurpose the husks for the taproom — on top of that, it’s a beautiful pairing, because the bread and lightly tangy cheese balance each other so nicely.

The 12-item menu also has a starter called curry baked beans on soda bread, a take on an English pub classic. We tried that as well, and it was simple, affordable and, well, kind of brilliant. The sweet baked beans were fresh and cooked plump, with just the right amount of curry, and the soda bread was an inch thick, soft and delicious. I was scooping up excess beans from the basket in which the appetizer was delivered like a greedy miser. They were that tasty.

Cynthia and I went back a few days later after a friend told me about the Bier Burger, which is not on the menu but apparently is going to be in the very near future. We each got one, and they came out quickly (kudos to the Monnik kitchen staff, by the way) with hand-cut fries.

Monnik Beer 6 burgerThe burgers are served on thick and soft wheat buns, and the best way I can describe the single-patty burgers are that they are sort of like the ultimate Steak ’N’ Shake tribute. The burger I had was thin, cooked crisp on the outside, yet medium rare inside, and hanging off the bun. I’ve had better burgers, but it was quite tasty, topped with the aforementioned beer cheese, beer mustard, onion rings and pickles.

Cynthia ordered hers with the beer mustard on the side, which gave us a chance to really experience it, and it had quite a nice kick. She also ordered a side of curry ketchup, and it was a sweet and mildly spicy complement to the fries.

As noted, the menu is fairly brief, yet not simple — in fact, it’s quite well designed, with nods to English pub favorites in the curry beans and Mokie’s Pie, which comes in two versions, pork and currant and roasted root vegetables.

There are a pair of house burgers, which look to be every bit as promising as the Bier Burger, as well as a neighborhood-appropriate sauerbraten, not to mention smoked trout with poached egg, and War Fries, which are french fries served with Dutch mayo, peanut sauce and chopped onions. Nothing is priced over $12. (We also heard good things about the fried kalette salad.)

If you’ve not tried the beer, get ready for a lengthy and tasty tour. Ranging from an accessible and low-octane English mild (Mild George) to a zesty ginger saison to a 9.0 ABV Sour Cyanator, a doppelbock aged in a sour barrel and whiskey barrel. For beginners, there’s the crisp and drinkable Hauck’s Pilsner, named in tribute to Hauck’s Handy Store, just a few blocks away. The point is, there will no doubt be something to satisfy your taste buds.

Again, it was a long wait for Monnik’s opening, but well worth it. Now I just have to hope they won’t run out of IPA again.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.


Monnik Beer Co. hopes for long-awaited soft opening in September

20150812_180257Brian Holton, who co-owns Monnik Beer Co. — a sister brewery to Danville’s Beer Engine — doesn’t seem interested in looking back on the journey he and business/brewing partner Ian Luijk have traveled to arrive at their current position.

The pair originally wanted to open another Beer Engine location in the building at 1036 E. Burnett Ave. that once housed the Zeppelin Café. That all started back in 2013, and a variety of setbacks caused one delay after another. Most recently, they decided to switch the name to Monnik after learning there were other breweries using the term “Beer Engine” in their names.

And now they sit on the cusp of a soft opening. Finally. The goal is to open the doors quietly in early September.

“There’s a lot to do still,” Holton says while sitting at the bar in the brewery’s taproom. He stares down 20 taps. The front door and windows are covered by brown paper, and the space is cluttered with ladders, tools and other signs of ongoing construction. He says that while there certainly have been setbacks, there also has been a keen attention to detail.

“That’s part of why it’s taken so long,” he continues. “We want it to be right.”

With a huge walk-in cooler, a deck for outside seating in back and a 10-barrel brewhouse purchased from a brewery in Michigan, Holton and Luijk know they have a great space. The kitchen is huge and ready to be built out with brand new equipment the owners have already purchased. Upstairs in what used to be a karaoke room, there is a stage and plenty of space for a private events area. Holton may actually be most happy that he has office space for the first time ever.

0812151725bAnd while the food menu is still under construction (expect mostly pub fare), the beer is already brewing. In fact, there are kegs upon kegs of the stuff in the walk-in waiting to be sipped by customers. And there will be plenty of Monnik beer for the drinking — Holton and Luijk say most of those 20 taps will be pouring Monnik brews rather than guest drafts.

They also offered up a sampling of what customers can expect in a few weeks. There’s a beautifully floral, Mosaic-hopped IPA (my favorite of what I tried) as well as a citrusy ginger saison that is dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace. There’s a rich milk stout that is almost like drinking a brownie, and there’s an English-style bitter pale ale.

There also will be a brown ale and a mild ale that, at 3.5 percent alcohol, might just be the perfect session beer. It’s dark in color but light in body, with a toasty nose and flavor that is vaguely reminiscent of soda bread. In fact, Holton says that’s the one he enjoys most when he is brewing or working on getting the space ready.

“It’s good with lunch,” he says. “It’s good with anything.”

But possibly the future hit of Monnik will be Hauck’s American Pilsner, a nod to Hauck’s Handy Store just a few blocks away. The store is, of course, a neighborhood institution and has been since 1910. Many games of Dainty have been played on the streets nearby. Holton and Luijk secured the blessing from longtime owner George Hauck.

The beer will be an accessible, classic Czech pilsner style that will satisfy those whose palates prefer a lighter, crisper beer, but Holton says, “We also want it to be interesting enough for craft beer lovers.”

20150812_172104Beers will be priced according to style, but expect most of them to be in the $4-$5 range, with growler fills costing $13-$16. Of course, there will be more on tap than the basic styles that have been brewed already; Holton likes to experiment, so expect some funky sour beers.

“I want to go as far as I can,” Holton says of his experiments with different yeasts and bacteria. “To me, it’s the future of creativity in beer.”

Oh, and there is also a space for a barrel room in the basement, and barrels have been secured from Corsair Distillery, which is based in Bowling Green/Nashville.

As for the new name, even though it sounds like it means something, it actually doesn’t — much. They wanted a name they could take to a regional or national level. It is actually the Dutch word for “monk,” which, of course, is an easy connection to brewing tradition.

“We want to grow the business to be a bigger brand,” Holton says. “And the word looks kind of cool.”

While the space still needs a lot more work during a recent visit, it’s clearly in the home stretch. Painters were putting a coat of gray on the old building last week. After nearly two-and-a-half years of planning, problems and hours upon hours of hard work, Monnik Beer Co. is actually just a few weeks away from opening.

And then the real work begins.

“I don’t think we can rest on our laurels,” Holton says. “We have to show people we can make the best beer and the best food, and set it up in a way that will be impressive to everybody.”

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.