Red Yeti Brewing opens in Jeffersonville to big crowds

0524141504cThe good news is, when I walked into Red Yeti Brewing for the first time since it opened May 19, the place was buzzing with activity. The bad news – for me, at least – was that there had been such a lunchtime rush that I arrived just as the kitchen was being forced to shut down to prep more food for dinner.

So, I decided to just hang out at the bar, have a beer from the 10-tap craft menu, and take in the surroundings. And even without getting to try the fare, just based on my fairly brief and foodless visit, Red Yeti looks and feels like a winner right out of the gate.

The harried staff were friendly, even if they were clearly distracted by everything being thrown at them. Friendly bartender Caitlin, cousin of Red Yeti owner Brandi Ronaur, was apologetic and patient when informing disappointed would-be diners that the kitchen was closing temporarily.

I ordered a Founder’s Pale Ale – pricey at $7 for a pint – and chatted briefly with a woman sitting next to me who’d arrived in time to order a “briskit” sandwich and a bowl of cheese and ale soup. She was impressed by both, noting that the “soup” really ate more like a gravy. It nearly looked like actual beer cheese. Bring on the big pretzel.

When I first stepped into the old building – which at one time was a mortuary, according to Caitlin – back during winter, it was barren. The Ronaurs (Brandi’s husband Paul is the brewer) did quite a job with the décor, adding a striking black and red theme to mimic the distinctive logo, which plays nicely with the natural brick and a few rustic touches. It truly is a cozy place. On this sunny spring day, the al fresco seating outside the main entrance was hot real estate.

My beer came accompanied by an ice water in stemware (nice touch) and a request to see my I.D. In fact, the bartenders were carding everyone, so if you go, make sure you have identification. I witnessed a couple of people being turned away.

The menu, created by Chef Michael Bowe, is compact, but seems a cinch to be ever-evolving – when Red Yeti posted an image of it on Facebook on May 20, it noted, “Check out this week’s menu.” Hmm. That bodes well for more interesting dishes.

The briskit and burger come topped with an intriguing condiment called “bacon jam,” while the menu also offers tantalizing options like smoked pork belly and buttermilk fried chicken with bourbon and rosemary glaze with braised kale with bacon and onions, and grilled Indian corn.

There are also grilled wings with either honey bourbon barbecue sauce or spicy adobo, as well as hand-cut fries with Parmesan and roasted garlic aioli. The crab cake bites looked intriguing as well. Entrees are roughly $10-$15, while starters and salads are in the $5-$11 range. You can cap off your meal with funnel cake or a beer float made with Brooklyn Brewing Chocolate Stout.

On draft, there are plenty of Indiana beers rotating through, from New Albanian Brewing Company to Flat 12 to Tin Man to Oaken Barrel, along with a nice variety of others. Most drafts are $5 or $6, but some high-end pints run as much as $9. There are also eight more taps awaiting installation. (There are no corporate light swills to be had, just so you know.)

0524141503bCaitlin said Red Yeti won’t start brewing for a few months, pending federal inspections, and then dotting and crossing the requisite I’s and T’s. However, she said she tasted some of Paul’s beers at last year’s family Christmas party and assures me they will be worth the wait. The brewing equipment, a one-and-a-half-barrel system that apparently will be expanded to an eight-barrel system, is in place and appears ready to go, which is promising.

A few minutes later, it didn’t help my rumbling belly when a server brought out two burgers, presumably among the last orders of the lunch rush that day. They looked and smelled delicious. Caitlin noted that everything on the menu is sourced locally and fresh – even the buns for the sandwiches are made from scratch, which, along with having a thin staff as the restaurant gets its bearings, helps explain why Red Yeti ran out of prepped food.

Heck, I’m not even sure what I want to try first when I return. So I asked Caitlin what the best thing on the menu is.

“Hands down, the brisket,” she said. Hmm.

Guess I’ll try the brisket.

Next time, however, I’ll make sure I get there earlier.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

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Flat 12 reveals it will open full-scale craft brewery in Jeffersonville

flat 12 logoBierwerks of Indianapolis announced recently it would open a tap room on Jeffersonville’s riverfront in 2014. Well, hold on to your growlers, because president and CEO Sean O’Connor has now confirmed the new location will also house a full-blown brewing operation that will likely have a larger capacity than its current brewery.

He said Flat 12′s brewing will be split between the two facilities and would theoretically more than double Flat 12’s total capacity. The current brewery, O’Connor said, can produce up to 40,000 barrels per years in its 10,000-square-foot space.

“If the facility layout here can get us between 30,000 and 40,000 we think the facility down there will be able to do more than that,” he said of the roughly 12,000-square-foot space in Jeffersonville. “It will be able to pop out a sizable amount of beer.”

O’Connor, who founded the brewery with Steve Hershberger and head brewer Rob Caputo in late 2010, said bids are expected soon from brewing equipment designers that designed the brewing system in Indianapolis; once that happens he will know more specifically what the brewing operation will look like.

Though there still is no target date to open, he said the goal is early summer.

One of the reasons for opening the new Flat 12 facility is to be closer to its southern distribution line, he said, but also because it takes Flat 12 to another level in terms of spreading the word. Like most breweries, Flat 12 employs traveling representatives for tap takeovers, brewing events, etc., but a new facility extends that in a much more significant way.

“One of the things I like in Indianapolis is [customers] can come into the tasting room and talk to the brewers, taste the beers, and get a feel for what Flat 12 brewing is all about,” he said. “We have people traveling, but that’s not the same as when you build it into your daily routine.”

He also said there will be specialty beers that will not only be brewed in Jeffersonville, but which will only be available in Jeffersonville.

“We want to make it special to Southern Indiana,” he said.

While O’Connor said he and Caputo will travel between the two breweries – “It will be a home away from home,” he said – a full-time brewer will be hired to manage production in Jeffersonville, along with “a sizable hiring” of managers, tasting room employees, brewing assistants and even kitchen help.

The need for kitchen workers is part of what will differentiate the new facility from its predecessor. While the tasting room will have a similar design and layout, the new location is equipped with a small kitchen, enabling the tap room to offer a small menu of food items to pair with beers.

Another differentiator, of course, is that Jeffersonville’s new Flat 12 will have a view of the Ohio River and Louisville.

“We definitely want a piece of the Indianapolis tap room in there,” he said, but noted that the new facility features rows of windows facing the river, and O’Connor also said a small patio area will be built for outside seating.

Flat 12 offers a wide range of creative craft beers in various styles, along with rotating seasonals. Craft beer enthusiasts will find plenty of challenging beers, while craft beer newcomers will be able to find options they can enjoy as well.

With the news of Flat 12, it seems quite the beer scene is brewing in Jeffersonville. In January, Red Yeti Brewing announced it will open a brewery just a few blocks away from the future Flat 12 on Spring Street; it will include a full-service restaurant and bar, with guest taps and a handful of house brews. No official open date has been announced.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

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.

Red Yeti Brewing hopes to open by late January in Jeffersonville

louisville beer - red yeti brewingAnother microbrewery and pub is set to open in early 2014 – Red Yeti Brewing nears completion of its brewing operation and restaurant after completely overhauling a two-story structure in downtown Jeffersonville.

Owner Brandi Ronau said she and her husband Paul Ronau have been planning the brewery for three years, and renovations to the building at 256 Spring St. have been going on for about a year. Brandy said Red Yeti just got approved for a liquor license to have a full bar in addition to house-made beers.

The project has been longer in the making than planned, as the structure required more work than expected.

“When we came in, it was in worse shape than we originally thought,” she said. “The only thing left [of the original structure], pretty much, is the brick and concrete.”

The menu will consist of pizza, burgers, sandwiches and appetizers. Meanwhile, she said, Red Yeti hopes to start out with three in-house beers along with a number of guest taps pouring other local, regional and national craft beers.

The three beers Paul will brew include “HopIPAtamus,” a red or brown ale, and a pale ale, for starters.

louisville beer - red yeti brewing interior

Doorway leading into what will be the bar/pub area at Red Yeti.

Considering the space is basically gutted at the moment, with fireproofing halfway done to the ceiling – the Ronaus live in the upper floor of the building, which also had to be renovated – the end of January may not be an attainable goal, Brandi said.

Just inside the main entrance is a white board with a long to-do list, detailing everything that still has yet to be finished, from installing the hood system to finishing the brick walls to building out the bar and installing the brewing equipment.

Yes, it’s a long list, but fingers are firmly crossed in the Ronau household. “End of January,” she said. “That’s what our contractor is telling us. Hopefully it comes together.”

Red Yeti will be the only craft brewery in Jeffersonville when it opens. And while the Ronaus have received overwhelming public support, one Facebook critic — someone named Paul Ranney — admonished Red Yeti last month because the brewery will not feature American light beers on draft.

“I look forward to your early closing so someone else will open a pub people can frequent for the beers people love,” Ranney wrote. “Why in the world would you not serve the best beers instead of craft crap is a testament to stupidity.”

A number of people stopped in while I was there talking to Brandi Ronau, and each of them seemed excited that a brewery was about to open in downtown Jeffersonville. Other feedback on the Red Yeti Facebook page has been positive as well, in part because Red Yeti has already been getting involved in community activities, from trick-or-treat festivities to letting a local vintner set up and share their wares just inside the front entrance.

“You can’t make everyone happy,” Brandi said of the craft-beer hating naysayer, and then smiled.

The name of the business actually comes from Paul, who will be the head brewer. He is a tall, red-haired man whose friends nicknamed him Red Yeti, prompting him to use that name as his online gaming profile.

Naming the brewery after the brewer seemed like the logical choice; it’s also just a pretty cool name for a brewery. The logo even features a red Sasquatch-like creature wearing sunglasses.

Paul began home brewing several years ago and was motivated to open a brew pub by the fact his friends began asking him to brew his beers for gatherings.

“They would pay for the materials, and he would brew it,” Brandi said.

Paul said HopIPAtamus (pronounce it similarly to “hippopotamus”) is his signature brew, with Stone Ruination IPA serving as its inspiration. HopIPAtamus will have a similar profile, packing 92 IBU (International Bittering Units) and 7.5 percent alcohol by volume.

“It’s over-the-top hoppy,” he said.

Since the build-out is ongoing, he isn’t sure yet how many Red Yeti beers will be brewed. While three is the safe number, he would like to see five or even seven.

“A lot of what we’re deciding to brew is based on cellar capacity,” he said.

Getting Red Yeti up and running will be first priority, however, meaning guest crafts will probably inhabit the taps for the first few weeks of operation. After that, look for the 6-foot-3-inch guy with red hair, and ask for a HopIPAtamus.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.