Akasha Brewing opens for test run; regular hours coming soon

Akasha peopleThe latest Louisville brewery opened its doors Saturday for a NuLu Fest soft opening. Akasha Brewing Company co-owner Rick Stidham said he anticipates the brewery will begin opening for regular hours this coming weekend.

Akasha, located at 909 E. Market St., had four house beers on draft Saturday along with a few guest taps. The spacious taproom is an inviting space, with plenty of tables and about 18 bar seats at a long, L-shaped bar.

A window looks into the brewery, trimmed in barn wood provided by Kentucky Wisewood and installed by Drunkwood; the body of the bar and other trim is also made of reclaimed barn wood, which is an interesting contrast to the otherwise modern decor.

Akasha opened at 11 a.m., and by 1 p.m. the bar seats were full and several people had gathered around a few of the tables in the bar area. Some even brought food to eat at the bar from nearby Feast BBQ.

The entire wall behind the bar is a chalkboard, where bartenders scribbled the available beers along with a list of available merchandise, from growlers to glasses. The four beers available on Saturday included an American pale ale, a gose, a saison and a sour-meets-hoppy “American Pale on Brett.” All Akasha beers were $5; most were 16-ounce pours, but higher gravity beers come in 12-ounce pours.

The American pale ale is a moderately hoppy, crisp and easy to drink beer with an unexpected hint of tartness; balance-wise, it was right on the money for the style. Meanwhile, the gose is another tart, easy-to-drink beer with a mildly earthy tone to it. The saison is a classic Belgian-style ale with plenty of fruit character. All the beers I tried were crisp, clean finishers.

Akasha glassBut the American Pale on Brett was the talk of the taproom. It had a beautiful aroma and an acidity to the lightly sour flavor that had the place buzzing — including Stidham, who said the beer was simply a batch of the American pale that was moved into a tank that had held a bretted beer, which refers to a beer that has been brewed with brettanomyces, a form of yeast that tends to create a sour or “funky” flavor. (These beers are also sometimes called “wild ales.”)

While the beer was a single batch, Stidham said, “We’ll have something like it again.”

He also said likely the next beer to be tapped will be a cherrywood smoked porter, he has a pair of dark saisons currently aging in barrels, and another gose is on the way. Stidham has said he will focus on funky beer styles as a way of differentiating Akasha.

The brewery has 24 taps, so there is plenty of room for more beers. One of the guest taps available on Saturday afternoon was a Moody Tongue Sliced Nectarine IPA, and later in the day the Akasha Facebook page reported several others, including a Dark Horse Fore Smoked Stout.

Stidham said Akasha will likely be closed every Sunday and Monday, with weekday hours probably being something like 4:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the brewery will be open until 11 p.m., and Stidham said he anticipates opening earlier on Saturdays as well (possibly 1 p.m.).

However, don’t expect Akasha to be open again until Friday at the earliest.

“We’re playing it by ear,” Stidham said. “We still have some work to do on the brewery.”

Nevertheless, Akasha makes one more place in town where beer lovers can get a fresh brew. The brewery’s location in NuLu is almost a sure bet to make it a well-traveled location for NuLu diners.

Akasha Brewing eyes long-planned opening in NuLu

Akasha logoOpening a new business can be a frustrating process. That’s a big reason why Rick Stidham has taken it slowly with Akasha Brewing.

Stidham, a longtime home brewer, is a fixture in the local brewing scene but has spent well over two years planning his project, which he hopes to open by early 2015.

“I think it’s time,” he says. Heck, it took him two full years just to find the right space for his brewery. But he wanted to do it right as opposed to right now. And when he found the right location, he pounced.

“I had all kinds of ideas in my head of what the brewery and tap room would look like,” he says while standing in the mostly unfinished space at 700 E. Market St. in NuLu. “We walked in here and it was apparent this is where we should be.”

He, along with business partners Matt Meurer and Jerry Nawrocki, are now building out the 5,100-square-foot space with plans for a 16-barrel hot-side brewery operation, cooler, barrel room and open fermentation room, to go with a tap room and an L-shaped bar backed by 24 taps.

The big, open space was formerly a garage, with a bay door on the side perfect for loading in equipment, kegs, etc. Stidham says he will construct a floor-to-ceiling wall to separate the tap room from the brewery, and he plans to create a new entryway as well as a second bay door in the front of the building that can be opened during warm weather.

The tap room will consist of couches, chairs and tables — “I love the back room at Rich O’s, so I have to have that,” he says — as well as the bar, which will back up to the cooler and extend down one wall. The beer will be cooled by a pair of 18,000 BTU air conditioners; the cooler was nearly complete during a recent visit, but plenty remains to be done. It’s all part of the process.

“I think the approach I’ve been taking is when I flipped the switch in my head and said, ‘Yes, I’m doing this,’ I started buying used equipment,” Stidham says. “I just waited for the right deals to come up for what we needed.”

Stidham also studied what other breweries were doing and asked a lot of questions. Not surprisingly, the other brewers around the region were helpful. Stidham notes that Country Boy Brewing in Lexington was a model for him — that brewery also bought used equipment to get started.

“Not only did we follow their model of buying used stuff,” Stidham says, “we bought their used stuff. I know they didn’t make any money when they sold it to us, and we won’t either” when they eventually sell it and upgrade.

Stidham shared a couple of sneak preview tastes with me, highlighted by a cherrywood smoked porter that portends good things. His focus is on funky, soured beers, but he’ll also have the requisite styles craft-beer lovers crave, such as IPAs, stouts and such.

Akasha 6“We’ll always have an APA on — something hoppy,” he says.

Asked how many Akasha beers will be on tap at a time, Stidham promises “as many of our own as we can,” but he also cautions that the types of beers in which he will specialize take weeks or even months longer than basic styles to brew. Expect plenty of guest taps at first, with the house brews filling in as time goes by.

Currently, there are five other breweries in the process of opening in the Louisville Metro area: Beer Engine (Germantown), Old Louisville Brewing (Old Louisville), Bannerman Brewing (Clifton), Flat 12 Bierwerks (Jeffersonville) and Donum Dei (New Albany). There are several more in the works for late 2014 or early 2015.

But Stidham feels confident Louisville’s interest in craft beer is growing at an even faster clip.

“I know there’s not enough in town for me,” Stidham says with a grin.

And most other breweries aren’t focusing on the sour beers Stidham prefers. But the samples I had were more subtle than extreme, and that’s how Stidham seems to approach it.

“You don’t have to knock people over the head with weird things in beer,” he says. “Most of the time, balance is appropriate. Every time you do something weird, it doesn’t have to be extreme.”

Look out for the smoked porter (there’s also a pepper version), some sours and beers with names like Wicked Weed (get ready for hops), Jester King and Jolly Pumpkin. There’s also Twelve Foot Fall Lager, which was named for a deck collapse that nearly cost him a keg of that very beer and also cost him some pretty severe burns when the CO2 tank became disconnected, sending him to urgent care.

“I did manage to save the beer,” he says.

Meanwhile, it’s work, work, work — he’s working through weekends and every evening to try and open before the end of 2014 if possible. After a long wait, now he’s going full-throttle.

“I’m not excited and terrified anymore,” he says. “I’m excited and impatient.”

This post was originally posted by Insider Louisville.