Kentucky is renowned for its distilleries, both old and new, and while there’s plenty to love all about the spirits coming from the Bluegrass State, there’s also a fantastic brewing scene developing.
Like the rest of the United States, breweries have established fantastic foundations in Kentucky’s cities and while the distilleries continue to provide the world with delicious bourbon, the brewers in Louisville and Lexington, in particular, are making plenty of superb beer.
Against the Grain Brewing
Perhaps the best-known Kentucky brewery is Against the Grain Brewing, a brewery with interesting and most-often delicious beers with occasionally questionable cartoonish labels — like Brown Note. Attached to the ballpark of the Triple-A Louisville Bats, there’s plenty to love about the physical brewery (which also has some tasty food). Against the Grain’s beers range from Bo and Luke Imperial Smoked Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels, Citra Ass Down Double IPA, and London Balling Barleywine-style Ale. Since 2011, Against the Grain has helped try to show the world Kentucky can have beer, too, and now its beer is available in most the U.S. and plenty of countries across the globe.
Country Boy Brewing
In 2012, Lexington welcomed Country Boy Brewing to its business community and the simple taproom led the way for excellent beers. Cougar Bait American Blonde has made its place as a tap staple in Lexington, as has its other core beer, Shotgun Wedding Vanilla Brown Ale. The brewery has grown plenty since opening, and now has a production brewery in Georgetown, Kentucky, allowing Country Boy to catch up on its production and start filling out the market with other beers like Cliff Jumper IPA and Halfway Home Pale Ale.
Good Wood Brewing
In a state so flush with barrels, not to mention Louisville Slugger, Good Wood Brewing in Louisville found a fantastic niche in the beer world. Like the bourbon of the region, Goodwood prides itself on the use of limestone water. More importantly to its name, the brewery also ensures each beer touches wood in some form — whether its “wood-seasoned” on poplar, oak, or ash, or stored in reclaimed bourbon, wine, or brandy barrels. So next time you’re in Louisville, grab a Louisville Lager, which uses white ash — the same wood to make Louisville Slugger baseball bats. The use of wood provides a light crispness without an overpowering wood flavor. Other beers include Walnut Brown Ale, Bourbon Barrel Stout, Hemp Gose, Spruce Tip IPA, and Red Wine Barrel Saison.
West Sixth Brewing
West Sixth has quite the compound in Lexington welcoming its taproom and brewery and businesses all within the giant building. The brewery is committed to helping the community around it — even expanding to a West Sixth Farm in Frankfort, Kentucky. Even a beer, Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter, gives back by way of 50 cents per six-pack sold heading to a non-profit voted on by the staff. A stop at the West Sixth taproom is certainly worthy, whether it’s to grab a flagship West Sixth IPA, one of the limited releases such as Snake Eyes Imperial Stout or Heller Heaven Double IPA, or specialty beers like the wine barrel-aged Blackberried in the Bluegrass.
Falls City Beer
Like bourbon, there’s a love of heritage in beer, whether it’s Pabst’s line of American classics or revived bourbon brands like Kentucky Peerless. The brand was made in Louisville from just after the turn of the 20th century until the late 1970s when the American brewing industry underwent significant consolidation. Brewing of the light pale regional lager shifted to other Midwestern regional breweries until around 2007. Falls City Beer was revived in 2010 with the release of an English-style Pale Ale and now has a taproom in Louisville. The brand now has its Classic Pilsner, but has expanded to include Hipster Repellant IPA, English-style Pale Ale, Streetlamp Porter, as well as seasonal beers Good Times Ginger Lime Shandy and Louisville City Golden Ale.
Ethereal Brewing’s space is quintessential Kentucky. The old brick district it calls home was once a distillery and warehouse area. Ethereal has turned their industrial space into a spacious and comfortable taproom with a huge, dog-friendly outdoor patio. Opened in 2014, Ethereal started with a focus on making inventive beers, whether they were Belgian-inspired or more modern American craft styles. The brewery’s first three beers were an IPA, saison, and wit, but as Ethereal has matured, its offerings have expanded greatly. The tap list now will feature several IPAs, an aged sour with cherries, pilsners, brown ales, and other barrel-aged special releases.
Monnik Beer Company
In an industry that favors innovation, sometimes old standbys can do just as well. Louisville’s Monnik Beer Co. hits plenty of right notes with its traditional beer styles — Monnik is the Dutch word for monk and the house beer styles range across Europe, from an English Mild Ale to a Ginger Saison. There are also American IPAs, so hop heads can take a deep breath. The tap list also features beers like Path of Totality, a coffee IPA made with Sunergos Coffee & Roastery’s Guatemala Los Volcanoes, or Martin’s Rook, a rauchbier made with malt smoked by Martin’s Bar-B-Que.
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