There are many things that come to mind when you think about Louisville. The well-known baseball bat company and a certain famous horse race for starters. Beer is not even the first type of alcohol that people think of when Kentucky is brought up. While whiskey still may reign supreme, there has been a significant uptick in craft beer production, thanks to several new breweries opening in the area. It was interesting to me that only one of the breweries I visited in the area had several barreled-aged options. I figured there would be more of an influence from the local production of bourbon. A significant portion of these breweries are in or near downtown, but there are some further out worth venturing to. One is technically in Indiana, but it is right across the river.
- Goodwood Brewing: Louisville, KY
- Akasha Brewing: Louisville, KY
- Old Louisville Brewing: Louisville, KY
- Floyd County Brewing: New Albany, IN
On the east side of downtown, Goodwood Brewing has set up shop. The building has been a brewery since the 1990s, including being home to Bluegrass Brewing. Goodwood has been the tenant since 2015. What sets them apart is apparent in their name. All of Goodwood’s beer is ‘Touched by Wood’. There are a variety of ways this can be accomplished. First, barrel-aging. This is probably the most common and well-known method. They use a variety of different barrels (bourbon, brandy, and red wine to name a few). Adding in wood chips (oak, white ash, popular, etc) during the brewing process is another way. They can also include some kind of plant component (not including hops) to the beer to fit the self-imposed regulation. They did not have it on tap when I visited, but they make a Gose with hemp.
About half of the beers on tap were barrel-aged. Two of them made it onto my flight, with El Gozador being the best for my palate. This Gose is aged in tequilla barrels. Tequilla is not generally something I enjoy in a beer, but in this case they did a good job of melding the flavors. Neither the tequilla nor Gose elements were overpowering. The Brandy Barrel Honey Ale was a bit bigger and boozier, but the addition of honey helped provide a background of sweetness. Louisville Lager was the lightest option, and is aged on White Ash chips. This makes it unique among lagers, as there was a definite woodiness, especially on the nose and aftertaste. Spruce Tip IPA is shockingly stuffed with spruce character. Ok, so maybe not ‘shockingly’. I was bummed that I was not able to try the Hemp Gose. Hopefully someday!
Goodwood certainly has a factor that differentiates them from other breweries. It’s also part of a nice neighborhood of breweries, so the location is prime!
Two blocks down from Goodwood sits Akasha Brewing. 2015 was also the year they opened up, and have since garnered a solid fan base. In fact, I had people at two other breweries tell me I needed to stop here. There isn’t anything too fancy about the taproom; large, open, with a gigantic projection screen and Pac-man arcade game. It does have an exceptionally large L-shaped bar, and the taproom is dog-friendly! There’s a cool story behind their American Extra Lager Fehr’s. The recipe was used by Frank Fehr Brewing Company around the turn of the 20th century. It was one of the top breweries in the city, and the person who owns the rights to the recipe wanted Akasha to exclusively brew it. Although it closed its doors long ago, the beer now lives on.
Speaking of cool beer stories, they have partnered with Louisville-based coffee roastery Good Folks Coffee to produce Yawning Otter. Coffee is of course present, but I was caught off guard by the booziness it exhibited. I wasn’t a big fan of it, but you may be! There was also the Smoked Robust Porter called Piper. The smokiness was present, but not over done. Too often I try a smoke beer and that’s all you can taste. However, Gose is by far the best beer they make. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a sour fan. I mentioned that I had multiple people tell me to stop at Akasha? They all specifically mentioned the Gose. Coriander and salt are used perfectly, and I was told the brewer has actually given presentations to other brewers on the making of a Gose. Clearly the know what they are doing.
Good beer (historical and otherwise) has drawn people to Akasha, including myself. Shout out to Kalyn for giving me more background on the different beers!
I had an excellent time visiting Old Louisville Brewery. While it may not be ‘old’ (they opened in 2016), they are in fact in an old building. What was once a grocery store is now providing customers with wonderful liquids. In the picture below, you can see a large arch above the bar, and that is original to the building, although it was moved from the initial position. Wade, the owner, should me the basement, which is accessible through a trap door behind the bar. They rebuilt the whole place, but the basement was impressive, as they turned piles of dirt into a nice space for the kegs to be stored and used. The brewery is in the back, visible down a hallway. Another note, many of the beers are named for local areas and streets.
Normally, sour ales are my favorite, and Kentucky Common was a solid example of the style. Barley, rye, and corn mash is kettle-soured, and produces a wonderfully tart beer. However, Wade got a can of their Peanut Butter & Jelly Ale. I’ve had this exact type of beer before, and enjoyed them, but none were made as well as this. Often, either the peanut butter or the ‘jelly’ flavor overpowers the other. Not the case here, as they intertwined beautifully, making it seem like you are drinking a PB & J sandwich. Christmas Cookies Ale is a winter warmer with practically every holiday spice added. Ginger, cinnamon, brown sugar, maple syrup, and molasses all go into the beer. For my taste, the ginger was the strongest element. Finally, Wades RhePA is dry-hopped with Columbus hops, but the spiciness from the rye sticks out.
Wade is a great guy, and clearly cares about the beer he brews and serves. Old Louisville is a neighborhood on the south end of the city, but the brewery named for it makes it worth venturing away from downtown.
Across the Ohio River from Louisville sits the town of New Albany, Indiana. Floyd County Brewing calls this town home, and is one of the better ‘themed’ brewpubs I’ve been to. On their website, the owners said they wanted to provide ‘a touch of Old World Europe’. I say it’s a rousing success, as the majority of the feel inside is medieval. The large windows that look into the shiny frementers have iron gates covering them. I’m not sure on the technical name, but medieval banners/flags are mounted on the walls. Some battle axes are also displayed. A small stage sits in one corner near the bar, which I’m sure occasionally provides entertainment. The food was delicious by the way. I had a grilled cheese with bacon, and the fries had a delightful seasoning.
As a general rule, Scotch Ales are not my cup of tea, but the Wee Heavy Flying Hammer bucked this trend. It comes in at 8.0% ABV, but drinks like a 6.5% beer. A nice sweetness greets you, and goes down smoothly. Running Wit the Devil is a Witbier brewed with chamomile, coriander, and orange peel. Orange peel was the most powerful characteristic, and hits hardest on the initial sip. For Northeast IPA fans, 3 Headed Hop fills the void. Floral and citrus play together, and it was a crisp drinker. The final two didn’t do much for me, although that’s not to say others won’t enjoy them. Leprechaun’s Gold wasn’t bad, it was just sort of bland and light, even for a blonde. Oat Brother Where Art Thou? has an incredible name, but wasn’t what I was hoping for. I expected more chocolate notes and a smooth mouthfeel from an oatmeal stout.
Floyd County Brewing is a fun environment to grab a beer and some food. I would definitely hit this place up if I lived in the area. There were several other food items I wish I could have tried.
Craft beer is pushing forward in Louisville, and elsewhere in Kentucky. While they may be in the shadow of more potent alcohol (Jim Bean is just down the road after all), I believe as a whole the breweries are making headway. If you are visiting, I highly recommend visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs and taking the tour. Walking out to the track is an adrenaline rush.
The plan will be to write a minimum of two articles on the Nashville craft brewery scene, as I plan to visit all of them in and around the city during our three-month stay. Looking forward to sharing what the Music City has to offer!
Current Brewery Count
188 breweries across 106 cities in 23 states. These numbers are current as of 12/21/17. For an up-to-date count, follow my adventures on Twitter: @brewerytravels.