The explosion of the craft beer movement across the United States did not skip Louisville. In fact, there are about 30 craft breweries in the state of Kentucky as of July 2015, and 20 of those 30 breweries are based in either Louisville or Lexington. Kentucky ranks in the top 25 of all 50 states now with the craft brew love spreading into Paducah, Bowling Green, and a few other small cities across the commonwealth. I decided to check out a few of our local brew pubs in Louisville and give you a little breakdown. Here are a few of what I believe to be Louisville’s best craft breweries.
GREAT FLOOD BREWING COMPANY | 2120 Bardstown Rd
I had the pleasure of meeting these three U of L business school graduates while they were in the process of renovating the Highlands space now known as Great Flood Brewing Company. Not only did they turn that space into a spectacular brew pub, they also brew some fine beers. UPDATE: Great Flood is expanding!
There’s a wide variety of flavors amongst the 8 different home brews offered on tap here. In addition to the home brews, there are 8 dedicated guest beers from other regional and national craft breweries. My advice is to work your way through their beers first. You can never go wrong with the Guardsman IPA, a heavily hopped, piney IPA. If you’re a bit bolder, go with the Defiant Double IPA, which packs a serious 10%+ ABV. Other favorites include the Eclipse Brown Ale, and anything you see that is smoked. Occasionally, you’ll find a local collaboration brew, or an experimental beer where they are testing out new flavors. Specialty bottles and growlers are also available.
The renovation of this Highlands space included polished concrete floors and lots of hand-stained wood. The high, open ceilings create a very nice industrial feel. The hand-built wooden bar, island, and tabletops add warmth to the area and a great balance for a great brew pub.
The service is great. Order your snacks and craft beer from the bar and sit anywhere you want. You can count on one of the owners being present pretty much every time you walk in, and they’re typically pouring beers behind the bar alongside another very friendly brewtender.
While Great Flood is truly a brew pub with no kitchen, they do keep some great local snacks around. You can grab some pretzels and the best pimento cheese dip in the world courtesy of Morris Deli, or munch on some amazing hummus from Naked Hummus. If you’re in the mood for something more along the lines of a full meal, Great Flood Brewing Co keeps all the local delivery menus handy so you can order at your convenience and have some of the best local grub delivered to your barstool at the brewery.
GOODWOOD BREWING COMPANY | 636 E Main St
A long overdue rebranding of the BBC production brewery and taproom happened sometime around Derby of 2015. If you didn’t know, the Bluegrass Brewing Company family of brewpubs located around Louisville is a completely separate entity from the producer of the BBC branded beers you find in grocery stores and restaurants. While the BBC brewpub owners do own the name and the recipes for popular brews like Nut Brown Ale, and Darkstar Porter, they leased those names, along with the BBC name, to the owners of the taproom at the corner of Clay and E Main St in downtown Louisville for production and distribution. If none of this is making sense, all you need to know is that Louisville has a new brand that carries with it tons of experience gained by some excellent brewers that have been brewing in Louisville for far longer than most. This is Goodwood.
Goodwood is tapping into the Kentucky theme in so many ways. The wood and the water are two main points when talking about the Goodwood brand. When discussing bourbon production you will undoubtedly hear about the limestone filtered water native to Kentucky that aides in creating superior bourbon. The fellas at Goodwood believe this to be true for beer as well. They are also drawing on their already wildly popular recipe known as the Bourbon Barrel Stout, bringing the wooden barrel-aged technique to all the Goodwood brews.
We already discussed their “mascot”, so to speak, the Bourbon Barrel Stout. This is one of the best American Stouts you’ll ever taste. Another popular brew around town is the Louisville Lager, which is aged over White Ash wood, strengthening their theme by using a wood commonly found in Louisville Slugger baseball bats. The most intriguing of Goodwood’s brews is the Red Wine Barrel Saison, in which a variety of wine barrels are used to age the saison, introducing new and interesting flavors with each batch. Be on the lookout for these guys!
AGAINST THE GRAIN | 401 E Main St
Against the Grain Brewery is located in downtown Louisville attached to Louisville Slugger Field. Within a short walking distance to the Waterfront, the location is great, and the parking is plentiful.
ATG has categories for their beers on tap: Hop, Smoke, Dark, Malt, Session, and Whim. Anytime you walk in, you can see what beer is currently available on draft for each specific category. It’s kind of an “easy button” for people who aren’t sure of what to order. These beers vary all the time, but they have some “goto” flavors that you see more often than not. Some of the favorites include “Citra A$$ Down”, a hop forward American style IPA, “Kentucky Ryed Chiquen”, a deliciously balanced amber ale which is aged in rye bourbon barrels, and “The Brown Note”, a semi-sweet, biscuity brown ale.
Ceilings so tall that you feel like you’re in an airplane hangar, and a brewing system that’s on display behind lots of glass. This place has an equal bar and restaurant feel. There is a private room for events, and a great patio that sits right on Main St.
I’ve never had bad service here. When there’s a baseball game or something else major happening in downtown Louisville, and everyone is rushing to do the same thing at the same time, your food and drink may take a bit longer to arrive, but I’ve never been upset with service.
If you like smokey deliciousness, then Against the Grain has everything you need. Their smoked pulled pork nachos make for a legit starter item, and of course, the beer cheese does too. Grab a smoked brisket sandwich or a pulled pork sandwich and call it a day. These guys love using local ingredients like bread from Breadworks, and Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese.
APOCALYPSE BREW WORKS | 1612 Mellwood Ave
This gnarly little brewery is located right off of I-64 on Mellwood Ave. Sustainability and small-batch craft brew is what Apocalypse is all about. From solar-heated water, to grain re-use, to all the repurposed items and machinery that were used to build this Louisville craft brewery, there’s a very unique feel here.
They have a lot of beers that rotate in their taproom, and there are also quite a few that you can find in other restaurants around town. Radical flavors that I have tried include the Atomic Amber, Apollo IPA, Kentucky Hop-Brown (this is one of my personal favorites), and the Tu-pocalypse Stout (you can’t beat that name). Bottom line is that these peeps use some very solid flavors.
The taproom is called “The Fallout Shelter”, and it’s a unique spot. Opening the doors on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, The Fallout Shelter is not as readily available as some might want it to be, but as I mentioned, their home brews can be found at various locations around Louisville. There is a massive outdoor space that’s perfect for sipping coldies on a Spring, Summer, and Fall day.
It’s a taproom. They give you what you ask for, when you ask for it. The setup and layout of this place is great. Just go check it out.
Local food trucks show up just about every weekend so that you have a few choices of great Louisville grub. As I mentioned, the outdoor space at Apocalypse Brew Works really makes the whole thing work so smoothly. Check their website for a schedule of food trucks for each weekend!
CUMBERLAND BREWERY | 1576 Bardstown Rd
Located in the heart of the Highlands in the Bonnycastle / Deer Park area, Cumberland Brewery has been a Louisville staple among the craft brew community since early 2000. With a small operation in a great location, and a steady list of classic brews, Cumberland Brewery is one of Louisville’s best craft breweries.
Cumberland makes one of my favorite Red Ales ever. They also have a Nitro Porter that packs some intense flavors, as well as a fabulous barleywine. You can find their cream ale at a number of local restaurants, and you can count on a strong seasonal presence as well. This is just a well-rounded beer list.
A small storefront location on Bardstown Rd creates a cozy environment, and exactly what you would expect given the location. There are seats at the bar, indoor tables, and a few tables crammed onto the sidewalk out front, which are great for watching the Highlands action. The brewing operation is visible once you’re inside the building.
Table service and bar service are both available inside, and I’ve never had a problem with either. Everyone is very friendly, and helpful if you’re having a difficult time deciding on what to order.
The food here is great! Jerk wings are great as a starter or entree. Cumberland Brewery also has one of the best Bison burgers in the city. No matter what you decide to eat, always check the special board before you order. You’re almost always guaranteed to find something awesome on there.
Look, I know this isn’t everything. There are definitely 3 or 4 new breweries in the works for Louisville, plus I haven’t even touched the Southern Indiana breweries that have come on the scene recently. These are simply the brands I know best, and I guarantee that you will enjoy what they have to offer.
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