Mug Shots: Revisiting the BBQ + craft beer equation

Earlier this summer, a chance backyard encounter with barbecued ribs and a tub of bottled microbrews left me pondering the pairing possibilities of BBQ and craft beer.

Thanks to the Louisville Restaurants Forum ( and the patient scheduling aptitude of resident forumite Paul Mick, a meet ’n’ greet took place last Friday at the Kentucky BBQ Company (1800 Frankfort Ave., 895-3419), where just shy of 20 draft lines and an equal number of bottles provided ample lubrication for heaping platters of pork, beef, chicken and sausage, not to mention corn, baked beans, grits and other sides.

As noted in a previous column, my only claim of expertise lies with the liquid end of this flavorful experiment, and Kentucky BBQ Co. exhibited all the right stuff when it came to its beer list, both draft and bottled.

I always look for stylistic diversity, and KBC delivered, with top-fermented Belgian sippers alongside American-brewed hop bombs suitable for stripping floors, and milder quaffers included. My tasting compatriot Paul provided notes, and here’s an example of one of his spot-on observations:

“My favorite pairing of the night was definitely the Upland Dragonfly Double IPA with the ribs. The relatively high acid content was sufficient to cut through the grease of the ribs, and the fairly hefty malt backbone made the mouth feel substantial enough to deal with the aforementioned grease. The slight pine character of the Dragonfly also nicely complemented the spice rub on the ribs.”

As a hophead, I couldn’t agree more, but there were a dozen highly motivated forum devotees present, and opinions naturally varied, as well they should. The key element to me was the sublime beauty of the communal scrum, with tables pushed together, groaning with a feast of smoky and tender flesh, piquant sauces and black/brown/golden alcoholic elixirs, some sweet and sour here, a tad salty and bitter there, and no single pairing worthy of a cringe even if some were more apt than others.

Clipper City’s Holy Sheet, an exuberant Belgian strong amber, provided all the fruity sauce I needed for the smoked chicken quarter. Paul thought the hefty Bell’s Expedition Stout totally overwhelmed the delectable ribs, but both Steve and I demurred, and we consumed accordingly. Edmund Fitzgerald Porter struggled gamely to stand up to the character of the brisket. Had it been imbued with a smoky punch of its own — had it been Alaskan Smoked Porter — I believe the match would have been closer to heavenly.

Make no mistake: Thumbs were cocked skyward.


Craft beer and Celtic tunes

The weekend beer calendar remains crowded, with few respites until October.

The Kentuckiana Celtic Fest debuts on Saturday, Aug. 22, at New Albany’s revamped riverfront amphitheater. “Celts on the River” is a free concert running from 3-11 p.m., with five regional bands playing variations on traditional Celtic music, and Irishman Brendan Loughery headlining. Food will be vended by Brendan’s/O’Shea’s and Bluegrass Kitchen, and my own New Albanian Brewing Co. will be dispensing the beer.


Drink and talk with the animals

Brew at the Zoo will again be held at the Louisville Zoo on Saturday, Aug. 29, from 4-9 p.m. Expect local food, microbrews and wine, and plenty of animal lovers on hand to try them, because craft beer and zoos combine to emphasize the bountiful diversity of earth. Each species has a habitat, identifying characteristics and a story. The same goes for the many styles of beer available for sampling. Go to for details.


Something completely different in NA

NA 1 Night Stand is a beer walk in downtown New Albany, designed by its organizers to reintroduce and showcase a revitalized area. I hear that participating establishments will feature food and drink specials as well as live music. Raffle prizes will be awarded throughout the day thanks to many local sponsors. It lasts from 3 p.m.-midnight on Aug. 29, and details can be found on Facebook at “NA 1 Night Stand.”   


Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit for more beer.