Beer lovers, brew nerds, ale snobs and boozers alike: rejoice! There are new craft breweries and bars/restaurants with a great emphasis on your favorite nectar popping up all over Derby City, and the Highlands’ iconic “Indie Row” certainly isn’t void of the trend. Neighbors to an always hoppin’ LouVino, Stout Burgers & Beers (1604 Bardstown Road) opened their trendy, rustic doors to thirsty patrons on Monday, June 29, and naturally, I grabbed a few friends and bellied up to the bar — for research purposes, of course.
Adorned with an immense hammered copper draft wall, reclaimed bricks and a warmly lit ambiance, Stout is inviting from the front doors. With a small dining room and a bar that seats merely 15 patrons, we were lucky enough to meander in between lunch and dinner and grab three stools together (a tough feat, we were told, as they’ve been poppin’ since the moment they opened). Bartender and floor manager, Erin, greeted us with menus and enthusiasm and took us through the rotating tap list of thirty, “some are local and some are West Coast,” she told us, and offered knowledgeable suggestions based on what we told her we like, “Everything is quality here, from the food to the beer to the people.”
The food menu offers beer pairings with each burger (very helpful!), and the beer menu is divided into sections of beer styles, like Belgians and India Pale Ales, but, surprisingly, there’s not a “stout” list. I was delighted to try the Sliced Nectarine IPA from Moody Tongue Brewing Company in Chicago (a citrus-y IPA in the summer is my jam), my friend Sam enjoyed the Founders Nitro Pale Ale (a pale on a nitrogen tap? Shwing!) and my comrade, Mike, tried the Walkabout Pale Ale from Flat 12 just across the bridge in Jeffersonville — “Not overly aggressive and well-hopped,” he said.
Perusing the menus, it’s clear that Stout has taken a more sophisticated approach to the classic burgers and beer combination — with a gourmet take on burger ingredients (and no substitutions allowed, y’all!) and West Coast prices (all of the beers are offered as a 5 oz. pour for $4–5 or a 12 oz. pour for $7–8), Stout certainly brought their Santa Monica roots to the Highlands. However, someone did their homework and made sure to include an extensive bourbon list, a signature Old Fashioned cocktail, Tito’s Vodka, wine and bottled beer. Good on you, Mr. Stout executive, you don’t do Louisville without bourbon.
“There are so many places in Louisville that serve great beer,” said bar and service manager, Chris Turner, who this buzzed barkeep couldn’t help but refer to as Louisville’s own Sunshine (remember the quarterback from “We Are Marshall”? Yes. You’re welcome.), “but you really have to know how to take care of it. Buying a keg is just the beginning. We don’t pander. We want to protect what it is we do well,” said Turner, explaining why they left some commonplace bar staples off the menu, like Jagermeister and Fireball. Turner credits Stout’s unique beer list to their California-native national beer manager, Joey Anderson, who ran beer impromptu quizzes with the serving staff in between chats with us.
Anderson, who claims to have relationships with breweries all across the world, surely does know his stuff when it comes to craft brew, yet I find anyone that answers a headset phone call mid-conversation and claims to have loved an Icelandic beer that smoked the malt with sheep shit mildly pretentious. Dude. We get it. You are very cool. Luckily, he redeemed himself with praises for local beer-centric bars, Nach Bar and Sergio’s, “We aren’t in competition here. We’re just trying to build more craft beer drinkers.” Okay, I like you again, I guess. Anderson says he’ll stay in Louisville until he feels Turner is trained enough to handle the bar management on his own, but I think Sunshine’s got it under control juuuust fine.
Erin let us sample the house Old Fashioned cocktail — a no-frills but nice blend of house-made simple syrup, Old Forester Bourbon, orange rind and Angostura Bitters — while I finished my 5 oz. pour of Citra-Sunshine IPA ($4) and we played a fun game: travel through the tantalizing beer list, get your buzz on and order the sauce sampler with some seasoned fries. Can you guess which one is the Chutney Mayo? Is it time for a bourbon, neat? The answer is yes, to both.