2018: The year in beer

Dec 26, 2018 at 11:36 am
Kentucky brewers

In 2018, I drank 27,437 beers.

OK, I made that number up; pretty sure it wasn’t over 20,000. But you get the point: I hit a lot of local breweries over the course of the year and, let’s face it, you don’t go to a brewery to sip Kool-Aid. Mostly, however, I enjoy watching these local businesses grow, interacting with brewers and observing the local scene develop before my eyes.

In 2018, there was plenty to see.

We saw House Bill 136 become law, at long last giving breweries more freedom to sell their products directly to the public. Previously, the most you or anyone could buy and carry out of a brewery was 288 ounces (such as nine crowlers or 24 12-ounce cans). Now, you can purchase up to 31 gallons of beer per day directly from a local brewery — and that’s closer to the way it should have been all along. Yes, regulation to some degree is necessary, but archaic Prohibition laws are slowly being whittled away, and it’s about damn time.

3rd Turn Oldham Gardens not only celebrated its first summer in business, it also became home to Hive and Barrel Meadery. Those hot pepper meads will light your fire.

Tailspin Ale Fest, one of America’s favorite beer festivals, turned 5 in fine form on a rainy, chilly Saturday afternoon in February.

Holsopple Brewery in Lyndon expanded its space, while Donum Dei Brewery in New Albany became the Louisville area’s first “brewstillery,” adding distilled spirits to its arsenal to go with craft beer. Donum Dei also was named one of the fastest-growing small and independent craft breweries in America by the Brewers Association.

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant held its fourth annual Pints for Parkinson’s, a worthy event that raises money for the Parkinson Support Center of Kentuckiana while rolling out tasty barrels of beer at the same time.

Falls City Brewing Co. went all out, opening a new brewery and taproom in the Phoenix Hill neighborhood with new brewer Cameron Finnis on board. And to the delight of pappaws everywhere, the brewery brought back a version of its pilsner beer, a higher-quality version of the beer many remember from the 1970s. (Just don’t call it “Falls Shitty.” That was your grandpa’s beer.)

It was another win for the Fest of Ale in New Albany, which enjoyed its 13th year with another successful day of beers — and, best of all, no rain. Cumberland Brewery got a new brewer in J.D. Longhammer, and Goodwood Brewing Co. also launched its Fallen American Heroes can series, honoring fallen first responders.

The Kentucky Craft Bash, an event put on by the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, returned for a second year, this time with a cool, new collaboration with Willett Distillery to create 28 — yes, 28 — different barrel-aged beers from breweries all over the state. It will be interesting to see what Guild director Derek Selznick and his brewery colleagues come up with in 2019.

Gravely Brewing Co. won a silver medal for its Sprockets pilsner at the 2018 World Beer Cup in May. Meanwhile, the brewery and music venue turned one year old and is interested in possibly expanding the brand in the new year.

Scott Hand, head brewer at Monnik Beer Co., dished about hazy, juicy Northeast IPAs, including this gem of a quote: “Some of them, you’re probably best off giving it a few good whiffs and dumping it down the drain.”

Mile Wide Beer Co. turned two, celebrated with a full weekend of beer releases, and co-owner Scott Shreffler told me that sometimes it seems like it’s been much longer. Understandable, as running a brewery has to be hard work.

Against the Grain launched a sister brewery in Osaka, Japan; won a gold medal at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival for its 70K Amburana, and just before Christmas opened a bottle and gift shop at its taproom. Great Flood Brewing Co. expanded its canned product offering and added a new taproom-only can program, with new (and old) beers dropping just about every Friday.

Louisville Beer Week re-emerged in a new format that is — novel concept — about promoting local beer and breweries. Kudos to the Kentucky Beer Network for that one.

Floyd County Brewing Co. not only added an outpost bar, The Grain Haus, to its beer garden, but also a pizza kitchen.

False Idol Independent Brewers opened in the old Monkey Wrench spot, along with food partner V-Grits. Have you tried the St. Hyena sour pale ale, the collaboration with Akasha Brewing Co.? If not, get there soon and hope there’s a batch on tap.

As we face 2019, we see more brewery projects on tap, including a new one in Old Louisville called Noble Funk and a tease of a nanobrewery in Clifton called Gallant Fox Brewing Co., among others rumored to be in progress.

Until then, drive safely on New Year’s Eve and be sure to raise 20,000 glasses to the year in beer that was. We have plenty to look back on and to look forward to. •