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Bluegrass Brewing Company

Submitted by on May 1, 2010 – 11:17 AMNo Comment
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As you walk around eastern Lousville and you turn onto 4th Street, something unexpected hits your eye. Neon lights fill the scene from the ground to the skyline and a giant neon guitar flashes “Fourth Street Live!” as music can be heard flowing out the open bar doors on a warm Spring night.

Of course, this is not unusual for most cities around the world. In fact, this is what comes to mind for a lot of people when they even think of big cities. Louisville, however, is not a big city at heart. She’s really a country girl at her core, and once you move a little bit past the glitz and glam of “Fourth Street Live” you come across the one of Louisville’s more delicious institutions.

Bluegrass Brewing Company opened in 1993 under the ownership of then-Chief-Brewer David Pierce. Starting out small with one location in Western Louisville, Bluegrass Brewing Company grew rapidly and quickly began to brew more beer than any other microbrewery in the Southeastern United States. Bluegrass Brewing Company now has two locations on either side of Louisville to call home under new ownership by Pat Hagan. BBC’s beer is widely across the greater Southeastern states including Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. While their main location is on Shelbyville Rd. in St. Matthews, they serve up food and fine beer at their brewpub on 4th Street in Theater Square.

Brew master Jerry Gnagy, along with Sam Cruz and Adam Watson, brews an extensive roster of beers. American Pale Ale, Altbier, Nut Brown Ale, Luna de Miel: Raspberry Meade, Dark Star Porter, and American Wheat are “always on tap,” according to Fourth Street bartender Joe Riggs. The aforementioned six brews are offered all year-round and are bottled and distributed from the company’s St. Matthews location.

American Pale Ale is delightfully bitter, using a blend of English and American hops and is described by the brewery as “a hophead’s dream.” Even more satisfying is the Nut Brown Ale and the Dark Star Porter. It is always a distinct pleasure to take a sip of a nut brown ale and find that it actually does have a nutty flavor. As for the porter…it’s creamy texture surprises the taste bubs a little on the back end and goes down smooth and chocolaty.

Bluegrass Brewing Company, like most breweries, also features an impressive lineup of seasonal beers. As Spring washes over us, BBC is brewing up True Blue, a blackberry wheat beer brewed with local Kentucky-grown blackberries (the state fruit) and Kentucky-grown cascade hops. True Blue pours with an interestingly distinct purplish hue.

Two Brewers One Pint is a unique German/Indian Brown Ale that is seasonally brewed in collaboration with BBC’s fellow neighborhood Louisville brewers at Cumberland Brewery on Bardstown Rd. Two Brewers One Pint is fermented with a Berliner Weisse yeast and German Hallertau Hops. According to, “The addition of Jaggery, a palm sugar from India, provides nutty aromas as well as a dryness to the final product.”

Heine Brothers Coffee Stout uses organic, fair-trade coffee grown in Mexico that is locally roasted right in Louisville. The stout comes on strong and hard and leaves a bitter aftertaste, but the coffee flavor is all natural and does not disappoint.

It’s no great secret that Kentucky is bourbon-country. This is a fact that the brewers at BBC have taken note of and have used to their advantage. Aside from having a bar fully stocked with every bourbon brand imaginable, they also use the bourbon-distillery techniques in one of their beers. The Bourbon Barrel Smoked Stout is brewed in the standard fashion of any American stout. The difference, however, is that Bluegrass Brewing Company ages their Bourbon Barrel Smoked Stout in Woodford reserve Barrel for the duration of three months. The result? A very smooth and silky stout that is not shy in either alcohol content or IBUs.

Bluegrass Brewing Company at Fourth Street also provides drinkers with the pleasant allure of their “Beertails” menu. The “Beertails” are recipes born of bartender Joe Riggs and crafted into a one-of-a-kind list of cocktails infused with beer as a central ingredient. Among the beer tails are Riggs’ recipes for Bourbon Barrel Ball, Cosmo of the Gods, Wheat Spritzer, Portermint Patty Martini, and The Cheater.

The most popular Beertail, according to Riggs, is the Banana Nut Brown Bread, and it is not hard to see why. Riggs’ ingenious combination of Finlandia vodka, butterscotch, banana syrup, cream and Nut Brown (topped with cinnamon and nutmeg) comes together to taste exactly like a slice of fresh banana nut bread. Riggs does not take all the credit, however. “The Banana Nut Brown Bread was inspired by a server named Alex, I just executed his vision,” he said.

There is no mistaking relaxed Southern atmosphere you encounter as you walk into Bluegrass Brewing Company’s brewpub. The doors all open to a biergarten patio right onto the city sidewalks where beer enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike can all sit in the warm Spring air and enjoy a beer or a beer-infused cocktail. There is no loud, thumping music to distract you from your drink either. Riggs’ iPod played an enjoyable hour of Grateful Dead jams to accompany our humble, folky experience. That being said, it is a great pleasure to sip on a Dark Star Porter while listening to the band that inspired the name.