After breakfast, we got cleaned up, checked out of the hotel, and set the coordinates for Louisville. All was going as planned, until we got about an hour away from our destination (our Air B&B). Turns out some of our party needed to relieve themselves (I'm sure one of them was me). Deuane suggested stopping at a brewery in Lexington, which happened to be the next exit off the Interstate. Sounded good to me! To reiterate one of my favorite Ricky-isms, "get two birds stoned at once!" I'll never turn down an offer to stop at a brewery that's new to me.
Well, our quick piss break turned into an enjoyable five-hour romp around Lexington to three different breweries. Sometimes you gotta just go with the flow and call an audible from time to time. After sampling my first beer, I was unequivocally certain that we'd made an excellent decision.
|Outside West Sixth Brewing. It's on West 6th Street, of course!|
I'd never heard of West Sixth Brewing prior to this trip, but it shall be a name I never forget after our fantastic experience at its impressive brewery, even though I usually suck at remembering brewery names with numbers in them. The brewery takes its name from its physical location, which is situated at 501 West 6th St in Lexington. Sometimes you need not look any further than your address when naming your brewery. Seems like it's worked out for West Sixth.
Like many other breweries across the country, Black Friday has become a popular release date for imperial stouts (for good reason, I suppose... imperial stouts are the darkest of dark beers). The style is also right at the tippy top of my "favorite beer styles" list. West Sixth's imperial stout is named Snake Eyes, and of course they entice their fans with a number of variations of the base beer. The one that struck my fancy was German Chocolate Snake Cake. This variant of Snake Eyes has been aged in bourbon barrels with coconut, pecans, cocoa nibs, and vanilla. Sometimes you have a beer that is so wonderful in all its complexities, it stirs the loins into a frenzy. This was one of those beers, people. It was like licking the batter from cake mixer beaters at a Belgian chocolatier's shop in Brussels. Everything about this beer was stunning: it's decadent aroma with dark bitter cocoa, baker's chocolate, high-end espresso and shaved coconut; its luscious, silky mouthfeel; it's spot-on chocolate cake flavor with an amazing balance of all the adjunct ingredients; and it's dark, ominous presence. It's like, where do you go from here when this is the first beer of the trip?! Needless to say, I bought a bottle of this to enjoy at home. I probably won't share it with anyone other than Brewslut (and Pleeps), thought... not gonna lie to ya!
|Pleeps loves his stouts.|
What a way to start the trip! Granted, we kicked off Drinksgiving the previous night, this was the official first beer at a brewery. German Chocolate Snake Cake set the bar ridiculously high for breweries to come, and turned out to be my second favorite beer of the trip by such a minuscule margin that I'd almost call it the "co-best beer of the trip." I made sure I didn't vacate the premises without obtaining a bottle of this liquid gold for future consumption at home.
|Lots of beer flowing during our impromptu visit to West Sixth!|
Since the space was fairly large, I decided to meander around a bit and capture some photos for the blog when I stumbled into the adjacent barrel room. Turns out they feature a number of different barrel-aged beers available on tap at a separate bar area. Score! As a reward to myself for unearthing this nugget of information, I ordered a pour of Barrel Aged Burley Barleywine. This meant that the first two beers of the day exceeded 10% ABV. This heavy-hitter weighed in at a whopping 15%, but it concealed its boozy warmth quite well. While not as mind-blowing as its predecessor, I did appreciate the subtle complexities of this one. The beer itself possessed a number of scotch-like qualities including a hint of smoky peat, tobacco leaf, and rawhide, which mingled with dark caramel, stone fruit, and toffee. The bourbon presence was pretty muted despite the hefty 15% ABV tag.
|Inside the barrel room at West Sixth.|
While Deuane and I were perusing the merchandise, we got talking to a couple who were visiting from Michigan, if I recall. The guy mentioned he visits Louisville frequently, and highly recommended a tour of Angel's Envy distillery. Coincidentally, Deuane had already made arrangements for us to take the "deep dive" barrel tour the following day. The guy also mentioned two other worthy Louisville breweries - Country Boy and Ethereal - so we decided to call an audible and check out these two places. I mean, we were already in Lexington, soooooo...
|It's early to rise, early in the sack...|
First up was Country Boy. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I don't think it was a big, gray rectangle of a building. I was thinking more along the lines of a farmhouse or old barn. Aesthetics aside, it turns out this little places makes some solid beers.
When we entered, we surveyed the scene and the small room was fairly full. The bar was mostly occupied, but there were a few random vacant tables throughout the place. (Eventually, we decided to set up shop at a small round table in the back of the room.) I was pretty excited to see a dozen beers on tap at Country Boy. Turns out, they had TWO beer boards each sporting twelve different beers (so that's like a total of 24 for my mathematics-impaired readers). One board featured staples and year-round beers, while the other boasted seasonals and one-offs. There's definitely something for everyone here.
|Just half of the beers available at Country Boy.|
I honestly have no recollection of my next beer, which was apparently Laid Back Lager. Perhaps I just tried a bit of Brewslut's beer, or perhaps I was entering a brief imperial-stout-and-barleywine-induced memory lapse. Either way, I checked it in so I must have tried it. By this time, I seemed to be more occupied with Pudding. Let me explain. Brewslut happened to find a little figurine of a horse and decided to name him (or her... not sure of the gender) Pudding. Pudding ended up making the trip back home with us, and we consider this little guy (or gal) a cool little bonus memento of our visit to Country Boy.
|Brewslut found this little guy and named him Pudding.|
Next up was our third and final stop in Lexington, Ethereal. I'm grateful that we decided to take such a lengthy piss break, because this place turned out to be my favorite brewery of the trip! Situated on a sprawling 25-acre property known as The Distillery District, Ethereal shares its address with a myriad of other local artisans including two distilleries, a pizzeria, restaurant, ice cream lounge, music venue, arcade, and even an on-site doggie daycare. And that's just scraping the surface! Seriously, we could have spend an entire day here. We didn't even realize there was another brewery - Fusion Brewing - on campus. Carolyn and I did, however, hit up Crank & Boom Ice Cream Lounge for a sweet treat before heading out to Louisville.
|Ethereal: Blurring between science and magic.|
After checking out the beer menu, I noticed a trend beginning to form. Like West Sixth, I decided to explore the imperial stout path once again and ordered a beer named Breakfast Baba Yaga. This Russian Imperial Stout features maple syrup and local espresso from Nate's Coffee. It's also a heavy-hitter at 14.25% ABV. If I had a gun to my head and was asked what my favorite beer of the trip was, this would be it. The flavor of this beer was perfectly balanced with just the right amount of maple and coffee character. The mouthfeel was spot-on for the style: luscious and smooth with ample viscosity. As Linda Richmond would say, "Like buttah!" It was, by all accounts, a perfect beer. I'm still salivating about this beer as I write this.
|What's pouring at Ethereal?|
Up next was Bellerophon, a bourbon barrel-aged barleywine aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels. By this time, I was thinking: Man, what's up with me and high-gravity beers this trip? Oh yeah, I'm not driving! It made sense to me. Plus who doesn't love a good barre-aged stout or barleywine? I have a weak spot for both styles. Really, anything barrel-aged always seems to pique my curiosity.
Anyway, this one is a more traditional English style than the one we'd experienced at West Sixth. Bellerophon boasted thick notes of bourbon-soaked caramels, French toast, vanilla, and butterscotch with traces of dark fruit around the edges. It was pretty freakin' delicious. Curious about the name, I decided to consult my good buddy Google for answers. Turns out Bellerophon was a famous Greek hero, mostly known for defeating Chimera, a fire-breathing mythical monster. He is also known for riding Pegasus, the winged horse given to him as a gift from Athena. Shame on me for not knowing that bit of mythology. I'm surprised Brewslut didn't make the connection, as she's been teaching Greek and Roman Mythology for years. So shame on both of us, really.
All in all, Ethereal just has its shit together. I loved everything about this place: the beer, the atmosphere, the service. The whole vibe was aligned with what I love about traveling in the name of beer. I shared some beers with our sassy little pixie of a bartender, and she reciprocated with a pair of shirts for Brewslut and I, which was a nice surprise.
|Me and my beer of the trip: Breakfast Baba Yaga!|
After an amazing visit to Ethereal, it was time to hit the rocky road and finally get to our REAL destination, Louisville. Since we were a bit behind in our schedule, we decided to head straight to the Air B&B, get situated, and head back out for an evening on the town.
Our first Louisville beer experience took place at Monnik. Taking its name from the dutch word for "monk," Monnik embodies the intense focus and diligence of the monastic brewers of Europe. The beer selection was well-curated, with about 20 beers on tap featuring a mix of flagships, seasonals, and one-off brews. Plus the food menu looked fantastic, and we were pretty hungry by this point in the day.
I kicked off with a pint of Path of Totality, a coffee IPA brewed with Sunergos Coffee & Roastery's Guatemala Los Volcanes coffee. I am always intrigued by this odd hybrid style fusing coffee and hops, and will typically order one if available. The coffee itself lends hints of chocolate, hazelnut and raisin to the hazy orange beer, which boasts a backbone of citrus-forward hops, a nice complement to the chocolate notes of the coffee. This was a very well-done beer, overall.
For dinner, Brewslut and I both ordered the Pea and Smoked Trout Flamee, a puff pastry dish with smoked trout, pea puree, snow pea sprouts, and citrus. It was pretty tasty but not too filling. The puff pastry was incredibly flaky and tasty, however. We also shared some fried smelts and pepitas with D&C.
After dinner, we carried on with more beers, including Ricky's Super Saison, a 9.3% ABV farmhouse ale brewed in the Belgian tradition. Sweeter and fruitier than your everyday saison, this beer boasts notes of tropical fruit, bubblegum, light spice, and pear.
I also tried Tran Sam, a double IPA/Flanders red blend and collaboration with Against the Grain. This was an interesting blend of styles that I'd never really seen before. It came across as a dry-hopped sour, although I'd say it was neither super hoppy nor tart. With that said, I certainly appreciated the experimental nature of this beer.
|Tap selection at Great Flood.|
Great Flood, our next stop, turned out to be a fairly short one-and-done visit. Perhaps I was trying to bask once again in the glory I'd experienced at Etheral when I ordered a pour of Batch 400: '37 Porter with Maple & Coffee. Turns out this special beer was brewed to commemorate the brewery's milestone 400th batch. (Oddly enough, we're coming up on our 400th Scratch release at Troegs this week!) This special release takes its flagship '37 Porter and adds maple syrup and Elixir coffee from Archetype Coffee Company. While it was enjoyable, it wasn't in the same league as Ethereal's Breakfast Baba Yaga.
|Pleeps gettin' his Great Flood on.|
In hindsight, I'm unsure as to why I neglected to order the hibiscus and peach saison. I mean, come on... PEACH! Perhaps if they would have named it Peach & Hibiscus Saison, I might have acted differently. Sometimes you need to lead with the better ingredient, and everyone knows that peach > hibiscus. Hell, peach > 90% of adjunct ingredients in beer. Just sayin'.
|Pleeps called a huddle for a quick discussion.|
I scoped out our next stop, Gravely, ahead of time and added it to our tentative itinerary because of its music-centric bent. As soon as I saw a picture of the bar area, I knew I wanted to check it out. See?
|Vintage analog stereo equipment abounds at Gravely.|
Even better was the name of its Imperial Stout, Black Sabbath. Weighing in at a massive 15% ABV, this stout is sure to have the Prince of Darkness himself screaming at the top of his lungs for SHARON!!! Overall, it was pretty solid but didn't compare to either German Chocolate Snake Cake or Breakfast Baba Yaga. In all fairness, though, this was pretty complex in its simplicity, with plenty of deep notes of leather, tobacco, cedar, chocolate and coffee. For a straight-up, no frills imperial stout, it was quite good albeit a tad thin. It did, however, mask the boozy heat of the huge 15% ABV tag quite well.
I made up for missing the peach and hibiscus beer at Great Flood by ordering a bottle at Gravely to share with the group. Described as the "second child" in its Sour Note Series, 2017 Pâle (Pale) Sour Ale displayed a bright, golden body and prevalent peachy aroma and flavor with lively carbonation. Obviously, this beer was in stark contrast to my previous selection, but you know me... I'm a sucker for peaches! Of course I had to try it. While it wasn't mind-blowing like Saison de Peche from Selin's Grove, it did have a pleasant peach character and hint of tartness working in its favor. All in all, I'm glad I tried it.
Meanwhile, Deuane was digging a pour of Sprockets, a tasty pilsner with a prominent mineral character... just the way I like 'em! It's favorite beer of Deiter, I presume. Pleeps was enthralled with the glass in which it was served, and kept thinking he was seeing his mirror image. (Would you like to touch my monkey? It was all starting to make sense now... right SNL fans?) He spent a good while gazing into the glass wondering if his tail really was that long. He also needed a break from the barrage of imperial stouts... and all you regular Pour Travelers readers know how Pleeps gets after a few of those.
|Who's that monkey?!|
Things were starting to get a bit cloudy by the time we rolled into Mile Wide, our final stop of the day. Located in a building that had once housed a biscuit factory and, later, Louisville’s first brewpub, Mile Wide's brewery is nestled among a towering grain silo. It was dark when we arrived, and I don't think I even noticed it, to be honest. I'm not the most observant one of the group, I'm afraid.
|Outside Mile Wide Beer Co.|
Mile Wide provided a nice cap on a wonderful and productive day in Lexington and Louisville. And with that, I'll let Pleeps, Zeke, and Trevor sign off on behalf of the Pour Travelers. Until next time...