Haymarket in Louisville Might Be the Best Whisky Bar in America, But Is Surrounded By Controversy

Since I visited the whisky wonderland Haymarket in Louisville last July, the bar and the owner has garnered it’s share of nasty headlines. All came to head in November when the bar closed after rape allegation surfaced against the owner causing the staff to quit.

In March, a lawsuit was filed against Haymarket’s owner that detailed gruesome details of fetishistic sex gone wrong. Other former employees have accused the owner of misconduct. The owner denies the allegations, and still has time to comment on positive Yelp reviews.

I admit, this place was cool beyond belief. Not only was the whisky list the most impressive I’ve ever seen, the dive bar aesthetics amused me to now end. You can’t go wrong with vintage bottles, Spy Hunter video games, bobbleheads and all sorts of vintage kitsch filling every square inch of the walls.

The bartender guided me through their selections, when I told him that I was only in Louisville for the night, and I wanted to drink something I couldn’t get back in the Northwest. He lined up a flight of six and away I went. Let’s just say it was a rough morning.

The bar remains open as of now, which begs the question, do you go?

There’s not a right answer, but for me, I would find another bar if I found myself back in Louisville. I would feel uncomfortable if I saw the owner in the bar, knowing that he’s a bit of freak. Every corner in the city has a great whisky bar that has local and hard to find selections. If the owner sells the bar and the appeal remains, then I would recommend a visit.

 

 

The Evan Williams Experience in Louisville is Like a Theme-Park Ride with Booze

Besides being the home to the premiere horse racing event, baseball bats, Mohammad Ali and Jennifer Lawrence, Kentucky is the bourbon capital of the world. Eighty percent of the world’s golden booze is produced in the state.

Thus, you need to do something bourbon-oriented in the state even if you are passing through like I did. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is the most likely activity, where you go town to town looking for distilleries like Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam and Knob Creek. It’s pretty spectacular the quality of fine spirits within the state.

In downtown Louisville, the big names have restaurants and tasting rooms where you can eat bourbon-infused dishes and sample their wares without venturing through the state. I did the Evan Williams Experience, which is basically a theme-park ride, history tour and sampling of the good stuff.

While you’re not strapped down to a cable car, you are led from theme room to theme room by a guide where you are shown the process and, my favorite in a “so bad, it’s good way”, video walls of actors in period costume.

There was a comedian who did a bit about one man shows where the actor plays a famous historical figure like Mark Twain, Lincoln or George Washing Carver. It always starts with an actor sitting down turning to the audience, acts startled and says, “Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there.”

As with the actor in the video wall, not a joke, starts with, “Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. My name is Evan Williams. And I’m looking to make the finest bourbon in the land.” I was very amused by this.

While they technically don’t make whisky in the building for the masses, they make it for show and to serve in the tasting room. After going through the usually tour steps, you end up in a recreation of Louisville through the last century and finally, a bar circa Mad Men 1960s. Another design aesthetic I loved.

You get three tastes from the Evan Williams line. Obviously, when you’re done, you exit through the gift shop. Most of the stuff you can get online or in stores, but I opted for the bourbon barrel coffee beans.

As for advice, I was able to get the next available tour when I arrived, but you can book advance just to make sure.

 

Sergio’s World Beers is a Bizarre Beer Bar in Louisville

One of the unknown gems of Louisville is a beer bar that’s tailor made for beer geeks and lovers of weird dive bars. Sergio’s World Beers is, like it’s name, a world of beer — meaning beers from international areas like Germany, Italy, Japan and Florida.

I’m not going to do the place justice, but imagine a bar inside the cooler section of your local beer store. Unlike a liquor store with selves upon shelves of craft beer, you walk around tight corridors of glass refrigerators. All the beers are individually priced so you can enjoy there or make a six pack. For the most part, the beer is organized by country and in the United States, it’s by region.

I love variety in beer, but damn I didn’t know what to do with myself with all the unique selections. I could easily threw down $300 for beers to go.

Instead, I went to the bar and got a few drafts. Sergio did come over to me to talk beer, and then explain that it’s best to start a tab and pay at the end in cash. No credit cards in this joint.

In the back, there are old school diner booths and a menu of eats. No artisanal foods or meat and cheese plats, just fried food, sandwiches, pizzas, Mexican and sausages.

Walking around the place, and it is compact space, I was overwhelmed by variety. It’s like going to an antique books store where you want to pick up all the books and read them there. Here, you want to try everything.

Alas, I didn’t. Here’s what I had:

  • Lurcher Stout by Green Jack Brewing Company
  • Cocoa Loco by Arcadia Brewing Company
  • Peanut Butter Milk Stout by TailGate Brewery

Churchill Downs Without Crowds or Horses is Interesting, Creepy and a Little Sad

The Kentucky Derby is one of the premiere events in all sports. The yearly horse race is just as iconic as World Cup, Indianapolis 500, Super Bowl, Wimbledon, the Olympics and The Masters.

May 5th will be the next running of the Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a chance for rich people to wear fancy dresses and outlandish hats and place $1,000 bets on the ponies.

The other 51 Saturdays at Churchill Downs does have races without the pageantry. The other weekdays, the place becomes a ghost town which you can walk through without any barriers. There is OTB operating in the concourse, but it’s best just ignore that lot.

As you can see, if you’re the only soul around like I was, you’ll get a sense of what it’s like to be the last person of earth. Gone are the horses, the crowd and the energy. Without all the mass of humanity, you see that Churchill Downs is a far less glamorous than you see of TV.

I’ve been to Happy Valley Race Course during the races and it’s a over-whelming experience. Being at Churchill abandoned, feels like being left out of the party.

Nevertheless, if you’re curious about what it’s like, feel free to park and walk around for 5-10 minutes. You can pretend that The Rapture happened and they left you out.