Against the Grain Brews at a Ballpark in Louisville

As mentioned before, the great city of Louisville is known for several neat things — the baseball bat Louisville Slugger, the Kentucky Derby, bourbon, Muhammad Ali and J.Law.

For us beer geeks, we know Louisville as the location of beloved craft brewery Against the Grain. The breathe of their selection is staggering. They pretty much cover every style and offer up unusual takes on standards.

To dive deep into all things Against the Grain, you head to their brewery and BBQ restaurant located on the main drag in Louisville, ummm, Main Street.  Even better, it’s attached to Louisville Slugger Field, home to the minor league team, the Louisville Bats. A mile down the road is the Louisville Slugger factory and museum. You see a pattern here?

While the grain in the name is the wheat and not the wood, the brewery does some wild things like ramen brewed beer and lot of barrel-aged and smoked porters and stouts. While I didn’t eat there, it was a tough choice to figure out what 20 drafts to samples.

Some of the beers in their line-up do distribute outside of the state like Citra Ass Down and Kamen Knuddeln, so I went with the brewery exclusives.

  • A Beer Pale Ale
  • Bloody Snow Pilsner
  • Flex-Arcana Stout
  • Sigurd Vos Smoked Ale
  • Low-Key ESB
  • Aunt Claudine’s Salty Melons

I’m pretty I picked my flight based on the funniest names. To go, I got their Jackyale barrel-aged porter. “Double brown ale aged in bourbon barrels in honor of the greatest rock and roll band on this or any other time: JACKYL,” said the description.

For the beer  people, this is a must-visit if you find yourself in town. It’s a big beautiful space that overlooks a lovely ball field.

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.

 

A Coffee Shop, A Beer Bar and A Liquor Store to Visit in Nashville

Let’s round out my Nashville visit with some odds and ends. All three of these places I’ve deemed worth of a visit.

While Barista Parlor will be your go-to breakfast and late-afternoon pick-me-up destination for coffee and a pastry, an alternate shop to consider based on your location is Steadfast Coffee. The clientele is distinctively Nashville (or any upscale gentrified shop frequented by people in fun hats), the aesthetic is different.

Borrowing from minimalist Danish design, the second floor shop in the Germantown section makes its bones (or brews in the case) with a variety of coffee drinks. With my welcoming smile, I told my barista how much I enjoyed single origin coffees. As a result, she offered me a free serving of their single-origin coffee soda. Not what I’m into at 8am, but I went for it.

The place does off a full breakfast, but I went for a pastry. I spent my time there staring at the lightbulbs and overhead lighting.

It’s highly recommended that you take some beans home.

For the beer travelers who are out late after the local breweries are closed, head over to just westside of downtown to Hops & Crafts. Located in an unassuming blocks of businesses (think of an upscale strip mall), the bare bones bar has a who’s who of Tennessee craft beer. You have Honky Tonk, Bearded Iris, Smith & Lentz and Czann represented.

No food in the place, so you can just focus on the well-balance selection of styles — not all IPAs or pale ales. Afterwards, you can catch a gig at the legendary Station Inn across the street.

Say who want to load up your road-trippin car with some local brews that you can’t get back home. I headed over to CorkDorks. Yup, I love the name, too. You can grab your six-packs, but cruise the single bottle section to make your own six-packs. That’s the way to go so you can try every one of Tennessee’s craft breweries.

 

Tourist Hell: Nashville’s Lower Broadway

You don’t need to spend much time in Nashville to realize that the city is much more than country music, barbecue, hot chicken and western chic.

That’s the way the city’s main drag, Lower Broadway, is avoided by locals as much as humanly possible. It’s some garish theme park of lameness that attracts loud tourists, dopey families on vacation, hucksters and bachelorette parties. Because of it’s concentration of bars that sell booze in mass quantity on the cheap, it’s like Bourbon Street without the charm.

After my visit to the nearby Country Music Hall of Fame and Hatch Show Print, I figured a quick walk up and down and pop into the famous honky tonk Robert’s Western World would get the touristy aspect on the visit out of my way.

It checks off all the aspects of what makes a tourist hell — souvenir shops selling crap (include one that sells confederate flags), chain restaurants, slow walking families, people dressed in costume asking for money, big lights, attractions whose soul purpose is to extract money from you, over-the-top candy shops and the fact that you would never want to drive through because of the foot traffic.

The myriad of bars with cover bands and singers playing cover song makes the street loud no matter what time of day. I headed toward Robert’s Western World because it’s the one I knew of from the band BR5-49, who use to be the house and went onto some notoriety. It’s also known for their fried bologna sandwiches, cheap beer and wall of boots.

When I got there at 2pm, there was old man playing, a few people at tables and a bored, indifferent bartender. I got the  fried bologna sandwich (meh), opted for a local craft beer and a sticker and matches. At least the bathroom was clean and there’s plenty of photos on the wall to look at.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it’s a mix of sad, kitsch and local flavor … if that flavor was 1950s, 60s and 70s.

If you find yourself in this area, and you want to do buy something fun, try the Goo Goo Cluster store, which is next to the Johnny Cash Museum (where you I got a sticker that says, “Johnny Cash Was a Friend of Mine”). Yes, you can get Goo Goo Clusters anywhere in Nashville, but the store sells a specialty one made with candied bacon!