LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- For centuries, Kentuckians have distilled and drank bourbon. The brown liquor surely isn’t going anywhere but there’s another drink capturing the hearts and taste buds of Kentuckians from Louisville to Ashland, and Covington to Somerset.
“Five years ago there was one brewery in town and today we have around nine in town and a new one opening up quite often,” says West Sixth Brewing co-founder, Brady Barlow. His statements on growth, supported by Kentucky Guild of Brewers executive director, Derek Selznick.
“Last year, we grew our workforce by 25%. We’re on pace to do it again. In 2009, there were five craft breweries in the entire state; we opened up 11 alone last year and are on pace to do it again this year and that’s going to be more in Central Kentucky as well,” says Selznick.
Those are strong numbers for a bubbling industry; not just in Kentucky but nationwide.
In the U.S. for 2014, our beer-minded friends at the Brewer’s Association tell us the craft beer industry poured more than $55 billion dollars into the economy. Kentucky’s serving? Nearly half a billion dollars.
“The consumer’s understand the product and they want more of it,” says Selznick.
What that means is like your favorite brew, new opportunities are there for the taking. Take rooster brewing for example. With roots in Paris, founder Ralph Quillin looks to branch out on North Limestone in Lexington.
Rooster is partnering with popular food truck, The Gastro Gnomes.
“If you start to integrate food service as a one-stop shop as opposed to food trucks coming in, I think maybe that gives us an option,” says Quillin, whose vision is shared.
Just outside of downtown sits a newer Lexington brewery, Mirror Twin.
“A lot of people would agree that the quality of Kentucky craft beer is exceptional and there really aren’t breweries making bad beer,” says Derek DeFranco, co-owner and Head Brewer at the National Avenue spot.
In addition to Mirror Twin’s tap room relationship with Rolling Oven pizza, the facility boasts clever beer names.
“Number five is our blonde ale, it’s pretty light and clean, the name of it is White Girl Wasted. It’s actually named after my wife… she knows,” says DeFranco. “I like puns a lot so a lot of our beers are kind of like, pun names.”
While new names attract some, new flavors attract others. Pivot Brewing; Mirror Twin’s nearby neighbor is pressing on the cider industry.
“Almost everybody who works at Pivot went and had lunch down at Mirror Twin because they’re right around the corner and we can just have a conversation with those guys,” says Bevin Morgan, Director of Sales and Marketing at Pivot.
The new kids on the block are already thinking about the future and how to get their product in more hands.
“The goal has always been to distribute and we actually just finalized our distribution agreement with Kentucky Eagle.
Perhaps the biggest expansion in the central Kentucky craft beer scene though is Country Boy.
“We can’t satisfy the demand right now for some of our brands right now, like Shotgun Wedding and some of those other things as well and the resurgence of craft beer means more craft beer bars have opened up, more bars are putting up taps that have Kentucky beers on so there was that side of it obviously, we needed to grow. But I think you see just nationwide, also in Kentucky how the proliferation of craft beer has just exploded,” says DH, co-owner.
Towers of equipment fill the new Georgetown facility, featuring a larger tap room and enormous patio sitting on ten acres of countryside.
But as DH mentions, it’s not just breweries.
“The resurgence of craft beer means more craft beer bars have opened up…”
The Beer Trappe, tucked away in the “Chevy Chase” neighborhood is a craft beer staple, offering an international selection by the bottle, the glass, and to take home.
“Just try to keep having the most interesting things, some things other people might not have the opportunity to acquire and just keep trying to build those relationships and keep getting the special things and trying to stay ahead of everybody,” says owner, Brett Behr.
Relationships are key for the bars, key for the brewers, and in their words, key to the continuing success of the craft beer industry.
“It’s a different thing when your neighbor says, try my beer, and then he goes, now try their beer, and that’s kind of how this whole things gets rolling,” says Selznick. “I do think, while we’re young, we’re still making some of the best craft beer in the entire world.”
(Image Courtesy: Brewers Association)