David Pierce has a black, three-ringed binder he’s been carrying around for two decades, give or take. On either side is a graphic of the labels from Hell For Certain and mead, beers he’d brewed for Bluegrass Brewing Company back in the 1990s and 2000s.
But inside is what matters: That’s where the recipes are stored for all the beers he’s created over the years, written by hand on green paper. Well, at least all the good ones are. He recalls brewing at BBC with the late Matt Gould in the early days of BBC.
“When (the recipes) were good enough to keep,” he says, “you’d write them down on the green sheet and put them in the binder. It’s real easy to flip through that book and pick something out, and say, ‘Hey, that’s good.’”
Pierce dug back into the binder following his return to the brewery this past summer and is rolling out some old recipes to help celebrate the brewery’s 22nd anniversary this Saturday, Nov. 7, including a fundraiser for My Dog Eats First and a “Halfway to Derby City Brewfest” party.
Five BBC classics, or at least versions of them, either have been tapped or will be tapped by Saturday, including SOB ESB, Barleywine, Ebenezer, Old St. Matt Ale and longtime favorite Hell For Certain.
Asked why he plucked those out of the binder, Pierce says it was basically by request from the brewery’s regulars. Hell For Certain is already on draft and is once again a hit. The slightly lighter version than in the past is a malt-forward and lightly bitter ale that checks in at 6.5 percent ABV. Its signature fruit notes come from one of Pierce’s longtime favorite Belgian yeasts, called Chouffe.
“I taste that yeast, and I’m transported back to Belgian in the mid-’90s,” he says.
Of course, he and owner Pat Hagan also discussed what beers sold well previously, and that entered into the decisions. Pierce had hoped to brew a batch of the Anniversary Nut Brown Ale, but it was determined that customers had lost interest in it by the end of its run.
The Old St. Matt is an English strong ale that is a high-gravity, seasonal beer, while the SOB ESB is a classic English bitter that came out moderately hopped at about 50 IBU (early batches ranged from 35 to near 60, so it’s in the sweet spot).
Pierce estimates that the half-batches he made of most of the classic beers should last a couple of weeks; the ESB was a full batch and should last longer, he says. An upgraded brewing system will help him continue to crank out new and old recipes. Fortunately, one key thing about BBC has never changed.
“One of the things about working here back in the old days was, as long as we have the core beers in place, it was pretty open” in terms of brewing experimental and seasonal beers. Look for Pierce to continue the tradition of trying new things.
The anniversary celebration on Saturday gets started at 11 a.m. with family- (and dog-) friendly activities as part of the My Dog Easts First fundraiser. A silent auction, a bounce house, Comfy Cow ice cream and a number of booths featuring local animal charities and services — including Rudy Greens, Derby City Mobile Vet Clinic, Tyson’s Chance, Louisville Metro Animal Services, Arrow Fund, Kentuckiana Pug Rescue, Hand in Paw, Cali Choo Furniture and many others — will keep attendees busy. There also will be adoptable pets on site.
Buy an Altbier — one of BBC’s core favorites — between 3-6 p.m., and the money goes directly to the charity; My Dog Eats First provides free pet food, supplies, vaccinations and spay/neuter services for the pets of the under-served and homeless within the local community.
Beginning at 6 p.m., the “Halfway to Derby City Brewfest” party begins, with live music, bourbon and plenty of beer. Whiskey Bent Valley Boys kick off the music, followed by the Uncommon Houseflies at 8:30 and Audio Addiction at 10.