Just under a year ago, Mayor Greg Fischer announced an initiative to boost Louisville’s bourbon and dining culture as a major tourist draw.
“They think of Napa Valley for wine,” Fischer said at the time. “We want them to think of Louisville for bourbon.”
The committee charged with driving the initiative was made up of representatives from the bourbon, dining and tourism industry. Even the coffee segment was represented. Brewing was not. And many in the brewing scene took exception.
Not long after, John King was appointed executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, and one of his first orders of business was to right this perceived slight that had left the brewing community scratching its collective head.
King “pissed and moaned” – his words – to Fischer’s office, managed to set up a meeting, and the Mayor’s Beer Work Group was born. The committee brought together King, area brewers in Louisville and Southern Indiana, brewery representatives and others in the growing local beer community to enlighten Fischer on what’s happening and what’s needed, and to make some recommendations.
King, which has called bourbon the “big brother” to Louisville’s brewing scene, said, “Sometimes I check Twitter and it’s ‘bourbon this, bourbon that’ in regards to Louisville. I wish I could reach through the screen and hand those people a Louisville-made beer as an eye opener to what else is going on in the city.”
The group convened in early summer and met several times. It reached a conclusion on five goals to pursue; the full findings and recommendations will be revealed Monday at a 10 a.m. press conference at Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse, located at Slugger Field. The public (supporters of local beer especially) is invited to attend and have a beer with the work group.
Here is a preview of the five goals:
- Develop an official beer trail/map that will help promote all of the breweries in the city. This project also involves creating a web presence with promotional videos for each brewery. There also will be printed versions distributed at the breweries and other places around town.
- Work toward changing Alcohol Beverage Control laws to be more beer friendly. Most don’t realize it, but currently it is a difficult and complicated process to open a brewery and for established breweries to hold special events, conduct tastings and pursue other promotional activities.
- Represent local breweries and their products in more city-owned and city-sponsored events, functions and venues. Since alcoholic beverages must run through distributors as part of the post-Prohibition three-tier system, it can be difficult for smaller, local breweries to be represented at large events.
- Create a signature bourbon-barrel event that will be recognized nationally and/or internationally. This helps marry beer to its “big brother” and tie brewing into what Louisville and the rest of the state is primarily known for, and further establishes the city as a beer destination as well.
- Reconnect Louisville with its brewing heritage. Many in the city are unaware of the rich history of brewing and beer culture in Louisville. Louisville was once a thriving brewing hub, and a beer style was actually invented here in the 1800s. Paying tribute to this history can help further promote current breweries and beers.
More than anything, this initiative is a step toward raising the awareness across the city that the brewing culture in Louisville is thriving. There are currently seven breweries operating in the metro area (more, depending on how you count the various Bluegrass Brewing Company locations, which have varying ownerships), with several more in the works. And this also helps bring the beer full circle to join the local bourbon and dining scene as draws to the city.
“The growth of the Louisville metro brewing industry coincides with the locavore food movement we are seeing now,” King said. “We, as brewers, want to show our Louisville residents that we can provide world class beer in their own back yards. Kentucky may be bourbon country, but our limestone water makes pretty damn good beer too.”