Against the Grain celebrates five years of Bo & Luke on Saturday at Copper & Kings. | Courtesy of Against the Grain Brewery

It was year two of the existence of the Bo & Luke release when I took notice. I happened to be near Against the Grain Brewery and thought I’d pop by and see what all the buzz was about, and then I saw the line of people.

It appeared to extend the length of Slugger Field going east on Main Street. I was dumbfounded. It was the first time I’d heard of people standing in long lines just to buy a beer.

Year five happens on Saturday, Oct. 21, and some 1,200 people are expected at Copper & Kings American Brandy to attend the bottle release of this coveted smoked stout that is aged in bourbon barrels. People from all around the region and beyond come to the event.

Against the Grain co-owner Sam Cruz said people have come from as far away as Denmark, which is not a bad feeling for a brewery in Louisville.

Waiting in line for Bo & Luke, 2016 | Courtesy of Against the Grain

“Obviously, it’s pretty flattering,” he told Insider.

Speaking of the first realization that Bo & Luke was becoming a thing, he said, “I think more than anything it was very telling that Kentucky beer is coming together. That’s a really good feeling to be part of that process.”

While Kentucky does lag behind many states in terms of beer production and popularity, it is indeed “coming together,” showing significant growth over the last three or four years.

Against the Grain is one of the leaders in getting Kentucky beer known outside of the state and the U.S., with international distribution that literally spans the globe.

“When we started doing a lot of the international stuff,” Cruz said, “to be quite honest, that’s a big part of our focus — making a name for us and making a name for Kentucky beer. When people think of Kentucky, they only think of bourbon and that horse race.”

Perhaps not any longer, and with an assist from the beer named after a pair of good ol’ boys from a 1970s and ’80s TV show called “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

This year’s release party promises to be as exciting as a jump with Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane in hot pursuit, with an appearance by the General Lee, the Dodge Charger made famous by the show (or at least a replica of one), plus live music from the Riflemen, Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters, and Whiskey Daredevils. There will also be local guest breweries on hand as part of a miniature beer festival.

Get it before it’s gone, because, like Christmas, it only comes once a year. | Courtesy of Against the Grain

Of course, the party is about the Bo & Luke beer, which is described in a press release as “dark, smoky, with hints of vanilla and spice that has everybody reeling for more.”

Each year, there are a few variants, with this year’s theme being wood, and three different versions of the beer aged on white oak, sassafras wood and white ash.

Asked why he thinks the beer is so popular, Cruz said, “More than anything, it is incredibly good beer. Most beers are typically very polarizing. This one is little bit different — it’s heavily smoked, but still appeals to a broader range of drinkers.”

He continued, “But let’s get real, the brand is Bo & Luke, so it speaks to our consumer, and the primary consumer of craft beer at the moment, which is basically me. When I was a kid, that was a show I watched and loved.”

VIP ticket holders have a secured opportunity to buy a Bo & Luke 2017 four-pack, plus access to a private indoor party and an exclusive option to purchase Bo & Luke Brewskey, a barrel-aged spirit distilled by Copper & Kings from Bo & Luke beer and Cr&ftwerk, a mature brandy aged in Bo & Luke barrels.

Cruz said there still are VIP tickets available for sale.

The event runs from 2-10 p.m., and some of the proceeds will benefit the local nonprofit Squallis Puppeteers. Copper & Kings is located at 1121 E. Washington St.

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies.Email Kevin at [email protected]