There’s a new pitstop along the distillery trail in Frankfort, just a stone’s throw from Buffalo Trace. But it’s not a distillery — it’s the rebirth of a 19th-century brewery.
Sig Luscher Brewery is now open downtown, just across the street from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, a cozy, 400-square-foot taproom with a small brewhouse, a bar and an enclosed deck.
The interior of the tiny facility has the feel of a cabin, with a cathedral ceiling in the bar area, wood walls and ceilings, and bourbon barrels for tables. The tiny bar seats about five people, and a pair of flatscreen TVs offer entertainment for those who want to sip a beer and watch a game.
A beer garden is planned, as well.
At the bar, visitors can get a 12- or 23-ounce pour of one of two beers (currently). For non-beer drinkers, there’s wine and a selection of bourbons. For designated drivers, there’s a selection of soft drinks available.
If you’re hungry, there are pretzel sticks with dip and steamed hot dogs, and the business opens at 7 a.m. weekdays, selling coffee and bagels.
The branding of the business is heavily rooted in the history of the original Sig Luscher Brewery, which opened in 1866 and lasted until the founder and namesake’s death in 1891. Luscher was a Swiss immigrant who took over Capital Brewery and made it his own.
Even the glassware has a vintage feel, with 12-ounce pours being served in thick tankards and the larger pours crossing the bar in bowl-shaped, dimpled krugs.
The new brewery is owned and operated in part by Luscher’s great-great-grandson, Tim, who wants to not only keep the name and brand as locked into the brewery’s heritage as possible, but the beer as well. The flagship beer at Sig Luscher, where the bar has but four tap handles, is a light pilsner developed by brewer Dylan Greenwood.
Luscher told Insider Louisville last year that he wants the beer to appeal to a wide range of beer drinkers, as a beverage that will appeal to general light beer drinkers but with a higher level of quality than mass-produced beers to go with the local history.
The beer, dubbed Sig Pilsner, is a clean, basic pilsner with a hint of hop bite and a clean finish, with just a trace of sweetness.
The other beer currently on tap is the ’66 Wheated Lager, an amber beer with a big malt body and bready aroma, with slight bitterness and a soft feel on the palate.
While the on-site brewhouse isn’t yet in operation, brewing continues off-site, at least temporarily. The plan is to bottle some of the flagship pilsner within a few weeks for carry-out sales in the taproom, with canning a possibility in the future.
Greenwood said he also is working on a schwarzbier and a sour beer, among others, noting that the pilsner and wheated lager will be the core beers on tap, with the other two taps rotating.
Interestingly, there is a long-ago connection between Sig Luscher Brewery and E.H. Taylor Jr., the man considered by many as “the father of the modern bourbon industry.” Luscher and Taylor, owner of O.F.C. Distillery, a pre-cursor to nearby Buffalo Trace, traded yeast in the late 1800s.
The current brewery also is on land once owned by Taylor, and the shared history has led to a current relationship that will lend itself to a barreling program with Buffalo Trace.
“We’ve got some exciting things planned with them,” Greenwood said.
The taproom, located at 221 Mero St., is currently open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday; 7 a.m. to midnight on Friday; 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Updated: Sig Luscher Brewery is not an official stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.