For the first time since the repeal of Prohibition — or longer, if the owners are correct — a brewery opens its doors to the public this week in Elizabethtown, Ky.
Flywheel Brewing, owned by partners Ashley Willoughby, Josh Durham and Aaron Hawkins, first formed in early 2016, becoming a reality slowly as the trio built out a somewhat hidden-away space in a downtown that has seen growth recently, with a bourbon tavern, local coffee shop, boutique shops, new housing and more.
With a four-barrel brewhouse and 16 taps, roughly half of which will pour guest beers, there will be plenty of styles to choose from, and based on attendance during a weekend soft-opening, the people of Elizabethtown are all in.
The space has the kind of modern-yet-rustic, spacious feel one expects from craft brewery taprooms, with cinder block walls, plenty of reclaimed wood, concrete floors and a loose automotive theme.
A flywheel helps propel momentum in a machine, including an internal combustion engine, so to that end, the tap handles are mounted into old truck tailgates, and the brewery’s logo is that of a flywheel.
For the owners, the flywheel symbolizes powering the progress of mankind.
(Also, if you go, be sure to check out the mural of “The Dude” from “The Big Lebowski” in the unisex bathroom. It might seem out of place, but it’s worth the drive south just for this alone.)
Six Flywheel beers were on tap over the weekend, including an APA plus a pawpaw-infused variant, an ESB, a porter and others. Decapitated Monkey is a Belgian cream ale, Nameless ESB is a pretty basic, stick-to-the-style beer, and the U No Want Smoky Breakfast is a porter brewed with oats and “real bacon juices,” according to the description.
The Hey Porter stuck more to the style and provided a warming beer with coffee and chocolate notes. I enjoyed my experience with a small pour of Tun Tavern Hoppy APA, which is what it says it is: A well-balanced American pale ale brewed with locally grown Chinook hops as well as Citra hops.
A variant of the APA brewed with pawpaws missed the mark for me; the locally sourced pawpaws were a fine idea, but over-the-top flavors of ripe banana dominated this one.
(Also, my 4-ounce pours, which were $2 each, were hastily drawn and ended up being more like 3 ounces apiece.)
New breweries, like new restaurants, usually need a little time to get rolling, but Flywheel is off to a promising start. The owners were on hand for the soft open, with the staff manning the L-shaped bar and a handful of tables and keeping quite busy on a well-attended Saturday night.
One certainly can’t argue with the location, as there isn’t another brewery within about 60 miles.
“We’re a little bit of an oasis between Bowling Green and Louisville,” said Willoughby, who has worked in regional development for the past two-plus decades. “We’re working on our craft, but we like beer. That’s a good place to start.”
He noted that the brewing system was put together piece by piece by the ownership team, and referred to it as “Brewenstein.”
Durham, who has long been in the printing business, will do most of the brewing, while Hawkins, who comes with a planning background, will help Willoughby with front-of-house operations.
One feature among the guest taps Saturday was the presence of Rodenbach Grand Cru, a Flanders-style sour that was getting a lot of attention from attendees. Its presence was no accident.
“I don’t want to make sours,” Durham said, “but I love to drink them.”
The owners said the taproom should be open full time by Wednesday, Nov. 22, and will keep regular hours weekdays from 4-10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon-midnight. Flywheel Brewing is located at 218 S. Mulberry St. in Elizabethtown.