At first, Wade Mattingly’s plan was to take the money he and his brother Ken, co-owners of Old Louisville Brewery, made and invest it into retail distribution.
But as he began trying to cultivate accounts, he realized that not only would selling beer via the three-tier system be something of a break-even situation, it wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do. He and Ken both work day jobs, but they make themselves available in the brewery.
Connecting with customers and making beer is what motivated Mattingly from the start, so he decided opening another taproom would be a better move.
He tells Insider he hopes to open the Barrel Room — full name, “Old Louisville Brewery’s Barrel Room” — in Shelbyville sometime later this spring. Leasing a massive, nearly 10,000-square-foot space, with an option to buy, he wants to become a fixture in the small town east of Louisville.
“This is, for us, kind of the next logical step,” Mattingly says.
He also had looked into the Crestwood/La Grange area, but 3rd Turn Brewing’s new taproom, restaurant and gardens there prompted him to focus elsewhere. After talking to 3rd Turn ownership, he learned that Shelbyville has a similar demographic — and no place to get locally brewed craft beer.
Construction has begun on an upstairs mezzanine level that now has a small apartment and will be home to a casual seating space; that process also involves tearing out a ceiling in the back half of the main room that was not present when the building, at 622 Main St., was constructed in the 1890s.
Essentially, the construction will return it to how it originally was meant to be. The main floor below will include a taproom with a bar and 20 taps, 10 for OLB beers and 10 for guest taps, with booths and an eventual expansion into a gaming space.
He says the initial remodeling investment will be about $50,000.
The building has housed a number of disparate businesses, from a boutique to a dance studio to a recording studio to an insurance office. Apparently, the expansive basement once was used for servicing buses, and he believes that, like the original Old Louisville Brewery location, it also once was a grocery store.
The huge basement, which seems to go on forever, will eventually be the home to a barrel-aging program using barrels from distilleries around the state. That will come in a later phase, and Mattingly says a future brewing operation there is potentially in play as well.
For now, Barrel Room will operate much like OLB, partnering with local charities to do special events, holding trivia and other “niche events,” possibly live music (there’s a stage in the former dance studio space) and being a place people in Shelbyville can go to relax, enjoy a craft beer and spend time with friends.
“We want to be a small, intimate operation,” Mattingly says. “Very accessible. Every town needs a place with good beer where they can hang out with their friends. We want Shelbyville to welcome it and feel like it’s theirs.”
Initially, he says, the main taproom and upstairs area will have a capacity of roughly 185 people, but he wants to be sure it doesn’t feel so big that it loses that intimacy. Therefore, the plan is to grow the space slowly, building separate rooms and experiences gradually.
The name includes the word “barrel” not just because of the barrel-aging program for the beers, but also because the taproom will offer bourbon, wines and basic cocktails.
Feeding both locations with the current, five-barrel brewing system is a challenge the brothers will face as it comes. Expanding it to a 10-barrel system by adding a new fermenter would be the first step toward brewing expansion.
Operating hours will similarly be handled based on what need dictates. Mattingly says when the taproom opens, it will likely be only on Friday and Saturday at first. If the response is positive and business grows, that would likely expand to Thursday through Saturday. The best possible scenario would be a seven-days-a-week operation.
What that would ultimately accomplish, then, when it came to craft beer and a laid-back place to spend an evening, “People won’t feel like they have to go to Louisville.”
This article has been updated.