You may have bought a ticket to next weekend’s inaugural Bourbon & Beyond festival to have Stevie Nicks take you to the “Edge of Seventeen” or Eddie Vedder speak in class with “Jeremy,” but the true star of the music, food and beverage fest is bourbon.
“This could only be done in Louisville, Ky.,” said Clay Busch, Bourbon & Beyond’s vice president of marketing and sponsorship, at a press conference in June. “We couldn’t do this anywhere else in the world.”
The festival, which runs Sept. 23-24 at Champions Park, is being put on by Danny Wimmer Presents, the same California-based company that hosts the annual Louder Than Life event later this month.
When news of the festival was first announced earlier this year, many were skeptical and wondered why it took an outsider to come in and organize a Louisville-based festival centered on bourbon.
But as more and more Kentucky bourbon distilleries, industry representatives and local chefs climbed on board, that skepticism has been replaced by respect and curiosity.
“I’ve been craving a bourbon festival for years, and this is the one I’ve been waiting for,” said 610 Magnolia and Milkwood Chef Edward Lee, who will help curate the food at the event, at the press conference. “It’s a great way to showcase Louisville to the rest of the world — it’s going to attract people from all over.”
Lee plans on preparing obvious bourbon pairings like barbecue and fried chicken, but he also intends to feature some high-end food that pairs well with whiskey as well.
Bourbon expert and author Fred Minnick also will be part of the festivities, and in between hosting several informational sessions and chats about all things bourbon, he’ll help curate the “Big Bourbon Bar,” as they’re calling it. The 20,000-square-foot bar will feature all sorts of bourbons and bourbon cocktails.
“I’m very stoked to educate people,” said Minnick at the press conference. “I want to show the social side bourbon and just how progressive bourbon culture is. While music is the star, bourbon is the big headliner.”
And speaking of music, the two-day lineup features some jaw-dropping talent like the two mentioned above, plus the Steve Miller Band, Band of Horses, Gary Clark Jr., Amos Lee, Trombone Shorty and many more.
And speaking of bourbon, master distillers and reps from Old Rip Van Winkle, Castle & Key, Buffalo Trace, Angel’s Envy, Jefferson’s Bourbon, Michter’s, Rabbit Hole and Maker’s Mark have all signed on and will be on site as well. Also, there will be a special Hunter’s Club bar, curated by Louisville’s Haymarket Whiskey Bar, that will feature limited and rare bourbons.
And last but not least, there will be at least a dozen top local and national chefs, including Dean Corbett, Anthony Lamas, Carla Hall and Tom Colicchio.
Busch said this is not a one-and-done festival, and in fact, Danny Wimmer Presents has a 10-year plan with the city of Louisville to continue to grow Bourbon & Beyond.
“We’re celebrating what makes Louisville so great,” he said. “It’s the Gateway to the South.”