Lexington beer lovers have it made

Adam Pennavaria, Beer Columnist

Adam Pennavaria

Rumor has it that Lexingtonians are some of the luckiest beer drinkers in the country because of the diverse brewing culture in the city. But what exactly does that mean?

Each of Lexington’s five breweries has its own signature flair: Lexington Brewing and Distilling specializes in barrel-aged brews, West Sixth is locally famous for its American style ales and its massive local-friendly headquarters, Ethereal is the master of all things related to Belgian ales, Blue Stallion prides itself on traditional German beers, and Country Boy is constantly pumping out all kinds of experimental brews.

Lexington Brewing’s facility is best known for its bourbon and food, but that didn’t stop it from pushing the now-famous Kentucky Ale into the Bluegrass’ brewing culture. The brewery offers a tour where visitors can view the production process of the alcohol and receive a certain number of drink tokens to exchange for beer or bourbon samples. Lexington Brewing entered the scene in 1999 by Pearse Lyons, founder of the animal nutrition company Alltech. Some of Lexington Brewing’s signature brews include Kentucky Ale (a 6% English pale ale), Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (an 8.2% strong ale), and the Kentucky White/Blue Ales (a pair of 5.3% limited release Witbiers that the company releases during basketball tournament season in honor of UK). 

West Sixth was founded by four independently wealthy businessmen who wanted to make an impact in the West 6th Street area. The brewery shares its space — formerly Lexington’s Rainbo Bread warehouse — with Smithtown Seafood Restaurant, Cricket Press printing company, Broke Spoke Bicycle Repair Shop, a local roller derby practice facility, and a fish farm/hydroponic garden from which Smithtown raises its products. Each business coexists and helps promote each other in various ways. Some of their signature brews include the West Sixth IPA (a 7% American IPA), the Pay It Forward Cocoa Porter (a 7% American porter), and the Christmas Ale (a 9% winter warmer). 

Lexington’s newest brewery, Ethereal, opened up in the Manchester District in 2014. Despite the grunginess of the area, Ethereal’s setup is stunning in every way. With high ceilings, two massive open rooms for its bar and brewing areas, and an outdoor patio with long tables and a firepit, Ethereal makes for the perfect summer night out spot. Since Ethereal’s opening, the gourmet ice cream station Crank + Boom and American-style restaurant Middle Fork have opened nearby. Many of Ethereal’s brews take a Belgian tone, meaning they are frequently high in alcohol content and sweetened with fruit. Their signature beers include the Lambda Oatmeal Stout (a 5.7% American stout), the Quadzilla (a 12.2% Belgian strong dark ale), and No Talent Ass Clown (a 6.7% American wild ale).

Blue Stallion is Lexington’s authentic German brewery. Almost all of its beers are produced according strictly to “Reinheitsgebot,” the German law for brewing pure traditional beer. It limits the usable ingredients to water, barley, and hops and confines brewing conditions to a rigid set of rules. 

The only beers that aren’t produced according to Reinheitsgebot are their test batches, which feature a wide variety of ingredients and are tapped each Tuesday. Blue Stallion uses only European hops in their traditional beers, further sticking to the German purity law. Inside, patrons can enjoy pool tables, shuffleboard, occasional live music, and a ridiculously high bar that is reminiscent of old German beer pubs. Blue Stallion’s signature beers include the German Pilsner (4.9%), the Weizenbock (6.5%), and the Munich Dunkel (5.4%).

To round out the list, Country Boy is tucked away on Chair Avenue, across from Lexington’s famous Tolly Ho restaurant. This is Lexington’s wild card brewery because it specializes in experimental concoctions. Although with 24 rotating taps it has the largest selection of beer, it has by far the smallest taproom. UK basketball fans frequently crowd the area on game days. The rear patio features an outdoor bar, barrel tables, giant Jenga blocks and live hops growing on vines around the fence. 

It’s always a pleasure to visit Country Boy after a few weeks off because the selection will be almost completely different from the previous visit. The brewery features frequent collaborations with West Sixth, which are dubbed the “Country Western” series. Some of their famous brews include the Shotgun Wedding (a 4.8% American brown ale), Papaw’s Red (a 9% American Amber lager with Pappy Van Winkle bourbon), and the Cliff Jumper IPA (a 7% American IPA). 

The rumors are true: Lexington is a wonderful place to be a beer fanatic. There are so many unique flavors and distinct locations that it’s impossible to try every beer in town. But hopefully that won’t stop you from attempting the task. Cheers.

Adam Pennavaria is the beer columnist of the Kentucky Kernel.

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