Bluegrass, Bourbon, and Beer, Part II

This is the second in a two-part series on beverage tails in and near Lexington, Kentucky. For Part I, on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, click here.

The Brewgrass Trail includes eight craft breweries, six of which are located in Lexington. This experience was much more relaxed than the Bourbon Trail, perhaps because it was mostly about hanging out at local bars. Also, because we didn’t really need to travel, there was little need for much planning. Admittedly, we’re not done with this trail yet, as we still haven’t visited the two breweries outside of Lexington. But, I’m leaving town next week for an extended period, so I may have to leave it to my Brewgrass companions to reach the end of the trail without me. In any case, I think this serves as a nice complement to the Bourbon Trail post.

We collected our passports and began our barley and hops adventures at Ethereal Brewing. Ethereal is part of the Pepper Campus (http://www.peppercampus.com/), site of the former James Pepper Distillery. I had their Lambda Oatmeal Stout, which was smooth and tasty. While there, we caught wind of a Groupon tour deal. So, we went back two days later for a tour of the brewing operation, given by Brandon, the brewmaster. Ethereal has their own yeast library, where they can cultivate yeast strains and experiment. Some beers are carbonated and served right away. Others are aged—either in stainless steel tanks or old bourbon barrels. At the time of our tour, they were working on two experimental beers—both chocolate stouts—one flavored with hazelnuts, the other with coconut. Experimental brews are served on their “tap zero,” a kegerator behind bar, generally early in the week. It’s worth asking if anything is on offer. After the tour, we were served beer tasting flights of the six Ethereal brews on tap that day. My favorites, in addition to the stout, were the Overstroom Farmhouse Pale Ale and the Wanderfarm Belgian IPA. After our flights, we headed next door to Middle Fork Kitchen Bar  for an incredibly tasty dinner at the chef’s counter overlooking the kitchen.

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Chase Brewing Company is a cool little bar, with a small on-site brewing operation. The night we went they only had one of their own beers on tap, what was listed as the “Chase Experimental,” a coffee stout. It tasted like a strong iced coffee, with a kick of course. They were also serving coffee, pizzas and pretzels with beer cheese.

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Blue Stallion Brewing Company is just down the street from Chase. They have pretty good selection of their own beers on tap. If this hadn’t been our third stop in one evening, I likely would have opted for a tasting flight. Instead, I went with the Scottish Ale, which I found to be quite refreshing. If you have any teetotalers in your group, they have a lemonade made with grapefruit and mint that sounded delicious.

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Country Boy Brewing’s Cougar Bait, an American blonde ale, seems to be quite popular and is available at many locations around town. I opted for the Cliff Jumper, an incredibly hoppy IPA. Other members of our group had the Ghost Gose, which was a bit on the sour side for my taste, and the Spruce Ale, which was enjoyable.

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West Sixth Brewing is quite popular among the graduate students in my department, so this was not the first visit for any of us. West Sixth has a standard selection of brews on tap, as well as frequent seasonal offerings. I’m a huge fan of their IPA and Cocoa Porter, and also like their Amber Ale. While wheat beers aren’t my favorite, friends who like this style enjoy their Lemongrass Wheat. The place seems to always be hopping when we’re there. West Sixth shares a building with Smithtown Seafood, in case you’re in the mood to nosh while you imbibe.

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The Brewgrass Trail required a repeat visit to Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company. I was pleased to find that they have stepped up their tour game, showing off more areas of the operation than we saw on tour we took for the Bourbon Trail. It was also fun to learn about their facility expansion, which was well underway at the time of our tour. Being that the Brewgrass Trial is about beer, I used three of my four drink tokens in the beer tasting room, trying the Bourbon Barrel Ale, the Bourbon Barrel Stout, and the IPA. All were good. Our tour guide recommended mixing the two Bourbon Barrel beers, to make what they call a “Double Barrel,” which was also tasty. I saved my last token for the Bluegrass Sundown in the spirits tasting room, because it’s just so yummy.

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The other two stops on the Brewgrass Trail are Beer Engine in Danville and Rooster Brewing in Paris.

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