Kentucky Brewgrass Trail: Excellent craft beer
Lexington has long been known as the Horse Capital of the World in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region but here, alongside the famous distilleries of the Bourbon Trail, I discovered several new microbreweries featuring excellent craft beers on the fledgling Brewgrass Trail Their motto proudly printed on their coasters says it all, Respect the bourbon, drink the beer!
I arrived in Lexington on my birthday in late February to explore the Brewgrass Trail over the weekend.
West Sixth Brewing CompanyI began my tour of the Brewgrass Trail with a stop at the West Sixth Brewing Company housed in the old Rainbo Bread Factory near Transylvania University in Lexington. Owners Ben Self, Joe Kuosman, and Brady Barlow greeted me at the door of what they now call the Bread Box to show me how they have converted the old building into not only a microbrewery but a community destination with an artists studio and gallery, retail shops, and even space for the local women’s roller derby to practice. They also plan on being the first Kentucky microbrewery to can their beer for distribution in an effort to go green. But most impressive was their commitment to the neighborhood by pledging six percent of their profits to be donated to local charities.
Country Boy BrewingCountry Boy Brewing Company is located in an old baseball batting cage facility. Owners Daniel Harrison and Evan Coppage showed me around the facility and how they had furnished their tasting room with local barrels, doors, and other salvaged wood to create a very homey, unique bar for patrons. I bellied up to the bar where I enjoyed a flight of their handiwork ranging from dark stouts to light ales. Whatever your taste is in beer, Country Boy has it.
Drake's Sports BarBy now it was time to head to Drake's Sports Bar to watch the #1 rated University of Kentucky basketball game with the locals. I was soon immersed in a sea of blue jerseys while enjoying a glass of Kentucky Ale followed by a glass of Drake's Ale along with my Kentucky BleuCheeseburger. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the bartender filling a long, clear, narrow tube with draft beer and the waitress struggling to deliver it to a nearby table. Of course, I went over and introduced myself in the hope of learning what this contraption was all about and soon learned about the Table Tapper. It holds the equivalent of 3-4 pitchers of beer and is conveniently brought directly to your table. Is this a great country or what! After UK had secured another win (their 50th straight at their home court in Rupp Arena), I proceeded south of town to the charming city of Danville where I was to explore four more stops on the Brewgrass Trail.
Danville KentuckyDanville's slogan is It's Better Here and it has been named by Money Magazine as one of the Top 10 places in the country to retire. I was soon to find out why. Danville is located in Boyle County which had historically always been "dry" but the law was changed a few years ago and now several new stops on the Brewgrass Trail are located here.
Lore Brewing CompanyLore Brewing Company provides the local home brewers supplies in addition to putting out their own craft beers for the public to enjoy. I sipped on an unusual beer which utilized orange blossom honey from Florida and found that owners Lee and Ashley Rossman had enjoyed making home brew so much they decided to share their knowledge with other home brewers and start their own business. You can also stop by for a mug or a growler (a large jug) from their tap and they distribute their beer around the state.
Beer EnginThe Beer Engine was my next stop in downtown Danville and here I found a small microbrewery tucked away behind a theater that conjured up visions of what the old fashioned speakeasy must have been like during Prohibition. You definitely have to know where to look for Beer Engine but once inside you had the feeling of being at a private club where the regulars all know your name. Owner Brian Holton's fulltime job is an emergency room nurse but his love for brewing has him working around the clock to put out some of the finest craft beers I've tasted.
Bluegrass PizzaJust around the corner is Bluegrass Pizza and Pub and here you can find a great selection of craft beers and bourbons to go with their homemade brick oven fired pizza. I enjoyed a flight of their most popular beers along with the Mediterranean Pizza. It is standing room only here most of the time so get there early and enjoy the cozy atmosphere.
V The MarketDanville is also home to Centre College and alum Wayne Marshall and Mary Robin Spoonamore operate V the Market nearby. They cater to the sophisticated palates who appreciate the finer bourbons (I enjoyed a sample of Van Winkle Family 12 yr old bourbon), craft beers, and imported wines, beers, and spirits from around the world. Mary Robin treated us to a sample of French white beer. Enjoy their incredible selection.
MidwayOne last stop remained on my tour and that was lunch at the Grey Goose in the historic village of Midway (named for its location halfway between Lexington and Frankfort). I noticed the special of the day was a Guinness Beef Stew and I happily soaked it up along with a delicious spinach artichoke dip appetizer.
If You Go Pay your respects to my favorite Kentucky bourbon, Maker's Mark, and enjoy an elegant meal at Jonathan at Gratz Park Inn. I ordered the Maker's 46 roasted salmon served on a lightly smoked charred oak stave preceded by a warm Brussels Sprout slaw featuring house cured Maker's Mark barrel smoked bacon, cabernet soaked cranberries and warm, coarse ground mustard dressing. Exquisite! For dessert, they brought me a slice of chocolate cake complete with a candle and chef Jonathan Lundy's own homemade ice cream. These are just a few of the growing numbers of establishments on the Kentucky Brewgrass Trail and I encourage you to visit their website and choose your own itinerary. For more information on all the attractions, lodging, and maps of the Bluegrass region of Kentucky go to Visit Lexington and Better In Danville
Mark Bradley has always had a pent up desire to see the world going back to the time he saw his first movie travelogue at the tender age of ten years old. At the turn of the new millennium when it suddenly dawned on him -- it was time to see the world. He says "I pledged to visit all 50 US states by my 50th birthday in 2005" and did so with his final four states coming into view as he followed the Lewis and Clark Trail on the bicentennial of their epic journey. With five continents and fifty states in his rearview mirror, he looks forward to continuing to explore all this big, beautiful world has to offer.