By Patrick O’Dowd
Summer is just around the corner and that means it’s time for beer.
Of course—these days—it’s always time for beer in Lexington. The past few years have seen breweries popping up all over, but there is not one soul complaining.
Lexington Craft Beer Week will play host to a rather dizzying array of local and craft beer related events, many of them also featuring food prep pairings. Fork in the Road’s Mark Jensen will be leading one such session at West Sixth Brewery where ticket buyers will have the chance to eat, drink, and learn a little all at once.
Chris Vandergrift, one of the two partners who runs and founded LexBeerScene.com, highlighted this new food component to LCBW as well, “I’m especially excited about all of the food related events this year because it’s great to see that the craft beer movement is crossing over into the food industry and that they are taking it seriously and seeing it as a complement to great food.”
When asked about what LCBW will have to offer Lexington in 2014, Vandergrift stressed the event’s focus on inclusivity, “There’s something for everybody who enjoys great beer and likes promoting local businesses.” Adding, “The goal of the week is to celebrate all that Lexington has to offer and to invite people out to get to know Lexington’s emerging craft beer scene.”
Driving the energy behind the event, however, are the breweries and beer pubs that now dot Lexington. Together, over the past handful of years, they have managed to turn Lexington into a craft beer oasis where there was once only a mirage of choice. Well, it’s a mirage no longer.
Walk into West Sixth, Country Boy, or Blue Stallion breweries and one will be left to grapple with the paradox of choice.
Country Boy and Blue Stallion not only feature close to a dozen of their own in-house brews at any given moment but they also carry some of the top craft beers currently produced anywhere. The crazy thing is—if you talk to people in either of these establishments—they are more than well acquainted with all of them. A few years ago this would have been unfathomable.
The shop, opened by well known leather and tack shop operator Ralph Quillin (of Quillin Leather), dates back to roughly 1880. “We put it back the way the original owner would have seen it. Wood floors, unique wooden ceiling colors and fixtures that do not take away from the space,” Quillin said.
How did he make the jump from leather work to beer? According to Quillin it’s all of a piece, “We run about 200 angus cows; we’re active in local preservation; music; civic and think local initiatives. Why not? It’s the same skill set, attention to detail, pride in craftsmanship—more art than science. Plus the people we get to meet every night are a blast. I never knew the bar would be so much fun!”
And when asked about opening a shop in Paris, Quillin was blunt, “Paris is dying for something good. Add the uniqueness of a brewery, a friendly inviting atmosphere and super staff. If you want to sit down with a friend and chat after work there is no place to go. We are filling that void PLUS offering craft beer to a Bud Light kind of town.”
The result? Parisian palates are getting an upgrade.
Back in Lexington, West Sixth Brewery just recently underwent a sizeable brewery expansion while also adding a third canned beer to their lineup—the Lemongrass American Wheat. According to their statement announcing the expansion, this latest round of growth bumps their production output up to 195 barrels per week—compared to 45 barrels per week when the brewery launched just two years ago.
Craft beer is here to stay in Lexington and we’re better off. It has given the city something new that it seems genuinely pleased with and along the way the new industry has created new jobs while also offering another reason for people to stick around town.
Lexington Craft Beer Week is a celebration of all of that.
This article also appears on page 4 of the May 2014 issue of Ace.
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