Has the South been slower to convert to the microbrew revolution? Yes. But there are key players who've taken big risks to brew better beer and proselytize the soul-healing power of microbrew. The Bluegrass Brewing Company is one of those players. The BBC began serving its craft ales and lagers in November 1993, when their restaurant and brewery opened in St. Matthews in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the years, the popularity of the brewpub and its in-house draft beers grew tremendously, leading to draft beer sales to retail outlets throughout the state.
With the BBC brand becoming more widely available on local taps, bottling their brews was not far behind. In 1999, the first bottles of BBC brand brew were released to a growing and very thirsty southern marketplace. In order to keep up with demand, their bottled beers were contract brewed at a separate brewery. In late 2000, the BBC started considering the possibility of bottling its own product, but this would require the purchase of a new, larger brewery and *cha-ching* – loads of cash.
Thankfully, they were getting paid for all that beer they were selling. Still, purchasing the new brewery was a daunting financial commitment – one that saw the number of owners in the company balloon from 3 principals in 1993 to a whopping 50 by 2001! But with the new brewery purchased, original Bluegrass Brewing Company brewmaster David R. Pierce could produce his award-winning beers on a larger scale than ever. And, boy, can this guy brew! He's got the medals to prove it, too. What impressed us most was the fact that, in 1998, his now-legendary Bearded Pat's Barleywine beat out such epitomes of the style as Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot and Anchor's classic, Old Foghorn, at both the Great American Beer Festival AND the Real Ale Festival. But get this folks: the following year, he did it again – bringing home another set of Gold Medals from both fests. Such an accomplishment is practically unheard of. Five words: this guy's a freaking stud (contractions count as one word in our book).
For more information about the brewery and scheduled tours, or their unique brewpub (which is essentially a museum dedicated to beeraphernalia, featuring local breweries in Louisville's history), call (502) 584-BREW or check out their web site at www.bluegrassbrew.com .