Breweries and pubs are the unofficial community centers in a city. Once you pull up a stool and order your first beer, you can learn a lot about a place. Everyone knows Kentucky is bourbon country, but it’s becoming quite the destination for craft beer. My previous trip to Lexington barely skimmed the surface of the beer industry so this go round I was determined to get my fill. With seven breweries and counting, my local Lexington friends showed me a great time. So much so that this weekend guide will be posted in two parts. Cheers!
Lexington Beercation: Day 1
I arrived at Celia’s house Friday afternoon and after a quick bite at her house, we set out for Lexington. Our first stop was the Pepper Distillery Complex and more specifically Crank and Boom Ice Cream Lounge.
Crank & Boom
It’s always a good time to eat ice cream in my book. There were so many flavor options I was totally overwhelmed. I think the guys working could see it in my face so they just started handing me samples and giving me the spiel behind each one. Owners Mike and Toa Green first made coconut ice cream on a whim for their Thai restaurant. It was such a hit they branched out and made other flavors; they quickly realized they had some customers coming in just for ice cream. They launched Crank & Boom in 2013 in the Pepper Distillery complex. Their ice cream is crazy good. Thanks to the nice dudes behind the counter, I tasted every flavor so trust me. All of their flavors are made with Kentucky dairy and ingredients from local farmers.
I settled on coffee oatmeal stout ice cream made with an oatmeal stout from Ethereal Brewing Co. next door. One scoop in a homemade cone – perfection. I love coffee as much as I love stouts so my choice was pretty easy. Celia got the caramel popcorn which was equally decadent. I’m really hoping they’ll start selling pints in their online store sometime soon!
After ice cream, we wandered next door to Ethereal for a pint while we waited on Celia’s husband and friend Josh. I had been to Ethereal briefly on another trip, and was excited to try another style and some sunshine on their patio this round. Ethereal crafts exceptional classics (IPA, Saison, and Wit) but shine with funky one-off beers. After our ice cream I needed to hit the reset button and decided on a gose. This traditional German beer is brewed with salt and coriander and is slightly tart and while refreshing. Ethereal’s gose was perfect to start the night because it is light and has a dry finish. Celia had the oatmeal stout. Yes, I stole a sip. We sampled the Fleur Rouge Saison with Hibiscus as well, couldn’t resist. The guys showed up and we decided to head down the road to Country Boy Brewing.
On my last week as Upland Brewing Co’s communications manager, I spent some time with the sour brewers from Upland and Country Boy and sampled nearly 20 different blends of sour beer for a collaboration beer they were working on. As fate would have it, the beer was released on the night of my visit. Country Boy is one of my favorite breweries in Lexington. Half of the tap list is really approachable (Cougar Bait – American Blonde is their flagship) and the other half is more unusual styles like fruit/barrel aged beers. I love the vibe in their tasting room too: no bullshit, just good beer, and anyone is welcome. I half expected to hear, “Just a Good Ole Boy” as I walked through the door. This place would be my spot if I lived in Lexington. I tried the Upland/Country Boy collab, Funkland Country Shuffle (strawberry wild Ale with a sour brown ale base) and the raspberry stout. The collab beer was really tasty – good pucker and lots of sweet strawberry notes. The raspberry stout was rich and luscious; I should’ve brought home a growler full of it. It was packed due to the Georgia Kentucky game the next day so after a couple of pints and some nachos courtesy of a taco truck, we headed on to the next spot. P.S. Don’t forget to check out their patio out back covered in hop vines.
Wait – before we arrived at the Night Market, Josh just had to take me to Indi’s Fast Food for some spicy chicken wings. Never a girl to turn down fried chicken, I enthusiastically applauded his decision and we slammed a box of wings on the back of Toby’s pick up truck.
As we rolled up to the market and I was blown away at how packed it was. It’s a monthly pop-up street festival in the North Limestone neighborhood, the arts and cultural hub of the city. Dozens of local vendors and artist show off their work at the Night Market but it seemed like a big block party rather than an arts fair. The Night Market has tons of food vendors so after a couple of laps we settled on some waffles from Whoo Wants Waffles – Cuban sandwich waffle and the Hot-Ness Monster (Nutella, hot banana ice cream (cayenne), candied pecans, chocolate drizzle). They were both crazy good and huge! This was a perfect stop for a quick and cheap bite before heading to one more brewery. *Note: There is beer available for purchase at The Night Market I just happened to be taking a break.
West Sixth Brewing Co
Located on the north side of Lexington, inside a one hundred year old bread factory is West Sixth Brewing. Their beers were delicious, the barrel aged porter being my fav, but seeing their unique brewery space and learning more about their company culture made me like them even more.
West Sixth’s passion for their home city of Lexington is truly inspiring. With community revitalization on their minds, the creators of West Sixth chose a one hundred year old bread factory located on the north side of town that had been vacant since 2008. In 2011, The Bread Box building was purchased and rehabilitated to create a mixed-use property that would enhance the community. The Bread Box building now houses ten businesses including West Sixth, a coffee roaster, a bike shop, restaurants, and more. The brewery has some outstanding philanthropy programs as well: on the first Saturday of the month, they choose a different non-profit and give 6% of sales that day to the organization. They even give 50 cents away for every six pack of Pay it Forward Porter to a local non-profit. Drinking tasty beer for a good cause – win, win.
More to come next week!
Have you been to any of these Lexington breweries?