Our first Illinois brewery to visit during our trip last year was Scratch Brewing Company located on some farmland about an hour and a half southeast of St. Louis, MO. Scratch was one of the most distinctly unique, beautiful, and remote breweries that we saw all year and remained that way through to the end. With a focus on locality, the people at the brewery forage and/ or grow ingredients on their land to use in the beer recipes; mushrooms, roots, pine needles, multiple herbs & spices, and hops for example. During our time sampling in their taproom, we got to try some Gruits, a Gotlandsricka, a Licorice Basil Schwarzbier, a beer made with maple sap instead of water, and a handful of other beers that prove this is not your everyday brewery; the best part is they are brewed well and we enjoyed each and every one of them! The Scratch crew also told us that they were planning to only enter beers that do not have hops in them at GABF in Denver later in the year and when we ran into them at the festival a few months later they had done just that. Do not miss out on an opportunity to visit the amazing people, location, scenery, and beers that make up Scratch Brewing Company – it’s the full package!
After going to the Fayetteville Visitors Center to pick up our handy-dandy Ale Trail passport and then checking out a few bonus stop breweries on the Fayetteville Ale Trail, we found ourselves at Fossil Cove Brewing just as they were opening up for the day. Their founder and head brewer, Ben Mills, spent time with us spilling details about the dino-themed brewery before two Arkansas-based bloggers met up with us there for a drink; Woo Pig Brewey! and Fayette Brew. Fossil Cove offers one-off brews that are only available in the taproom and they were also the first brewery in the state of Arkansas to release a sour beer. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the brewery thanks to the unique environment, tasty beers, and great people, so do yourself a favor and check out all the information below then make a trip to Fayetteville to check them out!
Immediately after leaving COOP Ale Works back in mid-May, we drove across town to meet with the guys at Roughtail brewing. When we arrived, co-owner Blaine Stansel greeted us before having to commit to a 12th Round challenge that involved their 12th Round Strong Ale and 12 minutes of time. It was quite entertaining, so we were all in a good mood the rest of the time. While chatting with him and the other co-owner, Tony Tielli, we learned all about Roughtail’s business model, beers, and history. There are many attributes about the brewery and beers that are quite unique, so we can assure you that Roughtail Brewing will satisfy your thirst whether you’re trying them offsite or at the brewery. A new taproom was opened quickly after laws changed to allow breweries to pour samples, so stop by and tell them hi for us when you’re in town!
Our first Arkansas brewery visit back in May (2014) was to Vino’s Brewpub in Little Rock. We met with Josiah Moody who was the head brewer at that point in time, but he has since moved on to his own project as a gypsy brewer under the tag Moody Brews. Josiah informed us about all kinds of cool things Vino’s has done, like hosting live music multiple times a week from local bands as well as bigger acts like Queens of the Stone Age. A cream ale, pale ale, IPA, and stout are the four year-round beers they offer for you to enjoy with their excellent pizza, but they also have specialty releases such as the blood orange saison we tried. The environment at Vino’s is top notch and we highly recommend a trip there next time you’re in Little Rock!
As we neared the end of our fourth month on the road, we made the trek from Louisville, KY down to Nashville, TN and met with the owners and staff of Jackalope Brewing Company on a hot Tuesday afternoon. We spent some time talking to them about their business, indulged in some of their brews including Thunder Ann American Pale Ale fresh off the canning line, and then they let us have some of the pizza they had ordered! Jackalope was the first all-female owned brewery in Tennessee and Robyn Virball & Bailey Spaulding have done some amazing things with their business, with the help of Steve Wright who was brought on as a third owner. This brewery was also the first one to use cans in Nashville, comes out with new rotators every 6 weeks or so, holds multiple events throughout the year (including an anniversary celebration and a Bruce Springsteen-focused festival), and also shares their building with a coffee shop. Under the slogan ‘Drink Legendary’ they have been able to brew a plethora of unique beer options for you to enjoy, so be sure to drop in and say hi when you’re in town checking out the capital of Tennessee – America at its best.
After visiting Against the Grain in Louisville, KY, we made the short drive over to Apocalypse Brew Works. Co-founders Bill Krauth, Leah Dienes, and Paul Grignon opened up the taproom (which they call “The Fallout Shelter”) on May 11, 2012 with the 3 1/2 barrel system they are using today. We spoke to Leah, the head-brewer, while sampling their brews and learned all of the information found below – including the fact that Leah is an active BJCP judge. Between the three co-founders, there is over 40 years of homebrewing experience which helped them open the taproom with 10 beers on tap and maintain that number since. Also, if you happen to be in the area when the world gets taken over by zombies, keep in mind that the brewery makes for a nice Apocalypse bunker since they can lock the razor wire laden gates to keep the zombies out; hence their motto “Drink Beer Til the End.”
I can’t think of a better way to start a Louisville, KY experience than to go to a brewery that uses bourbon barrels from Kentucky and is connected to a ballpark . That is exactly what Against the Grain is, but they are so much more than that – our experience there was incredible. Co-owner Sam Cruz met with us on the gloomy, near-tornado-storm-but-nothing-actually-happened Monday and was able to tell us about their constantly changing beer selection, on-site malt smoker, broad distribution, multiple collaborative efforts, and more. Their brewing equipment is located on the second and third floor, which is visible through glass panes for your viewing pleasure from the bottom floor where the taproom and dining area are located. With so many experimental styles and a warm, welcoming staff, this is a destination that you cannot miss out on!
During our time in Lexington, KY, we received multiple recommendations to check out Blue Stallion Brewing company. We originally made our way over there on Saturday night and then went back the following day to speak with co-founder Jim Clemons. Blue Stallion is currently the only brewery in Kentucky distributing lagers, which became a focus of head brewer Nico Schulz after getting his brewing start in Germany and then attending the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL. Blue Stallion has a principal focus on traditional German lagers and English ales featuring traditional and proper glassware to pair with each style; they do not make any American styles. The taproom features a bar taller than any we have experienced in a space that used to house an old iron working studio. We had an incredible time there both days and thoroughly enjoyed all of the beers we got to try, including a collaboration they did with Against the Grain called All Funked Up Berwynnerweisse.
Our stay in Lexington, KY led us over to Country Boy Brewing on a Sunday afternoon. This brewery has a rugged feel both inside and out on their back patio and completes the mood with country music playing in the background. There are 24 tap handles at the bar: 11 of which were in-house Country Boy brews that ran the spectrum from a blonde to a gose to a barrel-aged stout during our visit, while the other 13 were guest tap handles from various breweries in the area as well as across the country. These guys have made themselves stand out by barrel aging beers right from the start, doing collaborations with multiple other breweries, and even growing their own peppers to add to their beers. The bartender, Zac, will help direct you in the right direction for your tastes and mood, so don’t miss out on a trip to their taproom!
Our final brewery visit in West Virginia was to Charleston Brewing Co located in the city with the same name. The head brewer, Ryan Hastings, was unfortunately in Ohio at the time of our visit so we were not able to meet him in person; however, he kindly chatted with us over the phone for about half an hour before we went inside to check out the brewery. He told us that they use a ten hectoliter high efficiency brewing system (HEBS) from I.D.D. Process and Packaging which features a mash filter rather than a traditional lauter tun. We also learned that a different business, Black Sheep Burrito & Brews, occupies the same space and manages the entire restaurant. Though beer is brewed on site by Charleston Brewing Co, it is then sold and ‘distributed’ to the restaurant for serving. Beers are listed according to three flavor categories – malt driven, hop driven, or yeast driven – and there are 16 taps in the restaurant as well as cask conditioned ales available. We spent a good amount of time there sampling their brews while we munched down on some amazing brunch and definitely suggest that you do the same when you’re in town!