If you’ve stopped by the blog since last Friday, you know that the holy festival of March Madness is upon us. I was originally slated to produce some sort of basketball-viewing cocktail for you today; however, my basketball viewing hardly ever involves a mixed drink. The Momma and The Granmomma have been known to down a few (liters of) vodka tonics from their University of Kentucky Tervis Tumblers whilst watching our boys in blue, but I’m just not that patient, and the danger of spillage at an exciting turn in the game is too great. So me? I choose a can or a bottle of beer.
It has perhaps escaped this blog until now that I am into beer. Like, super into it. I fall into that much-maligned category of beer nerd (some say snob, I prefer enthusiast) that larger companies seem to enjoy shitting on nowadays. This isn’t to say that I can’t enjoy a watery American lager with the best of them — ask me someday about my nostalgic love for Natty Boh (sigh, I miss Baltimore) — but the world of beer is so much bigger than that, and once I found out just how vast the wealth of options at my fingertips was, I had to know more. (This is why I call it being a “beer nerd.” The same obsessive desire is the reason I’m an expert on so many television shows, and a rabid member of the Harry Potter fandom.)
So instead of a cocktail, today I offer you some craft beer recommendations — all brewed in the great state of Kentucky, of course. Because what else would I drink while cheering my Wildcats to glory and triumph (knock on wood)?
[Note: Many of these beers do have pretty limited distribution, and for that I do apologize. My advice if you find yourself far from the Bluegrass climes, like me? Find a generous friend or relative who lives in the chosen areas and likes mailing you stuff. Or maybe you’re a real sports fan who’s already in the hood to watch the games. More power to you.]
Pay it Forward Cocoa Porter – West Sixth Brewing (Lexington, KY): The best beer West Sixth makes, in my opinion. This guy has chocolate and coffee aromas with a smooth body, which makes for easier drinking than a thick stout with similar characteristics. Plus, a portion of the profits for every six-pack sold go to a Lexington area non-profit; each quarter, the community nominates worthy causes, and then West Sixth employees vote on which group gets the goods that season. It’s beer for a good cause! West Sixth beers are available across Central Kentucky and in the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, OH areas.
Mac Fanny Baw – Against the Grain Brewery (Louisville, KY): This is a beer for the scotch drinker. One of my favorites, it’s a little bitter with peaty and earthy notes (it’s been noted on more than one occasion that I gravitate towards beers that taste “earthy” — give me that fresh dirt taste any day). Mac Fanny Baw is also aged in Angel’s Envy barrels, adding a caramel Kentucky Bourbon taste in with the Scotch whiskey notes. And lucky for my fellow Southern ex-pats, Against the Grain beers are available across the US and even in a few places in Europe. ATG is my go-to Kentucky beer here in New York (though the price point leaves much to be desired, but if you can find the Bay and Pepper Your Bretts, it’s worth it). Look for it near you!
Cliff Jumper IPA – Country Boy Brewing (Lexington, KY): We’re getting slightly more niche now. Country Boy Brewing is based in Lexington, just down the road from Rupp Arena (like, walking distance), and it’s a go-to pre- and post-game spot for me and the Momma. They’re slightly less recognized on a national scale than the first two Kentucky breweries, but the rest of the world is missing out because they sure do make good beer. I’m recommending their Cliff Jumper IPA here, because an IPA is generally a crowd pleaser for those first venturing into the exciting world of craft beer. This one is a solid representation of the style, with citrus notes and a prevalent but not overpowering bitterness. Unfortunately for some, Country Boy is available only in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee (and soon West Virginia!), but if you’re in the area, seek it out at your local craft bar. You can thank me later, or better yet, bring me back a growler.
Fallout Dust – Apocalypse Brew Works (Louisville, KY): And finally, the nichest of niche. Apocalypse Brew Works started as a bunch of homebrewers who wanted to turn their hobby/obsession into a livelihood, and to share their fruits with the world. Open only on the weekends (Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons), their taproom — aptly named The Fallout Shelter — serves up ten rotating taps of excellent local brew. So if you’re in the area, pay Leah, Paul, and Bill a visit and try the Fallout Dust: a peppercorn ale that’s sure to please. If you’re not in the area (like me), you’re SOL, but hey, all the more reason to plan a trip to Louisville.
The stress of March Madness will take a fair amount of booze to get through, but these options are a great start for my Kentucky cheering friends (and I suppose if you cheer for that other team like some people cough*Zelda*cough, you can have them too)[Zelda’s Note: L1C4, go Cards!].
On, on UK! #BBN