Beers For All Occasions

An Experiment in Social Drinking

Derby City Espresso


You’ve seen the stickers. They’re everywhere. But Derby City Espresso is kind of alone, as far as bars. It’s not in a bad part of town, and there’s some parking (though more often at night, it’s full). Stevie Ray’s isn’t too far away, but at Preston and Market, it’s more of a gallery-zone than a night-life destination. That makes sense, though, when you consider that DCE isn’t entirely a night-life kind of place.


There have been in recent years sociological essays that mention the coffee shop as the “third area”- that place that isn’t work and isn’t home where you can comfortably pass the other third of your time when there’s nothing better to do. I can’t cite those essays as I don’t remember who wrote them, but I felt that the idea was flawed, only a little, when I first stumbled across it. I’m a second shifter, so my third area is the bar- when you get off work at midnight, you can’t really go hang out at Heine Brothers and wind down. But there’s this new model in town for that place to pass time, of which DCE may well be the form (in the sense that Plato uses the word “form”). I call them hybrids. Coffee shops that sell beer. What more could you want in a place?


The real heart of DCE is Matt, the pig-tailed fellow who’s generally tweeting on twitter about which songs he loves. Matt’s becoming a man about town popping up at many a social event, but if you’re at Derby City Espresso, so is he. That’s because Matt’s the only employee. He’s also the owner. And he lives at the shop. Yes, Matthew Landan has managed to merge all of his areas- work, home, coffee shop, bar- it’s all the same place for this fellow. It’s the perfect bohemian business model, really. And I like that about the place. In fact, I love it. 


I’m a fan of passion. There’s this singer/songwriter fellow, Paleo. For a solid year, Paleo lived on the road. He toured constantly, and every day he wrote a song. Not only did he write it, but he also recorded and posted to his website (www.paleo.ds) the song of the day every day. 365. True story. He was living at work. That’s passion. I think Matt displays the same sort of passion for coffee and beer Paleo displays for music. I also think if those two fellows ever do meet, they’d immediately become very close friends. And so, in the same way I’ll happily listen to all 365 of those songs in chronological order because I feel special to be so invited into Paleo’s life and his heart, I enjoy that when I get a drink at DCE, I’m really hanging around a friend’s living room. 


Really, I think that’s the charm of the place- when you walk in DCE, you can’t help but notice that it feels more like a friend’s apartment (albeit a really fantastic apartment with the biggest espresso machine in town) than a place of business. The walls are covered in the art Matt likes. And speaking of art, this is not a politically neutral sort of joint- it may be Louisville’s biggest collection of Obama propaganda- and that gets the beerologists seal of approval, for sure. There’s also an award winning fish tank,  a computer available, a disco-fleur de lis, and a staggering collection of Star Wars action figures for which Matt would like to repent saying, “George Lucas stole my youth!” They’re all for sale, by the way- there are even whispers on the wind of a closet stocked with more, still in the package after all these years. There’s also a great pinball machine, and a courtyard that’s perfect for hanging out with cigarettes. There’s no cash register, but DCE does take plastic (not AMEX), and the minimum is a meager $2. If you’re coming to a show, be aware- seating cam be limited, at least today it was. Matt’s a furniture-mover and the place has been re-arranged every time I’ve visited. DCE prides itself on the fact that it’s always changing. Please notice the copper bar- it’s not level, but beautiful.


I would typically make a brief mention of the bar staff at this point, but Matthew Landan requires more than that. To start at the start, Matt arrived in Louisville after living everywhere else. He is, by trade, a journalist and foreign relations specialists who speaks Italian and German. DCE is his fresh start, a decision made at a concert to re-invent his life. Matt knows the stuff he serves. There’s a massive and delicious beer list, traditional Italian style coffee (DCE does not speak Starbuck’s), and 40 varieties of tea. Matt assured me he can tell you the difference between all of them- but I wasn’t in the mood for tea- so I tested his suggesting power on a beer. I got a Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and it was a near epiphany in drinking- to say it is my new favorite beer doesn’t do it justice. It must be noted, though, that a beer/coffee snob who reports only to himself is not always cordial, I’ve been told. In my experience this is all here-say, but previous customers may have gotten small lectures about light beer and decaf coffee. You also may get an ear-full if you pull the handle on the kegerator, but that’d be an asshole move, so you wouldn’t, right? Even if he rubs you the wrong way at first, I implore you, hang in there- this is a gem of a personality. Matt recycles and keeps louisville weird and knows more than most everyone about most everything. If you want in his head a little more, check out his Velocity blog. 


As far as the nitty gritty, DCE is open 11-ish AM to 8-ish PM if there isn’t a show there and Phish isn’t playing nearby. On show nights, it’s open until it closes, which is the umbrella rule all the time. I prefer to check via twitter to make sure the shop is open before I make the trek downtown. If you spend $50 on the card Matt has yet to give me, he’ll give you $5 in cash. All events are listed on the DCE myspace. Someday there will be a website (it’s kind of like us with the .com). DCE actually has a house beer- a coffee porter custom made by BBC- it’s delicious. 


These beers are for the third area- they’re for being away from home and away from work and enjoying the company of a man who’s completely invested in what he does. On a final note, keep your eyes open- the beerologists and DCE may soon join forces for a party and we’d like you to come.

Current Music: The Weight- The Band


March 25, 2009 - Posted by | Downtown | , , , , , ,


  1. I love the mention of Plato’s “form.” Love it.

    Comment by Tonya | March 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. The third or “parochial” place is the topic of the “Great Good Place” book by Ray Oldenburg.

    Comment by Branden | March 25, 2009 | Reply

    • Thank you, love, for my mystery citation!

      Comment by beerologists | March 26, 2009 | Reply

  3. It would be an awesome place, if not for the fact that as soon as you walk through the door, you get a huge dose of Matt’s terrible attitude. Honestly I dont know how he stays in business. I’ve never been talked to like that upon entering an establishment. And the hits just kept on coming. My friend’s band (who brought all of his business on this particular night) swore to never set foot in the place again. One person got actually yelled at for ordering water, and another for ordering Miller Lite. I would rather spend my spare time in a place where I feel welcome. There are plenty of other trendy places that sell $1 PBR.

    Comment by screamdream | May 3, 2009 | Reply

  4. People usually start a business because they love people or they love sharing their passion with people. From what I saw of the owner of DCE, he seems to only love himself and hate everything else.

    I got a groupon for a half off a beer tasting at DCE, never been there, but thought I would check it out. I should have listend to the rumors that the place sucked and the guy who ran it sucked even more. I showed up to a stuffy, depressing atmosphere, walked up to the bar and very politely presented my groupon. He immediately refused to honor it and when I asked why, he said “I can do whatever I want because I’m the owner!” I was floored. I paid $14 for the coupon online and the guy wouldn’t give me what I paid for!

    Instead of arguing about him, I decided to leave and never come back. I wrote living social and told them what happend and they are refunding my money. What I don’t get is why someone would go through the trouble to partner with a service that helps get new customers in the door, only to refuse to serve them and treat them like crap when they walk thru the door. The guy has serious issues and is an arrogent jerk..and also a thief.

    Comment by A customer | March 10, 2011 | Reply

  5. Found this via Google doing research on this place after the events of last night.

    I attended a concert at DCE. The main band didn’t show; no cover was charged. The owner spoke to the opening band very negatively about how people were coming in and not buying anything. My friend and I were sitting near the front and he actually used us as specific examples of not buying anything loud enough for me to hear.

    Now, I can understand him wanting to make a buck off the show, but with a limited menu for those that don’t drink alcohol, he shouldn’t expect to. I’m a diabetic so I rarely drink any spirits or sugary coffee; however, I do drink an unhealthy amount of diet soda. There was NO diet soda in stock.

    Three of my friends actually came and left early because one had to go to the restroom. She was told the bathroom was for “paying customers” only. Had my friends stayed, they would have likely bought quite a bit of alcohol, but they’d only arrived maybe 30 minutes before.

    If DCE continues to have shows, the owner should ALWAYS charge a cover then give some to the band and keep some for himself. Also, expanding the menu to include more options would be a plus. I think smiling occasionally may be good to do as well.

    Comment by wt johnson | April 10, 2011 | Reply

  6. hahahahahahhahahahahahah

    Comment by Matthew Landan | June 29, 2011 | Reply

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