Beers For All Occasions

An Experiment in Social Drinking

Skull Alley

Where Barrett meets Broadway, there’s a special little spot- it exists as a venue- the selling of beer is just happenstance- but we believe in their cause, and so we’ll share that cause with you. Skull Alley is a tribute to a good fellow who didn’t quite get to see adulthood, but who loved music, and so his older brother created a sort of refuge for kids like him. That’s their schtick. It’s all ages. And I think that’s a wonderful thing, as loving to rock is not a trait that necessarily appears upon one’s 21st birthday.

Parking can be a bit of a hassle in that area, particularly for a packed show, but there are generally spots at the church across the street. It’s as safe as anywhere downtown and as there are generally smokers outside the front door, you’re within eye and earshot of friends from your car until you get inside. It must be noted that the venue encourages carpooling and biking because that’s the responsible way to be- and we think that’s awesome. Be sure you have your ID- as an all ages venue, Skull Alley has to card rigorously. It’s not really in a bar stretch, but not far from the Irish Triangle area of Baxter Ave.

Once inside, you’ll find that Skull Alley is pretty bare bones. The building is a the double barrel of shotgun architecture- the space you enter has the bar and the bathrooms, as well as the space where bands are generally peddling their merch. In the second room, to your right when you enter, is the stage and not much else. It’s just a hardwood floor and bare brick walls, but there’s a sort of beauty about the way you can see where there were once windows and fireplaces. The only seating comes in the form of a couple of barstools as the acts who play Skull Alley are generally the types you stand to hear. There’s no jukebox, no bar games, but the acoustics are good.

The bathroom is a fun thing. Like the Dark Star bathroom, it’s painted with that chalk board paint and decorating is encouraged. As there tend to be teenagers around, the doodles there look like a high school notebook- maybe I live in Peter Pan land, but it makes me smile to see loopy proclamations of love.

There’s a smoking area out back- door across from the bathrooms and down the stairs, though the front sidewalk area tends to serve the same purpose. Its a little tough on rainy nights as there’s basically no shelter.

More often than not, Jamie Prott, the owner, is tending bar. There’s no liquor, only beer, and the selection is mostly basic with a few surprise craft brews, but even for a beer snob, sometimes a PBR does the job- and they’re cheap here like they should be.

On a final note, Skull Alley has a whole other side in the form of a screen printing shop, so if your band needs shirts, this is a one stop shop to get those and book a show.

Skull Alley isn’t just a stop on the bar tour of Louisville- we go there a lot. It’s one of the few places people go these days because they sincerely give a shit about supporting music. That’s what’s cool about a place that lets the kids in- before you became accustomed to going out and getting hammered, you knew how to love a band and sing along with every word- I appreciate a place that reminds me of that sort of unabashed joy. These beers are for the kids and their un-jaded wanderlust.

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April 12, 2010 Posted by | Downtown | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar

Located between at 230 E. Main Street is Stevie Ray’s, bringing live music to Louisville six days a week since 1994, and they can be found online at www.stevieraysbluesbar.com , where you can view daily drink specials and concert calenders. Parking is primarily on the street, but ample, and the neighborhood is convenient to both Downtown and the Highlands/Eurotown vicinity. 

Billed as the only venue in Louisville bringing you local blues bands, Stevie Ray’s is a music haven. They were voted the 2007 LEO Reader’s Choice for Best Blues Bar, so you know the decor is musically themed, with exposed brick, old posters, guitars and a bonafide dance floor. They have a great singer/songwriter open mic night on Mondays, hosted by Louisville’s own Tenia Sanders, complete with an in-house sound guy. The night we were visiting there was a Felktastic (hearts, stars, and rainbows Michael!) blues band playing, featuring an ensemble cast of local blues greats. Music starts at 7:30 PM on the weekends, however it must be noted that there is often a cover to hear the bands, and that they don’t take reservations or presell tickets.

Originally a workshop, Stevie Ray’s is named for the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan, a bit of music trivia that the general manager called a, “tip of the hat.” They have a beautiful, hand-carved wooden bar that is large enough to successfully serve the masses, and they’ve managed to maintain an industrial vibe, without losing any sophistication, all of which reminds us pleasantly of the Monkeywrench. There are lots of tables, in addition to seating at the bar, most of which are oriented toward the stage for your musical enjoyment.  They don’t have a draught line in house, so all their beers are bottled, and primarily they only serve the staples, although they do keep one BBC brew on hand (the Nut Brown). They also carry some wine, and it goes without saying, plenty of liquor. The vibe is really mellow, with dancing on the weekends and none of the fighting we see at some of the downtown joints. For our fellow smokers, we invite you to experience the Voodoo Garden, a walled courtyard complete with seating and wall murals, where you are invited to bring your drink with you.

The management at Stevie Ray’s would like us to extend to our readers an invitation to come out, dance, drink and listen to some really great, regionally-based music. Dedicated to re-urbanization, they’re trying to bring a younger crowd both into the bar and into the neighborhood, but they need you to come and have a drink. 

While never ones to rain on a parade, we have to say that these beers are for the blues, regardless of where they find you, and for the legend of Stevie Ray Vaughan.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Downtown | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Freddie’s

Though I’ve always known Freddie’s was there, I had never ventured inside before our review excursion. It’s certainly not a new bar- Freddie’s has operated under it’s current name for the past 47 years and was Bachelor’s Too for the 17 years prior to that. It started as a church- the steeple still stands- and also was likely a pharmacy at some point, as all the cabinetry has an apothecary-sort-of-vibe. Furthermore, Jimmy, our bartender, believes it may have been an orphan’s home at some point. Of course, bars always manage to care for mis-fit children, right?

The location is a good one- it’s on Broadway between 2nd and 3rd. Granted, that stretch of road is no Baxter ave. or 4th Street Live (though it’s just a couple of blocks away), but it’s located directly across from the Brown Theater. Plus, for those of us who truly believe in Louisville’s downtown, it’s a great spot to do your part to revitalize it. We had no problem finding street parking, but found out once inside that there’s more in the back, and though we had a nice little chat with a respectful bum out front, the area feels completely safe. 

Once inside, one can’t help but notice the presence of the Rat Pack- the beerologists were certainly reminded of Sinatra’s hotness. In fact, I think if my Grandpa had a man cave, it would be Freddie’s. There’s an amazing collection of antique bottles and a pair of Jimmy Ellis’s gloves. In addition to the internet jukebox, video monopoly, and darts, there’s a classic cigarette machine (these are starting to get rare, folks) and a commonwealth seal over the bar. It even smells old in that way that always invokes nostalgia. The ladies’ room is wood paneled with a classy dressing table- it’s one of the cleanest I’ve seen. It also must be noted that Jimmy was watching a western when we came in- something with Clint Eastwood- it fit the scene. 

The selection at Freddie’s is completely basic- the domestics you’d expect- but it’s cheap enough there’s no need for specials. Food-wise, there are chips and beef jerky for sale- nothing extravagant. Take note: Freddie’s is cash only!

I also think it’s worth mentioning that there was once a bar-cat named Tinker who was somewhat of a local celebrity- her picture still hangs over the service area. 

According to Jimmy, the crowd varies every night, but the staples ae actors and Brown-concert-goers. Perhaps the most crowded day is the Pegasus Parade, so stop in on Thursday and celebrate a great Derby event local style!

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Downtown | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Derby City Espresso

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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.

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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?

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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 | , , , , , , | 7 Comments