Beers For All Occasions

An Experiment in Social Drinking

Ray’s Monkey House

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Nestled between Café 360 and Cumberland Brews on Bardstown Road, in the same building that once housed the late, great Twice Told Books is Ray’s Monkey House. Another bar/coffee shop hybrid that I’m willing to call a “bar shop”, Ray’s can be viewed online at www.raysmonkeyhouse.com, where they have a full menu and a schedule of special events they have coming up for the month. They also have a blog of their very own available on their site, complete with some very cute pictures of the owner, Nimbus, and his kids. They’re just across the street from Za’s, down the block from the Hideaway and a candidate for the newest stop on the Bambi Walk. Contrary to popular belief, Ray’s is not connected to Café 360, they just had the same artist (Noah Church) do their signs. The result is a cohesive corner on one of the most popular streets in Louisville. They’re open from 8am-11pm (more or less) and have live music every night, with some standing engagements. Tuesday nights are their Bluegrass Jam night, Wednesdays are dedicated to Open Mic, and Friday nights are their Jazz Jam night.

 

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If you scroll down, you’ll see that we related Derby City Espresso to your buddy’s living room. Specifically, DCE is Matt Landan’s living room, with that urban vibe that we love so much and associate with Downtown, right? Well, Ray’s Monkey House accomplishes a similar feat.

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Ray’s is the product of another man with a plan, this time a man named Nimbus. Nimbus’ plan? Create a place that is kid friendly and family oriented, while still being hip enough to survive on Bardstown Rd. Our verdict? Mission accomplished. There are lots of activities for kids like coloring, toys and picture books, and their open mic nights and jam sessions are open to kids with musical talent. They even have a seating section totally dedicated to kids with pint sized tables and chairs. The walls are brightly painted, the floors are hardwood and the ceilings are copper colored. There’s tons of comfy seating, and a separate (red) room available for meetings and birthday parties. We also noticed several cool chandeliers, one of which was in the ladies room. They have a little bit of outside seating, which provides some of the best people-watching available.

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While I know that I’m supposed to focus on the beer (and trust me, we’ll get there), I’d like to take this opportunity to comment on the manifesto over at Ray’s. They are committed to being 100% organic and fair trade, and they’re also completely vegetarian/vegan. We were impressed by their selection of fresh fruit, baked goods and organic snacks and we noticed that they’re offering a grilled cheese and avocado sandwich that we can’t wait to try. Furthermore, they roast all their coffee in house, so you know its awesome.

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Which brings us to the alcohol portion of our program (everyone’s favorite portion). All their beers are local and/or small batch microbrews. They have competitive prices and a great selection in bottles. On draught they currently only have two beers which aren’t local, one of which is Small Craft Warning, a great, hoppy lager that we recommend highly.

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I never thought I would say this, but these beers are for hanging out with your kids (or your buddy’s kids, or Nimbus’ kids). Be responsible though, ok?

 

Current Music: Hey Man – The Eels

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March 28, 2009 Posted by | The Highlands | , , , , , | Leave a 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