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.

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

Zanzabar

It seems only fitting that the triumphant return of the Beerologists should be marked by the triumphant return of a local watering hole. You know that building on Preston with the “Z” on it? Of course you do. Everyone does. We drive by it all the time. Most recently, it was the Brown Bag Bakery, but that “Z” recalled the former life of Zanzibar. The “I” has changed to an “A,” so these days it goes by Zanzabar, but essentially, the name is the same as it ever was. It warms my heart to see an old bar become new!

You’ve probably been to Uncle Pleasant’s. Everyone has. Z bar (that’s what we call it) is just about 2 blocks from there. Or maybe you know Tink’s? Just across the street. Parking is generally no problem unless there’s a big deal show, and as is the case with most Germantown dives, it’s safe as anywhere.

Once inside, chances are you’ll find the place nicer than you expected. The decor is simple and modern and it tends to be one of the cleanest bars I’ve found- even the bathroom. There’s a jukebox, but more often than not, it’s not necessary as Z bar is the new place to go for live music. Most every night there’s a band or a DJ (or both), and it’s a good place to catch a sporting event if you don’t want to deal with a real sports bar. Be forewarned, though, this is Card territory- there’s even a classic Dr Dunk poster over the service area. There’s a great patio for smoking- or just being outside if smoking isn’t your thing- and during colder months, it’s heated- well heated.

The beer list is a force to be reckoned with- definitely better than the average dive- and the food is restaurant quality. Though there hasn’t been an official Beerologists night out at Z Bar, we find ourselves there nearly as often as we find ourselves at the Nach- and that’s saying a lot.

As far as the patrons, they vary slightly depending on the entertainment, but this joint does fall under the umbrella of “Hipster Bar.” There are lots of skinny jeans and ironic t-shirt wearing 20-30 somethings smoking pall malls, but what sets it apart from Look at That Fuckin’ Hipster annoyance is that the Z Bar hipsters seem to have gotten over the need to be the coolest person in the room. Everyone just manages to coexist- conversations develop out of thin air that make you laugh until your face hurts- it’s community functioning well.

I highly recommend that you look Z bar up on the facebook (us, too, while you’re at it)- they do a stellar job of keeping that circle up to date on what’s happening. A band you like is playing there soon- that I can nearly promise. All in all, these beers are for drinking with your neighbors, regardless of who qualifies as a hipster.


April 8, 2010 Posted by | Germantown | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Longshot

I sometimes find myself reminded of the coolness of Crescent Hill- it’s not that I ever think it’s uncool, but as an Old Louisville resident who hangs mainly around Germantown and the Highlands, I tend to forget that Crescent Hill is over there. Between this excursion and apartment hunting with a friend, though, this week has reminded me. Crescent Hill is great!

One of the great things about the neighborhood, certainly, is Longshot Tavern. To start with, there’s generally plenty of parking on the streets nearby and Longshot is totally safe. It’s right across the street from Bourbon’s Bistro and though there’s nothing right next door, none of the Frankfort Ave. bars are beyond walking distance. Once a florist, Longshot has been serving drinks since ’93.

The entertainment offered at Longshot is a key draw, for sure. This joint boasts ping pong, foosball, pool, and darts- all the best drunk games in the same place! They also have one of those old cigarette displays, which you don’t see much these days. Music-wise, there are bands most weekend nights, Thursday is Open Mic night, and The Merry Pranksters play Wednesday and Sunday- we love those guys.

The look is pretty basic with a definite horse theme- it’d be a good place to bring a friend who’s visiting for Derby, as this is surely what outsiders expect a Louisville bar to look like. There’s an outdoor smoking area and also a small greenhouse-sort-of-nook that counts as outside. It was a little too hot when we were there, but that place would be a perfect refuge from rain.

It is certainly worth noting that Longshot’s happy hour extends into useful hours- domestics are but a dollar on Wednesdays from 1 to 10:30PM. And on that not, Brian the Bartender is one of the nicest fellows we’ve come across! The selection is basic, but they’re sure to have your stand-by and there’s a $10 tab minimum.

Longshot supports UK and U of L, so it’d be a great place to catch a game. It’s also dog friendly- so much so that they have a water-bowl by the door- that’s even better than the Nachbar. 

Rich, a regular, was quick to strike up a conversation and we found ourselves staying much longer than we usually do on a review. Longshot is a good place to feel at home, even if you’ve never been before. Best of all, we went in on a Friday and it wasn’t crowded enough to annoy us (we review on off nights for a reason, folks)- so, that being said, these drinks are for weeknight people who are out on a weekend.

June 26, 2009 Posted by | Crescent Hill | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BBC St. Matthews

Local microbreweries are a point of fairly intense debate between the beerologists- you see, I’m a BBC girl, whereas my partner swears by Cumberland. To clarify, I don’t dislike Cumberland and she doesn’t dislike BBC, but when it comes down to allegiance, we’re divided. After much discussion, we’ve determined that it’s purely an issue of what you drink. I like my beer dark and she likes it light. Though I occasionally befriend an IPA, more often than not if I can see my hand on the other side of the glass, I want to ask the beer, “Will thou leave me so unsatisfied?”
I’m sure you know there isn’t one Bluegrass Brewing Company in this town, but rather three. There’s one in St. Matthews just before Shelbyville Rd splits into Lexington Rd and Frankfort Ave, one at 4th and Broadway, and one on Main St that only serves beer. You may not realize there’s also one in the Cincinnati Airport (which is really in KY) and one in the Indianapolis Airport (which is really in IN). Why Standiford Field doesn’t have one is a mystery. Today, we’ll be discussing the big mamma jamma- St. Matthews.
As a general rule, I’m not a fan of St. Matthews. I know that’s bold to just say it and I’m sorry, but it’s not my scene. BBC, however, has a different feel that puts me a little more at ease- not to say it’s totally devoid of east-enders, but they tend to have enough of a hippie flair that they’d fit in at the hideaway. Granted, there are more Dave Matthews hippies than Grateful Dead hippies this far east, but I can handle that.
Though the parking lot is certifiably ridiculous in that you can’t really circle if there’s not a spot and you can get in if you’re heading toward Frankfort Ave, but not if you’re heading away from it, there is parking a-plenty and it’s safe. There are also quite a few bars close if you feel like a crawl- Dutch’s, Brendan’s, Diamonds, Saints, and Gerstle’s are all just a stumble away.
Once you get inside, take note of the flippin’ gorgeous tin ceilings. BBC boasts not only two bars, but also a fantastic smoking patio and a stage for live music, which happens often. The place is totally clean and the staff is friendly, albeit super-busy most of the time. There’s also a dart board and an ATM in house (fear not- they take cards anyway).
The food is fantastic as this place is as much a restaurant as it’s a bar- try the fish and chips- but don’t let that take the spotlight away from the beer. If you haven’t put it together yet, BBC beer is brewed in house, though it must be noted that the ones you pick up in 6-packs at ValuMart are brewed at the Main Street location, not St. Matthews. Of course, a true Louisvillian will sing the praises of anything made in Louisville, be it Derby Pie or Disco Balls, but this praise is certifiable. BBC has won 5 Bronze medals and 3 Gold at the Great American Beer Festival with the Baltic Porter being the most recent Gold winner (also note that the Oktoberfest has won the most across the board). They also have award-winning root-beer.
In the realm of specials, I must first tell you about the Wort Hog Club. Those mugs hanging on the wall- they belong to Wort Hogs. You pay a $40 membership fee ($15 per year after the first) and get a special mug that holds 5 oz. more than non-Wort Hogs get for the same price. Then, on the 3rd Sunday of the month, you get to go to a special tasting.
If you’re not a Wort Hog, there are still tons of deals at BBC. There’s a Happy Hour Monday-Friday 3-7 and also during all U of L, UK, and NFL Games (there are 16 TVs here with every sports channel you can dream of). During Happy Hour wings are 35 cents and beer is $2.75 (Which is also the deal all day Tuesday). Thursdays mean a hand-pump cask (which usually features something hoppy) and samplers are $7.50.
If you want to take some home (and you do), you can get a growler for $11.50 ($8 to refill). Half kegs are $99, 1/2 kegs are $55, and 1/4 kegs are $35 (with a $100 deposit).
A Louisville classic, BBC has provided Louisville with delicious beer for 15 years (I’m partial to Dark Star). If you’re like me and you like your beer dark like coffee, get the to the microbrewery- these drinks are for you!

June 12, 2009 Posted by | St. Matthews, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cahoot’s

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Once upon a time, before Headliner’s Music Hall, Louisville had a legendary music venue. Tooligan’s  brought in great bands in its time, but has been known for the past 13 years by another name, almost as legendary in certain circles, Cahoot’s. Located at 1047 Bardstown Rd., Cahoot’s is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Irish Triange, Pheonix Hill, and all the activity North of Grinstead too. You can visit their MySpace here, but be warned it is not checked often. Now Cahoot’s is a neighborhood bar, frequented by a circle of regulars and the overflow of Bardstown Rd. insanity. Be prepared for a crowd on the weekends, and at least one bar fight, but a pretty quiet atmosphere through the week.

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The beautiful thing about Cahoot’s is that its like the Mag Bar of the Highlands. Its dirty, smells like vomit and shame, and all the same rules apply. The jukebox is good, there are 3 pool tables, Pac Man, Foosball, and one our all-time favorites, a cigarette machine.  The main difference here being, Cahoot’s serves food. And not just bar food, real food. And they serve it until 3 AM to keep your drunk ass from driving anywhere. When we talked to the bar staff, they assured us that the live music of the previous era is making a comeback, so make sure you check their MySpace for upcoming events.

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Cahoot’s has nightly drink specials, which are the same from week to week. You can get a Bud or a PBR for $1.50, and they have drink specials every night. On tap, Cahoot’s has all the standards, plus one BBC beer, and the Jager is kept in the deep freeze (we thought it was special that they even had a deep freeze). Its worth mentioning that Cahoot’s has two bars, one in the front and one in the back, which makes getting a drink during the busy times that much easier. The outdoor seating is limited, but covered and there are lots of group booths inside so that no one gets left out. We called them drinking forts, because the backs of the benchs are so high.

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Although the crew at Cahoot’s mainly kept to themselves, these beers are for them, and for their chest pieces, long may they wave.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | The Highlands | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Back Door

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It’s no secret that the Beerologists like reader requests, and so this article is written with a heavy heart for a dear friend who asked us to do it. Nick was a fellow with an unforgettable laugh who had a way of lighting up when he saw his friends. Every night with him was a blast, and I had the pleasure of spending a good chunk of his last week with him, much of that time at the Back Door.

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The Back Door is located in the heart of the Highlands, at the North end of Mid City Mall. For those of you who aren’t Highlanders, Mid City is a strip mall located between Bardstown and Baxter- the one with Baxter Avenue Theater. There’s a well-lit parking lot and it’s close to a lot of stuff. The Taproom is across the street and Bearno’s, The Bristol, Ramsi’s, Avalon, and Akiko’s are all basically in spitting distance. The neighborhood is one of the safer ones around. Open since 1985, the Back Door was originally a warehouse. The old loading dock is now the smoker’s patio- which is quite a good one- there are umbrellas that serve well on rainy nights and it’s heated. In fact, the Back Door was a key opponent to the Louisville smoking ban.

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It’s sort of a local legend with more LEO awards than I can count- among them, it’s been named Best Neighborhood Dive, Best Free-Pour, and they consistently have the best wings behind Hooter’s and BWW. It’s a great place to shoot pool with six tables (there’s a league that meets on Mondays), but it also boasts foosball, darts, video games, and a bunch of big-screen TVs (take note- this is U of L country).

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Despite its ranks as a dive bar, the Back Door is pretty clean, even the bathrooms. The front room is dominated by murals- one impressionistic sort of work sponsored by Blue Moon, a portrait of happy hour regulars sponsored by Jack Daniels and the door to the patio painted to look open on a sunny day featuring more regulars. I appreciate a bar that appreciates its patrons, so it’s nice to know all those people on the walls are real folks- you might even recognize a few.

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The bar staff is a sort of wonder, as well- Owner John Dant bought it from within his family, so the bar has stayed with the same bloodline since it opened. Furthermore, it’s had the same manager since it opened. Five of the bartenders have been there for twenty years or more. We spoke with Steven- after nine years, he’s one of the new guys. There’s no jukebox, so the tunes you hear are bartender playlists. As far as selection, the beer list is good and cheap. There are daily and weekly specials, and happy hour is every day from 4 to 8.

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 Foodwise, it’s better than the standard bar fare. In addition to the aforementioned wings, there are great sandwiches and the “Back Door Bomber”- a blackened chicken wonton. The crowd is best described as “Highlands-y” (in non-Louisville speak, that means eclectic). It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to saddle up between a Doctor and a Trucker and see that they’ve found common ground. The place is both mulit-cultural and gay-friendly. It’s a welcoming crowd and a safe place to go alone- in fact, the Back Door is such a common ground, you’re bound to run in to a friend even if you don’t pre-plan a meeting. In addition to the Monday pool league, there’s an open mic on Tuesdays and they’re open every night except Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

 

These drinks are for making it count- they’re for making those memories that’ll get you through darker days. More importantly, though, these drinks are for Nick.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | The Highlands | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lounge

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As a continuation of our foray into reader favorites, we would like to introduce those of you who have not yet had the pleasure to an incredibly little bar called The Lounge.  You can find them online at http://www.myspace.com/11971394, and in the flesh at 947 E. Madison St., although it may be easier to think of The Lounge as being located at the corner of Chestnut and Wenzel Streets. I know its confusing —  all I can say is do what you can to find this place, because its totally worth it. Its important to note that the sign outside The Lounge is a Budweiser sign, and “Lounge” is printed in teeny lettering, so know what you’re looking for when you head that way.

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The Lounge has been…wherever it is exactly…for a year, but there’s always been a bar in the location, and it feels like a time capsule. The owner, Shelby, has preserved the old-time feeling, with a Pepsi soda counter serving as the bar, diner seating, and a gorgeous wooden bar back that Shelby thinks is from the 1920’s, while embracing spontaneity.

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Shelby’s whole manifesto on The Lounge is to throw things together and see what sticks, so on Wednesday nights they have an incredible blues jam hosted by Jim Masterson, Thursdays is an Open Mic/Poetry Slam/Movie Night, and Friday and Saturday nights are held for local bands. The crowd is eclectic, and runs the gamut as artists, musicians and drinkers tend to do. The space upstairs is rented out as artist studios, and art is featured throughout the bar. There are wonderful quirks throughout the bar, but the bathroom is especially fabulous – it has a red light and frosted glass door. There’s no disgusting bar smell in The Lounge, just a lovely museum-sort of smell, and the whole place feels very much like New Orleans. Not Garden District New Orleans, but the real New Orleans.

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As far as libations are concerned, this is a strictly bottled beer joint. Every week Shelby tries to add a beer or two to the list, so things are constantly changing. When we were there, all the basics were in stock, as well as some of the better beers, like Long Hammer and Stella. You can get a PBR or a Budweiser in a can for $1.50, so this is a great bar in which to drink yourself out of the recession. Chips are available behind the bar, and it wasn’t too long before the popcorn and mixed nuts came out, for your snacking pleasure.

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The Lounge is the perfect bar for feeling like you’ve gotten out of town without breaking the bank, and we assure you that if you’re as willing to talk to strangers as we are, you’ll meet some real characters while you’re there. If you go on a Wednesday, look around for a jazz drummer named Charles, and ask him about playing pop music in the 60’s. He has more stories than Carter has pills, and he’s something of a charmer, if you ask me.

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These beers are for spontaneity you guys, and getting off the beaten track. Keep your reader recommendations coming, because we love where you’re sending us!

May 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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