Darrin Burchell is a former University of Kentucky employee with a background in microbiology. And he likes beer.
He was in San Francisco for a lecture about 16 years ago when he came across “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing,” a book by Charlie Papazian.
And what joy he found. And Burchell recently found success, too, by taking first place in the amber and brown American beer, American brown ale category at this year’s Kentucky State Fair.
And now he’s taking that success and starting his first commercial venture in the middle of downtown Georgetown.
My Old Kentucky Foam is scheduled to open in December on Main Street. The microbrewery was the idea of four colleagues: Burchell, his wife, Synthia; Melanie Noe; and her husband, Steve.
They had tossed around the idea of a microbrewery for a long time, Synthia Burchell said. They seized the opportunity when the building at 149 East Main Street, which previously was a boutique and a grocery store, became available.
“A lot of the revitalization that has happened here is something we want to be part of,” Synthia Burchell, also mentioning the county’s growth and the economic impact of Toyota’s plant.
The 3,900-square-foot building includes a basement and a rooftop roughly of equal size. The rooftop is planned as a live music venue in the spring. The basement will primarily be forfermenting, canning and storing the beer.
The partners plan to brew about 700 to 750 gallons in the first year, but Darrin Burchell, the brewmaster of My Old Kentucky Foam, said that because of the success of local beers Country Boy and West Sixth Brewing, they are prepared to double their production.
The microbrewery will have room for about 20 beers on tap. Among them will be My Old Kentucky Foam originals, including the award-winning Georgetown Brown, and Hot Mess, a blond ale.
“It’s a very mild and mellow beer for people who aren’t really sure that they’re ready for craft (beer),” Darrin Burchell said.
The group also hopes to resurrect the Kentucky Common, an ale that was popular in Kentucky before Prohibition.
“(It’s) a very easy-drinking, light-bodied beer ... with light caramel undertones to it. Very refreshing,” Darrin Burchell said.
The brewery also will serve craft cocktails, wine and pizza via a third-party vendor.
Classics and newcomers
My Old Kentucky Foam will join other recently opened restaurants and bars in the area, most coming after Georgetown voters approved alcohol sales laws. The package sales of alcohol at groceries and convenience stores was approved in 2012 and 17 years after the city voted to allow alcohol sales in larger restaurants in 2000.
Unincorporated Scott County remains dry.
Country Boy Brewing opened in February in the Lanes Run Business Park, about five years after the business opened in Lexington. Production of Country Boy mainstays Cougar Bait and Shotgun Wedding are produced at the Georgetown brewery, which also sports a taproom, patio seating, and several televisions. Since the taproom opened, Country Boy officials have said, the new location has been great for production.
The Country Boy building includes a kitchen, which has yet to be used. Evan Coppage, a partner in the business, said there are plans to use it soon.
“For a taproom and maybe a kitchen ... we may not be in the best location, but I think in the future, when that area grows, I think we’re in a really good location,” he said. “We’re really close to Toyota” and the Bluegrass Advanced Manufacturing Center.
The Slainte Public House, a bar that opened last year, is on Main Street. The pub serves a variety of beers and boasts a dog-friendly patio and an upstairs space that will open in a few weeks for large parties. The pub itself is a house that was built in 1793.
Matt Nunn, who owns the bar with his wife, Ashley, said it took some time for Georgetown locals to adjust to the pub.
“A lot of people didn’t understand what we had going on,” he said. “Some people still don’t understand or know exactly what our business is all about. The fact that we don’t serve food, but we serve alcohol ... seems confusing to some folks.”
Despite that, Nunn said, the bar has grown steadily every month, as has the overall bar scene in Georgetown.
“We’ve seen several different developments,” Nunn said. “Number one: We see more local people coming out and maybe having dinner at one location and coming to our place and having a few drinks afterward. We’ve seen a lot of local people become what we would call regulars.”
Nunn said the bar has also attracted residents from Lexington and more Georgetown College students are coming to the bar instead of going to Lexington.
“People are starting to choose Georgetown,” he said.
Not everything in Main Street is a new venture. Restaurants like Galvin’s and Fava’s are part of Georgetown’s Main Street, too. Dan Galvin, restaurateur of Galvin’s, said he has seen a definite growth in the past few years.
Galvin’s opened in 2008 on Main Street and moved to a different location on Main earlier this year, just down the street from its previous location. The new location includes extra space and seating. The beer also runs more freely at the new location. At Galvin’s previous location, there were about about 25 beers on tap. Now the restaurant has 40, which severs craft beers such as Blue Stallion and Ethereal Brewing.
“And I don’t think I went high enough,” Galvin said, commenting on the number of beers he serves.
And with options such as Local Feed, a farm-to-table fare on Water Street adjacent to Main Street, and Sweet Matriarch Bakery, a cake shop, the options to eat in Georgetown are diverse and plentiful compared to 15 to 20 years ago.
Future projects in the making?
Other restaurants and bars might be in the works in Georgetown.
Red State Taps was a popular hangout spot downtown, but the barbecue restaurant caught fire in March. Building owner David Carroll said there were no immediate plans to rebuild in Georgetown, but he does want to rebuild in the area. Carroll, who also owns Red State BBQ on Georgetown Road in Lexington, said he has gotten several comments about Red State Taps’ fate since it caught fire.
“We love Georgetown and we love the support that we’ve gotten there,” he said.
Ralph Quillin, who owns Rooster Brewing in Paris, has bought property in downtown Georgetown and plans build a microbrewery with a taproom and a patio.
“It’s going to be like craft beer meets patio ... meets a burger joint,” Quillin said. “That’s kind of the thinking right now. Not a real complicated menu, but more emphasis on the patio and the craft beer.”
The work isn’t scheduled to start until spring 2018, but Quillin has already picked a name: Captain Tuttle’s, named after Hawkeye Pierce’s imaginary friend on the 1970s television show “MASH.” The property is at Water Street and Opera Alley, within walking distance of where Red State Taps was.
Scott County officials are excited about the developing beer industry in Georgetown.
“Tourists want to immerse themselves in the local culture,” said Lori Saunders, executive director of the Georgetown/Scott Tourism Commission. We are seeing a rise in visitors looking to tap into the craft brewery, distillery and pub scene. Georgetown is in a unique position to be able to offer a variety of options for the thirsty.”
Quillin is working with The Gastro Gnomes food truck to open a food and beer restaurant on North Limestone in Lexington that’s tentatively scheduled to open in October. Quillin said the sincerity of Georgetown officials was one reason he decided to build there.
“When the mayor calls you on his cellphone, at 10 o’clock in the morning as you’re driving to work, and says, ‘Ralph, what do you need? Do you need anything?’ Not his secretary. The mayor. It goes a long way,” he said.