Restaurant News & Reviews

Love beer and blackberries? Lots of breweries think it’s a combo to make Kentucky proud

Blackberries were a popular addition for breweries for the Kentucky Proud Beer Series. You can taste all the brews at the new Kentucky Proud Beer Fest.
Blackberries were a popular addition for breweries for the Kentucky Proud Beer Series. You can taste all the brews at the new Kentucky Proud Beer Fest.

As Kentucky’s craft beer scene and the number of breweries continues to expand, it only makes sense for events highlighting this scene to continue to grow as it taps into that enthusiasm.

This is certainly the case for the Kentucky Proud Beer Series. For this third annual event, the partnership between Kentucky Guild of Brewers and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will produce something fruitful for Bluegrass beer fans.

“It was just kind of born out of the idea that we already, as brewers individually, were already making beers with ingredients grown right here in the Commonwealth,” said Derek Selznick, executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers.

Once again, the 21 breweries involved with series will each be tasked with producing a new, limited-release brew made only with Kentucky Proud products and ingredients. Ryan Quarles, Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture for the Department of Agriculture, said they could use everything from local wheat and hops to blackberries, pawpaws and pecans. With the amount of possibilities there are thanks to Kentucky farmers, he said it presents some pretty cool possibilities.

“It creates a friendly competition among the growing craft beer industry to come up with something new and innovative,” Quarles said. “It’s a great way to have some fun, generate some new products and, who knows, a new beer may be launched that becomes a commercial success.”

Several breweries will present similar offerings, allowing beer drinkers to pick up the nuances of each brewery’s take on a particular style. The varieties show off the brewers’ adventurous spirit, creativity and skill. Blackberry was a very popular addition but breweries chose everything from honey and apples to paw paws and shiitake mushrooms.

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West Sixth added blackberries to its beer to make its offering for the annual Kentucky Proud Beer Series. Photo provided

Lexington breweries West Sixth Brewing and Country Boy Brewing will be offering “Blackberries in the Bluegrass” and a Pumpkin Oatmeal Stout, respectively.

Christian Paumi, co-owner, CEO and head brewer at of Lexington’s newest brewery, Fusion Brewing, said he had been a fan of the Kentucky Proud Beer Series prior to opening his brewery.

“I really liked it from the beginning,” he said. “I just found that a really interesting idea, take something from Kentucky agriculture and make it into a beer.”

The idea for Fusion Brewing’s creation, a Terrior-White Grape Fruited Ale, came almost serendipitously when he knew the event was coming up and he was also looking for white wine grapes. He worked with a small family-owned vineyard to purchase approximately 300 pounds of grapes, which he de-stemmed by hand and crushed to incorporate into a beer comprised of 37 percent white grapes and 63 percent barley. He described his brewery’s Kentucky Proud Beer Series offering as “light ale that has those distinctive pinot grigio flavors in the background.”

“This idea was to meld it, not to make it stick out like a bourbon barrel does,” he said. “This is more of a balanced beer.”

This year for the first time fans can taste all the beers in one place: there will be a new Kentucky Proud Beer Festival taking place from noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 19, at the Wooden Cask Brewery in Newport.

“Because brewing, compared to something like distilling, takes such a small amount of time for a finished product ... we get to experiment with lots of things,” Selznick said. “These are all completely one-off beers. They will never be replicated again.”

In addition, there will be locally sourced foods provided by the Farmstand Cafe and other providers and live music. Tickets are $25 for VIP admission (limited to 250) and $10 for general admission. Included is a commemorative Kentucky Proud tasting glass and four four-ounce samples, with more samples available for purchase.

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The finished product from West Sixth Brewery, Blackberries in the Bluegrass, will be one of 21 beers available at the Kentucky Proud Beer Festival at Wooden Cask Brewing in Newport on Oct. 19.

“The Kentucky Proud Beer Festival gives consumers the opportunity to taste something new, to buy something local and to support local farmers,” Quarles said.

Selznick added, “We could feel how palpable people got around this, so we wanted to create a beer festival that celebrates everything Kentucky and just be Kentucky Proud.”

During the week of Monday, Oct. 14, through Thursday, Oct. 17, there will also be Kentucky Proud paired beer dinners at various locations across the Commonwealth consisting of locally sourced foods matched with beers from the Kentucky Proud Beer Series, including one on Oct. 14 pairing West Sixth’s beer with food from Local Feed in Georgetown.

Lexington Brewing also will be at Mr. Brew’s Taphouse on Oct. 13 with slider and beer pairings.

According to Selznick, when the Kentucky Guild of Brewers first got involved with the Kentucky Proud Beer Series, there were roughly 34 breweries in the state and there were six beers created for the first event. Fast forward to this month and those numbers have increased to 73 Kentucky craft brewers and 21 unique beer offerings.

Brewers participating in the 2019 Kentucky Proud Beer Series include 3rd Turn Brewing, Against the Grain Brewery, Falls City Brewing Co., Gordon Biersch Brewery, Gravely Brewing Co., Holsopple Brewing, Monnik Beer Co., and Old Louisville Brewing, all of Louisville; Fusion Brewing, Lexington Brewing Company, and West Sixth Brewing, Lexington; Alexandria Brewing Company; Bircus Brewing Company, Ludlow; Braxton Brewing Co., Covington; Country Boy Brewing, Georgetown; Darkness Brewing, Bellevue; Flywheel Brewing, Elizabethtown; Jarfly Brewing Co., Somerset; Paducah Beer Werks; Sig Luscher Brewery, Frankfort; and Wooden Cask Brewing Company, Newport.

Quarles said between the number of craft brewers popping up and thriving in the Bluegrass State and the reintroduction of the growing of hops in the state (there are now a dozen commercial hop growers), he feels like the Kentucky Proud Beer Series can toast to many more successful years.

“We’ve seen more breweries participate, we’ve seen more farmers benefit and we’ve seen both the Kentucky Proud Program and the Guild of Brewers share both growth and opportunities across the industry,” he said. “We expect this growth to continue.”

Kentucky Proud Beer Series Festival

When: Noon to 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19

Where: Wooden Cask Brewing Company, 629 York St., Newport

Admission: $25 VIP, $10 General Admission; Visit kygbrewers.org for tickets.

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