Food & Drink

Lost lagers: Old Frankfort brewery coming back to life under descendant

Beginning Friday, state workers will be able to stroll over to have a pint of history on their lunch break at the Sig Luscher Brewery, opening at 221 Mero Street.

The brewery opens at 6 p.m. today, with a toast to founder Sigmund “Sig” Luscher at 8 p.m. with the new signature pilsner, Sig. There’s also Sig ‘66, a wheat lager that’s 6.6 percent alcohol.

The location is right across from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which is built on the site of the original Sig Luscher Brewery, founded in 1866. It operated until 1891, when the brewery closed after Luscher’s death. (Of apoplexy, after he collapsed facedown in a bowl of soup, according to his remarkable obituary.)

“Believe it or not, since then there has not been another brewery in Frankfort,” said Nathan Cryder, CEO of the new Sig Luscher Brewery.

Now Cryder and Tim Luscher, the founder’s great-great-great-grandson, are restarting the brewery after a 132-year break. They hope to have a grand opening around the end of 2018 and begin selling on tap around the region soon.

“There’s a big push in America for craft brew ... and we were the one and only brewery in Frankfort,” Luscher said. “We thought it was time to reopening it.”

Luscher’s background is in branding and design. “We’re storytellers,” Luscher said. “Most of this project is telling the story of Sigmund and also creating the best beer we can make for people to enjoy with their friends.”

They are working with a historian to flesh-out Sig Luscher’s story.

And they are already producing beer with a contract brewer and bottler, while they wait for their small-scale brewery and taproom to open.

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The new Sig Luscher Brewery beer cans will hit stores in 2019; the brewery in Frankfort is relaunching after a 132-year absence under the founder’s greag-great-great-grandson, Tim Luscher. Image provided

“All the beer we’re going to distribute is always going to be made by contract by someone else, using our recipe and done by our brewmeister,” Cryder said.

Cryder characterizes their venture as “a heritage brewery,” based on the “first and only brewery that has ever been based in Frankfort.”

But they don’t plan to make the ales typical of craft brewers.

They are “bringing it back to life with historically good beer made by our brewmeister Dylan Greenwood. It’s going to be pilsner. We’ve also got a lager,” Cryder said. In fact, at the taproom they will have lots of experimental lagers, as well as sours. Their first seasonal will be a Christmas lager, Sig Santa, brewed this winter, aged and released next fall.

Greenwood, formerly of Falls City Brewing, came up with new recipes to mimic those lost lagers of the 1890s, with crisp, clean tastes that are as heavily hopped as many craft beers today. Cryder and Luscher think that will appeal more to a broader swathe of beer lovers. Including all those state workers as well as tourist in town touring Kentucky distilleries.

They decided to open a taproom to bring beer making back to Frankfort, where Swiss immigrant Sigmund Luscher set up shop. Eventually they plan to reopen the historic lager caves nearby that the Luscher Brewery used as well and use them for a tasting room.

The downtown taproom also will have bagel sticks, made by Ouita Michel’s Midway Bakery, pretzels and hot dogs for lunch, and they hope to add food trucks at night.

And with Goodwood Brewery also coming to Frankfort, they hope to establish a walkable brewery district.

Sig Luscher, the brewer, also had many connections to Frankfort history, and was friends with Col. E.H. Taylor, who were on the city council together and were both Masons, also shared something else: yeast. (Bourbon is just distilled beer, after all.)

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This historic trading card is one of many artifacts from the original Sig Luscher Brewery in Frankfort that closed in 1891 with death of the founder, a Swiss immigrant. Image provided

The new brewery sits on what was once Taylor’s backyard, according to Luscher. And Tim Luscher’s grandson, August, ran the Blanton Distillery for 20 years.

The brewery hopes to establish a link with the successor, Buffalo Trace Distillery, to encourage tourists to visit both.

“Beer and bourbon are big draws. We both have very strong stories ... we’d love to push as many bar people toward them and vice versa,” Luscher said. The story can continue from here to there and back, he said.