Against the Grain
401 East Main St. Louisville, KY
Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.
I have wanted to try Against the Grain for quite a while, when I first read that the owner and brewer wanted to start a brewery that pushes styles into new territory.
For some reason I thought they were on the south side of Louisville, maybe off of Newburg Road. Wrong! Against seems right at home in downtown Louisville, part of a rather “bat-ty” ball park called Louisville Slugger Field. Being from the home of Adirondack bats: where the wood used to pass through the gate my grandparents watched over, I was immediately offended.
Yeah, I’m kidding, but why skip a chance to give a plug for my old hometown, right?
I knew I had been here before. Something looked familiar. This was Browning’s Brewery’s old location… sort of. Been a while and something has changed, but don’t remember quite what, other than the obvious: a different brewery.
Be aware that, as of right now, the GPS lady will try to take you down a street that’s under construction, but you can pull through the parking lot on the street just south of Main, and it does feed onto Main. It’s a little convoluted, but should get you there. Make sure you feed the meter. A guy pulled up after I came and the tow truck was there almost immediately. The not so obvious entrance is on the east side.
We arrived midday after driving all night long through a blinding snowstorm part way. We had had little sleep.
We were happy to find that both our sexy waitress, and the bartender, were very knowledgable: always a good sign. Bet they do some decent staff education here beer-wise. That’s not always the case, for sure.
You need to be aware that the best sign for beers on tap is on the outside. Can we move that inside, please? The fancy, artsy, one might work better outside making thirsty quaffers go, “Huh? Wha??? Best go inside and check it out!”
Bonfyre Of The Daiquiris: Millie ordered a Rauch, was well balanced. A light yellow, almost straw, hazy and a nice big head. The aroma: smoke and a little strawberry, more strawberry in aroma than taste. 7.8% with a hint of banana I suspect is yeast driven. Mouthfeel is also smoke and a firm, medium bodied pils-like and pale-like mix of malts. The smoke lingers, lightly, after the malt slides down, also leaving a tad more than a hint of sweet from the malt.
The most beautiful of the brews we had that day: in our opinion, was the Ale Fixation. Fix is a Russian Imperial Stout and I picked up on wood/barrel aged right away, both in aroma and taste. Smooth, deep dark malts with just a hint of that roasted barley-like abrasiveness. This specific AF was a collaboration with Mikkellar, and I was happy. I hesitated because I have found the much lauded Mikkellar to vary wildly from wonderful to a rare, but occasional, not so hot. Well, at least once very hot for I remember one was like a festival for super high alcs on my palate.
But… yes! …this was a winner. I’m told there have been many variations on this RIS. Need to return sometime for my next… Fix. Smooth as silk sliding down this would make a grand dessert beer. Me? Anytime and often. Park me under the fermentation tank with my mouth open as I die and I’ll already be in heaven.
I’m told they have done many different versions of Fixation. They claimed 11.5%. If so very, very well hidden. There’s a nice sweetness, subtle but lingers.
We also had samples of Scorched Monkey: a lacto-like brown ale: simple but elegant. Not as complex on the palate, in the nose or mouthfeel. Neither dry or sweet, brown malt-like and the lacto sense in the background. The other sample: Whim McFanny, was another Rauch only the smoke more obvious, a bit drier and a hint less body.
To be honest we’ll have to get more than samples to do a better job in describing, but we were sleepy and had almost 200 miles to go.
The menu was interesting, but I forgot to take notes on it. Sorry. Their website does have it as a download. Being a barbeque
place they had their own sauces.
We had the pork risotto fritters with a drizzle of barbeque sauce: 5 small mushy hush puppy-like… fritters? $9? Really? Maybe 5 or 6. But the chili was wonderful. We had them add chorizo for a total about the same as the fritters. Do it! Well worth the addition. The tomato sauce, with chili, is savory with thick, deeply rich. Tis dark, and moody like any good chili. Tomato bits lightly litter the dish and, yes, Texas chili fans, I’m sorry, it does have beans. But that was good for us: in my opinion chili without beans is simply a funny tasting sloppy Joe minus the bread. The only thing worse: spaghetti in chili. If I want spaghetti I’ll order spaghetti, thank you.
High ceiling, a vast impressive room: cathedral-like with the brewery looking down from up high. For Christmas they should but Santa hats on some of the tanks and play soft angelic voices singing from “on high.”
So heavenly did the vision seem I almost asked Eve, otherwise known as Millie the wife, if our leaves were secure, so we could play and dance down the aisles between the tables. Or maybe ATG could qualify as the serpent and the apple, but we didn’t see any leafless nude quaffers, waiters or waitresses, streaking… yet. Have to go back again more than a few times to find out if that ever happens. Hey, it’s a good excuse.
Wonder if our waitress would volunteer to start it all? Uh, oh, better stop there. I’ll bet Millie is reading this right now: aren’t you dear?
Against the Grain was well worth getting off the road for. If I get a chance I’ll come back and interview the brewer. No streaking expected.
But it tis a grand concept, and a great vision.
Then, on the 7th day, he made… BEER!
Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”