Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A tiring but spectacular weekend for beer in Louisville.

On Saturday, NABC took beer to the annual Brew at the Zoo bash just within the Watterson beltway, and while I don’t have firm information at my disposal, all appearances are that the event sold out. The field was jammed. Whether or not I’m personally enamored of the atmosphere there is largely irrelevant. We commit annually to help the zoo, and numerous people enjoy the experience. That’s good enough.

NABC also helped sponsor the first (hopefully annual) Volksfest on Clay Street by the BBC tap room downtown, and in spite of a handful of minor glitches, public reaction was massively favorable. Not counting the beer dispensed through the tap room itself, we sold somewhere around 25 kegs through the outdoor trailers, with proceeds going to a handful of local charities.

Just up the street from Clay, several thousand people watched the Triple-A Bats play baseball, and a bit further away, there was a jug band festival. Back across the river in New Albany, the pub had a financial day above normal summertime standards.

Of course, there’s little in the way of good beer at a Bats game because the team’s management put the “P” in Philistine a long time ago (something about that football field-sized Budweiser billboard in right field is a dead giveaway), and I’m clueless about the jug band event, but it bears noting that the Saturday prior to all these happenings, My Morning Jacket played the waterfront, and the River City wholesalers sold more than 30 kegs of locally-brewed craft beer (BBC, Cumberland and Browning’s), apparently at the band’s behest.

Good for them.

What all of this means to me is that Louisville has grown up. A metropolitan market with more than a million people is capable of supporting quite a few events simultaneously, and whereas we used to concentrate our collective attention on the big impact soirees so as to concentrate scarce good beer resources and the seemingly few consumers favoring them, now there’s enough acceptance to merit contemplating a changed dynamic.

Saturday was vindication for many of us, and in a number of ways. Now more than ever, a local brewery grouping (call it a guild if you will) can be particularly useful in pre-planning marketing endeavors for the benefit of all. As BBC St. Matthews’s Jerry Gnagy commented to me, unity should enable local brewers to cover more ground. Instead of all of us attending a limited number of festivals for logistical reasons, we might take turns attending some of the smaller ones, showcasing a keg each of Louisville brewed beer instead of selections from each brewery. If it means advancing the cause, it would be well worth doing, and the effort would be shared across the board.

My Morning Jacket, Will Oldham and others have put Louisville on the musical map for residents and outlanders alike. Louisville’s five breweries have done the same for craft beer. Now, we need only make sure that beer aficionados here and elsewhere be mindful of the reality. I have some ideas …

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