Kentucky is best known for bourbon – more bourbon barrels than people exist in the Bluegrass State – but Kentucky’s beer industry has grown exponentially in the past few years.
In 2011, Adam Johnson, who at the time was president of Danville, Kentucky’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, founded the Brewgrass Trail. And in 2012, VisitLex acquired the trail, a 50-mile stretch comprised of 12 breweries in Lexington and the vicinity.
When visitors stop by the breweries, they receive a stamp in their VisitLex passport. No need to order a beer or anything else to get a stamp, though while you’re there, you might as well drink a few brews. After obtaining all 12 stamps, visitors can turn in the completed passport and receive a Brewgrass Trail T-shirt.
Here are nine of our favorite breweries and one bottle shop to check out along the Trail.
Country Boy Brewing
436 Chair Avenue, Lexington | 101 Innovation Way, Georgetown
In 2012, Country Boy opened its first of two taprooms near downtown Lexington. Their Georgetown location opened in 2017 and is now the largest production brewery in the state.
Popular beers include Shotgun Wedding (vanilla brown ale), Cougar Bait (American blonde ale), Nate’s Coffee Stout (using beans from local roaster Nate’s Coffee), and Cliff Jumper IPA. Cans and bottles can be found throughout Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia.
To put the spotlight on Kentucky beer, every May, the Lex location hosts a beer cheese contest. Just $5 will let you sample as many as 60 kinds of beer cheeses.
1224 Manchester Street, Lexington
Ethereal specializes in farmhouse beers — Photo courtesy of Victor Sizemore, courtesy of VisitLEX
If you like your beers infused with funk, then head to Ethereal located in Lexington’s Distillery District, aka Pepper Campus. Ethereal specializes in Belgian farmhouse and American craft beers.
The brewery’s a part of the Campus, which includes neighboring Crank and Boom artisanal ice cream, Goodfellas Pizzeria, Middle Fork Kitchen Bar and Fusion Brewing. In the warmer months, there’s nothing better than sipping beers and eating ice cream on their patio.
107 Larrimore Lane, Danville
Sample a few of Beer Engine’s beers and beer cheeses — Photo courtesy of Garin Pirnia
Less than an hour southeast of Lexington resides Danville, home of nano-brewery Beer Engine, the state’s smallest in terms of output and seating, and also the town’s oldest brewery.
Beer Engine takes its name from a device used for pumping beer from a cask. With a skull and winged-hops logo, Beer Engine’s punk vibe filters into their beers: Bone Dry Stout, Virtue Porter, King George Nut Brown and Brett De Garde. Besides their own beers, they also pour guest taps, including Louisville sister brewery Monnik Beer Company.
While you’re near Beer Engine, walk a few blocks to not-yet-on-the-Trail Gypsy Run Brewery, which opened in December 2018. However, if all that beer makes you crave some good ‘ole bourbon, continue to Jane Barleycorn’s for a wide array of bourbons and bourbon cocktails.
Mirror Twin Brewing
725 National Avenue, Lexington
In 2016, Mirror Twin opened in Lexington’s Warehouse Block, a once-industrial section now replete with a brewery, restaurant, and home furnishing stores.
Owner/head brewer Derek DeFranco based the concept on his own life: he has an identical twin brother and they’re mirror images of one another. Only a few beers at a time are “mirror twin” beers, and those get poured from a twin draft system. To “twin” the beer, DeFranco will add or remove an element.
For instance, Mos’ Def uses mosaic hops whereas Citranomical replaces it with Citra hops to give it a lemony flavor. Cowabunga Dude!!, a milk stout, twins in becoming You, Me, and Mr. PB, a chocolate peanut butter milk stout. Besides the twin beers, they have regular beers on tap, in addition to guest taps and Rolling Oven brick oven pizza.
West Sixth Brewery
501 W 6th Street, Lexington | West Sixth Greenroom, 109 W Main Street, Lexington
West Sixth’s flights include a flagship IPA and seasonal beers — Photo courtesy of Garin Pirnia
Soon after West Sixth opened in 2012, it quickly became one of Kentucky’s best-known breweries. Located inside former Rainbo Bread Factory, the sprawling space (dubbed Bread Box) contains a taproom with 15-20 drafts and bottles and cans for sale.
Adjoining restaurant Smithtown Seafood supplies hungry drinkers with Kentucky-grown catfish and beer cheese made from West Sixth’s Pay It Forward Cocoa Porter. (Olivia’s Beer Cheese makes a special blend just for the brewery.)
In 2016, West Sixth expanded to downtown and opened a satellite taproom called The Greenroom. It’s a smaller space but with the same brews, such as flagship West Sixth IPA. And if those two locations weren’t enough, in Frankfort, they run a farm where they grow hops and fruits. You can even rent out the space for weddings!
The Beer Trappe
811 Euclid Avenue, Lexington
Lexington’s The Beer Trappe sells more than 500 bottles of beer — Photo courtesy of The Beer Trappe
Though it’s not a brewery, The Beer Trappe sells a score of local brews in a storefront located in Chevy Chase near downtown Lexington. It opened in 2010 and became the city’s first craft beer store.
Besides offering Central Kentucky and regional beers, they also sell around 500 bottles from all over the world. Rotating drafts mainly include non-local beers, like the ever-popular Zombie Dust (3 Floyds in Indiana) and Jester King beers (based in Texas).
Dreaming Creek Brewery
109 E Irvine Street, Richmond
Dreaming Creek is located in the heart of Daniel Boone country — Photo courtesy of VisitLEX
It’s unclear if frontiersman Daniel Boone liked beer, but if he were alive today, he’d probably visit Richmond, Kentucky’s Dreaming Creek Brewery. Twenty six miles from Lexington, it’s located in the heart of Boone’s former turf.
The brewery, which opened in June 2018, brews 20 types of beers and focuses on some history-themed ones, like 1792 Kentucky Common Ale (Kentucky joined the Union that year), Boone’s Farmhouse Ale and Natural Bridge IPA, named after a naturally created arch in a Kentucky state park.
Fort Boonesborough, one of the first American settlements west of the Appalachians, is located just 12 miles from the brewery. Make a day of drinking some suds and learning local history.
Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling
401 Cross Street, Lexington
Alltech Lexington Brewing is Lexington’s oldest brewery — Photo courtesy of Sarah Jane Sanders, courtesy of VisitLEX
Known as the city’s oldest brewery, Alltech Lexington Brewing came to be in 1999, when Irish immigrant Pearse Lyons, owner of agriculture company Alltech, purchased the 200-year-old Lexington Brewing and put his stamp on it by launching Kentucky Ale a year later.
In 2006, the company started brewing a line of bourbon barrel-aged beers, including a coffee stout and a vanilla ale. In 2012, Alltech opened its distillery in the same building as the brewery and they produce Town Branch bourbon. The distillery’s on the Bourbon Trail, so stop by and kill two birds with one stone.
609 Main Street, Paris
Visit Paris, Kentucky’s only brewery — Photo courtesy of GLINTstudios, courtesy of VisitLEX
If you can’t visit Paris, France, why not try Paris, Kentucky? Rooster Brewing is located less than 30 miles from Georgetown, Lexington and Winchester, home to The Beer Cheese Trail and annual The Beer Cheese Festival.
To reach Rooster, you’ll traverse scenic backroads dotted with beautiful horse farms, rolling hills, and that iconic bluegrass. Founded in 2014, Rooster became Paris’ and Bourbon County’s first brewery. They brew wild ales, American black ales, and saisons, and they name their beers comical things like Quiche My Ass and Pretty Nice Blond.
1400 Delaware Avenue, Lexington
In 2016, Kentucky received its first cider brewery — Photo courtesy of John Buckman, courtesy of VisitLEX
Until 2016, Kentucky didn’t have a cider brewery. But Pivot manifested and it presses apples on-site, brewing dry-hopped, semi-sweet and sweet hard ciders. Vintage is a dry cider, Gingham is a strawberry cider, Freckles is a ginger cider and Off Trail contains chai spices.
On any given day, they have 12 ciders and around eight guest beers on tap, so they can mix the two into “cider mashups,” such as The Bluegrass Snakebite: Winchester Brew Works ESB and KY Sunrise (cherry cider). They figure 190 combinations exist