Craft Brewers Offer Another Reason to Visit Central Kentucky
By Robin Roenker
Kentucky is known for its Bourbon Trail (kybourbontrail.com), and deservedly so, but in Lexington — home to the University of Kentucky, Keeneland racetrack, and several nearby distilleries — a growing and tight-knit group of brewers wants you to know there’s also a booming craft beer community to be enjoyed while you’re here.
The city’s “Brewgrass Trail” (visitlex.com/brewgrass-trail) has expanded to include 18 breweries, including two cideries, Pivot Brewing and Wise Bird Cider Co., the latter of which opened in June as the newest member of the trail. Ten of the stops are within the Lexington city limits, while the other eight are in communities close by.
Visitors can pick up a Brewgrass Trail passport at participating breweries or at the Lexington Visitors Center and redeem it for prizes: six stops earn a t-shirt, while 12 or more net either a ball cap, beanie, or pair of pint glasses.
The real reward, though, is the opportunity to taste through Lexington’s growing and eclectic beer and cider scene, and to sense, firsthand, the true camaraderie that has developed among the brewers here.
“We are honored to be part of Lexington’s craft beverage tourism industry,” said Wise Bird’s Tim Wright, who owns and runs the heritage-style cidery with his wife, Greta. “We spent a lot of time exploring this industry across the country before deciding to move to Kentucky. What we have going on here is really unique and exciting.”
Making the Rounds
Wise Bird hopes to introduce visitors to the world of single-varietal ciders, crafted from heritage cider apple varieties such as Harrison, Ashmead’s Kernel, and Arkansas Black. But the Wrights don’t want your visit there to be staid or academic.
“We don’t care who you are or what you’re wearing, you’re going to feel welcome at our place,” Greta Wright said. “We want to make visiting our cidery the best experience of your day.”
Start your Brewgrass Trail journey in downtown Lexington’s buzzy Distillery District — a revitalized dining and entertainment mecca housed on the former James E. Pepper distillery campus. It’s home to not only Wise Bird Cider Co., but also neighboring Fusion Brewery, which opened in February under the direction of former Eastern Kentucky University chemistry professor Christian Paumi.
While in the area, make the few steps to Ethereal Brewery, which has been a go-to destination for locals and visitors since opening in 2014, thanks to its creative offerings. Its expansive outdoor patio overlooks Town Branch Creek.
Once you’ve tackled the Distillery District, plan a trip to West Sixth Brewing, a founding member of Lexington’s craft-brew scene known for its flagship IPA and barrel-aged releases. Nearby Mirror Twin Brewing, like most stops on the trail, offers styles across the board, releasing a “Mirror Twin” of one of its flagships each Monday that alters a single ingredient to experiment with flavor profiles. And if it’s European-style beers you’re after, don’t miss Blue Stallion Brewing Company, where the focus is on German-style lagers and British-style ales.
To complement their brews, many stops offer on-site food or rolling food trucks. Find out about daily food truck pairings at LexBeerScene.com, which also posts updates about what’s on tap and other special trail happenings
Whichever stops you choose, don’t be surprised to see offerings from other local Brewgrass Trail sites on tap.
“We plan to have a dedicated tap for Pivot ciders at all times,” Wise Bird’s Greta Wright said. “I think when people come to Lexington, they sense how supportive we all are of one another. There’s a cooperative vibe here that helps us all succeed.”
Photo by GLINTstudios, courtesy of VisitLEX.