Something’s Brewing

Beerworks, Country Boy Brewing, West Sixth Brewing Company — Lexington’s pint glass of craft brew runneth over

Lexington, KY – With the recent opening of two craft beer hubs and another set to open soon, several local beer aficionados are working diligently to increase Lexington’s selection of high-quality, unique, local beer options — with a particular emphasis on the do-it-yourself aspect.“That’s really big these days,” said Greg Leimer, one of the owners of Lexington Beerworks, a new craft beer bar that also sells home-brewing supplies and plans to offer home-brew classes. “People are saying, ‘I’m going take a more active role in what I’m consuming, so I want to know where it came from; I want to do it myself.’”

Located on North Limestone, Lexington Beerworks opened in January under the helm of Leimer and his business partners Michael Vincent and Jason Wolf, all Lexmark employees by day and home-brew enthusiasts by night and on the weekends. While the bar selection, with more than 100 craft beers by the bottle and 12 rotating taps, is impressive, the home-brew section and the opportunity to help educate their clients are particular sources of pride for the owners.

“We do like beer, and we like to drink beer, but we’re also here to educate,” Leimer said, adding that in the craft-beer world, education can include anything from helping people find something new that they like — or figuring out why they like certain beers over other varieties — to teaching people how they can make it themselves. “We want to encourage people to come in and try something they haven’t done before. Try a new beer, try to make it –– we’re here to help.”

“The community of craft beer is awesome,” said Daniel “D.H.” Harrison, one of the partners behind Country Boy Brewing, a microbrewery on Chair Avenue (just south of UK’s campus off South Broadway), which opened its doors in February. “It’s something they’ve had out West for a while, but we haven’t really had it here.”

Engaging with the local community is a common thread in the craft-beer industry. By official definition, craft beer is defined as any beer that is produced in annual batches of six million barrels or less, but according to the Brewer’s Association, earmarks in the concept typically include not only product style and innovation but community involvement and distinctive approaches to connecting with customers. Lexington Beerworks, for example, plans to have a system of iPads up and running within a few weeks that will allow customers to rate the beers they’ve tried in order to receive information about up-and-coming beers that are specifically suited for their tastes.

Being a good community steward is a driving force behind West Sixth Brewing Company, which is currently under construction and set to open its doors in early spring.

“When we started West Sixth, we wanted to start a business whose goal was not only in the bottom line, but (one whose) success would be measured by how much we do for the community itself,” said Ben Self, one of the partners behind the venture.

The company has committed to donating 6 percent of profits to local community organizations and charities and will be part of a larger, mixed-use, community-oriented plaza called the Bread Box, which will house a variety of like-minded community organizations. Located on the corner of West Sixth and Jefferson Streets, the former Rainbo Bread Factory is already home to nearly a dozen artist studios.

The idea for the Bread Box was born after the West Sixth partners encountered the 90,000-square-foot warehouse while on the hunt for a space for their brewery, which only needed approximately 8,000 square feet. They fell in love with the location, which is surrounded by historic homes, a burgeoning culinary district on Jefferson Street and the renewed urban energy of Lexington’s north side of downtown, and they immediately began brainstorming on ways their brewery could be the catalyst for something even larger in the community.

Of course, despite all of the hype surrounding the culture of craft beer, for many brewers, the product takes precedence over all else.

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