Beer Meets Brandy

Bluegrass Brewing's Barbarian Ale barrel aging at Copper and Kings, photo by Kevin Gibson
Bluegrass Brewing's Barbarian Ale barrel aging at Copper and Kings, photo by Kevin Gibson

Barrel-aged beers are surely a “thing” these days, as beer nerds seek out fun new options for enjoying brewed beverages. But typically, what comes out of a barrel in step one is whiskey or bourbon, at least in the Midwest.

Perhaps ironically, in Louisville, Ky. – right in the middle of bourbon country – there is a brew festival of a different kind looming, and it involves beer aged in brandy barrels. That’s right, apple and grape brandy meets a wide variety of beer styles. Just add palates and livers.

Lock, Stock & Smoking Barrels happens on Saturday, Sept. 20, and there will be a dozen beers on tap that may or may not ever be produced again. They are aging in sweet, sweet barrels even as you read this. And no one in this bourbon-crazed state knows for sure how they will taste. Which is kind of part of the fun.

“There’s not a double of this festival,” said John King, executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers. “So, it’s very unique.”

Unique indeed. Copper & Kings, located at 1111 E. Washington Street in Louisville, is unique enough in that it is a brandy distillery in a city that is bourbon-centric. But to add beer into the mix is a curveball to say the least. King proposed the idea to Joe Heron, co-founder of Copper & Kings, and Heron immediately signed on. In fact, he had already pondered the idea of pairing beer with brandy barrels.

Heron knows his stuff. He and his wife, Lesley, are the creators of Crispin Cider, so seeking out new avenues for beverages is nothing new.

“The culture at Copper & Kings is in lock step with that of craft brewers,” Heron said. “We have always seen craft brewers as the pioneers in artisanal creativity and we are following that imaginative tradition.”


If you’re keen to travel, this destination event also will feature live music, brandy cocktails and a pig roast. Yes, they have a barbecue pit specifically designed for roasting pigs at Copper & Kings. Brandy-barrel beer and roast pork? Hard to beat. Maybe you can have some bourbon the day after to cure your hangover.

Here’s the skinny: There are two separate sessions, one from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and one 4-7 p.m. These unique beers will be available while they last, and a VIP ticket gets you unlimited tastes. Some of the beers will never be made again. Any leftover beer likely will be entered into beer competitions around the U.S. and won’t be available. It’s a one-shot-and-done affair. Tickets are $45 per session, but are discounted for a limited time and can be purchased online.

If you need more enticement, here is the lineup of brews that are aging and nearly ready to sample, as provided by the Lock, Stock & Smoking Barrels creators (with some editing to take out the inside jokes):

Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse: Takashi, an imperial stout aged in a brandy barrel. It is named for the lovable character from the movie “Revenge of the Nerds.”

Country Boy Brewing: Experimental Stout #291, a stout aged in a brandy barrel. Also, be on the lookout for one of their signature IPAs aging in a variety of barrels.

Great Flood Brewing: Barreling In is a Belgian Golden Strong ale aged in a brandy barrel. At 9 percent ABV, be careful with this one.

West 6th Brewing: Transylvania Tripel, a tripel-aged in a brandy barrel.

New Albanian Brewing Company: Frankensteiner, a hefeweizen aged in a brandy barrel.

Beer Engine: Never Be Gold, an English barleywine aged in a brandy barrel. Let it warm for full flavor.

Gordon Biersch: Birthday Bock, a blond bock aged in a brandy barrel. Brewer Nick Landers brewed this one for his birthday. What a nice gift.

Alltech: Kentucky Apple Barrel Kolsch – the name speaks for itself.

Bluegrass Brewing CompanySt. Matthews: Mild Davis, an English Mild aged in a brandy barrel.

Lock Stock
Lock Stock

Flat 12 Bierwerks: Spirit Mover, a saison aged in a brandy barrel, and a nod to Louisville’s own Hunter S. Thompson.

Bluegrass Brewing Company Clay & Main: Barbarian Ale, a honey ale aged in a brandy barrel.

Falls City: Insert Name Here, a brown ale aged in a brandy barrel that apparently doesn’t have a name yet. Or maybe it does.

There will also be other beers available, as these are likely to run out fairly quickly. Hey, how will attendees be able to resist drinking these fun concoctions?

“As far as I know this is unique,” Heron said, “getting all the brewers to age beer in the similar apple or grape brandy barrels versus a more hodgepodge of individually collected barrels.”

There’s that word again: unique. Heck, if this festival doesn’t fit that bill, what does?