This may come as a surprise to some, but I never really liked beer until after I got out of college and moved to Louisville. I could get through some Old Style (official beer of my beloved Cubbies) during a game of beer pong or a big Miller Lite at the local Mexican joint, but other than that I tended to avoid beer. It wasn’t until I moved to Louisville and started frequenting Flanagan’s pint-nights circa 2005 that my fondness for the liquid manifestation of water/yeast/malt/hops started to grow. I may have frequented Flannie’s quite a bit (it takes a while to get your Centurion Club mug), but the first place I truly felt like one of the locals was the BBC St Matthews Brewpub. It was my first true watering hole and despite a prolonged absence, it’s still easy for me to see why I felt that way about the St Matthews location.
My love for BBC started off with a few buddies meeting up for a beer and wings after work. That quickly led to a decision to join the Wort Hog Club (who doesn’t like having your very own glass to drink out of at a brewpub?). Soon after, the small group of us would spend 2 or 3 afternoons a week enjoying the libations while sitting around solving all of the worlds’ problems. Sam Cruz became a pal, Jeff Gesser learned our names as well as our beer of choice, and the few of us even pissed off a local drinking group for regularly sitting at the back-bar they thought they controlled on Thursdays. It was our own little Cheers, where everybody knew our name, and I became a bit of a regular.
This went on for several years but at some point that changed. For multiple reasons, I stopped frequenting the St Matthews location. One reason is that I was a Sam fan boy so I naturally started visiting Against the Grain when it opened. Another issue is that most of my other drinking buddies switched jobs, making BBC a less convenient place to gather and quench our thirsts. Lastly, many other craft beer options started popping up, both new breweries/bars opening and existing locales catering more to the growing craft beer crowd. No matter the reasons though, I stopped going. And I now realize that was a mistake. Many things may have changed in my absence, whether it be the re-designed interior or the people actually making the beer, but the reasons BBC became one of my favorite places remained in place.
Speaking of beer, Andrew Dimery (he’s hard to miss… guy is literally a giant) is doing a hell of a job in his duties as head brewer at BBC. The year-round selections consist of the APA, Altbier, Dark Store Porter, Wheat, and Meade. For the adventurous souls out there, I suggest mixing the APA with either the wheat, turning it into a hoppy American wheat ale, or the alt, creating a hoppy red. The APA/Alt mix is a personal favorite of mine. Big thanks to Jeff for suggesting I give that one a try many years ago.
As an added bonus, the seasonal offerings seem to have really picked up over the past six months or so. Recently I’ve enjoyed their helles bock (To Helles and Bock) and barleywine (Bearded Pat’s Barleywine), but their Irish stout, aptly named Stout House, has been my favorite. This brew is a fantastic interpretation of the style, packing all the roasty/coffee flavors into a dry, medium-bodied, easy-drinking stout. As is noted on their website, this bad-boy has a lot of “quaffability”. Who doesn’t like quaffability?
Another thing that never disappoints is the food. Beer cheese? Check. Pizza? Yep, that’s good too. Fish and chips? Some of my favorite in town. Poultry your thing? Can’t go wrong with either the grilled chicken or buffalo chicken sandwiches. But what brings the Mrs. and I back the most are the burgers, especially the KY-raised bison burger. Add onions, jalapenos, and white cheddar and you have one of my favorite burgers in town. And you can’t forget the garlic fries, packed with a head-turning amount of freshly chopped garlic. Your breath may offend anyone you speak with, but it’s worth it.
I can’t really describe it, but there’s something about sitting around the bar at BBC that just feels right. I like that the folks pouring the beers tend to be friendly and engaging. I like that there always tends to be laughter coming from the regulars conversing over their randomly-stickered mugs. Speaking of regulars, those at the St Matthews locale seem to be some of the most loyal in town. I’ve been enjoying BBC for about 7 years now and many of the faces I see today are the same I saw when I first started frequenting. That says a lot about a place. And then there’s the beer. BBC has gone through a lot of change on the brewery side, but things are certainly heading in a great direction with Andrew. The beer is just really good, and enjoying it out of my personalized mug (one of the old shorter/fatter ones, not the tall skinny ones given out today… fitting in my case) surrounded by people I enjoy chatting with is just the type of experience I want from a brewpub.
BBC has certainly changed in the years I’ve come to know it, but it’s the feeling of familiarity, of being one of the locals, that keeps me coming back. Well, that and the beer. And the food. Those are damn good too.