Alltech Lexington Brewing Company by: Brian Meyer
There was a time when if you wanted the tastes of beer and bourbon you would order a shot and a beer, but with 5 generations of coopers in his past, the founder of Alltech Lexington Brewing Company, Dr. Pearse Lyons believed there was a much better way of combining these tastes into one amazing package. Originally from Ireland and with a rich family history in the barrel-making world, Dr. Lyons set out to found a brewery that not only held to the tenants of craft beer, but with the unique twist of using freshly decanted bourbon barrels to age the beer for six weeks to impart bourbon and oak notes into the beer without adding any alcoholic hotness.
This beer, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, has become what Alltech Lexington Brewing Co. is best known for and for good reason. While Bourbon Barrel Ale is far from the only beer the Kentucky brewery offers, it is definitely the most unique. While there are other beers that tout their time in barrels of various alcohols, this one is in a class of its own.
The Alltech Lexington Brewing Co. actually started when the original Lexington Brewing Company closed its doors in 1999. The history of Lexington brewing and distilling goes back into the 1790s, and with this rich history in mind, Dr. Lyons felt he had to continue the heritage and reopen the brewery with a focus on what Kentucky does best: bourbon.
Before beer started going into the charred oak barrels that recently held some of the best bourbon in Kentucky, Lexington Brewing made a few styles that required less time to make, but still are unique in of themselves. The first beer ever brewed in the newly reopened brewery was Kentucky Ale with Kentucky Kölsch following closely behind.
It was on this foundation that the flagship Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale was launched, immediately receiving an enormous level of attention and garnering numerous awards, including a silver medal at both the World Beer Cup and The Great American Beer Festival. With 98% of the world’s bourbon produced in Kentucky, it only makes sense that Dr. Lyons would choose this to be the home of his brewery.
Speaking of Dr. Lyons, his brewing history is something to be appreciated, too. Dr. Lyons spent his earlier non-doctored years interning for both Guinness and Harp Lager breweries, and even became the first Irishman to achieve a formal degree in brewing and distilling from the British School of Malting and Brewing. With over 100 years of history, it’s an understatement to say this school knows how to teach brewing.
There are currently three beers being offered from Lexington Brewing in Pittsburgh, and all three are pretty amazing. Each of the three beers listed below are only available on draft currently in Pittsburgh, so make sure to check out your favorite craft beer tap spot to get your own to try.
First up is Lexington Brewing’s original beer: Kentucky Ale. This beer merges two unique styles to make a beer that’s definitely different than anything you’ve had before. Kentucky Ale merges an Irish Red Ale with a British Pale Ale, giving the beer a great body malty sweet aroma, and fresh, clean taste that has the malty undertones of an Irish Red.
Light amber in color, this beer uses a tiny bit of malted wheat to give a richer, smoother taste. Much like Kentucky bourbon, Kentucky Ale owes some of tis unique taste to the water drawn from limestone aquifers under the Bluegrass region of Kentucky.
Beer Name – Kentucky Ale
Style – English Pale Ale
ABV – 5.34%
Appearance – Amber, leaning slightly towards red.
Aroma – Kentucky Ale has a light aroma that’s malty sweet with a hint of toasty character.
Taste – Very fresh taste up front with a toasty malt middle. The taste leans more towards an Irish Red but the body is closer to an English Pale Ale.
Finish – Clean finish with a slight malty aftertaste. Overall there is little to no bitterness present in Kentucky Ale.
Overall – The overall impression of this beer is clean and crisp with the toasty, maltiness that people love about Irish red ales. It has less of a body than a typical Irish red, which makes it far easier to drink in session.
Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
The flagship beer for Lexington Brewing, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale is one of the most unique beers to be aged in oak bourbon barrels. While there are quite a few bourbon beers on the market, this beer specifically has so many characteristics of the oak bourbon barrels it lives in for six weeks that you might wonder what magic has been added to the beer.
Nothing special is added to this beer except the specialized aging process that starts in barrels that have been emptied of their bourbon prize literally hours before being re-filled with soon-to-be Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.
When you try this beer the first thing you’ll notice is the subtle flavors of vanilla and oak that give way to a creamy toffee aroma and taste and finish. At 8.19% ABV, this is definitely a sipping beer, which is exactly what the strong bourbon character is perfect for.
Beer Name – Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
Style – English Strong Ale
ABV – 8.19%
Appearance – Pours medium amber with a white head that fades to a ring.
Aroma – The aroma is soft and oaky with a definite note of bourbon. Vanilla and toffee show through clearly.
Taste – The first taste is toasty with some toffee and vanilla. The oak and bourbon influence come through strong in the middle and carry all the way through to the end.
Finish – Toffee candy with a light bourbon taste. This beer is all bourbon and oak from start to finish.
Overall – Creamy, bourbon-heavy with notes of vanilla and toffee candy, this beer is definitely unique and definitely amazing. No bitterness is detectable while other flavors step in to fill its shoes perfectly.
Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout
If Bourbon Barrel Ale is the mature, refined member of the family then Bourbon Barrel Stout is the complex, artsy brother that has a lot going on. In one word, this beer is amazing.
At first glance this completely opaque black beer looks like any other stout you might find, but as soon as you smell it that all changes. Bourbon Barrel Stout has the same bourbon and oak notes found in its lighter-colored brother but adds in complex tastes of Haitian coffee and dark-roasted malts.
You’ll pick up a little bit of alcoholic taste in this stout, but in a very good way. The alcohol pairs perfectly with the vanilla from the oak and bourbon and the coffee to make an outstanding beer. If you like bourbon, coffee, or dark beers this is just about perfect for you.
Beer Name – Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout
Style – American Double / Imperial Stout
ABV – 8%
Appearance – Completely black with a light tan head.
Aroma – Dark coffee, alcohol, slight bourbon on the end.
Taste – Coffee up front with a middle that’s all vanilla and bourbon.
Finish – This beer finishes up with slightly bitter, strong coffee. The bourbon notes on the finish help to mellow this out.
Overall – This beer is very complex and has a lot to offer a fairly wide audience. The coffee is strong in both aroma and taste, and that strong taste pairs up perfectly with the vanilla and bourbon notes. This is definitely a beer to try.
Alltech Lexington Brewing beers can be found throughout Pittsburgh and are proudly distributed by Galli Wholesale.