In a futile attempt to branch out from my beer-centric nature, I planned to spend last Saturday in Frankfort, KY touring distilleries and sampling bourbon. After wading through the tourist trap amalgamation of crying children, long lines, and bumbling ignorant tour guides, I gave up. I sat down, whipped out my phone, and looked for a brewpub to cheer me up. Disappointment in my rearview mirror, I moved on to Country Boy Brewing in Lexington. Noticing a lack of reviews, I wasn’t expecting much, but what I found was one of the best-run new breweries I’ve come across. Country Boy Brewing is innovative, unpretentious, and most importantly makes good beer…the numerous breweries in Columbus set to open this year should take note of a few lessons: find innovative ways to save money, take the money you save and sell cheap beer out of your tap room, and don’t be afraid to launch with big, unusual beers. Craft beer is a community, and news of high quality, unique products travels fast.
Country Boy operates out of a warehouse that used to house a batting cage (apparently, they still find stray baseballs on occasion). The 4000 sq ft facility has a quarter partitioned off as a tap room, while the rest houses the brewery and cold storage. Following the formula of locals Zauber Brewing and Seventh Son, Country Boy forgoes the kitchen and hosts a food truck. There’s also a sign on the wall with a list of local delivery joints – thoughtful touch. (I tried El Habanero Loko, which lived up to its name by being spicy as hell and employing only one English speaking person.)
After trying all ten of the house taps and talking to brewer-owner Daniel Harrison, or ‘DH’, I asked him to show me around and tell me more about the brewery. It was founded in late 2011 by three honest-to-God country boys, and just opened its doors in February, which absolutely blew me away given the quality of their beer. As DH says: “Bad beer fails, good beer prevails.”
What impressed me more was that Country Boy didn’t just launch with the standard pale ale/stout/blonde offerings – they had beers such as their Jalapeno Smoked Porter on tap from the word go. DH recently tapped Schnickelfritz Spruce, a tasty pale ale made with fresh spruce berries. Other creative names include Black Gold Porter and Cougar Bait Blonde. Country Boy has several big beers on tap, including a rye pale ale and stout aged in bourbon barrels.
Necessity being the mother of invention, Country Boy comes up with creative ways to save money. DH created their fermenters by welding glycol chillers onto used dairy tanks, and created a hopback out of a water filter and some stainless steel braid (a hopback is a canister stuffed full of hops that hot wort is run through on the way to the chiller). For best flavor, that’s the only filtration the beer sees. They rely on referrals for business, DH said. “We haven’t spent a dime on advertising. It’s all been word-of-mouth, just people who are excited about beer.”
Take the roadtrip to Lexington – it’s only 3.5 hours away from Columbus – and stop by Country Boy for a few pints. You’re likely to find high quality brews and some off the wall recipes. And to the new breweries opening in Columbus, take note of what the country boys down in Lexington are doing. Open with big beers, be creative, and put your advertising money into selling cheap beer in the tap room. Trust me, word will get around.