New brewery coming to Frankfort will draw on a long history in Bourbon Country

A horse-drawn beer wagon sits in front of the original Sig Luscher Brewery, circa 1870. | Courtesy of Bill Rodgers

There are nearly 60 craft breweries operating in Kentucky. When Sig Luscher Brewery opens later this year in Frankfort, it won’t be one of them.

OK, technically it will, but it won’t be your typical craft brewery — its focus will be on a single beer style, a pilsner with German and Swiss influences that is in development, and there won’t be an IPA or a sour beer in sight. This is because Tim Luscher is among a group of investors that is opening the brewery with a specific goal in mind.

“Everybody else is opening a craft brewery,” Luscher tells Insider. “We’re looking at a scalable business. It’s one thing to open a bar that makes beer and another to open a business. To do that, we need to be scalable.”

Sig Luscher with his family at the family home, next door to the brewery. | Courtesy of Bill Rodgers

Luscher is the great-great-great-grandson of the brewery’s namesake, Sig Luscher, who originally opened the brewery in Frankfort in 1866 after emigrating from Switzerland.

The new space will be located at 221 Mero St., which essentially is across the street from the site of the original brewery downtown. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet sits there now.

The brewery won’t be large, with a taproom of about 400 square feet, and a 700-square-foot brewery with a three-barrel system. It’s kind of like a cabin, but the main attraction will be an estimated 5,000-square-foot beer garden.

Luscher says the plan is to make the flagship operation a sort of home base, a place to perfect the recipe and do research and development. Luscher Brewery’s pilsner is under development right now by former Falls City Brewing Co. brewer Dylan Greenwood.

“We’ll do three test batches at a time, taste it, and see what we like and don’t like,” Greenwood says. “Then we’ll do another round of three. We’re hoping by that time, we’ll have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to do.”

He says the beer will probably lean more toward the German influence, as Swiss pilsners have been tough to get in America. But the key point is that it’s the right recipe for a refreshing, approachable beer.

“We’re trying to lock down a pilsner that everybody’s going to be able to enjoy,” says Greenwood.

An original Sig Luscher Brewery bottle | Courtesy of Tim Luscher

And that’s what will differentiate Sig Luscher Brewery from other Kentucky breweries — the product will be tailored toward the Budweiser drinker who is looking for something local and something of higher quality.

“We want to make a beer that people drink and not think about,” Luscher says. “I think the (craft) trending for the past 10 years has helped us out. There’s always been palate for that lighter beer; there’s that customer that doesn’t want the heavier, the hoppier or whatever you want to call the craft beer. They want the other Budweiser. The average Joe has been kind of lost, and we see opportunity there.”

That the brand is a Frankfort original gives it an extra boost in local appeal in a town where bourbon rules.

Interestingly, Luscher says his great-great-great grandfather supplied yeast to some of the distilleries and also sold ice; in addition, his grandfather was a plant manager at Buffalo Trace for two decades starting in 1952.

Buffalo Trace is about a quarter-of-a-mile from the future site of the brewery.

The heritage will be reflected not only in the beer, but in the brand itself. Nathan Cryder, another investor in Sig Luscher Brewery, says the project’s creative director, Austin Dunbar, has designed a number of beer labels and brands, from Braxton Brewery to Bud Light. The branding also is currently in development.

“Crafting the beer goes hand in hand with crafting the brand,” says Cryder. “That heritage is very important to us, so that needs to be part of it, but it also needs to fit in with the modern world. We’re bringing something back to life. We don’t want to lose that history, yet it’s 152 years later.”

The target open date is August, but that depends on getting variances granted and permits issued, plus the build-out of the property hasn’t begun yet. But the mission is in place.

“I know my family,” Luscher says. “They made beer. It was about selling beer. We’re going back to that very simple but effective business model of ‘Let’s sell beer.’ How do we sell beer? We sell it to as many people as we can.”