Bluegrass Brewing Co., Lexington Brewing and Distilling prepare to create collaborative brew

Look closely, and you can see the BBC logo at the left, and the Kentucky Ale logo to the right in the Powerpoint slide. (Photos by Steve Coomes. Click to see full size.)

Kentucky’s two largest brewers may be cooking up something special.

Louisville-based Bluegrass Brewing Company’s bottling operation and Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. (LBDC), maker of Kentucky Ale and several other beers, have begun talks to produce a collaborative brew.

Currently, the product has been loosely dubbed the I-64 Corridor Collaboration: LBDC-BBC Limited Edition Collaboration Brew, though no official production timeline has been set.

While both breweries produce premium bourbon barrel-aged beers, there also is no indication barrel-aging will be used.

According to the public relations team at LBDC, the beer likely will be canned and sold in four-packs.

Much to the surprise of brewers from both facilities, LBDC owner, Pearse Lyons, president and CEO of Alltech, LBDC’s parent company, made the announcement during an unrelated press function on April 18.

Hal Gervis, global operations manager for LBDC, said that that very afternoon, LBDC brewmaster Ken Lee and BBC brewery manager Joel Halbleib, had discussed only the possibility of collaborating on a beer.

Once informed of the talks, the excited Lyons asked his public relations team to create a slide mentioning the beer in that evening’s presentation.

“The boss saw it as a good opportunity to mention it, though it might have been a bit premature since we’re at a very early stage,” Gervis said, laughing. “The fact is, you’re as in the loop as I am at this point.”

Halbleib and BBC bottling partner, Phillip Dearner, also were surprised to hear that information had been mentioned publicly.

“We have talked about it, but there’s no agreement in place about doing the collaboration,” Dearner said. “Discussions have happened, but there’s nothing final.”

BBC bottling is the middle of a large-scale expansion at its production plant, located at the corner of Clay Street and Main Street.

That expansion, Dearner insisted, is in response to strong, multimarket demand for BBC bottled and keg products.

Shortages of those products, in fact, have been reported in several areas, an issue Halbleib said the brewery is eager remedy.

“We expect to make up for that shortfall very soon,” Halbleib said. Asked whether the shortage was allowed to occur to spur greater demand for BBC products, Halbleib added, “We wouldn’t have missed all those sales on purpose. It’s just that there’s strong demand for our beer.”

Pearse Lyons, CEO, president and founder of Alltech, parent company of Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co.

Lyons also announced last week that LBDC will soon release Kentucky India Pale Ale on May 11.

The 16-ounce IPA will be the brewery’s first canned beer, and the fifth beer in its portfolio, which includes Kentucky Ale, Kentucky Light/Kolsch, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and Kentucky Stout.

The beer itself, described as “a deliciously hoppy, golden-hued American India Pale Ale with bright citrus flavors and sweet floral aromas,” is already on tap at multiple bars in Louisville and Lexington.

Lyons also announced that LBDC’s sister company, Town Branch Distillery, which opened last fall and became the newest distillery member of Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, will soon release two new rums, Labadee Gold and Labadee Dark.

The line extension is a logical one for Lyons. Before moving to America from Ireland, Lyons worked for the Guinness brewery and Jameson Irish Whiskey. In Lexington, he founded, Alltech, a producer of hormone- and antibiotic-free livestock feed. The company now has multiple international outposts.

A chemist by trade and also a master distiller, Lyons is predicting great things for both his brewery and his distillery.

“We have the potential to surpass Samuel Adams,” Lyons told several dozen international equine journalists gathered in Lexington for a press conference discussing Alltech’s sponsorship of the 2014 world equestrian games in Normandy, France. (The company also was the lead sponsor of the World Equestrian Games held in Lexington in 2010.) Adding with a grin and a wink acknowledging his brewery won’t achieve that mark anytime soon, Lyons added, “We like to think big.”

Regarding his boss’s vision for the future, Gervis said that when he joined Alltech several years ago, Lyons predicted Alltech would become a $100 million company. Today, its annual revenue $750 million.

“He is definitely a visionary, and sometimes it drives us a little crazy trying to keep pace with him,” Gervis said. “Years ago, when he told me about this becoming a $100 million company, I wondered if it was possible. But he has been able to do that and, I’m sure, much more in the future.”