When the Bluegrass Brewing Company production brewery on East Main Street rebranded to Goodwood Brewing back in May, the longtime Louisville beer brand suddenly found itself no longer on retail shelves or on local guest taps. Owner Pat Hagan said it would likely be months before bottling production would resume.
But in the meantime, the original BBC is focusing on getting its beer back into draft lines outside its own brewpubs, and now there’s a new line of BBC products hitting retail shelves. They’re beer-centric, but they’re not beer. And they sort of underline the old BBC slogan that “Beer is Food.”
The four products include BBC Premium Porter Mary Bloody Mary Mix, BBC Beer Cheese (which has long been available for dine-in at the brewpubs), BBC Cajun Relish, and BBC Spicy Remoulade. Developed by Hagan and catering chef Sean Haggerty, the products not only contain (or pair well with) BBC beer, they focus as much as possible on other local ingredients.
The products are being produced for retail by Pop’s Pepper Patch, a Louisville food manufacturer, while its distributor is Fish Market Inc.
I stopped by the BBC location in St. Matthews for a taste of all four products, and they were happy to oblige. It was lunchtime when I arrived, and I didn’t necessarily want to drink vodka, so I asked the bartender if he would make me a virgin bloody mary with the new house mix, and he gladly obliged.
He added the usual suspects, such as hot sauce and Worcestershire, plus olives, a pickle slice and celery, but left the mix front and center. It’s an interesting and unique concoction, to be sure, smoky and lightly spiced, with just a hint of the BBC Dark Star Porter in the flavor profile. Most importantly, it’s miles away from the generic mixes that seem to be just glorified tomato juice.
Mixed with the other ingredients, it showed fantastic potential and is fairly priced at $7 for a 750ml bottle (you have to buy your own vodka, of course).
“It will have a bit more kick with vodka in it,” the bartender said. I would imagine so. The good news is that the flavor is bold enough not to fall away in the face of ice and other ingredients. If you’re drinking a bloody mary that looks pink, you’re probably using the wrong mix (or putting in too much vodka — but that’s up to you). Haggerty even said it is great when used for sauce, which doesn’t surprise me a bit.
The beer cheese is made with BBC’s Altbier with an unspecified processed cheese and “local spices” — mustard powder, aged peppers and garlic powder are all listed, but it’s impossible to tell what’s local — and packaged in a 12-ounce plastic container for $6.
The bad news is the seal was really hard to open (thank goodness I found a screwdriver); the good news is the beer cheese compares favorably to what is served in the brewpubs. It’s thick and tangy, slightly sharp, with only mild spices. The peppers and garlic do take a step forward after a few bites, however. It’s a solid beer cheese that goes great with the house-made potato chips. The fact that I had a hard time stopping even though I’d already had lunch was telling.
The relish and remoulade will be available soon, according to BBC marketing director Kathy Ogburn, but the product testing has gone well.
“The response has been incredible,” said Ogburn. “We started sampling during Derby week and the Kentucky Derby Beer Festival and the Derby City Brewfest. People have been asking for (the products) ever since.”
But it’s the two sauces Haggerty was especially happy to see hit the market. He had released the relish roughly eight years ago, around the time Big Dave’s was a staple in the Highlands, selling out 40 cases in six weeks. A deal to get that and the remoulade into Kroger fell through at the last minute, and the sauces have been in limbo ever since.
He signed on with BBC a few years ago and brought the idea to Hagan, who jumped on board. For Haggerty, it represents the culmination to a lot of hard work.
“Eight years I’ve been working on this,” he said. “I’m just ecstatic. This has been a goal of mine for years and years, and to hold the product in my hand, my babies, is incredible.”
The BBC Cajun Relish is tomato-based with local habaneros, bell peppers, garlic and herbs; for me, it smells and even looks quite a bit like an intense salsa, ready for chip-dipping. It is a deep, blood-red color with a creamy texture and crunchy vegetables with a lightly sweet flavor that gives way to a high dose of habanero that leaves behind a lingering heat. Really tasty stuff, especially if you like habanero peppers. (Haggerty likes it with shrimp.)
Meanwhile, the BBC Spicy Remoulade is a mayo-based aioli made with roasted red bell pepper and garlic puree, adding basil and other spices to form a spread that pops with onion and garlic, and adds a subtle cayenne heat to the mix. This would be a great sub for bland mayo on pretty much any kind of sandwich.
For BBC, it’s a great boost at a time when the Theater Square location has closed and beer distribution is back to the drawing board.
“It’s keeping our logo alive,” Haggerty said. “We wanted to show we are still growing. If anything, it’s a good way to keep our brand in someone’s fridge at home.”
The products will be available at BBC brewpubs, Liquor Barn, Diamond Pub and Billiards, Theater Square Marketplace, Dragon King’s Daughter, and Barret Avenue Liquors, with more expected in the coming weeks. They will also be available for order online.