Paul Young was attending film school at the University of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina ripped her way through the city, leveling huge sections of the landscape. Thousands of lives were turned upside down. One of those lives was Young’s.
“Job, school, friends – gone,” he said, looking back on that time in 2005.
It sent him packing back to Louisville, where he grew up, not exactly knowing what he wanted to do. His first instinct was to open a brewery – mostly, he just knew he wanted to create something that would last. But a friend told him running a brewery also involved running a bar, and gave him a book about doing so.
“I started researching what it would take to run a bar,” he said, “and I thought, ‘I don’t want to do that.’”
That’s how My Old Kentucky Homebrew was born in 2009. And this week (if the paperwork is approved as expected), his five-year project is slated to become one of only a handful of facilities to offer “brew on premise” services to home brewers. It will be the first one ever in Louisville.
“People around here have talked about doing them,” Young said, “but this is going to be the first fully devoted brew on premise that I know of.”
Brew on premise is not a unique concept, but it is a rare one. Young, who was in his early 20s at the time, did his research by visiting similar concepts in Cleveland and in Maryland; he said there are several brew on premise facilities on the west coast, but many of those focus on wine.
What it means, essentially, is that a home brewer who is accustomed to brewing small batches of a gallon or two at a time can expand their recipes and brew up to 15 gallons using My Old Kentucky Homebrew’s three-barrel brewing system. For a batch that would yield about 90 bottles of beer, Young said, a brewer can expect to spend around $200 (not including bottles).
The good news is that the entire operation is supervised. And it’s a step by step process that even a novice brewer can follow.
First, you either bring your own recipe or you choose one from a selection available at My Old Kentucky Homebrew. Some are original to the store, some are generic recipes , and some are recipes for popular craft beers such as Sweetwater 420 IPA.
Next, you pick your ingredients from the in-store stock. My Old Kentucky Homebrew has it all, from hops to yeast to malt extract. Then you brew the wort. Once the wort is ready, it is transferred to buckets by staff, and the brewer pitches the yeast. It then goes to the fermenting room, which is kept at around 68 degrees, 24 hours a day.
Once the beer is ready, it is kegged, and then the brewer can use the bottling system at My Old Kentucky Homebrew to bottle the beer. At that point, it’s all about drinking it, which obviously is the best part.
The fermenting room can hold 144 buckets of wort, while the brewing system is capable of brewing six batches at a time, up to 15 gallons each. The goal, he said, is to brew six batches per day. And perhaps the best part of it all is that all the cleanup and sterilization of the equipment falls to the crew at My Old Kentucky Home Brew.
“We do all the nasty stuff,” Young said.
At first, the system will be available at specific times, but Young envisions it going to seven days a week. And, he said, he believes the service will be in quick demand.
“I get phone calls about it every day,” he said. “Our belief is it is going to fill up very fast.”
Young also envisions three different “tiers” of brewing. The first is for inexperienced home brewers who will need supervision and don’t have bottling equipment or bottles. But experienced brewers will be able to brew larger batches and then finish the beer themselves, meaning their cost will be lower. Perhaps most interestingly, Young ultimately wants to offer special event brewing – for instance, if a couple wants to brew a special beer for their wedding reception, they can invite the wedding party in to do a catered brew-in event.
“Then when the time comes, they will have this unique beer that is only theirs,” Young said.
And making one’s own beer is really what Old Kentucky Home Brew has always been about. Brew on premise, Young said, is “an extension of what we’re already doing.”
This new feature simply enhances the possibilities. If someone has been brewing at home on a stovetop, this gives them the opportunity to take it a step farther.
“It’s 100 percent home brewing,” Young said. “It’s just not at home.”