It wasn’t that long ago that things didn’t seem to be going well for Falls City Beer. Its brewer had resigned, leaving all the beer production to a contract brewer in Nashville.
When owner David Easterling announced he had sold half his interest in the brand and formed a partnership with Old 502 Winery, abandoning the Falls City tap room and mini-museum on Barrett Avenue to move to the winery’s 35,000-square-foot space at 120 S. 10th St., it appeared things might not be working.
But six months later, Falls City is again brewing in Louisville — although Falls City Pale Ale and Hipster Repellant are still brewed by Blackstone Brewing in Nashville — and plans are in the works for a beer garden, seasonal releases, food and more.
I spoke with Easterling, who eagerly gave me samples of Falls City’s Black IPA and Amber Ale and talked about what’s ahead. He mentioned future events at the brewery, starting with a brew-in this coming February with the LAGERS Homebrew Club along with plenty of other happenings going forward. Of course, brewing is high on the list.
The current brewing equipment is the same seven-barrel system that was used for a time at the old location, a system that caused the brewery some problems when it was first set up.
“It didn’t have any instructions,” Easterling said, noting there were electrical issues and some user error involved. “We learned a lot.”
But that system did produce the now popular Hipster Repellant, which is the latest Falls City beer to be available in bottles. It seems to be working fine now, and more beers will come. Meanwhile, the big side lot adjacent to the winery/brewery will become home to a mini beer garden once warm weather returns. In addition, Easterling envisions food truck events and possibly even a block party in conjunction with Old 502 and Kentucky Peerless Distilling, which is just a few doors away on 10th Street.
There’s plenty going on behind the scenes as well. New brewer Dylan Greenwood, who came on board in August, is busy creating new beers, like the aforementioned Amber and a planned bourbon barrel stout. Formerly a brewer for Bluegrass Brewing Company and Foothills Brewery in North Carolina, Greenwood also recently brewed a red rye lager that will be sold going forward under the name Winter Lager.
“I’m not sure how people feel about rye,” Easterling said with a smile, noting that some will shy away from anything that has rye as an ingredient due to the unique, spicy flavor it brings.
Greenwood added, “You can get away with rye as a winter lager because people expect a bit of spiciness.” (He noted the beer also has some caraway.)
In the spring, a session IPA — which has already been popping up on taps around town — will be produced and packaged, with full local distribution. Easterling is especially happy with this beer (as well as the Winter Lager) in a craft beer market that is hop-crazy.
“I always find when I’m drinking it that I do get my hop fix,” he said, and at just 4.5 percent alcohol by volume (about the same as a Miller Lite), “four or five beers later, I still feel pretty good.”
The session IPA may be packaged via mobile canning. What that means is that Falls City will outsource a company, possibly Michigan Mobile Canning, which has a location in Indianapolis, to come to the brewery and can the beers on site.
“They show up with their truck, it takes three or four hours, and then they’re done,” Greenwood said.
Another notable beer in the works is what Greenwood called a “chocolate-covered strawberry stout.” He said he is trying to track down all the necessary ingredients to make it the way he wants.
Falls City is also making its own tap handles on site. Food in the form of small plates and appetizers is also in the plans for the tasting room, where visitors can now drink Old 502 wines as well as Falls City beers.
“It’s a pretty unique experience that nobody else can offer,” Easterling said of the tasting room, where both beer lovers and wine enthusiasts can find options for imbibing, not to mention shopping for Old 502 Winery and Falls City gear. “I think next year it will really take off. It’s easy to park down here, it’s easy to get to. People don’t normally come down here, but it’s a destination.”
Ultimately, Greenwood said, the long-term plan is to slowly but surely move all brewing production to the local facility. The brewery space has plenty of room for expansion, although he said that will take a lot more financial investment. In the meantime, Easterling is happy with the brewing and bottling Falls City has with its Nashville partner.
“We always get a really consistent product down there,” he said.
Overall, plans seem to be in place to keep the brand, which was created in 1905 and lasted locally until 1978, moving forward. Greenwood said once canning begins, there may be a throwback can in the offing to satisfy those purists who still remember the Falls City beer of 1960s and ’70s.
“People still ask for that, even though it sank the company in the 1970s,” Greenwood said. He likens the old Falls City to a film from the early ’80s that was, in its time, considered groundbreaking: “Tron.”
“It’s nostalgic,” Greenwood said, “but I don’t want to experience it again.”
He laughed and said, “We’re just trying to establish ourselves as a good craft brewery right now.”