According to Google Maps Louisville, Kentucky is 1 hour and 57 minutes from Indianapolis, Indiana. Yet in 26 years, 10 of which with a drivers license, I have never done any more than drive through Louisville on I-65. This weekend I changed that with a weekend adventure. My girlfriend and I spent a Saturday night in the middle of downtown Louisville.
(Editors note: Yes, we realize that Louisville is not in the Midwest, but if you since you can see it while standing in the Midwest it’s fair game.)
I was scheduled to be in Sparta, Kentucky on Saturday morning. So I decided that Saturday afternoon my girlfriend and I would head over to Louisville for the night. Earlier in the week I reserved a room at the Hyatt, which is located in the heart of downtown Louisville, and a half block from Fourth Street Live. For $169 we received a river view room, free valet parking, free bottle of champagne delivered to our room, and free breakfast buffet the following morning. I will say right now, the free breakfast buffet was a life saver after a night of bar hoping, and trying as much Kentucky bourbon and micro-brews possible.
We started the evening with the cold bottle of free champagne. After a pre-dinner drink we headed out on the town to check out the local fair. We first walked down Fourth Street Live stopping in the endless number of restaurants and bars to check out menus. Not finding anything that we were craving, we decided to move down the road. While most of the restaurants on Fourth Street we very nice, well decorated, and very appealing we found the prices to be slightly higher than we wanted to pay. One of the most interesting restaurants was the Makers Mark Bourbon House and Lounge; a Makers Mark Bourbon theme restaurant. The restaurant offered a number of entrees playing off of their bourbon.
We wound up finding the 3rd and Main Bluegrass Brewing Company’s brewpub. I personally love a good brew pub, and to this day have not found one that did not serve great food. The first Bluegrass Brewing beer that I ordered was a Bourbon Barrel Stout. The BBC used old Four Roses bourbon barrels to age the stout. It was a taste filled beer with a bourbon nut flavor and a smooth finish. As an appetizer we had a giant soft pretzel with homemade beer mustard. The beer mustard was full flavored and hard to describe, this one you will just have to try. There seemed to be a working relationship between BBC and Four Roses Bourbon, so I decided I to try a glass of Four Roses single barrel bourbon. The bourbon had a less than typical bourbon flavor, but in a good way. It had a amazing smooth finish, one that you would not be accustom to if you are a Jim Beam drinker. For dinner we split a 10” stone oven pizza. The pizza was cooked to perfection, with light crispy crust and fully melted cheese with no burning. Towards the end of dinner I ordered a “Homewrecker” India Pale Ale. It was like most typical IPA’s strongly hopped. According to the BBC website they use nearly 30lbs of hops in every batch. I cannot say a bad thing about this beer, from the head it poured to the bitter bite on the back side. It was overall an amazing sensory beer, and was definitely nothing like a crisp clean commercial beer. The “Homewrecker” is 105 IBU’s and 10.25% ABU. Everything was reasonably priced, dinner cost just under $50 after tip. Speaking of tip, the waiter was super friendly and was more than willing to point us in the right direction for a good time.
After enjoying our time at the BBC brewpub we headed back to Fourth Street to check out some of the bars. We first started by having a drink at Howl at the Moon. Most of you Midwesterners know that this is not the only Howl at the Moon, and if you are not familiar with Howl it is a dueling piano bar. Watching the two musicians sitting face to face with nothing but two pianos is quite interesting. The musicians really get into the act and work hard to entertain the crowd. They always accept request, and usually know the full gamete of songs. Popular songs such as the “Devil Went Down To Georgia” will only be played once a night so you have to plan your arrival time perfectly to catch the performance. After a few casual beers and multiple entertaining sounds we were on our way down the street.
Our next stop was a surprisingly empty bar called the Red Star Tavern. At the Red Star Tavern we found the perfect bar tender. He was quick to greet us, and was even quicker at pouring cold drinks. I started with the American Pale Ale from Blue Grass Brewing. I was happy that the Tavern had it on tap as the brew pub was out. It was copper in color and had hints of pine and citrus. Next the bar tender mixed up a dirty martini with blue cheese stuffed olives. I can say, since my college days and over indulgence of $10 handles of vodka I am not the biggest fan. However, the bartender knew what he was doing. The right amount of dirty and the perfect amount of shaking ensuring the vodka was chilled to perfection. While my girlfriend enjoyed the martini I moved onto a B-15 brewed by New Albany Brewery in New Albany, Indiana. It was a dark stout, and had hints of coffee and chocolate. I finished my visit at the Red Star Tavern with one of Kentucky’s finest bourbons. In hindsight it probably is not the best idea to just tell the bar tender to pour you a glass of what he thinks is the best local bourbon. Luckily it did not turn out bad and I did not receive a $20 glass of bourbon.
After the Red Star Tavern we decided to call it a night and return to the Hotel. However, we did stop at the hotel bar for a late night snack and another snort of bourbon. I know what you are thinking, “you drove to Louisville, and only went to 3 bars.” I get where you are coming from, but the places we stopped were a ton of fun and we did not want to move on. Plus if you see everything in one trip there is no reason to go back. Trust me, we had a blast and we are already planning a follow up trip with some friends. From my experience in Louisville I have decided that it is a must see. Louisville is a hidden gem that everyone needs to check out.