Sunday, October 9, 2016

Road Trip out West Day 2: Kentucky

Crazy drive in Kentucky before all the horse farms
Day two of our road trip was a scheduled day, of visiting distilleries, exploring the State of Kentucky and covering great ground. This meant for an early start as we had booked a 10am tour of Willett Distillery, which is the distillery that Two Roads Brewing Company sources their bourbon barrels for aging beers from. With that connection, my old brewmaster had organized with Willett to get us on a tour to explore the craft of distillation. On route, we drove down the Blue Grass Parkway across horse breeding country and into the historic town of Bardstown, with a historic downtown including a pub Abe Lincoln would frequent. 

With the endless barrels
On to the distillery and we were really blown away with the facility, history, process and friendly nature of the tour and tastings. I brought an offering of the Two Roads Conntucky Lightnin, a sour mash ale barrel aged in used Willet barrels. The facility was far more expansive than I imagined, spread across a large property. Consisting of a obscure looking building containing a fermentation cellar, towering still and silos, the proofing building, traditional in nature with barrel ramp to roll out the proofed down barrels and a series of barrel buildings containing to their entirety wall to wall floor to celling full bourbon barrels. An unbelievable amassing of product stored cellular in each barrel, so efficiently stacked, the room was just all bourbon. It was delightful to see the process, at what is considered a small and craft facility, where there was a obvious pride and passion among the staff and the heritage presented across the facility. I was amazed that I was encouraged to taste from all the fermentation vessels, noting the reduction of sweetness as fermentation progressed.  It was interesting seeing the similarities and then the differences compared to brewing beer. One significant difference was the tasters, we are no bourbon connoisseurs, so we were happy to note the tastes that we had didn't burn like rocket fuel. 
Jim Beam
We were in Bourbon Country after all, so we hopped along the road to the Jim Beam Distillery. Which was a place on a far greater scale, nearly the Disneyland of Bourbon. But I believe that does a disservice to the tried and tested and still traditional system of bourbon brewing. Other than making spirits on a huge scale, they still use real ingredients, following the stringent rules set long ago in the past of utilizing a 51% or more corn mash content and aging for a set minimum time on new American White Oak barrels. A cooper, or barrel maker, display was set up where the quite extraordinary barrel making process was explained, with a real life veteran cooper there happy to answer my many questions. Again, the facility was honoring a true family heritage that now had just grown to an unfathomable scale, but without losing that value, or at least the appearance of that value.
Finally a picture of Amy
Heading across the sunny green rolling hills, we ducked into Churchill Downs racetrack, famous for the Kentucky Derby. Discovering the museum was $15, we opted to skip that, but we began walking with a tour group instead, listening to a bit of history, until we got busted for having not paid for the tour, whoops, so we headed off and on our way into Louisville city. There were a lot of athletic looking people around carting about their space age looking bikes and steel strong bods, and eventually it all made sense when we discovered it was the day before an Ironman event. We walked around the redbrick, industrial styled city centre, found a brewery and had a beer and some grub for lunch. A walk down to the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory was a tribute to Amy's dad whom loves his Sluggers. Looking through the glass windows of the building we could see bats being spun and engraved and it made you feel less uneasy walking the streets knowing why everyone was wielding bats. After our quick look around, we drove on through Indiana and right across Illinois making camp on the east side of the Mississippi River across from St Louis, Missouri. 

The RX7 in Kentucky bourbon country 

1 comment:

  1. I have just read a book set at Churchill Downs! Another exciting time for you both.