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Kentucky Common, a Social History

“What on earth is that?” - staff member that will remain nameless

Humans have a tendency to get about a bit, but home comforts are hard to beat.

Such was the situation facing the new influx or German and Irish immigrants to Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 1800s. They’d left home to escape counterrevolutionary repression and famine; seeking out new opportunities, all the while missing the dark beers of home.

An easy solution, you might say, is “just brew some then!” - You would be wrong!

The Bluegrass State’s ecology had some ideas of its own, as if Mother Nature herself was blasting those brewnauts into bonkers new frontiers.

First up, the heat. Back in the day, breweries would collect ice during winter for use during summer. Louisville, Hot Boy Summer Venue in 1852, simply didn’t allow for this. This meant some brewizardry; using a top-fermenting ale yeast allowed our heroes to ferment at far higher temperatures. More heat meant a faster process, so much so that the Common barely required ageing at all. Turnaround time from brewery to consumer was just 6 days. This kept costs low, with a pint costing the purveyor just 2 cents! We can thank Louisville’s alkali water, and German mashing ingenuity for the Common’s dark colour. The addition of the darker malts helped to acidify the mash, improving the brewhouse efficiency, while also adding character to the drop.

The result? An incredibly popular beer. 75% of all beer sold in Louisville in 1919 was in the Kentucky Common style. Why so popular? It was considered “healthful, light and pleasant” by a German journalist, though dietary standards have changed somewhat since. For our money, the Common’s explosive popularity was down to that short fermentation time. Not only did the low cost keep it in the hearts of working class Louisvillians, it also created quite a show when tapping time came along. That faster brewing process also meant a very pressurised barrel. So much so that when it was released, the force would smash through any overly eager patron’s glass or mug! Think your classic “TAXI” pub moment, but everyone’s wearing more hessian.

So, with that magical combination of history, geography, and beery science, The Kentucky Common entered into the mythos as one of only 4 indigenous American beer styles. We haven’t seen much about in the UK; so we thought we’d give it a crack. We’ve a few more tools on our belt than our temporal brewing brethren in 1850, so your glasses, cartons, or other carrying device is safe from any barrelly shrapnel. Dark malts and real Canadian maple syrup fuse together to create a full-bodied, silky to the tongue, 5.9% morsel of history.

Are there any rare beer types you don’t think get enough attention? Drop us a line on our socials, and we’ll see what we can do!


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