Sunday morning, after church, I visited the Town Branch Distillery in Lexington, Kentucky. It was only an hour away from Louisville and was by far the most entertaining tour I’ve been on. Parking was pretty bad due to some construction in the area around the distillery. The approach threw me off a bit.
I thought I might be in the wrong place, but pipes ran across the street to the building that actually said “Town Branch” so I looked for a visitor’s center and walked into Ireland.
I’m not sure how much the tour cost because it was on the house because I’m a veteran.
I learned from the incredibly awesome and entertaining Nicholas that Town Branch is an old brand that had made some dubious choices. At one point they made a hemp beer. Not only was it awful and didn’t sell, but their cheeky tag line was “this bud’s for you”. One of their more successful and litigious competitors already had that trademarked and shut them down. Altech, an animal feed company, bought the brand and opened this high tech, state of the art facility.
Only 1% of Alltech is focused on adult beverages, but they don’t scrimp on the details. They started with beer and distilling bourbon in 2006 and put their first bourbon on the market in 2012 when it was ready. Their beer is really good, but their niche is putting their beers into bourbon barrels.
There’s about 1-3 gallons of bourbon left soaked into the barrel when it’s emptied. Town Branch fills it with their various flavors of beer, chill it to 32 degrees Fahrenheit for six weeks, and squeeze it out into the beer. The alcohol content starts at 6% and rises to 8.2% and the results are really good.
The high protein vegetable product left behind doesn’t have any value for the distillery so they gift it to any local farmer who wants to haul it away for their livestock.
They make 1000 gallons of beer 5.5 times a day.
I love seeing the QC department!
The tour consists of two parts, with tasting of up to four pours. As tempting as Nicholas makes the various beers, you need to pace yourself if you want the bourbon. I stuck with one because he sold a chocolate bourbon liquor with coffee and cream really hard. I figured I needed to save one for that, leaving two for the bourbons. Tough decisions. The beer I chose was a cream ale that smells fantastic. Of course, it’s finished in a bourbon barrel. It tasted like the best desert.
The beer was a quite generous pour and many people shared to get more tastings. Their beer is not available on their site. It has to be sold through a distributor and only available in the red states below. So many laws!
I don’t understand why Kentucky has so many white areas. Must be dry counties.
Town Branch is in the middle of downtown Lexington and they don’t have a lot of space. Their bourbon aging warehouses are out of town in an area near Woodford Reserve. Since they don’t have the opportunity to take tours through their warehouses to essentially watch paint dry, they bring them through this facility.
The bourbon is pumped from the distillery next door into this room and into the barrels.
The rivets on the rings are always lined up with the bung hole and they have the state of origin on them. Town Branch gets theirs from Missouri.
Every bit of their liquor is bottled on this line, filling all bottles through one of those six pink nozzles. The last thing they’ve been processing was a single malt whiskey that can’t be called scotch since it’s not in Scotland.
The fermenting vats sit in the same room.
Flies like the sugars created during the fermenting process. Good thing distillation purifies it, like I learned at Maker’s Mark. We were encouraged to dip a finger in for tasting.
The tasting included some bourbon, rye, the malted whiskey, and an oddity. Town Branch has a rum distillery in Trinidad and Tobago. After the rum is aged in the Caribbean, it’s shipped to Lexington and guess what they do with it. They put it in a bourbon barrel, of course! The coffee drink was incredibly.
The legalities require them to sell the bourbon in the actual distillery. If somebody walks into the visitor’s center and asks to purchase a bottle of bourbon, they’re escorted across the street to the distillery to complete the purchase.
I bought a bottle of bourbon and the master distiller signed it for me. Pretty cool.
After I left I had lunch in an Irish pub called Grey Goose and look what they served.
Here’s the vanilla barrel cream ale. It’s really good as dessert. I can’t drink the whole thing, though. Half that would be enough after a meal.
This was the most entertaining tour I’ve ever been on, primarily because of the personality and humor of the guide. He’s truly a good time. Can’t recommend it enough.
Kentucky Brewery and Town Branch Distillery
401 Cross St
Lexington, KY 40508