Is Central Kentucky a Craft Beer Destination?

The Alltech Brewery, Lexington, Ky.
The Alltech Brewery, Lexington, Ky.

Lexington, Ky., known as the horse capital of the world, prides itself on Keeneland racing and horse sales, and the consumption of fine bourbon and craft beer. Wait, did we just say craft beer?

Over the past 13 years, Lexington has found itself in a growing market for craft breweries and a multitude of bars devoted to craft beer. Although it doesn’t follow the traditional Kentucky marketplace of bourbon, the growth of craft brewing has received a warm welcome, and spurred rapid expansion.

In 2000 Alltech, a Kentucky company devoted to animal nutrition, feed supplements and health, branched out and started its own, and the city’s first, craft brewery. “When we first produced Kentucky Ale in 2000, we were the only craft beer in town,” said Hal Gervis, the global operations manager for Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. “Today, there are several others right here in Lexington, not to mention the new ones popping up in Louisville, too.”

West Sixth Brewery
West Sixth Brewery

For many years Alltech held the ground as a source for craft beer with its brands such as Kentucky Ale, Kentucky Ale Light, and a favorite, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, transferring the traditional Kentucky passion into a new passion. “Beer consumers have certainly become more adventurous and open to trying a wide variety of brews, as well as show a greater interest in knowing who makes them and how they’re made,” explained Gervis.

In concert with the national attention coming to craft beer, Lexington produced another craft brewery in 2011. West Sixth Brewery, which has now made national headlines with its dispute with Magic Hat, was started by a group of friends that had found a home in Lexington. “People have been amazingly supportive,” said Founder Ben Self. “There are very thirsty craft beer drinkers and it’s caused us to grow very quickly. Never in a million years did I think it would grow this quick.”

Like many craft brewing stories, Self and his partners never thought for a moment that their product would take off so rapidly, but with their signature IPA, they saw growth that still has him in shock. “Everyone works together in breweries,” explained Self. “We are focused on growing our business, investing in equipment and people.” In addition to rapid growth, Self said it hasn’t forgotten where it all started and prides his company on a commitment to community involvement. “We give 6 percent of our revenue per year to different local charities that make a difference.”

West Sixth found its way through the dark testing new products and finally releasing a second batch, the West Sixth Amber. Additionally, West Sixth has found a place in its local tasting room and brewpub, allowing the company to rely on the taste buds of the local community, through weekly small batches, for further inspiration.

The success of West Sixth quickly brought forth some great opportunities for a multitude of craft beer watering holes and several more breweries, such as Country Boy Brewing and Blue Stallion Brewing Company.

“Lexitonians are into quality food and drink,” explained Michael Vincent, the owner of Lexington Beerworks, a well-developed bar devoted to craft beer. “Fine dining and bourbon are staples here, so craft beer was a natural fit. Since the larger breweries have taprooms, locals know to go there for their beers. Almost all request for local brews come from visitors to Lexington. Most locals at our place request Louisville and Cincinnati (regional) beers”

Founders of West Sixth Brewery
Founders of West Sixth Brewery

Vincent’s recollection of Lexitonians taste for new craft beers just further emphasizes the need for further growth within the horse capital. “All the publicity in the local press has certainly fueled the demand,” he said. “Also, there are a few key folks in town that have really connected everyone and started Fest of Ales and Craft Beer Week.”

Some of those key individuals can be pointed right at Gervis and his team at Alltech. “Today’s discerning consumer doesn’t want what television commercials tell you to drink,” said Gervis. “They want what’s new, local and maybe a bit hard to find. And obviously they want great taste!”

Gervis said the beer consumers in Lexington have “become more adventurous and open to trying a wide variety of brews, as well as show a greater interest in knowing who makes them and how they’re made. That change has followed from the same openness and change in what people want to eat. The desire to eat locally and know where your food comes from, naturally has progressed to everyone’s favorite topic — beer.”



Barrels from Alltech Brewing Co.
Barrels from Alltech Brewing Co.


  1. Correction: Country Boy Brewing was the first microbrewery with an on-site taproom to be opened followed by West Sixth and now Blue Stallion. Cheers. Jeff Beagle co-founder of Country Boy Brewing

  2. Since the article is about Central KY as a craft beer destination, you could mention the two breweries in Danville as well: Beer Engine and Lore. Touring the Bluegrass region, taking in the beautiful country side, and sampling some good beer is a great way to spend a weekend. But you better leave yourself an entire day to sample the many great beers from Country Boy.

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