It is no secret that bourbon dominates this state, but the craft beer industry is growing in Kentucky. There are locally owned breweries and microbreweries scattered all around the state and it is my mission to travel to each and every one and tell their story.
Only two items flowed through the building on the corner of 4th Street and Monroe Street in Paducah before 2015, buses and movies.
Greyhound occupied the building from 1966 until 2010. But not only was it a bus stop, but also a dinner with a short order cook and a mailing services called Package Express.
“The entire bus station was being used,” owner and head brewer of Paducah Beer Werks Todd Blume said. “They also had a thing called Package Express and every movie up until, I believe, 1988 came through this building. So that’s how they would deliver them.”
When UPS and FedEx came around, it ended Package Express and Greyhound had to relocate because of people started to travel by bus less often.
So the bus station sat vacant for four years until Todd Blume, a native of Graves County, moved back home to Western Kentucky.
Blume graduated from Murray State University with a degree in computer science and the only jobs available in his field were in data entry.
“I really wasn’t interested in data entry, I wanted to do more on the creating side,” Blume said. “So my dad was like “what are you doing to do?” So we started looking around and he said, “what is one thing Paducah doesn’t have?”
But where this idea come from?
Blume previously lived in Franklin, North Carolina and loved going to a nearby brewery in Sylva.
“The one I went to was called Heinzelmannchen, which was well-known and had some of the best beer,” Blume said. “The guy was just doing it in a basement and he was winning medals. He also made sodas. And that kind of got me really interested in doing something.”
Blume started homebrewing and then began traveling back and forth from Colorado to take an immersion course with Tom Hennesey, a brewery owner who teaches people how to build breweries.
When Blume decided to bring a craft brewery to Paducah in 2015, he saw the bus station and knew it was the place.
“But at that point and time, I didn’t know how fast I could grow or how the community would take it,” Blume said.
Even though the closest brewery at that time was in Clarksville, Ten. (almost 100 miles away) the people of Paducah took to it very quickly.
His worries were officially put to bed that summer in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival. Beer Werk’s PBW Pale Ale won a bronze medal in the Classic English-Style Pale Ale category.
Blume had attended the festival while living in Colorado but had never seen an awards ceremony, so he figured he’d check it out.
“We were all in the way in the back and we were all split, there were three of us,” Blume said. “And we were sitting there listening and were like “I remember trying that one, yeah that one was good.” And then they call our name, and I said “Huh? What’s going on?” So we all had to kind of find each other cause we were all dispersed in the crowd. Everybody was just kind of blown away.”
Before worrying about accepting the medal, Blume was focused on making it to the stage.
“So I had to go all the way down these steps, and I’m like “please don’t fall, please don’t fall, please don’t fall.” And I’m just sitting there shaking like I’m really getting up there and I go up these steps trying not to fall, shake Charlie Papazian’s hand. Like what just happened.”
To win a medal at the GABF is incredible. In 2015, there were 1,552 breweries in competition and 275 were winners, including Paducah Beer Werks.
“So that was really big deal. It helped us, you know, prove to the community that we’re making a solid good beer.”
And that, they are.
My beer picks at Paducah Beer Werks:
PBW Pale Ale: It’s a GABF award winning beer, so you know it’s good.
The Dude: The Dude is a delicious Pilsner. You can’t go wrong with a delicious pilsner.
Golden Ale: A very solid, light beer that anyone can drink. It’s very easy to drink and not as hoppy as a pale ale.
301 North 4th Street
Paducah, Kentucky 42001