It is no secret that bourbon dominates this state, but the craft beer industry is growing in Kentucky. I want to shed light on this amazing industry and what it means for Kentucky.
What happens when a pharmacist, an engineer, a lawyer, an accountant and a marketer come together? They open a craft brewery.
Sean Wilder (marketer) Doug Laramie (pharmacist by trade and head brewer), David Osborn (accountant) Rob Toerne (engineer) and Austin Vowels (lawyer and city commissioner) opened Henderson’s first brewery in 80 years since the end of prohibition, Henderson Brewing Company.
But how did five strangers, each with the perfect occupation for opening a brewery, come together? Facebook.
“Our lawyer, Austin, he posted a picture on Facebook that he attended a conference on how to help your client start a brewery in Kentucky,” Laramie said.
People started commenting about opening one in Henderson. Laramie, a home brewer, saw the post on Facebook and commented that he would sell his Kentucky State Fair award-winning beer recipes.
“The next day I got a message from Sean,” Laramie said. “He was the administrator of the Henderson Beer Club Facebook group. So I got a Facebook message from Sean talking about if I’d be interested in talking about a brewery in Henderson.”
Laramie agreed to meet Wilder and four others at a local restaurant on the Sunday after the Fourth of July in 2017. The five partners met for the first time at that meeting, not knowing each had a background that was vital to opening a brewery.
“We didn’t plan on it,” Laramie said. “Those are the five people who showed up.”
The five partners left that meeting with assignments and low expectations of anything actually happening.
“I left the first meeting and my wife asked me how it went, I said, “We had a good talk and we have things to do before the next meeting, but it’s never going to happen”. I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Laramie said.
The five partners met a week later. Everyone completed their assignments. They talked more and left the second meeting with more assignments.
“My wife asked me how that meeting went and I was like “It was good”,” Laramie continued. “Everybody did the thing they needed to do. We’ve got more things to work on for the next step. I still didn’t think it was going to happen. I never got overly excited like “Yes let’s do this! It’s gonna happen!” If it happens. It happens, but I don’t think it will happen. Just like with anything that you really want to happen, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. So I was trying to keep my expectations low.”
So when did Laramie and his four partners realize that it was actually going to happen? When they bought the building in September, two months after the first meeting.
When they started their process and during their meetings, a microbrewery was not allowed in Henderson. The five partners started the process having that zoning changed and it helped to have a lawyer on the team. They got the zoning changed.
On July 5th, 2018, Henderson opened its first brewery in over 80 years.
So, how did the people of Henderson respond?
They were excited.
“I think when we first launched our Facebook page, which was kind of our announcement, I think that was in November right before Thanksgiving,” Wilder said. “I sent a note out to everyone and said, “Please like and share and tell your friends. I hope we get 100 likes by the end of the weekend.” We had a thousand in the first 12 hours.”
“It has been overwhelmingly positive,” Laramie said.
In a state where the craft beer industry is booming, that is no surprise.
Now people in Henderson and surrounding areas won’t have to travel across the river to Evansville, Ind. to enjoy local craft beer. They can drink a beer made in their state, in their town by neighbors and friends.
For people who’ve never had a craft beer or been to a craft brewery, the people at Henderson Brewing Company have one goal when you come into their taproom.
“I want them walking out the door thinking “Where’s the next brewery I can go to?” Because they’ve obviously gotta have something different because this is different than anything they’ve ever had,” Laramie said. “I want them leaving and wanting to go to a new brewery and hopefully wanting to come back.”
My beer picks at Henderson Brewing Co:
– Trixie’s Alibi Hefeweizen: A very light, smooth beer for any new craft beer drinker.
– Light Spot IPA: If you are new to IPAs, this a good one to drink. Like its name it is on the lighter side and not as bitter.
– Bridgeview ESB: ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter, but this beer is not bitter. This is a British style beer, that compares to an American Pale Ale. It’s dark in color, but don’t let that fool you. It’s not a dark beer in taste. It was my first time drinking an ESB and it was REALLY good.