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.
When you walk into Rooster Brewing’s taproom located in downtown Paris, you are greeted with a sleepy puppy.
No, an employee is not standing there holding a pint of their most popular beer, a Belgian Blond called “Sleepy Puppy,” but you are greeted by a 100-pound sleeping bull mastiff.
Angus is a certified service dog who is trained in mobility assistance and can be seen basking in the sunlight that comes through the front windows and door on most days.
Unfortunately for Angus, he isn’t the most famous animal around Rooster Brewing. A stray rooster without a tail, who was the inspiration behind the naming of the brewery, is.
Ralph Quillin, owner and master brewer, was given a home brew kit by his kids that sat in his basement for years until an injury caused by one of the cows on his farm changed that.
Ralph’s injury required surgery and a cast that kept him immobile for three months. During that time he started researching and reading about opening a restaurant or bar, something he always wanted to do.
Once Ralph was mobile again, he and his wife, Donna, attended a class on brewing at Lexington Beerworks. After they dusted off the home brew kit that had been sitting in the basement, Ralph began home brewing in the backyard.
“So then we went home and we tried it and he enjoyed the process,” Donna said. “But we live on a farm where, you know, people typically put out stray dogs or stray cats but we ended up with a stray rooster. He would just peck around all the time so you know he enjoyed when Ralph was out in the backyard doing the brewing. The rooster was always pecking up all the grains.”
After a while, Ralph’s home brewing process grew and had to be moved inside.
“We kind of graduated from backyard brewing to basement brewing,” Donna said. “I guess the rooster stayed around for about a month and then as quickly as he came, he disappeared one day.”
Without the grains from the home brewing on the ground, the Rooster lost interest and moved on.
Rooster-less, Ralph continued to home brew in the basement and started attending home brewers meetings. Soon after, him and Donna decided to take it a step further and open a brewery.
“We decided to go for it,” Donna said. “After he moved to the basement and then he started moving back up to the kitchen and after the day I came home and the whole kitchen, you know, it had all this stuff and I was like “that’s it, you’re outta here buddy”. So then we decided to bring it downtown as a business.”
The Quillins found their location of the brewery easily, but the hard part was choosing a name.
“We were going somewhere one day and oh my goodness naming a place is harder than naming a baby I think,” Donna joked.
“Just driving somewhere one day and we got to talking about that old rooster and I was like “why don’t we just name it Rooster Brewing?”.”
The Quillins continued to play around with other names until finally deciding that Rooster Brewing fit perfectly.
Rooster Brewing acquired a brewing system and cooler from a brewery that went out of business in Northern Kentucky and began brewing in the back of the taproom on Main Street. In April of 2014 the first and only brewery opened in Paris.
After a while production increased and Rooster moved their brewing system to a larger space a few blocks away and just a short walk from the taproom.
The scene of the brewing facility is something that is rare among breweries in the state and around the country, there is a female head brewer.
Kaylyn Shumate was introduced to craft beer by a friend in college and fell in love with it. She didn’t know what do with her new found love, so she started the wine making, brewing and distillation certification at the University of Kentucky. The classes in the program also fulfilled toward the degree she was pursuing, equine science.
“[I] Woke up one morning, this man [Ralph] had posted on Facebook that he needed a bartender and I was like “sure I’ll shoot a resume”,” Shumate said. “I’m in school and I need kind of just a silly job on the side to go do. So fast forward and did that for two and half years.”
Shumate was planning on moving to Alaska after graduation, but Ralph and the people at Rooster didn’t let that happen.
“And these guys said “nope” you are not leaving.” Shumate said. “So [they] offered me the job and here we are five months later. Rocking and rolling and learning every day.”
Shumate’s degree in equine science clearly does not qualify her to be a master brewer, but she learned a lot about the process while bartending at Rooster and from the brewing classes she took at UK.
“They sent me off to other breweries with female head breweries and they kind of taught me, took me under their wing,” Shumate said.
Although Schumate may be one of the few female head brewers in the state, she just wants to be looked at as one of the guys.
“I didn’t really want to enter and say, you know, “wow we got a female brewer, third or fourth in the state”,” Shumate said. “It’s great and it’s a novelty but really at the end of the day I’d like to be one of the guys. And go to festivals and be an equal. So I don’t push it as hard.”
Being detail oriented is very important in the brewing process at Rooster and Ralph was happy to hire Shumate because of her attention to detail.
“She is incredibly organized,” said Vince Grupposo, the general manager. “Her attention to detail and love for learning has been really, really awesome. We definitely feel the difference having her in the brewery.”
The addition of Shumate and an assistant brewer were important to the growth of Rooster Brewing. Rooster is opening a brewpub in Lexington on North Limestone with Gastro Gnomes, a Lexington food truck.
“It will be a different name even though it’s under us,” Grupposo said. “It’ll feature all Rooster brews. It’s kind of a remote taproom on our side and then we bring in Gastro Gnomes and give them a kitchen.”
One of the goals of the brewpub, which is supposed to open mid-November, is to bring awareness of Paris’ close proximity to Lexington. From Lexington to Paris, it’s about a 30-minute, 18 mile drive down one of the most historical roads in Kentucky, Paris Pike.
Although Rooster Brewing has a great local customer base and can sometimes be described as the show Cheers on Thursday and Friday nights, Rooster Brewing wants more people to visit Paris and enjoy their city and their beer.
The people at Rooster are very proud of Paris and hope that Rooster Brewing will bring more awareness to their city.
609 Main St
Paris, KY 40361
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