Ultimate 6er – The Kentucky Wildcats
Everyone who loves craft beer has a soft spot for their favorite college watering hole. While I attended the University of Kentucky (Go Big Blue), I found Pazzo’s. With a location only a few minutes from the student center, pint nights that provide free drinking glasses with the purchase of a pitcher, and around 150 beers I enjoyed many delicious beverages while I watched my beloved Kentucky Wildcats. Here are a few notable mentions.
Blue Moon Brewing – Belgian White Wheat Ale
Now, before you stop reading, allow me to explain that Blue Moon was the first non-“American pale adjunct lager” beer that I sampled. I remember it clearly. I met a friend after class for some food and a pitcher. He had ordered Blue Moon and I was skeptical of the fruit salad on the rim of the beverages and the unfamiliar, hazy appearance, but I gave it a shot because he was buying. Blue Moon may not be the epitome of craft beer excellence, but it certainly sold me on the concept that beer didn’t have to be pale, fizzy, and ideally as close to water flavored as possible. It also convinced me I needed to peruse the rest of the beer menu. And hey, it’s got Blue in the name.
Unibroue Brewing – La Fin du Monde
I was not rolling in it while attending school so Pazzo’s beers seemed quite pricey; at $4 for a pint… three of those and I could purchase 18 “standard” beers! Luckily, I can do math (thanks UK!) and Pazzo’s printed prices, serving sizes and ABV values next to their beers – leading to a little game called “most alcohol per $”. I had no idea what most of the beers, or even the styles meant, so why not work through the menu with that strategy? Luckier still, La Fin du Monde was just about the best deal on the menu according to this index. I still love a good Belgian brew that packs a punch, and I like my Kentucky basketball the same way.
Orkney Brewing – Skullsplitter Ale
Another ABV/$ selection, this one gave me quite the introduction to malt. I remember watching it pour thick as syrup into a glass wondering what I had gotten myself into. But the flavor was awesome! Plus, it carried a certain level of challenge to a novice beer drinker like me and the friend who had joined me. Could we even finish something that thick? We did. This goes to show that experience isn’t everything, especially when you have determination.
Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling – Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
The first bourbon barrel aged beer I’d ever tried as well as the first beer I’d enjoyed from Kentucky. This one was a local favorite and carried a certain mystique because they didn’t list the alcohol content and served it in a snifter – very fancy! My first impression was that it lined up fantastically with my new found love of malt, especially with the deliciousness of caramel, oak, vanilla, and tobacco from bourbon barrels. You can’t get much more KY pride in a bottle than a beer brewed in Kentucky and then aged in bourbon barrels.
West 6th Brewing – IPA
I’ve moved away from Kentucky and joined the legions of hop fanatics in the Pacific Northwest. After discovering things like fresh hop brews and Imperial IPAs I found myself struggling to find beers that met my hopping expectations back home, but no more. Excellent IPAs can be found all over these days and if that’s what you’ve got on your mind you could do a lot worse than West 6th IPA. Produced in Lexington, it’s now a staple of the Pazzo’s menu and a great local choice for all your hop needs. Finding a true IPA that can go toe to toe with your Stones and Green Flashes is exceptional. By the way if you Google “Louisville IPA” you don’t find a thing about beer.
Bud Light (Dishonorable Mention)
One night after several pints of various brews at Pazzo’s I asked a bartender what he poured most often. Bud Light was his answer. Even in my early days of exploring craft beer, I was appalled. But, at its heart, Pazzo’s caters to college kids and many just go with what they know, just as I did at first. I called Pazzo’s to find out if this is still the case and unfortunately it is. I hope that people come in for a Bud Light and stick around for the good stuff. But, to be honest, order all the Bud Light you want if the Cats are wining – just no Crown Royal.
Ohhhhhhhh – C – A – T – S, CATS, CATS, CATS!