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Campaign Launched to Make the Kentucky Common the Official Beer of Kentucky

Campaign Launched to Make the Kentucky Common the Official Beer of Kentucky
Kindsey Bernhard

A campaign has been launched to make the Kentucky Common the official beer of the state of Kentucky. Michael Moeller, co-founder of Louisville Ale Trail, sent a request to Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s office to consider naming the Kentucky Common the official beer style of Kentucky through executive order.

Kentucky has a state flower, a state tree, a state mammal, a state horse, a state food, a state dance, and many more state insignias. It’s time to add a state beer to the list.

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) describes the Kentucky Common as:

A darker-colored, light-flavored, malt-accented beer with a dry finish and interesting character malt flavors. Refreshing due to its high carbonation and mild flavors, and highly sessionable due to being served very fresh and with restrained alcohol levels.

And in February of 2021, the Brewers Association officially included the Kentucky Common as a defined style of beer.

The Kentucky Common, also sometimes referred to as a “Common” or “Dark Cream Ale,” originated in Louisville in the middle 1800s with the influx of German and Irish immigrants to the area. The style quickly gained popularity, and from the 1850s to Prohibition 75% of beer being produced and sold in and around the city of Louisville was the Kentucky Common. The popularity of this style was in part for two reasons: it was inexpensive and quick to produce.

“I’ve always been drawn to the Kentucky Common story and Louisville’s beverage history,” Moeller said. “The fact that this style was once enjoyed by 75% of the drinking population in Louisville, pre-prohibition, is incredible. What’s more amazing to me, however, is that this is really only one of a few beer styles with origins in the United States. Over the years, I’ve realized that story isn’t really talked about enough.”

The Cost of the Common

Leah Dienes, owner and brewer of Apocalypse Brew Works, describes the price difference in her presentation “Kentucky Common – An Almost Forgotten Style.”

“Around the turn of the century, Kentucky Common was delivered to the saloon cellar for five dollars a barrel; a raw product cost of two cents per pint to the saloon keeper. In comparison, Stock Ale was going for twelve dollars a barrel and the newer and larger breweries producing lagers sold their product for eight dollars per barrel.”

Not only was it cheap to make and sell and quick to produce, but it was also the beer of choice for the Louisville saloon drinkers. However, when Prohibition was declared in November 1919, everything changed for the beer industry in Louisville. The Kentucky Common, along with most breweries in the region, no longer existed.

Photo Courtesy of Falls City Beer

It was until the recent craft beer boom in Kentucky that we saw the Kentucky Common resurface in breweries across Kentucky and the country. Now many of the 90 breweries across The Bluegrass State have or continue to brew the style of beer that is indigenous to their state.

“The Kentucky Common is the fingerprint Kentucky left on the world of beer, and because of that every Kentucky beer drinker should be familiar with it,” Patrick Fannin, head brewer at Dreaming Creek Brewery, said. “Compared to most ‘historical styles’, it is quite modern in flavor. It’s a light body ale with a moderate malt character.”

Dreaming Creek’s 1792 Kentucky Common Ale is one of two core beers the Richmond, Ky. brewery cans and distributes throughout the Commonwealth. The “1792” is a tribute to the year Kentucky was admitted to the Union.

Photo Courtesy of Dreaming Creek Brewery

On the Campaign Trail…for a State Beer

Louisville Ale Trail launched the campaign on July 8th, and the reaction has been overwhelming. Not only has there been support from Kentucky beer drinkers, but from beer drinkers all over the country who appreciate the Kentucky Common style beer.

“I think a lot of people are excited about the idea because the average person doesn’t know about the historical significance of the Kentucky Common beer style,” Moeller said. “Kentuckians are proud people and being able to celebrate that kind of story is another thing we get to brag about. I’m also happy how our friends in the beer industry are sharing the message too.”

The campaign gained so much attention Moeller and Louisville Ale Trail created a petition on for people to sign and support the cause.

Moeller and Louisville Ale Trail co-founders David Satterly and John Ronayne know that beer will never surpass bourbon in Kentucky. Their goal is to show people that Kentucky is more than bourbon—it’s bourbon and beer.

“Kentucky will always be a bourbon state, and that’s not something I think I can change or even want to change,” Moeller said. “But naming the Kentucky Common as the ‘Official State Beer of Kentucky’ is a great first step our state officials can take in elevating our beer scene publicly.

To sign the petition and help make the Kentucky Common the official beer of Kentucky, click the following link: Make the “Kentucky Common” the Official State Beer of Kentucky.

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