Home > BeerVentures, Brewpubs > Big Taste of Louisville – Fast Horses, Hot Browns and Bourbon Barrel Beer

Big Taste of Louisville – Fast Horses, Hot Browns and Bourbon Barrel Beer

Louisville, Kentucky, where the horses run fast, the bourbon flows freely, and the gentlemen always let the ladies go first.  I love the south and Louisville is chock full of southern charm.  A beautiful, bright and vibrant city, Louisville is filled with museums, sport arenas, waterfront recreation, riverboats, grand old hotels, fabulous restaurants, and of course bourbon.   They put bourbon in everything here – sauces, candies, cocktails, and the beer!

Arriving at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel

My business travel stationed me for two nights at none other than the  Seelbach Hilton Hotel, a gorgeous grand 4-star hotel located in the heart of downtown Louisville that dates back to 1905.  The Seelbach has entertained the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald (who mentioned this hotel as Daisy’s wedding location in The Great Gatsby) and Al Capone who dined regularly in the historic Oak Room restaurant.  The hotel has also hosted numerous presidents, historic figures and celebrities.  It was even featured in the film “The Insider”, with Russell Crowe.  It’s not often that I’d credit a hotel as the highlight of my trip, but the Seelbach is magnificent and the staff is flawless.


The Seelbach’s Rathskellar

 F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented the Seelbach’s Rathskellar, the historic “pottery room” located on the bottom level of the hotel.  The Rathskellar is, in fact, lined with Rookwood pottery tiles.  According to my counterparts who attended the opening reception held in the Rathskellar, the acoustics are so horrible even a small group can seem unbearably loud.  But I snuck down when the room was dark, empty and silent, and the door just happened to be propped open.  So I ventured in and felt as though I were in  the room of a castle as it conveyed renaissance and royalty.   The entire room was lined from floor to ceiling with pottery tiles, and the walls were lit from above, creating a quiet drama that made it easy to imagine the place coming to life with a roaring 20’s crowd.  

Supposedly the room contains hidden passages used by Al Capone, and ghost stories prevail.  Unusual Kentucky is a fascinating blog that includes some nice photos and more detailed points of interest about this unique Kentucky treasure.



The Old Seelbach Bar

The Seelbach Hotel is also home to the The Old Seelbach Bar, “one of the top 50 bars in the world” according to the Independent London.   I’m not sure what makes this bar one of the top 50.  It certainly has history and old time atmosphere,  or maybe its because they feature 44 select brands of bourbon.  I’ll bet they also stir up a heck of a mint julep.  But I bypassed the traditional bourbon and julip for a local microbrew – a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale produced by Alltech’s Lexington Brewing Company.  This strong ale pours a gorgeous dark amber color; it drinks smooth, sweet and malty; and its loaded with smooth delicious bourbon flavor.  One gentleman at our table took a small sip and said  “this tastes like someone dropped shot of bourbon in it”.  Yes, yes it does!  And I’ve determined that’s how I like my bourbon…in my beer.

Running Amuck in Downtown Louisville

The next day I found an hour to run out and explore.  Louisville is full of culture – music, museums, glass art.  I only had time for a quick walk to the Ohio River waterfront where I was met by several riverboats and some lovely views of bridges crossing over to Indiana.  Gambling in Kentucky is limited to horse racing, but visitors can board the riverboats or cross over to Indiana to play the slots and wager on a little table action.

A bartender later informed me that the view of Louisville from the Indiana side is breathtaking at night. And the week prior to the Kentucky Derby, the city sets off one of the largest fireworks displays in the world, second only to China.

The waterfront area is also home to weekly music festivals and concerts, as well as a waterfront park that rents paddle boats and offers river recreation for both visitors and locals.

B-Line for the BBC (Bluegrass Brewing Company)

Finally, I was freed up for the evening, and so I made a B-line for the Bluegrass Brewing Company (the BBC).  The BBC has a series of pubs throughout the Louisville area, and the beers are brewed on the premises, as demonstrated by the large brewing room that’s only visible through a window lined with shelves holding bottles of spirit.  I bellied up and started with a sampler – all great beers, ranging from a Kolsch to an Alt, an IPA, a Raspberry Mead and a Bock with an unusual (but good) hoppy bite.  However, the one that really got my attention was their Bourbon Barrel Stout.  Rich with chocolate, vanilla, bourbon and roasted malty goodness, this stout was so delicious that I had to fly a 4-pack home for the hubster, along with his and hers BBC t-shirts proclaiming “Beer is Food”.


Tackling the Hot Brown

I absolutely agree, beer is food.  But I still had to order some solid food in the form of a hot brown.  This Kentucky open-faced sandwich was first created and is still served at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. Different restaurants have their own versions, and the BBC bartender assured me that when in Kentucky, I had to have a hot brown, and the BBC’s version supposedly ranked among the best.

HOT BROWN Smoked turkey, alfredo, sliced tomato, crumbled bacon and wheat toast topped with cheddar jack cheese and smoked paprika 10.99

And so word spread across the bar that I was a hot brown newbie, and as the arrival of this monumental first approached, several servers shared stories of their hot brown initiations. The bartender was even prepared to call in the circus upon its arrival.  But the hot brown needed no added attention, as all eyes were on the newbie with the monster mound of evil cheesy cream covered artery clogging turkey on toast sitting in front of me.

I ate every last gluttonous bite and washed it down with a full pint of their amazing bourbon barrel stout.

It was a good evening, indeed.  Sometimes work offers unique experiences, and travel is a nice perk when given the chance to explore the local sites…and the local beer.  And based on my short time in this grand city, I’ve come to the conclusion that no one mixes their bourbon and beer like Kentucky brewers.  Just one of the many reasons why Louisville, Kentucky tastes so darn good!

Cheers beers!  

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  1. July 22, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Very cool, we’ll be around there next month.

    • July 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm

      So much to do in that area. They give tours of Churchill Downs, and you can’t drive 5 miles without stumbling over a distillery. Have fun!

  2. July 22, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Yo Paula!

    Now THAT’S what I call a business trip. I’ve only been on two in my “career”, and one of them was to Boston on a 0 degree day. Boston is a wonderful town, but the weather sucked.

    Only one problem with your trip… you went to Kentucky and didn’t have any Bourbon??? I think you may have broken a law or two. Other than that wee faux pas… Well done!

    Cheers!
    G-LO

    • July 22, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      Hey G-Lo! Yep, sometimes work is very good! As for the bourbon faux pas, I did in fact drink bourbon on my trip, but it wasn’t in Kentucky. Since the airplane beer selection was easy to pass up, I actually used my free drink coupon on the plane and ordered a Wild Turkey and ginger ale. I was hoping for a miniature to tuck in my purse and a cup of ginger ale for sipping. But that didn’t happen. They pre-mixed the drink, and after 5 rough sips I was feeling a little too warm for comfort. Since I still had to find my way off the plane, find my luggage, get on the right shuttle, find the right hotel and immediately resume working, I thought it better to discard the remainder of my drink. Pathetic, I know. I would have loved a distillery tour, and I did want to try a mint julip, but time and the “beer before liquor rule” prevented both from happening…this time. Though I do suspect bourbon runs through their water system down there, that’s why everyone is so nice 🙂

      • July 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm

        Have yet to make it to Kentucky. The Bourbon Trail is on my “to-do” list for sure.

        As far as your faux pas, you are forgiven. Heh.

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