BEER! It’s more than a beverage. It’s a rallying cry interwoven throughout human history and tradition. And, after a long dry spell, it’s returning to production right here in Paducah.
The hops and barley are readied. The fermentation tanks are installed. Todd Blume looks over the brew house. He's been working tirelessly, day after day, sun to sun, waiting to reach this point. Now it is time to go to work and bring the assemblage of stainless steel before him to life.
Todd is the newly knighted brewmaster at Paducah Beer Werks.
"Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon," he says. "So imagine what we can do with beer!"
He has been imagining it for quite some time. Todd, a Mayfield native, first fell in love with craft beers while living in North Carolina.
"I went to a little place called Heinzelmännchen Brewery. They were making beer and sodas in a basement, and that is where I really started this path of discovery. From then on, I looked for it everywhere I went."
Todd didn't have to do much looking. The craft brewery business in the U.S has grown exponentially. In the late 1970s, there were 89 total breweries in the United States. By 2013, there were 2,822 breweries, 98% of them being regional craft breweries, microbreweries, and brewpubs.
"Every time I'd go to a restaurant, I'd hear people asking about craft beer, wanting to know if they had anything local."
While in Colorado, Todd got a start making his own beer with a home kit. He eventually invested in a better system, honing skills that would eventually lead him to becoming a brewmaster.
Todd returned to Kentucky only to realize that the Commonwealth was sorely lacking in regional, craft breweries.
"Compared to other states, Kentucky is pretty low on the list when it comes to producing beer," he says. "Yet I hear people asking the same questions here as they did other places I'd been. They want to know if they can get a beer that is produced locally."
Todd mulled over the idea of starting a brewery. So did Joey Dunlap, a West Kentucky native who'd just returned home after twelve years in the military.
"I had been home brewing for about eight years," says Joey. "The last year I was in the military, I had a lot of time off, and I took an apprenticeship in a local brewery in North Carolina. When I came home, a mutual friend introduced me to Todd."
"We sat down over a craft beer," laughs Todd. "A lot can occur over a glass of beer. That's how it started!"
"We knew the right spot in Paducah would be key," adds Joey. "Todd was looking, and he kept coming back to the old Greyhound bus terminal. We didn't know if we'd get it or not, but it finally got freed up, and we were able to find a home for Paducah Beer Werks."
The duo envisions Paducah Beer Werks fulfilling several needs. "First of all, we have this great, retro building. It would be awesome if we could take it back to the way it was when it was built. We could have a bar top with old bus route maps, Paducah postcards, and ticket stubs.
"We also want to work with local restaurants and have pairings," adds Todd. "You can come here, have a meal and a beer. There was a restaurant in the original bus station, so later on we'd like to start serving some of our own foods.
"We'd like to be in our local restaurants within a month or two," adds Joey. "We'll be partnering with some local events and festivals, getting the name out there so people can start to identify who we are.
"Beyond that, we're looking at stretching out and getting into some major markets within five years. I'll be traveling, going to beer festivals and doing some networking in order get Paducah Beer Werks out there.
"We want to find out what Paducah likes and take it from there!" says Joey.
The Character of Craft Beer
"We will brew things like IPAs, pale ales, porters, and stouts," says Joey Dunlap at Paducah Beer Werks. "Those are staple beers, really, at a microbrewery. And we are working hard at finding a medium ground where people who aren't familiar with it can come and try.
"There is a misconception that craft beers are overly hoppy and bitter. Not all are heavy or high gravity. You can start off with something light and go from there.
"In fact, we want to start with something that will be kind of like a gateway beer," adds Todd Blume. "Something blonde."
"It is a neat thing to watch people experience," says Joey. "A person can learn beer and learn to appreciate the variety. People are creative, and just like with trying different foods, you can experience the creative process when it comes to beer."
Paducah Beer Werks is located at 301 North 4th Street in Paducah.