Let’s face facts. I scream, you scream—well, we all scream for better beer.
Okay, it doesn’t exactly rhyme, but one cannot have his ragged doggerel and drink it, too.
In my personal lexicon, an establishment that specializes in serving better beer, usually (although not always) in the absence of its own brewery, is a “better beer bar.”
Some, including Jim Vorel at Paste, simply call it a “beer bar.” To me, inserting the word “better” as a modifier rather than Vorel’s chosen “craft” strikes more closely to the heart of the matter, but otherwise his comprehensive definition more than suffices.
A “beer bar,” for the purposes of this article, is one where craft beer is the primary focus of the drink program, especially in the form of draft beer sales. Typically, this means a notably large number of taps, perhaps an extensive bottle or cellar list, and a passionate crew of staff who act as beer evangelists, able to make suggestions and help a customer find the perfect beer for them. A beer bar may have an in-house restaurant, but the importance of the food is typically understood to be secondary to the beer—the same can be said of its cocktail or wine program. The beer on tap, meanwhile, is ideally a balanced blend of styles that appeal to all sorts of drinkers, often with a focus on rarities or beers otherwise difficult to find in the marketplace.
I view the “better beer bar” as a last bastion of sense, sensibility and organizational acumen amid a whacked-out pendulum swinging hard toward sheer beer-archy, as Vorel explores in his piece from 2021, “A Fond Farewell to the Old-School Beer Bar.”
But I’m in no mood to fondly say farewell to old-school anything, because even amid this era of seemingly unlimited craft brewery taproom proliferation, there’ll always be a place for those “beer evangelists” engaging in the purely complementary art of blending, melding and balancing beer’s many legacies into the sort of timelessness that eschews flavors of the month for the benefit of what I suspect is a silent majority that prefers genuine, principled (dare I say “global”?) choice.
In turn, this is why I’m here today to commend Holy Grale and its subsequent all-for-one-and-one-for-all brand extensions, and to wish this Louisville institution a happy 12th birthday. In 2019, my colleague Kevin Gibson said it quite well: “Let’s hear it for Holy Grale, one of America’s (and Louisville’s) best.”
As much as I love breweries, I’ve always admired Holy Grale as being its own thing in Louisville — a unique beer bar patterned after a traditional European pub. This isn’t a place you go for a tap takeover to “steal the glass.” It’s a place you go to gather, commune, dine on shared plates and sip beers from around the world that are worthy of discussion. Let’s face it, I’d be willing to bet that if you’re reading this column, you’ve already got plenty of logo glassware in your cabinets. I know I do. Rewarding beer experiences aren’t as easy to come by.
Long may Holy Grale run, with a great many more birthday parties to come.
Wait, did I mention the birthday party is tonight?
12 YEARS of HOLY GRALE….
Beer has been at the heart of every moment. It has brought us closer, connected us, sparked inspiration, memories and critical conversations. BEER IS OUR LIFE 🖤
No we do not brew it. Holy Grale is our house of worship for all things beer. Here we pay respect to a beverage that is over 6,000 years old, yet continues to evolve and surprise us. Our appreciation is what brings us together and has united us, not just with our brethren and sistren here in Louisville, but far beyond.
It has been a privilege to serve some of the best beers of the world, pouring alongside and serving some of the finest humans on this planet. We hope you enjoy the list we’ve put together and are honored to continue pouring and exploring with you 🖤
HOLY GRALE 12th ANNIVERSARY PARTY
Wed Jan. 25th
5-10 (kitchen til 9pm)
Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus
De la Senne Taras Boulba
De la Senne Zinnebir
De la Senne Jambe de Bois
Birrificio Montegioco Tibir
Del Ducato Verdi Imperial Stout
BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien
Dupont Cidre Cydon
Einbecker Brauherren Pils – Unfiltered
de Garde The Maison
Blackberry Farm Classic Saison
Maine Beer Co. Little Whaleboat
Off Color Dino S’Mores
Pen Druid Golden Swan
Cantillon Fou Foune
Cantillon St. Lamvinus
Drie Fonteinen Perzik Rood
Drie Fonteinen Pruim Mirabelle
Drie Fonteinen Druif: Cabernet Cortis
Boon Oude Geuze Apogee
New Belgium Le Terroir Green Walnut
Orval Trappiste (1 year)
*Bottles are limited and available on a first come first serve basis
**Our upstairs dining room is fully booked, walk-in’s are welcome at the bar (which is 21+ only). Special food menu is also limited and we do expect items to sell out.
Previously at F&D: