When Cumberland Brews opened in 2000, there were only a handful of “microbreweries” in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Most of them were better defined as “brewpubs,” places where beer was brewed on site and meals served. The word “craft” hadn’t yet become fashionable in describing the beers available at these establishments. Some of us called locally brewed beer “real,” others “good” or “better.”
Beers like these weren’t being served at every corner barber shop, as they are today. Finding them could be a challenge, and loyalty to those few entities specializing in beer was lasting and profound.
Oldenberg Brewing had been around since 1987; the beers could be purchased in Louisville but the brewery was in Ft. Mitchell, near Cincinnati, and by 2000 it was on its last legs. The Silo opened and closed … twice. Bluegrass Brewing Company in St. Matthews (1993) was going strong, and Pipkin had started brewing BBC’s bottled beers under license; in 2001, BBC bought Pipkin and occupied the production space now known as Goodwood. A dreadful chain brewpub called Hops (not to be confused with today’s HopCat) had come and mercifully gone.
Wednesday evening on Facebook, Cumberland Brewery — it always will be Cumberland Brews to me — announced it would be closing after a final day of business on Saturday, October 5.
To repeat, in 2000 there was a paucity of options in metro Louisville for pre-craft-beer, and those who sought it were grateful to the Allgeier family for pouring their money and hearts into a tiny former ice cream parlor at 1576 Bardstown Road, installing an equally small two-barrel Elliott Bay brewing system, and hiring the late Matt Gould, formerly of the Silo and BBC, to brew little batches of fine ales, among them Nitro Porter, Cream Ale and Pale Ale.
The Jamaican jerk wings were fine, too.
In the food and drink business, nineteen years is a lifetime, and in the case of craft beer in Louisville, two decades separate the hardscrabble 1990s from the contemporary era of plenty. BBC’s original Shelbyville Road brewery closed in 2017 (the company still brews at its newer 3rd Street restaurant), and with Cumberland Brews now exiting the scene, the generation of craft beer pioneers metaphorically passes with it. Here’s to them.
A man may drink and not be drunk
A man may fight and not be slain
A man may court a pretty girl
And perhaps be welcomed back again
But since it has so ought to be
By a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all