Just as the forty-niners bombarded the countryside of California in the mid 1800s hoping to unearth piles of gold nuggets, a new horde of scavengers such as "Lagerboys," "Tickers" and "HopHeads" come from all directions, scouring bottle-shops, bars and pubs for their own version of gold; craft beer. And the rarer, the better.
Unlike the niners of California, modern beer-vangelists carry their own set of tools to discover hidden treasure. Even without covered wagons, wide-brimmed hats, red flannels and pick axes, you can still spot a beer geek by the way he closes his eyes to smell a freshly-poured draft or the way he religiously checks beer related apps like UNTAPPD or TAPHUNTER.
Multiple times I've heard beer distributors describe our area as "the Wild West" and honestly enough, there isn't a more appropriate nickname for Murray and Western Kentucky's current beer scene. Distributors refer to us as the "Wild West" because we're currently split between two major beer groups: "Daddy's Beer Drinkers*" and "Craft Beer Aficionados*." Even with the recent explosion of beer-ristocrats emerging and embracing the craft beer revolution, some distributors are still hesitant to add Western Kentucky to their routes because of the smaller population versus cost of distribution. However small, we've been blessed with an array of brews available in restaurants across town that beer geeks find just as valuable as gold!
*Daddy's Beer Drinkers: Category of beer drinkers with a small range in variety who prefer the taste of their "daddy's beer" because that's what they grew up drinking.
*Craft Beer Aficionados: Category of beer drinkers who are more exploratory with a wider spectrum of multiple types of beers and variety of tastes.
When it comes to locating craft brews in Murray, Kentucky, there are three top places that any self-proclaimed beer head can find a multitude of choices!
Top picks for beer nerds in Murray, Kentucky:
3. Big Apple Café
As one of Murray's oldest taverns, "The Apple" revolves a portion their draft selection around popular domestics such as Budweiser and Coors Light, however, they are no stranger to some of the more widely-known craft brews such as Guinness and Fat Tire as well as some rare craft beer finds. Make certain you're not only gazing at the tap handles, because The Apple has an impressive range of craft beer in bottles. While at The Apple, enjoy the sweetness of an orange-infused Blue Moon as you sit outside on the deck while watching or playing a friendly (or sometimes competitive) game of corn hole.
Currently on draft: Bell's Oatsmobile, Great Lakes Chill Wave IPA and Deschutes Armory XPA
Pairing: Try a witbier or a pale Mexican Ale (with a pinch of lime) with any of their unique Mexican dishes.
In the heart of campus, Mr. J's has the most taps of any local pub with nineteen current drafts. While just a few of J's taps are dedicated to the domestic brews, they boast a very nice line of great craft beers from bitter IPAs to chocolately stouts and from sour ciders to thick porters. While at Mr. J's, enjoy the soft, dim-lit atmosphere and hear popular local bands while you're lip-deep in a high-gravity Overlord by Tin Man Brewing.
Currently on draft: Big Muddy Vanilla Stout, Tin Man Overlord and West Sixth IPA
Pairing: Try the West Sixth Pay It Forward Porter with Mr. J's famous barbecue sandwich drenched in sriracha barbecue sauce.
Pint Nights: Recent Pint Nights have included: Flying Dog (Frederick, Maryland), Tin Man (Evansville, Indiana) and West Sixth (Lexington, Kentucky)
1. Tap 216
As the only place in Murray with a Certified Beer Server, you're guaranteed to not find any boring brews here. Period. Tap 216 has quickly emerged as the place to go to find rare craft beers. With sixteen current taps and with the addition of four more coming this summer, it'll be nearly impossible to find a place with a larger selection of rare brews. I've chatted with several local beer advocates as well as liquor store owners in the area who use Tap 216 as a testing ground for tasting the newest and rarest brews. The restaurant offers one of the most diverse lineups in the area from rare finds like Arctic Panzer Wolf, to the Prairie Artisan Ales: Bomb, and the "World's Best Selling" Bell's Two-Hearted IPA, and Abita Brewing's Purple Haze. While visiting, don't forget to pay tribute to the three pieces of the original Racer Arena floors autographed by over 50 years of Racer greats. It's a must to experience the covered patio or venture inside to watch one of the 20 flatscreen televisions while sipping away on a Sixpoint Hi-Res IPA and enjoying their signature New World Pizza.
Currently on draft: Against the Grain Rico Sauvin, Country Boy Nacho Bait Habenero and Blackberry Farm Spring Saison
Pairing: Try a Rico Sauvin Double IPA with the famous Tap 216 burger draped with an over easy egg.
Pint Nights: Recent Pint Nights have included: Rhinegeist (Cincinnati, Ohio), Dogfish Head (Rehoboth Beach, Delaware) and Tin Man (Evansville, Indiana)
(All photos taken by Justin B. Kimbro)
Justin B. Kimbro, guest blogger
Justin is a graphic artist and website developer as well as the co-owner of Helix Creative, LLC. Justin quickly became passionate about all aspects of craft beer after being introduced to it in 2012. He spends much of his time brewing his own small-batch beers and visits breweries across the United States.