Best bar without a TV: The Holy Grale [Louisville Magazine]

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This article appears in the July 2011 issue of LouisvilleMagazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

The first beer Tyler Trotter ever drank was a Killian’s Irish Red on tap at a high school party, and that same night he got drunk off some homebrew a friend had made. Point is, it was never Bud Light that excited Trotter. Instead it was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale becoming the steppingstone to Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. By the time he was doing audio engineering work for the California Guitar Trio, traveling the country in a van, Trotter would always return to Louisville with “two or five” cases to cellar in his Irish Hill home. “My goal became to try beer that I hadn’t had,” the 32-year-old says. “You can’t try everything, but it was fun trying to try everything.”

That’s exactly what we like about the Holy Grale, which Trotter and girlfriend Lori Beck opened late last year in what was originally a Unitarian church built in 1903. Typically, we’ve never heard of the majority of the 20 beers on tap, which on a recent Saturday were from Belgium, Delaware, Japan, Michigan, etc. The brews are displayed in colorful chalk behind the barrel-stave bar, and each time we go, the list is different from the last time we were there. The narrow space’s wood floor is the same one parishioners once walked across, and a pew from a former Episcopal church runs along the front wall. Votive candles flicker. Tips drop into a Communion cup. 

In November 2009 Trotter and Beck opened the Beer Store on Market Street, a bottle shop selling more than 400 beers from all over the world. (“We might have one or two Italian beers that I haven’t tried just because they’re so expensive,” Trotter says.) When he realized he had collected too many kegs to go through at the Beer Store, he figured a place such as the Holy Grale would “be a way to tap what we already had.” That became realistic once the building that now houses Holy Grale went up for lease last August. “When it became Lonnie’s, I was like, ‘Really, a hot dog place?’ ” Trotter says. “I knew it was only a matter of time before they were gone, so I always kept my eye on it.” The current plan is to expand into the back yard and upstairs, where they’ll put in another bar and offer a pairing menu. 

And, yeah, it’s true that the Holy Grale doesn’t have a television. “It’s all about the beer; it’s about conversation,” Trotter says. “Most of the time the conversation is about the beer.” He has considered hanging a plasma screen, though. What would be on it? In capital, vinyl letters he’d spell out the word “SPORTS.” “Then, when people ask if we’re showing the game,” Trotter says, “I can say, ‘We’re always playing sports.’ ”                  

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