This article appears in the February 2012 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit Loumag.com.
If I weren’t so personally enamored of the English-style pale ale being brewed and sold by Louisvillian David Easterling without a hint of fanfare on his part, I wouldn’t be tooting his horn for him. But the new Falls City, sold strictly by draft through most of 2011 (bottled six-packs became available late in the year), has totally changed my appreciation of beer. Now the London-brewed Fuller’s I liked most tastes a touch too fruity and alcohol-weighted; Beck’s and Pilsner Urquell seem maltless and slight. Falls City Pale Ale, with its smooth yeastiness and nice blend of malt and hops, has me going through 64-ounce growlers faster than I really should.
Falls City Brewing Co. began in 1905, according to its website, as “a monopoly-busting people’s beer,” established by a group of local tavern and store owners to do combat with the market-controlling Central Consumers Co., a consortium of formerly independent brewers that included the Fehr, Senn and Ackerman, Phoenix, Schaefer-Meyer and Nadorff breweries. In the end, Falls City won, as only the Fehr remnant survived with Falls City and Oertel’s through Prohibition. At their 1950s peaks, the three breweries’ annual production capacities were 500,000 barrels each for Fehr’s and Oertel’s and 750,000 barrels for Falls City.
Falls City Pale Ale is currently contract-brewed in Black River Falls, Wis., and sold in Kentucky and Indiana. In 2010, 600 barrels were sold; in 2011, sales jumped to 1,500 barrels, and this year, with bottled six-packs included, the figure is expected to climb to 3,000. Easterling, 45, who also owns an IT consulting firm and currently has neither partners nor investors in his beer venture, says that the pale ale will continue to be contract-brewed elsewhere until he can afford to build a full 30-barrel production facility. He says he’ll be opening a Louisville tasting room, and possibly a gastropub, on Barret Avenue, where other Falls City varieties he’s developing will be brewed on a smaller scale. “I’m looking at a new and a used seven-barrel system,” Easterling says, and if the latter choice works out, “we’ll definitely have beer by Derby.”
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