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    Photo by Jessica Ebelhar

    “Since I was a little girl and my dad gave me a little taste of beer when I was four years old, I’ve liked beer,” says Lara Augustine, who started brewing her own about four years ago. The 42-year-old, who works as an analytics director during the day, has spent more than a year prepping her 20 entries in the Kentucky State Fair’s homebrew competition, in categories including IPA, dark English barley wine and mead. This is her third year competing at the fair, though she has never had this many entries. “I hope I get at least one ribbon,” she says. “That’s all I want is just one.” Last year her stout took second place, and she has won blue ribbons for mead in other competitions. “I’ve brewed batches where I’ve only gotten to taste one beer and the rest of them I entered in competitions,” she says.

    The State Fair (Aug. 17-27) uses strict and straightforward guidelines for interpreting brew styles. Its rules specify that “strong flavors are a fault” for an American light lager. “Sometimes when you get a little more creative it gets harder to find a category to put it in,” says Augustine, who made a saison infused with Teavana leaves.

    She keeps beer-making equipment throughout her Highlands home: kettles in the kitchen, kegs in the basement. Bubbles pop as the brew pours into the fermenter. The wort boils in a steel kettle on an induction burner. Augustine steeps the grains like a giant tea bag. A large copper coil drops the wort’s temperature. For the classic bready flavor, she dumps in yeast from a test tube. Before bottling, a refractometer (a small black tool resembling a flashlight) tests the sugar content and a hydrometer (a long thermometer-like tool) measures the gravity, or alcohol content. A single batch can take more than six hours from start to finish, including cleanup. 

    Committing to three gallons instead of 10 means more experiments. “You do an experiment on 10 gallons and you’re like, ‘Bleh,’” Augustine says. “I’ve literally taken kegs and just poured them out in my yard that I didn’t consider drinkable.” 

    This originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here. 

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    About Jennifer Kiefer

    Germantown transplant. Louisville native.

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