Beer is back in Bourbon City. A new pour house has taken up residence at the crossroads of the Bourbon Trail in Frankfort, KY.
Sig Luscher opened its doors this past December, at 221 Mero Street, across from the Dept. of Transportation. Now the bar itself may be new, but the name on the bottle, the establishment’s namesake, crafted beer in downtown Frankfort some 150 years ago.
“It’s is a heritage brewery,” co-owner Tim Luscher is fond of saying. His great-great-great grandfather, Sigmund Luscher, emigrated from Switzerland to Frankfort, and in 1866, opened operations in the former Capital Brewery, located on the grounds where the Transportation building currently sits. The brewery remained in operation until the founder’s death in 1891.
“Believe it or not, since then there has not been another brewery in Frankfort,” said Nathan Cryder, Sig Luscher’s CEO and co-owner.
In addition to his beer business, the elder Luscher had a tie to Frankfort’s burgeoning bourbon industry, as he sold yeast strains to Col. E.H. Taylor for his bourbon distillery. Col. Taylor’s operation was a precursor for the current Buffalo Trace Distillery.
In keeping with its history, the new Sig Luscher is a beer joint first and foremost. Unlike so many craft breweries these days, this one focuses on lagers exclusively, instead of the denser, hoppy-flavored IPAs.
The idea being to create a fresh, approachable beer, that exhibits a drinkability able to satisfy domestic aficionados, yet possesses a palate to challenge the connoisseurs in a crowd. It has fallen to brewmeister Dylan Greenwood, formerly with Falls City Brewing Co., to craft the recipe for this delicately balanced ‘lager of the common man.’
The flagship pour is a golden pilsner that is a cross between a German and Swiss style, referred to as a ‘Sig’ for short. If a light beer or American lager is in your wheelhouse, a Sig is the place to start. It’s clean and crisp, a little heavier than a Bud, Miller or Coors, and packing a tastier kick.
The other offering is the ’66 Wheated Lager, or Sig ’66, an amber beer, with a bit more hop flavor that finishes easy. It’s a lovely pour and sports 6.6 percent alcohol.
These two selections come in 12 or 23 ounce drafts. Both are served in vintage mugs from bygone days. They come frosted to the point that a thin sheen of ice forms on the surface of the draft.
Watch for seasonal brews or specialty pours on limited release. There were two recent traditional German offerings, the malty flavored Maibock (7.5 abv), and the Schwarzbier, a dark lager that drinks like a pilsner. Currently the Sig Sour is being showcased. It’s a Berlin specialty, known as a Berliner Weisse, a sour wheat beer that is served with a flavored syrup – balancing out the sour with some sweet.
For those not of the beer persuasion, no worries, wine, bourbon, locally roasted coffee, tea and soft drinks are available. If munchies catch your fancy, try a beer steamed frank with all the trimmings, a pretzel or a bagel stick, cooked fresh from Chef Ouita Michel’s Midway Bakery. Stop past later in the evening and often a food truck is parked out front for more substantial dining needs.
Venture inside the humble microbrewery, either by going up a switchback ramp, making it handicap accessible, or the steps to the front entrance. Both deposit one on an enclosed, climate controlled porch, that remained quite toasty even on a 12-degree evening this past winter.
The interior feels part ski chalet and a bit like a cabin, with its wood walls and ceiling. The taproom has seating at the bar for five, with a couple barrels serving as standing tables. Two televisions are available for watching games.
A dozen people in the taproom is snug, but the vaulted ceiling and porch area lend an airy quality. Seating for another 25 people is available in both the porch area and the brew house. A rear entrance off the taproom leads to a 5,000 square foot outdoor beer garden surrounding the property.
This modest indoor space can get wall-to-wall quick at Happy Hour, but with warmer climates the beer garden welcomes the overflow capacity. Helping to draw that crowd is the discounted 23 ounce drafts that come with a free hotdog during Happy Hour.
I must give a shout out to the owners for posting boilermaker pairings on the chalkboard above the taproom bar. A shot of E.H. Taylor with a Sig goes down mighty smooth.
“To be able to bring a forgotten piece of history back to Kentucky’s capital and soon to all of the Commonwealth is not only exciting, it’s something that feels like a responsibility one needs to treat with great care,” said Nathan Cryder, co-owner of Sig Luscher.
SIG LUSCHER | 221 Mero Street | Frankfort, KY | 502.209.9238