Rock House Brewing: “This Place Rocks!”
Photo by Sarah Caton
“This place rocks! Not like Rush rocks….but like Fred Flintstone rocks.”
My husband, Ben, can be quite the comedian. And we both like puns. We’re both going to be wonderful dads someday.
But, really, Rock House Brewing, ROCKS! This is no coincidence as the tap room, located in the North Limestone district in Lexington, is housed in what previously was a circa 1920s office for the Lexington Quarry. The name serves a double purpose–the owners love rock music and also pay tribute to the history of the location.
A couple of weeks ago, on an almost patio-weather-worthy Saturday, Benjamin checked out the brewery while attending a meeting of the local hop alliance. Yes–he wants to grow hops, too. We never run out of crazy ideas, over here. After the meeting, we both met up to return back to Rock House. I was eager to try some of the beers. Ben had mentioned that the Belgian Tripel was pretty outstanding. The bartender, Sean, praised the “hoppy wheat” (Rock Creek Wheat) that had just been tapped that day.
The beers we tried that day were great, but it was honestly the laid-back, chill hospitality of Sean and the vibe of the taproom that led us to pursue Rock House Brewing as our first local brewery feature on the blog. I had also become a pretty big fan of their inventive social media. Turns out Sean does this too. If you haven’t had a chance to follow them on Facebook and Instagram you better do it right now–Spice Girls jokes, bad 80s puns, and hilarious fake beer concoctions await you!
On National Beer Day, we ventured back out to Rock House to meet up with one of the owners and Head of Brewing Operations, Jon Brown, and do a little more research. Oh, and drink some more beer. We bribed them with the easiest, but most delicious Chocolate, Bacon, Brownie cookies.(recipe is at the end of this post!)
As you may imagine, renovating a piece of the Lexington Quarry was no easy feat. “It didn’t look very pretty when we got here,” Jon said. In the recent past, the location was previously rented to a construction site. There were piles of dirt and rubble everywhere…flooring had to get ripped up…plumbing was needed. Jon laughs about the process now, but he said, “This place was a dump!”
Fortunately, though the renovation may have been a pain, the owners had a pretty solid idea of their core beers and their brewing strengths. Jon Brown met fellow owner, Kevin Richey through the Brewers of Central Kentucky (BOCK) while participating in the Iron Mash homebrewing competition. Apparently, Jon’s self-proclaimed “crazy” homebrew system sparked conversations between he and Richey. From the photos we were shown, the system was definitely different. Jon had managed to turn his mash tun into what looked like a wooden barrel on the exterior–bonus points for form and function.
It was during these initial conversations that the pair began discussing opening a brewery. From there, it became a family affair, with Jon’s wife Merna drafting a business plan and bringing her cousin Danny Hadad into the fold. The final member of the ownership was Billy Hacker, a UK alum and baseball player.
Once renovations were finished in the quarry office and the 8,000 square foot warehouse was built, in came a shiny new seven barrel system fresh from Portland, OR. That system churned out a combination of Kevin and Jon’s favorite homebrew recipes.
Two of their most noteworthy contributions are two of the three truly indigenous styles to the United States. Their Groupie Cream Ale has been a flagship from the beginning. The other, newer staple is developed from the Kentucky Common beer style. Late last summer, Kentucky Sports Radio producer, ‘Shannon the Dude’ put out a tweet that he wanted a beer named after him. ‘The Dude’ threw out what he wanted in a beer–”not too expensive, low alcohol, lot of flavor,” says Jon. Also, something reminiscent of bourbon barrel aged beers. After chatting and sampling, Jon came up with the Kentucky Common style–a little darker than usual–and also added notes of coffee, vanilla, and caramel.
The beer has been a big hit and the recognition associated with KSR’s Shannon the Dude has led Rock House to further distribution into the Louisville area. This is a top priority for the brewery moving forward. Rock House is also looking to begin having bomber releases about once a month.
There are certainly other draws for coming out to the brewery other than just the beer. The cozy taproom occasionally hosts live music, has bocce ball tournaments, and has frequently rotating food truck onsite. There is one big event coming up that Sean is super pumped about.
On April 20th, Rock House will be hosting ‘I Want My 80s Beer Prom.’ When I asked how this idea came about, Sean said he wanted to do an event with “drinking, dancing & being dumb!” Jon immediately retorted, ”Sean doesn’t know any pop culture outside of the 80s.” This may or may not be true, but it seems like a fun time regardless.
Tickets are only $10 and include a sampling of 4 different beers (5 oz)! Get your Aquanet and neon on and meet us there!
Our Rock House Brewing Favorites
Riot Act, Rye IPA, 5.5% ABV
“This is the most impressive rye beer I’ve had in a long time. This beer balanced the spice of a rye beer with the juicy hops of the IPA that it is to make a beer you can drink any day.”
Apricot for Destruction, American Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV
“This beer has a juicy, tart flavor that is balanced by grassy hops in just the perfect way. Definitely my kind of go-to.“
Brewers’ Weakness Cookies
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Pan fry bacon in a large skillet–cast iron is great if you have it!
- Cool the bacon on a paper towel lined plate. Reserve the bacon grease.
- Once the bacon grease is cooled a bit, measure out ¼ cup of the grease to add to the cookie dough.
- Combine boxed brownie mix, eggs, flour, bacon grease, and your favorite bourbon. You can omit the bourbon if you like, but when in Kentucky…
- Chop bacon into small bits, add to cookie dough, and gently combine.
- Drop large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.
- Once cookies are out of the oven, let them cool for about 2-3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
- Take these cookies over to your favorite brewery and dunk them in a rich, malty beer. Sharing with your bartender is optional.
- 4-6 pieces of bacon
- Box of brownie mix
- 1/4 cup reserved bacon grease
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup flour
- Favorite bourbon (we used Four Roses Yellow Label)