I’ve written a bit about the area’s newest craft beer brewery and how things work a little different south of the river, but now I’ve experienced it first hand when they were kind enough to invite me to the media preview night. Here’s what you need to know and why you need to go there.
Art, Form, and Function
The space was designed with vision, purpose, and detail from the ground up. Danny Gold (The Party Source beer buyer) and Mitch Dougherty (brew master) were given a blank canvas to work with – albeit one with some dimensional constraints.
The two then roughed in a layout to efficiently house an operational on-premise brewery along with a true craft beer bar. Again, the intent here was to be able to sell the beer they make along side other local, national, and international quality beers. It’s not just about Ei8ht Ball beers.
The attention to detail lies in the aesthetics. They teamed it with the renowned Covington branding firm BLDG to create an image that reflects a little bit of attitude in a fun way. This then translates normally boring plain drywall walls into brick, glass, and Ei8ht Ball emblazoned wallpaper.
The metal tables have a high polished sheen that reflects and brightens light from their custom growler light fixtures. The standing table tops are wooden barrel tops with what will quickly become a familiar logo.
The floor gives the illusion of large aged wood blanks, but I suspect it’s actually poured concrete in that likeness. Though, I didn’t get down on all fours to inspect – it’s just a floor after all.
You enter the area from the beer aisle (nice way to funnel folks in and out of there past all the goodies) and then immediately look through large glass windows into the brewery area. You are met with shiny stainless fermenters (four 15bbl, one 30bbl, and one 30bbl brite tank), a mash lauter tun, kettle and two-story hot liquor tank.
This adds some depth to the space and gives the illusion that the taproom is much larger than it actually is in pure square footage. That glass wall is also adorned with a large neon and print Ei8ht Ball logo. You aren’t ever going to forget where you’re at and any photos that make it to social media will likely be photo bombed by the now familiar logo.
It isn’t all eclectic imagery as the form is purposeful to serve its primary function as a craft beer bar. There are 42 tap handles all with the same diminutive, nondescript black tap handles. The only contrasting tap handles are those of the in-house Ei8ht Ball beers which are 2-3 times as tall and capped off with a toy of some sort (think Spider Man, Robocop, Cartman, and the like). The only time you will see a branded tap handle from another brewery would be at a tap takeover.
How do you know what to order? Just look at the big screen TV behind the bar or above it flanking either side. You get a complete listing of the beer basics directly behind the bar. The flanking TVs add the Rate Beer score, ABV, and price per pour size (i.e. taster, pint/snifter, growler).
Not only is the bar great if you want to sit down for a few but it also intends to serve those who are on the go or have somewhere else to be. They take growler fills very seriously and this means a few things.
They have installed the very sophisticated (and expensive) Pegas counter-pressure growler filling system. I believe the next closest system is in Columbus at The Daily Growler . I won’t give a complete lesson in beer physics but this is a counter-pressure growler filler. Meaning, the vessel is purged of oxygen (fresh beer’s mortal enemy) and then filled under pressure so it’s essentially a “keg-to-keg” transfer that keeps the CO2 in solution.
Translation, no foam and no release of carbonation. This means your fresh beer can stay fresh for weeks if you don’t open it and keep it refrigerated. Here’s a scenario of why this matters. Let’s say they put on a keg of Zombie Dust, KBS, or a fun one-off from the brewery but you have a party next week or a busy month at work.
You can fill it, take it home, and then let your schedule dictate when you can enjoy the beer in its most optimal form. Brilliant! It also means you can grab growlers to go at the checkout line coolers at the front of the store knowing the beer is in great shape to be enjoyed now or later.
As a side note, the fancy growler filler only serves about half of their taps due to some space and technical limitations. The other half of the taps can still mindfully fill growlers but with a little less shelf life. The front 20 taps will be filled in a traditional manner with a long flexible tube.
However a couple of the tap handles are actually CO2 lines so they can drop some of the heavier gas in first which purges out the unfriendly oxygen as it fills with liquid and then top it off with another squirt. This will give it a fighting chance at holding up well for a few days to a week or more. No guarantees though, it’s best to drink it soon.
Rare Beer Mondays
Read that again, rare beer Mondays.
Now realize this is The Party Source we are talking about. Rare beer means rare beer. You can start off each week on a good foot with some of the best and most sought after beers in the world. Danny has been hoarding all kinds of great beers in anticipation of this launch.
For example, this Monday they have a very hard to find keg of Scotland’s BrewDog Tokyo imperial stout. This is a massive 18.2% ABV beer brewed with jasmine and cranberries. Each person will be allowed one snifter for $5 which is a hell of a deal for a beer of this caliber. It won’t last long so be there at 5pm for the tapping.
Danny mentioned other beers might include Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, something special from Founders (KBS perhaps??), and other goodies in that realm of beer need fantasy. Note to self, clear Monday nights in perpetuity.
I have other tidbits to share that I couldn’t fit in the flow of the story as I write this in the wee hours of the morning with an insomniac mind.
The brewery/bar opens to the public on Saturday, November 23rd at 11am. The Ei8ht Ball Prodigal Son is a delicious heavy hopped (mmmm mosaic, nelson, and simcoe) beer with a moderate amount of bitterness for a pale ale but big on hop flavor and aroma. Very tasty and easy to drink. The K-hole stout is a coffee and chocolate lover’s dream. I could wake up and drink this with bacon, eggs, and pancakes. DELICIOUS!!
The bar will have a limited amount of bottles for sale. I saw Zombie Dust, Moloko, Cantillon, and Utopias. Yes, for $22 you can get a 3oz of Uptopias!
Look up. Above your head in the bar area is the grist room. AKA – the mill for all the grains that start out as 50 pound sacks of malted barley and such. It features a massive six roller mill, which is generally overkill for beer grains but necessary if one were milling corn for a liquor mash as they do in the under-construction distillery. I kind of missed the full story here but I believe the brewery has the ability to also serve in a mashing capacity in its downtime for the other side of the house.
Also above the bar is the massive walk-in cooler for the brewery and bar. This is where they will store beers they make for distribution (limited and very selective at the team’s direction) and those that are on-tap below. There is capacity for six gas lines to carry nitrous oxide for those oh so creamy nitro pours!
The Ei8ht Ball kegs were custom made from a German company and feature an undeniably recognizable two-tone color scheme and logo. These will be available in the regular keg/beer cave at the Party Source – sure to stick out like a sore (delicious) thumb.
The flat screen TV recessed in the brick wall opposite the bar doubles as a Skype station. This will allow the bar to remotely host other brewers and beer experts from anywhere in the world that has a reliable internet connection. Finally, the internet is removing barriers to important information and not just medical breakthrough junk.
Small bladder folks will appreciate that the bathrooms lie just beyond the video chat wall. No more traversing the store trying to find their basic bathrooms.
Touching base again on the growlers. They are very conscious of cleanliness in delivering the best tasting beer so you can optionally join their growler program which requires a nominal $2 deposit for an Ei8ht Ball vessel (32oz and 64oz). When you bring it back in they just swap it for a brad new one that has been properly cleaned and sanitized. Short on rent money? Round up the dozen growlers littering your home and turn them all in for cash if you would like.
And that’s about all I have to say about that! Cheers to good beer!