Gralehaus is the latest project from Louisville, Kentucky's Lori Beck and Tyler Trotter, adding a cozy café/bar (and soon a guest house) to their wildly popular Holy Grale beer compound. Beck and Trotter are on a mission to bring world-class beer experiences to Louisville, starting with the Louisville Beer Store in 2009, and opening Holy Grale in 2010 to much acclaim, including mentions by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, and other top publications. Their newest venture, as first reported last month by Insider Louisville, pairs Intelligentsia coffee prepared on a Modbar espresso system with a wide selection of beers in bottle and on tap, fresh juices, house-made kombucha, and “regional, nostalgic cuisine” from chef Andrew Myers.
Beck says that beer as a pairing and ingredient is one of the guiding principles of their food program, and this Friday, March 21st, the team at Gralehaus is hosting a pairing dinner to show that off. The event will feature house-made concoctions using Intelligentsia coffees and Kilogram teas, including a King Crimson “hibiscus kombucha”, a “Black Cat infused Imperial IPA,” a “KY Bourbon Barrel aged Ecuadorian Chemex,” and a “Coffee Cherry Shrub”. Intelligentsia's Jay Cunningham will be in attendance from Chicago to discuss the different coffees and teas.
Beck and Trotter are avowed beer geeks, with a heavy interest in classic beer cultures. Holy Grale is housed in a former Unitarian church; the creative pair (Beck received an MFA in art curation, and Trotter is a touring musician) were inspired by Flemish and Dutch cultures, leading them to create a food menu focused around those cuisines and outfit the space with a “selection of Last Suppers” and other “playful” monastic themes.
Holy Grale and the new Gralehaus addition are connected by an outdoor space inspired by German biergarten, and Beck says that German drinking culture was one of the wider inspirations for the Gralehaus concept. She says that in Germany, breweries often have guest rooms on the top floors, and they wanted to capture a similar vibe at their new mixed use space. So far only the downstairs portion is open, but as they roll into summer they will be opening the guest rooms up above one by one, each with their own design aesthetic.
Beck says that they didn't want to be confined by traditional American conceptions of a bed and breakfast, and that it was important to create a space for both guests and the neighborhood. She points to Longman & Eagle in Chicago, a Michelin-starred restaurant and bar describing itself as “modern take on an old Chicago neighborhood inn” as being very influential. In addition, Beck says they regularly fly in noted brewers from all over the world for events, so being able to house them on-site makes good sense.
Beck freely admits that they still have much to learn when it comes to coffee, but says that Trotter, who used to work at a large commercial coffee roaster, has always been a big fan. Like many, travel helped hook the couple on the promise of better coffee. Beck says that when they were planning Gralehaus, they “knew we wanted to do breakfast, which means doing coffee, too.” The Intelligentsia connection came, unsurprisingly, through a beer event at Three Floyds Brewing, an intensely well-regarded brewery in Munster, Indiana, where Jay Cunningham was on hand for the release of Three Floyds' Dark Lord imperial stout (brewed with Intelligentsia coffee). Mr. Cunningham has stayed in regular contact with Beck and Trotter as the Gralehaus concept developed.
As they were planning the bar, Beck says they were very drawn to the Modbar system because of its “sleek, inspiring” design reminiscent of a beer tap, and the greater freedom it gives staff to connect with and educate their customers. They pride themselves on knowledgeable employees, and made a desire for ongoing education a big priority in their hiring and training. Espresso and steam taps are arrayed right next to their beer and kombucha taps, with a Mahlkönig K30 Twin grinder tucked in the corner. The overall effect does an admirable job of integrating Modbar taps into a traditional bar setup.
Intelligentsia espresso drinks are not the only coffee options on the menu–they also offer a coldbrewed Ethiopian from local roaster Argo and Sons. Beck also says that the Gralehaus General Manager Leslee MacPherson is a “beverage whiz” who is always whipping up new concoctions, like the kombuchas, shrubs and spritzers featured on the menu of their upcoming pairing dinner, or their decadent Cap'n Crunch gelato.
Gralehaus looks like a positively dreamy stop-over for any beverage traveller, and certainly proves that innovative coffee (and beer) experiences can be found far from America's coasts. Beck says that the reception has been great so far, and that “most people are getting a shot of espresso and a kombucha.”
Gralehaus is located at 1001 Baxter Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky, open seven days a week 8 to 8.
Photos courtesy of Jessica Fey.