- 3929 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY, 40207
- (502) 899-7070
- Overall User Rating:
- (7 ratings)
- 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday & Saturday
- Official Web Site:
Just 20 years ago, the concepts "brewpub" and "microbrewery" were so new to the American scene that the New York Times used quotation marks when using the words. Back then, there were only about 80 microbreweries in the country.
Now there are well over 1,000.
The commendable impulse behind the early microbrewery movement was a desire to create interesting alternatives to the homogeneous pasteurized lagers that dominated taps throughout the land. In some ways, those first brewpubs were a harbinger of the current interest in fresh, local foods of all kinds, and more than a few brewpubs were and are as obsessed with serving great food as they are with making great beers.
Based on a couple of recent visits, that doesn't seem to be the case these days at the BBC East, the Bluegrass Brewing Company's original location in St. Matthews.
The beers are definitely world class. A pint of Summer Wheat looked like amber fog; it was an unfiltered brew with a tingly texture and a spicy fresh bouquet that seemed perfect on a hot, dry afternoon.
Another summer offering, Vienna, had a clean copper hue and lithe balance of creamy texture and crisp flavors (both $4.25). Even BBC's root beer ($1.95) laces its sweetness with a zippy piquant edge.
The food on the other hand, is utterly pedestrian — acceptable and abundant, but uninteresting — in some ways a good match for the cavernous industrial indoor setting with television screens tuned to a variety of sporting events (an outdoor patio, often the home to musical performances, offers a very pleasant venue when temperatures are moderate; and a sprawling wraparound bar is a great setting for quaffing those great beers).
We visited just before and after a summer menu was rolled out, and found a certain sameness on both sides of the menu divide. A basket of warm colorful corn chips looked promising, but a bowl of beige BBC queso ($5.25) was consistent to a fault: It tasted as dull as it looked. Likewise a tired cup of chili ($2.50), sprinkled with cheese and diced onions, chock-full of meat and peppers, but oddly devoid of aroma and spice.
Lackluster flavors turned out to be a theme during our visits. One night, my wife, Mary, dined on a platter of beer-battered fish ($11.95) that looked as good as can be — flaky white fish wrapped in a crisp golden crust — but tasted flat. Thick wedges of garlic fries had a mushy consistency, as if perhaps they'd rested for quite some time under a warming light.
A half-pound burger made from Kentucky bison was better: It had a flavorful charred exterior and was cooked, as designated, medium-rare. But the effect was somewhat diminished by a nondescript square of what purported to be cheddar cheese, but contributed no discernible taste whatsoever.
A salad assembled from mixed greens, roma tomatoes, carrot planks, crisp croutons and shredded Parmesan ($3.95) was acceptable, and a house-made balsamic vinaigrette had all the right accents.
In addition to sandwiches, wraps, pizzas and standard pub grub, the summer menu includes lemon basil tilapia ($14.95), bowtie pasta mixed with grilled chicken, peppers, broccoli and red onion in a basil Parmesan cream sauce ($10.95).
From that list, grilled honey-glazed salmon ($14.95) was a serviceable option. Though the salmon had been grilled until dry, it retained a pleasant flavor (though cubes of pineapple salsa were completely irrelevant and better swept away), and was plated with a generous portion of sautéed vegetables and an enormous mound of mashed potatoes that had enough soft lumps to persuade me they were real.
At BBC, the servers wear shirts emblazoned with the motto "Beer Is Food." Fair enough. But these days at BBC East, anyway, food is much less than beer.