Rhythm & Brews
At Gravely Brewing Co., which opened last August in Louisville’s Phoenix Hill neighborhood, music and beer go hand in hand.
Dubbing itself a “music brewery,” Gravely boasts both a dedicated taproom and a state-of-the-art, acoustically engineered music venue able to accommodate roughly 300.
From the beginning, the plan was for music to inspire the beer, and vice versa, says Gravely co-founder Nathaniel Gravely, an Edgewood, Kentucky, native who co-owns and operates the business with his wife, Holly Gravely; her sister, Kelly Buenning; and Kelly’s husband, Cory Buenning, who is the head brewer.
From the clever, song- and artist-inspired beer names — like Dancing in the Dark (a Dunkel Lager), La Bamba Negra (a dark Mexican Lager) and John Cougar (a Blond Ale) — to the unique taproom bar back crafted from a mix of vintage stereo systems, tape decks and speakers , there’s no mistaking that music is at the heart of the Gravely brand.
“We’re not the first brewery to have music, and we’re not the first music venue to have its own beer on draft either, but we’re trying to really tie everything we do from a music perspective into the brand of who we are,” says Nathaniel Gravely, a former MTV concert promoter and music blogger.
Situated on the site of the former Phoenix Brewing Co., Gravely takes inspiration from Louisville’s rich brewing heritage and from Nathaniel and Cory’s families’ German lineage. An outdoor beer garden offers views of the site’s historic limestone brewery tunnels, and—when not in use for performances— the music venue takes on the persona of a German beer hall. Classic German recipes are always on tap, though the beer list rotates frequently, with everything from IPAs to Hefeweizens in the mix.
The taproom offers 14 different draft options, and Cory Buenning — who moved to Louisville from Jackson Hole, where he was a longtime brewer for Snake River Brewing — tries to have at least one new beer available each week.
“I personally prefer a beer that is thirst-quenching, first and foremost,” Buenning says. “I’m looking for a beer that has flavor that is balanced with drinkability.” His go-to Gravely drink: the brand’s Butcher Holler beer, a Dortmunder Lager he feels offers a perfect balance of taste and smoothness.
Because both Nathaniel and Cory are steadfast about beer freshness, Gravely’s priority isn’t — and likely won’t ever be — mass production and canning. Instead, they’re focused on getting their beers on tap in Kentucky and plan to make bottles available on a small scale on site.
Meanwhile, Nathaniel is looking forward to ramping up Gravely’s music bookings in 2018 after successful early performances by Teddy Abrams, hip-hop artist James Lindsay and a local Irish band, among others. Upcoming performances include a Swedish metal band, jam bands, rock and country — a diverse array of styles that’s intentional.
“Cory makes beer across every genre of beer imaginable. And he does them really well. We should do music the same way, in my opinion,” Gravely says.
Twice weekly, Mt. Washington farmer Larry Troutman arrives at Gravely to pick up roughly a ton of spent grain, spent hops and food scraps, which he then feeds to his pigs and chickens. It’s an arrangement that Gravely has had in place since its opening. “Sustainability is something that’s super important to our core identity. Having a partnership with a local farmer allows us to reduce waste and contribute to an important part of the agricultural cycle,” Gravely says.
Operating as a part of, and in cooperation with, the local community is a driving force for the company. When the music venue is not in use, it can be rented out for community events, entrepreneurial presentations and more. And Gravely has an exclusive partnership with local restaurant Mayan Street Food, whose food truck is on site six days a week.
Already, Gravely has procured a dedicated following of neighborhood regulars — and that’s a vibe Cory, for one, is adamant about protecting. “I was very insistent that we keep the music venue separate from the taproom so that when we do have shows, the locals could still come in,” he says.
And while concerts and planned draft collaborations with musicians are unique aspects that set Gravely apart from most other craft breweries in town, Buenning says his personal focus, beyond just crafting great beer, is making sure the spot feels “first and foremost like a neighborhood pub,” he says. “We want tourists to call it a destination spot. But it’s also a place where people can feel comfortable coming in after work for a happy hour beer.”
Gravely Brewing Co.
514 Baxter Ave. Louisville, KY 40206