So, after returning to Louisville for another full week this year, it’s quite clear that this place is a true gem and needs a brand new write-up. I liked them a lot last year, mind you, but...yeah...this is the sort of place that I wished like hell existed in Boulder (Backcountry has its moments for sure, but it just doesn’t invite repeated visits the same way HG does, and they don’t seem to have good luck with their import kegs, often seeming old or poorly cared-for). Let’s start with the vibe. Zero TVs. Zero ticky-tacky advertising. Brick and dark wood. Elegant and classy without being pretentious or "fancy". Eclectic, varied music played at very modest volume, never loud or obtrusive (classical, post-rock, jazz, it’s all over the place and rarely if ever junky pop music). In an old church. Downstairs main area, cozy upstairs loft, and outdoor back patio. It does get cramped when it gets busy (very little room between the bar and the side wall, so on crazy nights you literally have to walk outside and back in the back door to get to the other side or upstairs. But those sorts of times are usually just late nights Fri/Sat or when a beer festival happens to be in town. It’s a really enjoyable place to sit and drink...warm and inviting and oh, so geeky. Six taps upstairs, all separate from the downstairs list, so make sure to check the paper menu or just go up there. And all of their staff are cool folks who like good beer...amount of knowledge varies from person to person but is generally quite high. Sometimes they do get stressed when things get nutso, but I never once felt unwelcome or cold-shouldered or disrespected. And then of course there’s the beer selection itself. You’ll not find anything better in town. Even before the Shelton fest-related kegs started dropping, they had ultra-obscure stuff like Boon Foeder 85. And then of course there’s a good chance to see XX Bitter, Taras Boulba, De Ranke Saison, Haand Norwegian Wood? Where the hell else are you going to find treasures like these on draft??? They are somewhat Belgian-centric, but absolutely spread the love with stuff from Germany, England, Scandinavia, etc. as well. Plenty of American stuff too, but geeky, less often-seen breweries. And lots of neat stuff in bottles, too (including Blackberry Farm, de la Senne, etc.). So...yep...it’s one of the best bars in the country for sure. Not every visit will offer 4+ quality draft winners for your tastes (whether due to the keg being less than stellar or just leaning too much towards trendy Stillwater/Prairie sorts of pseudo-brewer things), but even for a super-picky curmudgeon like me it’s rare that they won’t have *something* that will rock your socks (and as I said, the bottle list can cover you if the draft doesn’t).
Visited both the day before, and the day of Zwanze 2016. Some street parking is available, but the parking lot right beside it is not. I guess the noodle place next door is very stingy with their parking lot, so don’t park there. It’s best to park in the residential area very close by. There are two floors to the place. Upstairs is called the Choir Loft, where they have about 25 more seats and another set of taps. On a normal day, the loft opens at 6 PM, where the rest of the bar opens at 4 PM. The taps the day before Zwanze were stellar. A draft lambik from Boon, a bunch of rarer Belgian beers, plenty of awesome Kentucky and other craft beer available. They offer 5 ounce pours of everything, too. Proper glassware goes without saying. The staff all know their stuff about beer, too. Service was a bit slow at times, but for the most part, I was able to walk up to the bar and have beer in hand within a couple minutes. This place is world class, and should be visited if ever in the vicinity. Both of my visits here were excellent.
weihenweizen (429) Charleston Area, West Virginia | September 18, 2015| Updated September 20, 2015
Parking is limited on the street. Smaller u-shaped bar and small beer garden out back. Selection is good. Average value.
willisread (97) Nashville, Tennessee | May 12, 2015| Updated February 14, 2017
Staff is really amazing. The servers are really on great with the service, but not in a pushy way. The food was great (I had the grass fed local beef burger). The beer selection was wonderful as well. Many interesting beers from a multitude of countries and styles. Even for a picky person like me there were plenty of options. The prices were extremely fair I thought (although I’m living in Tokyo so my idea on price may have become skewed). The 5oz pour thing is amazing as well. It is an absolutely beautiful spot with the beers and service to match. Better than anything in Tokyo. Louisville you have a world class pub, cherish it.
shrubber85 (364) Greenville, Indiana | January 1, 2015| Updated September 20, 2015
Very interesting location - in old church. Incredible tap list that is constantly changing with a nice bottle list (many that are unavailable elsewhere in Louisville). They keep their list updated so you don’t have to guess what they have going in. Eclectic food selection - tasty. A great place. And have to give a place that has CBS AND Fou’Foune on tap at the same time a perfect selection rating.
Great ambiance, maybe the best service and knowledge I’ve ever experienced. I saw a few bottles, but mostly seems to be taps (20-30 of them). Solid selection of high-rated brews, but not a lot of original or new to choose from. Overall, really good, but not terrific.