great flood retrospective

How We Got Here: A Great Flood Retrospective

These are exciting times at Great Flood. We’re in the middle of Flood Week, our annual commemoration of the Great Flood of ‘37; we’ve finally received licensing to produce beer in our new, 13,000 square foot facility; and we’re on the cusp of releasing cans of our Find-A-Way IPA and Toasted Brown Ale across the Louisville market (and beyond). Whether through this blog, social media, or just talking in the taproom on Bardstown Road, we’ve loved sharing this journey with you. And, with so many exciting things on the horizon, we wanted to take some time to talk about how we got here, what it’s meant to us, and what we’re looking forward to. So, whether you’re an old friend or a new acquaintance, we hope you enjoy our story.

It took a lot of finagling to pare it all down, but we think we’ve managed to do so in three chunks. So, without further ado, here’s how we went from three guys homebrewing to a 13,000 square foot production brewery.

Part 1: Homebrewing

Great Flood History: Matt home brewing in 2012

Matt brewing back in 2012.

Matt and Vince started homebrewing in February of 2012, picking up equipment and materials from the now-gone My Old Kentucky Homebrew. Paul Young, who’s now brewing at Monnik, was the first to help them get their hands on some homebrewing equipment. They’d brew once a week or so, experimenting with styles and seeing what they liked, and they’d conduct “research” by filling growlers at Cumberland Brewery and the BBC Taproom, buying six packs, and doing flights at Liquor Barn to discover styles. When they stumbled across something they liked, they took a stab at concocting something similar.

Their first homebrew took place on February 4, 2012. They completed a couple extract batches but almost immediately switched over to all grain, and, as is typical for most homebrewers, mostly brewed five gallon batches. Brewing took place over at Matt’s house in Douglass Hills, and the excitement rose from there. They kept brewing and experimenting, sharing their beers with their friends at parties to a good deal of praise, giving them the idea that they might just be able to make it work as a business. So, they put together a business plan to start figuring out if it was even feasible.

Louisville wasn’t nearly the craft beer town that’s it’s becoming today, but there were still plenty of breweries available. Matt and Vince didn’t identify with any of them, though. They felt like they could bring something unique and different to the table. They wanted to create a space where quality was important, where the atmosphere was communal. They wanted a brewery where people could come hang out and read a book, watch sports, play a game — just spend time with good beer and those they wanted to be around.

When they realized they could make it work and became serious about starting a business, they brought Zach in. He wasn’t much of a beer guy, but his business acumen and way with financials made him an immediate asset to the team. They knew they’d have to shoulder much of the work on their own, but, determined to give it a go, they set out to make it work.

Part 2: Building and Opening a Taproom

Great Flood History: The team building the taproom.

Building the original taproom

Just about everything indicated to them that they’d have to do all the woodwork and construction themselves, and they were all working day jobs at the time, so much of the work happened outside of business hours. Matt and Zach went about searching for a building. They originally found a spot not far from where they ended up, but they happened to walk across the current taproom on their way there. They worried that no building owners would take a chance on three guys in their early twenties with virtually no experience. Luckily, they met their current landlord, Nardy Bridgers, who happened to open his first bar when he was 21 and who was willing to take a chance.

Matt, Zach, and Vince loved the space and were originally going to take only half of it (fearing they wouldn’t draw enough customers to fill the full space), but, the night before construction teams came in to divide the building in two and install two front doors, they called to stop them and tell them they wanted the whole thing. They received the keys on Christmas Day 2013, began construction immediately, and continued through early March. Licensing took another month and a half, and, with a handful of scaled-up homebrew recipes on tap, they opened their doors on April 10, 2014.

Great Flood History: The completed taproom before opening in 2014.

The completed taproom before opening

As exciting as opening was, it was still pretty hectic. Matt, Zach, and Vince were all working their day jobs, making beer, and bartending. It wasn’t long, though, before the big moments started piling up. In June 2014, they hired their first employees: Rose, Adam, Suzy, and Travis. Michael and Alex came on board a couple months later, and the brewery even added Mondays and Tuesdays to its then-limited schedule. Soon after, they did their first run of barrel-aged bottles, the High Water Series, which consisted of the following: Velvet Racer (an imperial red), Double Eclipse (an imperial brown), Old Imperial ‘37 (barrel-aged porter), and Tribulation (barrel-aged breakfast stout). They expanded from eight taps to sixteen, started selling guest beers, and have almost always had eight of their own beers on at all times since.

These times weren’t easy, and, to be fair, we didn’t expect so many people to be loyal to us. We wanted it, sure, but we never knew the support would be quite what it was. To give back to these folks, we started our Flood Liars Club in January 2015, and we’ve kept it consistently full since. As our customer base grew, though, the wins kept piling up, and it wasn’t long before we knew that we were ready to move ahead with Phase 3 of our business plan: opening a production facility.

Part 3: The Production Facility

In May of 2016, we purchased our current production warehouse in Shelby Park. Licensing took about 9 months, but we kept our hands full in the meantime. We can now produce 4,000 barrels of beer per year, compared to 300 at the taproom; we have a 15 barrel system compared to a 2 barrel system; and we have 30 barrel fermenters, a big upgrade from our 2 barrel fermenters at the taproom. Our equipment is all American-made, and we were lucky enough to score some of it used from our friends over at Dust Bowl Brewing Company in California.

Great Flood History: The completed production warehouse.

We’re now full-speed ahead brewing beer here, and, as of the time of this blog post, we’ve just started canning as well. We expect our product to hit the market during the first week of February, starting in Louisville and moving to Lexington and Northern Kentucky as soon as possible. Cans will be available in the taproom, too, but this isn’t to say that the space isn’t special. Our Douglass Loop location will always be the face of Great Flood Brewing Company, and we’ll continue to make beer there that’s exclusive to that building. That isn’t to say that a second taproom isn’t planned; the goal is to open one up in the production warehouse, where we’ll have more of an industrial feel, as well as space for tours and larger events.

More than anything, we want to be strong, supportive neighbors in both Belknap and Shelby Park. Our goal has always been to contribute to our neighborhood in a positive, meaningful way, and we can’t be more excited that we now have the opportunity to do that across two of Louisville’s most exciting neighborhoods.

Thank You

We can’t stress enough how exciting of a time this is for us, but we want to take time to thank the great friends and partners we’ve met along the way. So, without further ado, big thanks to the following for partnering with us, being good friends, and helping us get to this monumental place in our business’s history:

  • Archetype Coffee Company
  • The Arrow Fund
  • Clayton & Crume
  • Derby City Run Club
  • Fleet Feet Sports
  • Frank’s Meat and Produce
  • Games on Tap
  • Gus Bus Trivia & Brian Cox
  • Louisville Adult Hockey Players Association
  • Louisville City FC
  • Louisville Rugby Football Club
  • Morris Deli
  • River City Distributing
  • Sunergos Coffee
  • Wayside Christian Mission

…and anybody we might have forgotten. A big thanks goes out to you, too, reader, whether you’ve never been to the brewery once or are one of our regulars. We wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are today without out you, and we’re thankful for your support. Cheers!

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