By Matt Wickstrom, Kentucky.com
LEXINGTON, Ky. — A pre-Prohibition-era malt mill site on Lexington’s north side is back open and serving brews after over a century in the dark. Following 25 years as a microbrewer, Lexington native Kevin Richey opened Rock House Brewing in December 2016.
The name “Rock House” pays homage to Richey’s avid passion for music, which started as a kid listening to his parents’ collection of Motown records and continues today with his own collection of over 700 records.
Sharing that passion is long-time friend and business partner Billy Hacker, who by day works for Lee Building Products. Hacker had long been a fan of Richey’s beers, which he recalled him bringing along to UK football games over a decade prior.
“I remember Kevin always bringing his beer to the tailgates,” Hacker said. “Back then I told him that if he ever started a brewery that I’m in. Well, here we are.”
The brewery is on the site of Fayette County’s first steam-powered hemp mill and later the Luigart and Harting Malt Mill owned by Joseph Luigart, a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1855 before settling in Lexington in the 1870s.
An early investor in what is now Lexington’s North Limestone district, Luigart is now remembered with the naming of Luigart Court, the street where Rock House is located.
Soon after Luigart died in 1896 the malt mill was gone as well, and the building was vacant for several years before being acquired by the Lexington Quarry Company in 1923. It also later was a house; Rock House began leasing it in early 2016.
The Rock House Brewing site includes a small taproom surrounded by a spacious outdoor patio overlooked by a water tower mural painted by Lennon Michalski and Kenton Young in October 2017 in partnership with the Lexington Art League and NoLi CDC. A parking lot separates the taproom from a more spacious warehouse that houses the brewery’s equipment along with an additional bar, projection screens and seating for events and overflow space during heavy business hours.
The various spaces also play host to events throughout the year including open mic nights every Wednesday, bi-monthly movie nights, trivia nights, art parties, live music and UK watch parties.
Much like the brewery’s name, many of the beers served up inside Rock House feature music-related names and references, from the Roadie American Pale Ale to the Groupie Cream Ale, Double Kick Drum Double IPA and Quadrasonic, a Belgian Quad coming in at a hefty 11.5 percent alcohol by volume.
Other staples behind the bar include the hemp seed-brewed Uncle Jon’s Brown Ale and Shannon the Dude’s Brew, a Kentucky Common made with vanilla and roasted grains named after the Kentucky Sports Radio DJ.
In addition to the brewery’s mainstays on tap, Rock House also features Test Batch Tuesday “RHSingles” one-off releases every week that allow Richey to try out new, more peculiar concoctions. Recent blends have ranged from the fruity 2015 Called Grapefruit New England IPA to the sweet 3 Hour Tour Coconut Porter with lactose, vanilla, honey and cinnamon; and Spill the Tea, Karen – a Blonde Ale with green tea and ginger.
Other past test batch releases like the Coconut Porter, Peanut Butter Pie Porter and Turn to Stone New England IPA – named after the hit Electric Light Orchestra song – have been brought back on tap.
“It can get boring making the same beer over and over,” said Richey. “It’s nice having the ability to experiment and see what customers are receptive to.”
In addition to making their own originals brews, Rock House has also collaborated with many breweries including Mirror Twin, Somerset’s Jarfly Brewing, Richmond’s Dreaming Creek and most recently Pikeville’s recently opened Broken Throne Brewing, whom they teamed up with on a Wee Heavy Scottish Ale coming in at 9 percent ABV, with a barrel-aged batch set to arrive in the spring in the 11 percent ABV range.
The brewery features 10 taps, all of original blends, in its taproom and 20 taps in its warehouse featuring all originals plus a few ciders from locals Wisebird and Ciderboys and others from outside the commonwealth like Blake’s Hard Cider from Armada, Mich. According to Hacker, the brewery plans to acquire a wine/liquor license in the near future to broaden what they can provide to customers.
“I love making beer and sharing it with people,” said Richey. “Through the brewery we’re able to share not just with friends and family but the entire community.”
This story was originally published at Kentucky.com with a full gallery of photos from Herald-Leader staff photographer Alex Slitz.
Rock House Brewing
Where: 119 Luigart Court
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-midnight Friday, 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday