The deeply subjective-yet-fully correct Fingers drinking guide to Louisville, Kentucky
Editor’s note: We had some car trouble here at Fingers HQ that jammed up my day, so in lieu of a standard edition I’m piloting a new feature I’ve been meaning to try out. Hope you enjoy! Normally programming resumes with Sunday’s Fingers Weekender for paying subscribers.—Dave.
We arrived at Sergio’s World Beers fairly late. Located in Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood, the building isn’t much to look at. In fact, we would have missed it entirely, but for the Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen empty perched atop a lone barstool on the sidewalk out front. We passed through an unmarked metal door and into a warm, inviting bar piled with snacks and knick-knacks, manned by a small, friendly staff. That first anteroom gave way to a rabbit’s warren of low-slung rooms chock-a-block with commercial coolers and residential refrigerators of rare, unusual, and otherwise notable beer as far as the eye could see (not very far, on account of the whole rabbit’s warren thing.) The rooms were loosely organized by the provenance of the beers within their respective coldboxes: here was Brazil, over there Japan, a whole wall for Belgium. Take whatever beers you want from the coolers and keep the empties, we were instructed. We’ll tally up at the end. If there's a Platonic ideal of a beer bar, I think it would look something like Sergio’s.
This past weekend, your fearless Fingers editor traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, to meet up with some old colleagues. It was a lot of fun! We ate, we drank, we caroused. None of us are big sports guys, so rather than plunk down at a sports bar and mainline March Madness, we saw some classic Derby City sights, like the Louisville Slugger Museum and the Muhammad Ali Center. We did not see any horses, but that’s OK.
This being a newsletter about drinking in America, I’ve often thought it would be neat to maintain a list of boozeletter-approved places to drink. Not like, a “best of” listicle, or a power-ranking, or anything like that, mind you. My days in the #content mines are thankfully behind me, and you deserve better than that, besides. No, I’m envisioning building out a list of places I’ve drank that are good places to drink (evaluated upon Potter Stewart’s timeless, completely unscalable rubric of “you know it when you see it”) where you should drink, too, if you ever get the chance. And having recently returned from Louisville, I figure that’s as good a place as any to start.
So! What follows is the inaugural installment of Fingers’ Know-It-When-You-See-It Drinking Guide (KIWYSIDG), a new and hopefully recurring series in which I’ll combine my own considerable first-person drinking experience with the wisdom of the Fingers Fam to assemble a running list and map of wonderful watering holes. (If anybody knows a better way to represent this visually than Google Maps, I would very much appreciate your help!) Up first is Louisville. But before that, here are some quick answers to the burning questions you surely have.
❓ Fingers Know-It-When-You-See-It Drinking Guide FAQ
How does a bar make it on to Fingers’ Know-It-When-You-See-It Drinking Guide?
Someone tells me a bar is good, I go there, and if it is indeed a good bar, I add it to the guide.
Based on what, though? Drink selection? Staff skill? Storied history? Institutional vibes?
Yeah, all of that stuff. Or maybe none of it, I don’t know. I just know it when I see it.
Is this list prestigious?
Is it comprehensive and definitive?
I’m a PR person. Can I pitch you my client’s bar for inclusion?
I’m a bar owner, can I pitch you my own bar for inclusion?
Also no, but in a friendlier way.
I don’t see my favorite bar on the guide. I’m not a PR person or a bar owner, and I can’t comment because I’m not a paying subscriber. What can I do?
Buy a subscription. It supports my independent journalism!
I don’t see my favorite bar on the guide, and I am a paying subscriber. What can I do?
Damn, sorry I missed it. Put it in the comments and I’ll try to check it out next time I’m… wherever it is.
So a bar can only make the guide if you visit it? Who made you the expert?
In the most literal sense, you did, when you subscribed to this newsletter. Which, thank you! But I’ve been reporting on the drinks industry for over a decade, and I’d like to think I’ve got a pretty good sense of what constitutes a good place to drink. That said, I think it’d be very neat to incorporate recommendations into this guide from paying Friends of Fingers, so I’m going to think about the best way to do that. Stay tuned.
Are brewery taprooms and places like that eligible for inclusion?
Sure. Anywhere I can pay money to drink alcohol is fair game. Amtrak cafe car? Eligible. Philadelphia’s Dave and Buster’s? Eligible. Your cash-bar wedding? Not eligible, because I can’t evaluate a place I’ve never been, and I’m not coming. Places that give me alcohol for free are also eligible, so long as they’re not doing that in exchange for a listing.
How will you know?
Let’s say you got comped something—a tour, a drink, a t-shirt—when you visited one of these places because you or one of your companions at the time knew someone. How can we trust that you’re not allowing that to sway your judgment?
This does happen! As a matter of journalistic ethics, I will try to avoid this sort of conflict-of-interest whenever possible. When it’s not possible, I’ll disclose it, so you can judge my judgment for yourself. For what it’s worth, I always try to avoid professional situations where I’m drinking for free, because it means whoever’s paying for my drinks wants something out of me, and that’s just not a very pleasant way to drink.
All these rules and regulations are subject to change without notice. OK? OK! Let’s get to it.