Summit brewer Eric Harper dug deep into the history books for this pre-Prohibition beer. Photo: Pioneer Press
When it comes to Kentucky’s proud indigenous products, one thinks of ham, bacon and bourbon, a holy trinity that has given generations of Americans immeasurable pleasure. To that list please add a most unusual ale, the Kentucky Common.
You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the style. The beer was popular around Louisville more than a century earlier, when the rank-and-file laborers favored it. Kentucky Common was often made with a blend of barley and corn. Of course, the cob-based vegetable is an essential ingredient in bourbon, which is also made according to a process known as sour mash.
Basically, grains and water are boiled to create nutrient-rich mash that’s blended with a bit of acidic spent mash that’s chockfull of live yeast. (Envision making sourdough bread with a starter.) The acids keep harmful bacteria and unwanted yeast at bay, allowing the mash to continue on its path to an oak barrel.