INTERVIEW: False Idol Independent Brewers talk about their new venture with V-Grits!

Nothing is quite as exciting to me as getting wind that a new micro or nano brewery is opening in Louisville. When I was told that a new couple of brewers were planning to move in to the space that the old Monkey Wrench used to inhabit, my ears naturally perked up as I became anxiously ready to chase that stick off the porch. It’s been a treat to watch Louisville’s beer scene continue to blossom over the last decade plus, so naturally this was welcome news.

The name of the Derby City’s latest nano brewery is False Idol Independent Brewers and they are partnering with V-Grits, a food truck that offers exclusively vegan street food that has been in operation for the last few years.  Together, they plan to offer a truly unique dining and drinking experience under one roof. Expect to see them open in a few months in The Highlands at the intersection at Barret and Winter avenues.

To get a better understanding of what these folks are putting together and what there motivations are, I reached out to False Idol co-owners Shawn and Rebecca Steele and Kristina Addington of V-Grits to see if they’d be up for answering a few questions. Thankfully, they obliged…

Never Nervous: So will this new spot play host to two separate entities (V-Grits and False Idol), or will this be a one roof, one name type of establishment?

Shawn & Rebecca: We’ll keep the two separate brands, V-Grits and False Idol Independent Brewers, but they’ll operate just like one business under one roof. When our customers walk through the door, they will experience the restaurant and brewery as one cohesive business.

NN: Is there an official opening day? When can we plan to get our asses properly drunk and full of food in your establishment?

S&R: V-grits is aiming to open in April, and False Idol will follow soon thereafter (Summer). How soon depends on quite a few moving pieces, but will largely depend on the long lead time on the brewery system itself as well as brewing up the first batch of delicious beers. While we’re waiting, rest assured that we’re working to bridge the gap with cool events, and we’ll have some of our favorite breweries on tap in the meantime.

“V-grits is aiming to open in April, and False Idol will follow soon thereafter (Summer).”

NN: How did the partnership between False Idol and V-Grits happen?

S&R: We (Shawn and Rebecca Steele) first met Kristina Addington at the screening of Cowspiracy, hosted by Uplands PEAK Farm Animal Sanctuary ’s co-founders Mark and Michelle Pruitt in 2014. She was serving up a number of yummy vegan bites, and we were hooked on her food from day one! With some of the buildings we were looking at for the brewery, we found that we could really branch out to some cool spots if we brought in a partner, and V-Grits was the first name on that list. We’d worked together on sanctuary fundraisers, Seven Sense Festival (Shawn’s a co-founder), and Shawn’s band even played at the V-Grits launch party at the Monkey Wrench. Shawn approached them, and they were looking for space as well, so it was perfect timing and an easy yes!

NN: What do you like about the location that your new spot will reside in, and how do you feel the neighborhood will respond?

S&R: There is a fondness for the Monkey Wrench that many people who live in the neighborhood feel, and we live a few blocks away ourselves, so everyone is really excited to get back in and enjoy food and drinks on the rooftop deck. It’s been cool to see people checking out the interior demo as they walk or drive by, and there’s an overall sense of revitalization along Barret Avenue. Overall, the neighborhood seems eager to meet us!

“The neighborhood seems eager to meet us!”

NN: Will there be much renovation and/or change to space you’ve acquired?

S&R: The majority of the renovation will be interior, including an expanded kitchen, larger walk-in coolers, remodeled bathrooms, and creating a more open, yet cozy, seating arrangement. The bar was already rock solid, but a new look for that area is going to make a big difference. The rooftop bar is still in great shape, and we’ll be doing some minor repairs to get the roof ready for outdoor events this spring. Overall, the layout will be familiar, but opened up.

NN: How would you describe the vibe that your place is aiming for?

S&R: Bright and open, with a strong artistic theme thanks to our artist Sarah Tidwell (she’s incredible, check out www.theinkingdragon.com). Orders will be taken at the bar, with seating arrangements from a standing bar to group tables to comfy booths, all with a direct view of the brewery. From a brewery perspective, we aim to make sure it’s not an intimidating space for people who aren’t craft beer connoisseurs. We revere craft beer, but any patron should be able to feel comfortable ordering and know what they are getting.

NN: Where’d the name False Idol come from?

S&R: In a world that can sometimes feel full of unrealistic and idealistic measures of what it means to be happy/successful/worthy, we named our brewery False Idol as a reminder to stay true to one’s self.

Our working motto has been “There is only You”, and while it may sound selfish, it’s more about autonomy and feeling free to pursue your own happiness. Even applying that to beer itself is important to us, as we’ve seen the craft beer community really pressure its peers to worship certain beers while shunning others, based in many cases on nothing but hype. Love what you love. Nobody here is going to shame you.

“Love what you love. Nobody here is going to shame you.”

NN: Is there anything in particular that you’d say was an inspiration behind this new venture?

S&R: We gained a new/renewed sense of appreciation for the brewing scene here in the United States after taking a trip to Germany and Belgium. Those areas are beer meccas, and it was wonderful to taste the beer and see the history, but we found that they lacked the widespread variety and experimentation that we have stateside. It made us miss U.S. craft beer, and we realized that what we knew about beer was much more valuable than we had previously thought. We had flirted with the idea of a brewery before, and that trip sealed the deal. Partnering with a restaurant that we trust, patronize, and align with ethically means that we are truly creating our dream.

NN: It seems that Louisville’s craft microbrewery scene has exploded over the last decade or so. How will False Idol stand out? Is there something in particular that you will do differently or better than other local brewers?

S&R: Louisville does have a strong and growing craft beer scene, but there’s still lots of room in the market for nanobreweries built around serving neighborhoods instead of regional distribution. This is atypical for new brewhouses, who usually opt for large brew systems, which makes them potentially less flexible. Doing smaller batches allows for constant variety on tap, and most of our recipes utilize unique grains like wheat and rye to put a unique spin on familiar styles.

“Doing smaller batches allows for constant variety on tap, and most of our recipes utilize unique grains like wheat and rye to put a unique spin on familiar styles.”

NN: Will you have guest taps and liquor available, or just your own brews?

S&R: We have plenty of taps installed, so there’s room for guest taps in addition to our own brews, and we plan to use guest taps to showcase some of our favorite beers and ciders, including locals. A small wine menu will be available, and there will also be non-alcoholic beverages like specialty sodas and kombucha. We’re open to distilling something special in the future, but for now we won’t have spirits.

NN: Aside from food and alcohol, what else do you plan to do with your new spot? Do you plan to host bands for shows, or is that off the table?

S&R: Everyone involved at the ownership level has a lot of experience creating events, so you’ll find our calendar will be booked for most of the first year with unique events like yoga on the rooftop deck and small batch beer releases. We are very excited about constantly finding ways to pair the food and beer through special dinners, paired flights, beer floats, beer cheeses, etc. We do not intend to host bands or shows at this time.

NN: What food options will you offer from the V-Grits food truck, and how much of your menu will be exclusive to the brick and mortar restaurant?

Kristina Addington: The V-Grits menu will be familiar to those who follow the food truck, sticking with the southern comfort food theme and featuring fan favorites like the Loaded Mac & Cheese with made-from-scratch vegan meats and cheeses. Fresh, lighter options will be available, as well as a vegan take on traditional bar food. Most of the menu will be exclusive to the restaurant.

“The V-Grits menu will be familiar to those who follow the food truck, sticking with the southern comfort food theme.”

NN: Considering that your restaurant will feature only vegan options, how do you plan to attract people that prefer meat? Or is that not a concern?

S&R: We think that great food is great food, and as long as you get the flavors you want, it doesn’t matter so much whether there’s meat or not. If broccoli tasted like chocolate, you wouldn’t care that it was plant-based! In recent years, Louisville has grown to include many vegetarian and vegan-only establishments (Lovafare, Morel’s Cafe, Flora Cafe, Half Peach), and a wildly successful Veg-Fest coordinated by V-Grits. We find that most people, regardless of dietary preference, thoroughly enjoy these offerings, and beer is mostly plant-based anyway, so the quality is 100% there for the brewery.

 

NN: Is there a particular style of beer that you feel that the people in Louisville drift to more than others? Why?

S&R: There’s definitely a lot of pride in the bourbon industry, so everyone loves to see stuff in bourbon barrels, and no style is going to dethrone Pale Ales/IPAs anytime soon. Overall though, I think the food scene here creates an environment where people get really excited about trying new things, and are very open to unique flavor combinations. We’re pretty free to experiment here.