Kentucky common beer

Kentucky common beer is a once-popular style of ale from the area in and around Louisville, Kentucky from the 1850s until Prohibition. This style is rarely brewed commercially today. It was also locally known as dark cream common beer, cream beer or common beer.[1] The beer was top-fermented and was not krausened, i.e., it was fermented once and sent out for sale which meant the gravity would be moderate, the carbonation low and the taste full and sweetish. Like cream ale, it was consumed fresh, usually as draught beer. In 1913 it was estimated that 80% of the beer consumed in Louisville was of this type.[2] Many local breweries made only this style of beer.


Before modern refrigeration, most breweries depended on ice stored from the previous winter for producing beer. The Louisville area usually did not have the weather conditions to produce enough ice for this. With an influx of European immigrants into Louisville during the mid 19th century, there was an increased demand for beer in the area. Common beer was fermented at higher temperatures like an ale, but was aged for a very short period of time (only to reduce carbonation) if at all before being consumed, thus eliminating any need to keep it cool. (Compare California common beer or "steam beer", which has similar origins due to the lack of refrigeration.) This kept overhead costs down and made it inexpensive to purchase, so it was very popular among working-class people. While some evidence points to the use of sour mashing, the latest research demonstrates that the sour taste once attributed to this historical style was largely based on myth. Extensive contemporaneous brewing records from Louisville breweries indicate that no sour mashing, acid rests, or extensive conditioning were part of the brew process.[3]

As of 2014, this style is not generally available, though there are occasional attempts at revival. New Albanian Brewing Company produces one as Phoenix Kentucky Komon, Local Option from Chicago produces their own Kentucky common ale,[4] Avenues Proper in Salt Lake City occasionally brews a Kentucky common ale called Bluegrass Brown, Abe Erb brewed a one-off, called Yee Haw Magee Kentucky Common,[5] and the revived Falls City Brewing Company is serving their own version, called Kentucky Common, at its brew house.[6] Darkness Brewing from Bellevue, Kentucky brews a Kentucky common called Bellevue Common.[7] Upstate Brewing Company in New York also has one, named Common Sense.[8] Iron Duke Brewery of Ludlow, Massachusetts produces one, named The Common.[9] Ten Mile Brewing in Signal Hill, California also brews one called Hidden Hollow.[10]


This kind of beer was usually made with barley, approximately 25 to 30 percent corn, and 1 to 2 percent each caramel and black malt to give it a dark color. It had an original gravity of 1.040-1.050, an average bitterness of 27 IBU. The beer was typically kegged and served relatively young, with a short time of 6 to 8 days from mash in to keg. The beer is an easy-drinking, slightly sweet, dark amber to light brown ale.


  1. "Rich o's Public House -- Beer Gospel Common Beer". Retrieved 2017-04-17.
  2. "PUNCH - Whatever Happened to Kentucky Common Beer?". Retrieved 2017-04-17.
  3. Harting, Dibbs; Dienes, Leah. "Kentucky Common – An Almost Forgotten Style" (PDF). Beer Judge Certification Program. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  4. BERNSTEIN, JOSHUA M. (30 October 2012). "Beyond The Bourbon Barrel: Kentucky Common, A Beer, Makes A Comeback". Food Republic. Food Republic. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  5. "Yee Haw Magee Kentucky Common - Abe Erb Brewing". Retrieved 2017-04-17.
  6. "Falls City Beer – Home of Balanced Taste". 2016-01-19. Retrieved 2017-04-17.
  7. "Bellevue Common". Darkness Brewing. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  8. "Upstate Brewing Company, LLC". Retrieved 2017-04-17.
  9. "Home". Iron Duke Brewing. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  10. "Home". Ten Mile Brewing. Retrieved 2017-09-15.
  • "American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades," Robert Wahl and Max Henius, 1902
  • "The Essentials of Beer Style," Fred Eckhard, 1989
  • "Radical Brewing," Randy Mosher, 2004.
  • Old American Beer Styles, Lost and Found
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