I want Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse to be good so badly, but it’s lacking in the areas that matter most.
Against the Grain has one of the best locations in all of Louisville for a trendy restaurant and brewery. It’s attached to Louisville Slugger Field on Main Street and has lots of parking at the stadium on non-game days. It has a sizable patio and a great vibe inside. There’s a very cool atmosphere where you can actually see the gigantic beer fermentation vessels through the glass windows above the bar. As someone who enjoys going to baseball and soccer games at Slugger Field this is a place I’ve always wanted to enjoy, but each time I pull back the veil I’m disappointed.
This was not the first time I’ve been to Against the Grain. It has been open many years and I’ve gone there with friends before games, on dates or just for the heck of it. On this occasion, two friends and I went on a Thursday night for Trivia with Clay Baker. The place was packed and we grabbed seats at the bar. We played trivia, had appetizers, dinner and drinks. The staff is very attentive and will walk you through their beer selection.
The trivia was not the best I’ve been to in Louisville. It was very challenging trivia where they seemed to be trying to stump you. My friends and I realized after hearing the categories that we stood little chance and we were right. Clay Baker’s trivia is not for people just messing around. This I will not factor into my review of Against the Grain.
Food & Drinks
Against the Grain takes lots of pride in their unique brews and food, especially their pit smoked BBQ. For an appetizer we went with the Bavarian Pretzel with beer cheese and mustard BBQ. This I can say was absolutely delicious, especially the pretzel itself. I definitely endorse this pretzel and beer cheese appetizer as one of the better ones in town.
If there’s one thing I can say about this place as a brewery, it’s that they aren’t afraid to take chances. They have rotating beers they release, and they enjoy mixing exotic flavors. One of my past experiences at Against the Grain was when my friend and I flat out didn’t finish our beer flight because they simply were awful beers.
This time I had another four beer flight and there was one beer that was passable as a beer that I would order, but that was the first time I’ve had an Against the Grain brew and been happy with the taste (I’ve had no fewer than eight). One of my friends described a beer by saying “I don’t like the sensation of ants running down my throat.” I got a kick out of this and could definitely tell what she meant when I had a taste. Furthermore, I agree with the general premise that most – if not all – of their beers just aren’t good.
Hopefully their BBQ would come through and help me enjoy the main part of the evening. I ordered a brisket sandwich. I love brisket and strongly believe that as long as the meat is good there are only two ways to screw up brisket, smoke the juices out of it so that it’s dry and to put BBQ sauce on it. Thankfully they served the BBQ sauce on the side. I tasted the sauce and it wasn’t anything better or worse than a generic BBQ sauce you’d pick up at the grocery store. The bun was nothing special. The meat was dry and among the worst in town. I took another bite and I couldn’t get past the dryness of the meat, it was horrible especially on a bland bun. I eventually took the meat off the bun and after another bite forfeited the possibility that I could enjoy this brisket. I took the BBQ sauce and drowned the meat. If this is what their meat is on a regular basis then I can only imagine it being enjoyable after taking down a few too many of their awful beers.
One of my friends had the pulled pork and wasn’t blown away with it. The other friend had what she thought was a good salad. I admit that the salad did look delicious and was likely the better choice.
I don’t recall what I ordered the past times I’ve been here, but I do remember being disappointed.
I’ve being trying to enjoy Against the Grain for so long because they have a great location, nice atmosphere, patio and as I found out a good Bavarian pretzel, but the two things they put next to their name are awful. Brewery – bad beer. Smokehouse – bad meat. Maybe it’s time to quit trying.