Kentucky Common 27 Historical Beers

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Mar 10, 2017
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Whenever someone mentions Kentucky, my mind wanders to the oaky, woody, and smooth elixir that can only be described as Bourbon. This beer style was quite popular in the mid 1800s. Many German and Irish immigrants were trying their hardest to reproduce a beer similarly found in their motherland. Often this beer was called a “Common” or “Dark Cream Ale.” The grain bill originally was a mix of protein enriched six-row malt, some corn, and some caramel malts for color. The enzymes from the 6 Row help to convert the corn.Since the water in Louisville were more alkaline, the addition to some dark malts were added to help acidify the mash. See water chemistry was even important back then too.


Crushed grains ready to be made into sweet wort.

Remarkably a Kentucky Common had a grain-to-glass time frame of about six to eight days. Also very interesting, this beer had a price point that made it more affordable to drink. Where a barrel of stock ale would cost about $12 and a barrel of a lager would be around $8, a barrel of Kentucky Common was only $5 a barrel. Bottom line was that this beer was popular amongst the working class in Kentucky.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. By 1919, Prohibition has caused the decline of all production of this wonderfully crafted beer. Even after the end of Prohibition, the style did not regain its popularity. Thus ending a tradition of an American crafter beer growing in popularity.


Wort ready to be transferred from mash tun to kettle for a boil.

Misconceptions of the Souring Kind

Thankfully craft brewers have lifted this otherwise unknown style out of obscurity. When craft brewers began inspecting the description to this American crafted beer had a rather sour characteristic. There was this conjecture that because the state of Kentucky is known for its whiskey and that sour mashing takes place in producing whiskey, then of course producing a Kentucky Common would follow this same process. There has been no evidence to prove that sour mashing takes place while producing this Dark Cream Ale type beer with a definitive corn flavor. You can read more of what Nick Carr has to say about this style and the souring misconceptions here.

Years ago Michael, Brewing Thru the Styles contributor, brewed a Kentucky Common. He remembers this beer was very well received by many people. He also recollects that he did not like it as much as others. He peeked my interest in this recipe because it contained Rye malt. Like Michael, I am a big fan of any beer containing Rye malt. While reading and learning more about this style for this blog entry, I came across Falls City Brewing Co. based out of Louisville, Kentucky. They are currently producing a Kentucky Common with Rye. I also knew that a friend from my homebrew club just drove down to Kentucky, like he does so often. After a few text messages, I convinced him to go out and search for this beer. He found it and brought some home. I can’t wait to try it.


A nice bag of flaked corn orMAIZE.

Michael’s Recipe for Ol' Hound Dog Kentucky Common

Malt Weight Percentage

Pale Malt (2 Row) 6lbs 32%

Pale Malt (6 Row) 6lbs 32%

Flaked Corn 6lbs 32%

Black Patent Malt 8oz 2.7%

Caramel/Crystal Malt 120 4oz 1.3%


Hops Oz Type Time IBU

Cluster 1.5oz Pellet 60 min 18.4

Fuggle 1 oz Pellet 10 min 2.9

Cluster .25 oz Pellet 5 min .6


Yeast Attenuation

SafAle English Ale S-04 70%



Fly Sparge with 10.37 gallons of water at 168 degrees.


Batch Size: 11 gallons

Boil Size: 12.98 gallons

OG: 1.043

FG: 1.010

Color: 14.3 SRM

Efficiency: 80%

Bitterness: 21.9 IBU

ABV: 4.3% ABV


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@bareknuckles Thank you for your post regarding Kentucky Common Ale. Coincidentally, I will be bottling 4 gallons of Kentucky Common Ale tomorrow. It's hard for me to go more than twelve months or so without brewing up a batch of this wonderful and historic style.