Friday, December 31, 2010

Holy GrAle

It’s an honor to be guest posting as a fellow around-the-world eater (although I mainly just eat around Louisville and write short reviews on Yelp). Several of us from the office have been meeting out after work once or twice a month and yesterday’s expedition was to the brand new Holy Grale beer bar (behind the KFC at the Bardstown/Baxter split). While Claire had helped organize the event, she herself had conflicting plans and couldn’t join us.

Before walking into the bar, I had already glanced at [Consuming Louisville’s photos and overview] on their blog—the two photos of the bar and entrance basically cover the entire seating area. The photos, and of course the name of the establishment itself, suggest the atmosphere of a medieval place of worship. Sure enough, even as you approach the entrance, the shell of a former church embodies this ancient character. It wasn’t dark enough yet when we were there, but I can even imagine faux candelabras lighting the interior. I did notice one votive candle. The music was also very quiet—they may have been playing organ music for all I could tell.

I was expecting a larger seating area when I walked in, but at a glance, it looked like they had room for less than 50 people to sit. By 5:15, when most of us had arrived, the seats were almost full already. We lucked out when four bar seats opened up all at once. There are no waiters there, so it worked out perfectly as we could sit, drink and order our meals right at the bar. I should use “meals” in the lighter sense of the word as they technically only serve appetizers (Consuming Louisville also lists their menu). Most Americans wouldn’t be satisfied with the portion size if they wanted something substantial to eat on its own, but this birdlike eater was extremely pleased with the locally-made brat on pretzel bread. As Michael (one of the members of our motley crew who tried a taco dish) mentioned, they made up in flavor what they lacked in quantity.

The beer itself also made up for the lack in quantity of food. I don’t think they offer anything by the bottle, but they keep their rotating list of 20 generally-rare selections on a prominent board behind the bar. I like that they sort it by AVB. Most were served in 12-oz glasses around $5 to $8. There were pint glasses on the top shelf, but one of the bartenders did mention that many of the glasses were only for display. They don’t offer a flight, but I did try a third beer in a $3 sample glass (I picked it mainly because it had a long and interesting name that I forget now). I’m sure I’ve already demonstrated that I’m not an aficionado, but I always enjoy trying darker beers, like the barley wine they offered and my local favorite KY Bourbon Barrel Ale—I even got Jacob to try the latter and he declared that it was the best beer he’d ever tasted.

The bartenders there are very friendly, although I failed to get their names. Our main help came from the man I’ll refer to as Beard (his wasn’t out-of-control Grizzly, but he was definitely a Louisville Beard cardholder). He was constantly busy, but we never had to wait more than a minute or two to get our orders in. Michael got shafted a couple times, though—Beard didn’t seem to realize that Michael existed most of the evening. Hannah seems to think maybe it was because Beard thought Michael was her date and was a little jealous and bitter about it. She’s quite a catch.

The Holy Grale is a great place to meet up with a couple of friends and try new beers. It’s like Nach Bar transplanted to the Highlands (minus the band, jukebox, and patio) but with food and a better ambiance.

- J.J. (of


  1. Good review JJ. The atmosphere is one of the best parts. The recovering Catholic in me enjoys the irony. Also, I'll add that the Mikkeller Green Gold IPA on tap is good for those hop heads like me out there.

    In the way of Beard's grudge against me, I like Hannah's take. He did assume we were a couple at first, asking me if her drink and food should be put on my tab. I like to think he viewed me as a beard rival given the new facial hair I'm sporting. While his is thicker, he may have been intimidated by how I pull mine off and how thick mine could potentially get. It was probably a combo of the two.

  2. The pumpkin ale I had was excellent as well. Perfect for those (such as myself) who like lighter, fruitier ales.

    I am a catch!

  3. We walked in there on Friday night at nine. Geez was it packed! Standing room only. The customers looked happy and satisfied, though. Another evening...