Older Archived Reviews

This is an older archived review. The Search Feature on this page may not work. To search this site, please return to our Home Page and try your search from there.


Cumberland Brews *** Cumberland Brews
1576 Bardstown Road
(502) 458-8727

Giving new meaning to the term "microbrewery," Cumberland Brews may be one of the smallest eateries in town, with a half-dozen "four-top" tables and a short bar with nine stools making tight quarters of what used to be the White Mountain Creamery. (Techically, it's not a microbrewery but a brewpub - a restaurant that makes its own beer on the premises - but I'm not one to quibble in the face of a good pun.)

It's usually packed, too, earning its crowds the old-fashioned way by providing very good food, friendly service, and the sine qua non for a brewpub: extremely high-quality hand-crafted artisan beers.

Cumberland traces its ancestry to Louisville's fine Bluegrass Brewing Co. in St. Matthews, and the family relationship remains friendly; Cumberland sets its tables with BBC beer coasters and keeps a BBC beer on tap as one of its "guest brews."

Brewmaster Matt Gould's beers bear his own stamp, though, made in four shiny stainless-steel fermenters that fill most of the space in the tiny, glassed-in brewing area that's visible from the bar. We tried all four - Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Amber and Nitro Porter - and found them all fine, in varying hues but all dark in color and rich in flavor; you'll find nothing "lite" about these brews.

A total remake has transformed the old ice-cream shop into a cozy pub, with sturdy, attractive tables topped with ceramic tiles, comfortable blond-wood chairs and bar stools, and an impressive wall mural that looks a bit like a plan for a brewery as seen by Leonardo da Vinci.

Happily (or should I say "hoppily"?) the food seems to get as much attention as the beer; it's not just an afterthought. The menu is fairly short, a sensible approach for a smallish establishment, but there's ample variety, with a half-dozen items tagged with a beer much "icon" to indicate that they're prepared with beer as an ingredient.

Appetizers are hearty and likely to inspire thirst, fanging from $4.25 for a fiery habañero lime salsa or Cumberland kettle chips to $5.95 for jerk chicken wings or "Spankin' Cheddar Queso." We started with the latter and were rewarded with a pot of zippy melted Cheddar thickened with cooked spinach and given authority with smoky-hot chipotle peppers, served with a generous ration of crisp white, red and blue corn chips.

We accompanied this course with pints ($3.25) of the Pale Ale (full-bodied and fruity with assertive hops bitterness) and Brown Ale (malty sweet and mellow).

A short list of entrees is relatively pricey, with four items that range from $10.95 (for roasted acorn squash, a vegetarian dish featuring a baked squash on a bed of red-pepper couscous) to $14.95 (for a ribeye steak marinated in pale ale). Lighter fare includes a trio of salads (from $2.75 for the pub salad with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, bean sprouts and croutons to $6.95 for grilled-chicken or portabello mushroom salads); and a quartet of sandwiches ($6.50 for beer-battered fried fish to $6.95 for a buffalo (yes, really) burger or smoked-pork barbecue sandwich or an intriguing "veggie burger" fashioned from falafels and a grilled portabello mushroom.

The spinach and grilled portabello salad ($6.95) was a delight, tender fresh spinach leaves tossed with thick-sliced onions and meaty grilled portabello mushroom slices and dressed with a tangy, not-too-sweet warm bacon dressing. A baked sweet-potato side dish ($1.95) was simmering hot and long-cooked to tenderness; extremely sweet, it almost seemed to have had brown sugar or syrup added, and came with still more sweetener in the form of a dish of brown-sugar butter. My wife would just as soon have had it au naturel but to its credit, it was well-made, just sweeeeeeeeet.

My choice, the chipotle chicken entree ($12.95) would have done credit to a fancier eatery. A large, crisply sauteed (purportedly "blackened") boneless chicken breast was glazed with a warm but not fiery chipotle-citrus glaze, topped with a simple "corn chowder" and surrounded with hearty black beans and a sweet, almost pudding-like jasmine-scented rice, with dabs of sour cream and smooth guacamole and two warmed wheat tortillas.

We ordered two more pints with this course: Nitro Porter, a black brew with a tan, creamy head that looks a lot like a Guinness Stout but with an earthy roast-malt flavor; and an amber, a hazy, reddish-brown beer somewhat like the pale ale but a bit lighter and not so bitter.

A short list of desserts features homemade ice cream ($2.95), a Black Cow ($3.25) or homemade rootbeer float ($4.25). Tempting, but stuffed to the gills, we passed. Dinner for two was $40.47, with a $6.53 tip for helpful and friendly service. $$