Kentucky Common is one of the few original beer styles to originate in America. Once a very popular style in Kentucky (most notably Louisville), it is often referred to as a "dark cream ale". Like many American beer styles, the Kentucky Common was born in the 1800's from immigrants who wanted to recreate beers from their homelands, but were restricted to American ingredients.
Irish and German immigrants began brewing what would be known as the Kentucky Common with protein-rich 6-row malt due to its availability. Corn, which was plentiful and inexpensive, was added to smooth out the beer, and small amounts of darker malts were added for colour.
For decades, Kentucky Common was the favourite beer in Louisville, accounting for an estimated 80% of all beer consumed in the city in the early 1900s. The beer became so popular because it was inexpensive to make, ingredients were plentiful and it was fermented at a higher temperature making it ideal for brewing before refrigeration.
Kentucky Common fell out of favour after prohibition in the United States and never regained its popularity. In recent years some small breweries have begun to revive the style, and it has been increasing in popularity among homebrewers since the addition of the style to the BJCP guidelines in 2014 .
Kentucky Common can range in colour from amber to light brown (11 – 20 SRM) with low head retention and high carbonation. It is a malt forward beer, with hints of toffee, biscuit and a slight bready taste. Corn adds a touch ofsweetness to the beer, and it has a low bitterness from American hops and ranged between 4 - 5.5% ABV.
A Kentucky Common is best enjoyed in a mug or shaker pint at 46-50°F (8º - 10º C).
The malt forward flavour and low alcohol of a Kentucky Common makes it great for pairing with grilled meat dishes or spicy foods. Light cheeses are also a great pairing for this beer. Where Kentucky Common excels in food pairing is with desserts! Tarts and cakes with caramel sauce help bring out the flavour of the beer.
- Protein Rest. If you use 6-row as your base malt, be sure to do a protein rest to activate enzymes in the malt. Using 2-row for your base malt is fine as today's malts are well modified and 2-row will have sufficient enzymes to convert the starches.
- Use American Hops. An authentic Kentucky Common will make use of American hops. Cluster is a popular option for this beer, along with Galena. Keep your IBUs between 15-30.