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Take a sip of Louisville history with the “big three” brewers

Fehr’s, Oertel’s, and Falls City dominated the Louisville beer scene back in the day.

A billboard advertises Fehr's XL Beer, with a clock above.

This billboard was located at the intersection of Barret Avenue and Broadway, where “It’s always Fehr weather.”

Photo courtesy Archives & Special Collections, University of Louisville

Louisville has a long + well-documented history with bourbon — it is the birthplace of bourbonism, after all — but it’s not the only thing that’s filled Louisvillian’s glass through the years.

Crack open a cold one as we take a look back at Louisville’s “big three” breweries from the 20th century.

Fehr’s

When prohibition began in 1920, Louisville’s favorite beer was Fehr’s XL — aka extra lager. Fehr’s began brewing in the Phoenix Hill neighborhood in 1872 and hit its peak over 70 years later in 1949. By 1964, though, it had reached the bottom of the glass and shut down. The final 7,000 gallons of the beer were poured down the drain so the dying brewery could avoid a large tax bill.

The Fehr’s name was revived in 2019, and you can sip the same historic brew that was once Louisville’s favorite at Akasha Brewing in NuLu.

A grocery store display featuring Oertel's 92 beer, with boxes stacked decoratively.

This Oertel’s 92 display was located at a Kroger grocery at the intersection of 31st Street and Broadway.

Photo courtesy Archives & Special Collections, University of Louisville

Oertel’s

Originally known as the Butchertown Brewery, Oertel’s can trace its roots to 1865 at the intersection of Story Avenue and Webster Street — that’s where the Whirling Tiger is today. The brewery’s signature swig, a pale lager called Oertel’s 92, offered a “full measure of pure pleasure” until 1967 when Oertel’s brewed its last keg.

Back in 2014, Apocalypse Brew Works brought the Oertel’s name back to the Derby City market with Oertel’s 1912, a dark cream ale.

Falls City

This brewery was the first beverage maker to introduce a flat top, stay tab can — which is the way all canned beverages are sold today. Falls City was the last of Louisville’s “big three” to survive, remaining profitable all the way until 1977.

Today, the Falls City brand has been revived with 18 different brews, including a version of the aKentucky Common, a beer that’s long been associated with the Bluegrass — or should we say Brew-grass — state.

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