Dry Ground: Brewing Hops and History
When you think of Kentucky, one of the first things that probably comes to mind is bourbon. But, did you know that the state also has tons of awesome craft breweries? Today, I’m giving y’all an inside look at one of my favorite breweries here in the Bluegrass: Dry Ground.
I’m absolutely obsessed with Dry Ground because everything they do is rooted in history! They’re super committed to supporting the Paducah community, especially local artists. Oh, and they make pretty delicious beer.
Special thanks to Cameron of Cameron Hesson Photography for the images in this post and Cory of Dry Ground Brewing Co. for showing us around!
Dry Ground is situated inside the Old Coke Plant in Paducah, KY. While the space is currently home to several local businesses, Dry Ground has an extra special connection to the building: the building gave the brewery its name.
The Coke Plant originally stood on South 6th Street. The Ohio River flooded in 1937 and flooded the site to the dismay of the owner, Mr. Luther Carson. He lamented that if he could ever find “dry ground”, he’d build a new Coca Cola plant in that spot. He ended up at the Red Cross evacuation space 31 blocks from the river and decided to build his new plant right across the street. Construction began immediately and his new, state of the art Coca Cola bottling plant opened in June of 1939. Exciting times!
The Coke Plant thrived and had become famous in western Kentucky by Carson’s death in 1962. Coca Cola bought the rights to the plant back around 1986. They changed the plants function from bottling to serving as a distribution center. The Coke Plant closed in 2005 and sat empty until the Musselman’s stepped up to buy it. They restored the Coke Plant to its 1930s art deco glory and began filling the space with local businesses in 2017!
Dry Ground moved in and became Paducah’s first craft brewery. Mellow Mushroom became the building’s anchor tenant, decorating their walls with art from local artists. Piper’s Tea and Coffee settled and has become a go-to for Paducah’s caffeine lovers. There’s even a yoga studio, recording studio, ice cream shop, music lesson space, and a digital marketing company. All of these spaces required tons of work to move in to, and that work has paid off. The Coke Plant is a truly special place in the heart of Paducah.
On top of being in a super cool building, Dry Ground itself has a really cool vibe! All of their beers are fermented in the tap-room, which means that there are big, shining fermenting tanks lining the walls! All of their beers have a super cool logo and that art decorates the walls above the taps.
You’ll pass a super cool sticker wall and Kentucky mural on the way toward the back of the space, which is a special events and music venue. Growlers from a variety of Kentucky breweries line the windows, picnic tables are scattered around, and string lights spot the space. You’ll really feel right at home in the space. I haven’t seen any live music at Dry Ground (yet), but I’m confident that it’s an unforgettable experience.
Shortly after my visit to Dry Ground with Cameron and Cory, I returned to grab a beer with my uncle (who lives in Paducah). I quickly found out that we have a bit of a funny family tie to the brewery! There’s a small velvet Elvis painting decorating a wall near one of the exits. Turns out, it’s the same velvet Elvis painting that my mother gave my uncle years ago – and he gave it to the brewery! Such a small world.
Like the name, Paducah history is interwoven with the beers Dry Ground brews. Naturally, Dry Ground has a beer named after the event that caused the Coke Plant to move: the ’37 Flood (an American IPA). Paducah locals are often also the inspiration behind the brews.
Della Barnes (a hazy IPA) is named after a local woman with the same name. One man proposed to Della, but she turned him down and married someone else. Legend says that the heartbroken man went into a fit of rage and cut Della’s finger off, causing her to bleed to death*. She was buried in the Oak Grove cemetery with a statue in her likeness marking the grave. The ring finger broke off over time and visitors said that they’d see the statue bleeding or crying. The statue is long gone but the legend of Miss Della Barnes lives on.
*Her obituary says that Della actually died by an accidental poisoning.
Their Speedy Adkins (a hazy IPA) is also named after a local with a weirder (and much more depressing) background. Speedy Adkins was an African-American Paducah tobacco worker who didn’t become well-known until after he drowned in the Ohio River in 1928. Speedy’s remains went to A.Z. Hamcock, his friend and a local funeral home owner. Hamcock decided to test a powerful new preservative out on his buddy Speedy. Essentially, the preservative mummified Speedy Adkins and Hamcock would often display him in the funeral home. The remains became a bit of a road side attraction. Speedy finally got his funeral in 1994.
When they aren’t brewing beers based on local lore, they’re partnering with other local businesses to make one heck of a fantastic product. A partnership between Dry Ground, Pipers, and Flower and Furbish created Cross Pollination (a saison with rose and lavender). I tried quite a few beers during my visit (gotta love flights!) and Cross Pollination was easily my favorite. Dry Ground also frequently partners with Paducah artists to create the graphics for their beers, which are all beautifully done!
I really, really love all the things Dry Ground is dong, both with their beer and within the local community. If you find yourself in western Kentucky, definitely make visiting Dry Ground a priority.
Does your town have a brewery worth checking out? Let me know in the comments below!
PS. Want more WKY inspiration? Check out my posts on Idgie’s Sunflower Farm and the Adsmore House. Feeling thirsty after this read? Read my write ups on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the O.F.C. Distillery.