By Rea Hodge–
Imagine this: the game’s over and the sweating throng of fans are flooding out of the arena. You find yourself in the thick of it, swept down Main Street, dogged by a terrible thirst for that first post-game brew. Whether you’re seeking to drown the shame of your home team’s loss or toast their victory with your compatriots, chuck your foam finger in favor of a cold beer and duck into The Troll Pub Under The Bridge at the corner of 2nd and Main Street.
Troll Pub is an exercise in history, full of atmosphere and mad medieval swagger. Named in conjunction with the soon-to-be Three Billy Goats Gruff Brewery above, the latest addition to Louisville’s long-famous Whiskey Row hails customer’s from the street with the aid of an eight foot troll and a magnanimous set of hand-wrought wooden doors, complete with salvaged medieval door-knockers. Passing through the sub-street-level entrance means stepping beneath the charred remains of the original Galt House. Once the holding site for Brown Forman and Pappy Van Winkle’s whisky, the wood of each foyer table is constructed from original building materials over 100 years old.
Jared Stier, an archaeologist with a penchant for Nordic and Celtic mythology, is part owner and has personally overseen the two years of excavation that was required to dig the ancient structure from the mire where it has been buried since the flood of 1937. “See this?” he asks, leading me behind the bar and over to a raised concrete platform. “You can see where the other builders left their initials.” The date scrawled in the stone reads 1926.
Stier pats the giant rounds of tree trunk that serve as bar tables. “These were from trees that fell on my property from the storm. I sawed the rounds myself, finished them myself.” He points to the wide strips of carved wooden knotwork that frame each of the entrances in the labyrinthine bar, “No electricity was used. All of these are my work.” Stier, himself a swordsmith, points to the knot astride the main bar entrance and says, “This pattern came from the sword scabbard of the queen.”
Not surprising that a man of historic craft like Stier would be a beer-lover. Over a Founders IPA in the oasis back patio which is obscured from the view of the street, I remark about the selection, which is wide for most Main Street fare, but narrow for a city in the midst of a micro-brew revival. “My ultimate goal,” says Stier, “is to kick Budweiser out of this bar. And Stella Artois, or as I like to call it, French Bud Light.” Stier says that in the next few months he plans to expand the taps to include a few substantial choices: a rotating Three Floyds tap – starting with the widely-hailed Robert the Bruce, – a selection of Bell’s and a Bad Elmer’s Porter. “I’ve had to really fight to get the beers we’ve got now,” says Stier, “but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be any fun.”
Photos courtesy Jared Stier