Bourbon & Beyond Festival in Louisville, Kentucky started as an idea in 2017. In its first year it set a record with 50,000 fans as one of the largest bourbon, food and music festivals in the world. Unfortunately, the festival has been on hiatus for the last two years because of the pandemic. That all changed in 2022 as Bourbon & Beyond returned bigger and badder than ever. Over the years, the festival has expanded from two to four days to squeeze more and more experiences. With picture perfect weather for this year’s event the festival welcomed 140,000 bourbon, food and music fans with temperatures that never exceeded 86 degrees, a steady light breeze and not a single drop of rain.
This year’s one-of-a-kind entertainment offerings included some of the best and brightest music stars in Americana, roots, blues, country and rock n roll, as well as a range of culinary programming from some of the country’s top chefs and a wide palette of bourbon tastings and workshops celebrating the rich culture of Louisville.
Bourbon & Beyond – The Music
Bourbon & Beyond’s memorable music performances included a rousing set by fan favorites Pearl Jam on Saturday. It was their first time back in Louisville since 1994 and their only U.S. festival appearance this year. The quartet played a number of hits from their classic debut album Ten and ended with a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Earlier in the day, singer Eddie Vedder made a surprise appearance during a set from Crowded House’s Neil Finn and son Liam Finn. Vedder guested on “World Where You Live” by Crowded House as well as “I Got You” by Neil Finn’s former band Split Enz.
Sunday’s headliner and Kentucky native Chris Stapleton delivered a stacked set that merged country, southern rock and blues and showed why he’s been named the Academy of Country Music’s first-ever Artist-Songwriter of the Decade. In addition to his mega hits like “Parachute,” Stapleton also brought out guitarist Mike Campbell for a few songs. Campbell – known as a member of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – had a set earlier in the day with his band The Dirty Knobs and later joined Stapleton for a cover of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “I Should Have Known it” as well as the song “Arkansas” that he wrote with Stapleton.
Thursday night closed with a knock-out set from Jack White, who covered parts of his entire catalog with solo works as well as numbers from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather including “The Hardest Button to Button” and “Steady As She Goes.” The performance comes at a time that American Songwriter calls “one of the most significant years” in his life.
Friday night also featured headliner Kings of Leon fresh off a summer tour of Europe and their first show in Louisville since 2017, delivering hits like “Sex On Fire” and “Use Somebody.” Also, that day the Followill family unveiled their brand-new whiskey line “Kiamichi” at Bourbon & Beyond, which offers a 5-year rye, 8-year rye, and a 19-year bourbon available to buy later this year.
Other memorable performances included The Doobie Brothers 50th anniversary celebration featuring Michael McDonald, Pat Simmons, Tom Johnston and John McFee, Brandi Carlile, Alanis Morissette, Greta Van Fleet, Father John Misty, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, St. Vincent, NEEDTOBREATHE, The Revivalists, Caamp, Japanese Breakfast, Lukas Nelson & POTR, Courtney Barnett, Cold War Kids, Marcus King, and many more. In total, 80 artists played on four stages throughout the weekend.
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Bourbon & Beyond – The Culinary
On the Culinary Stage (hosted by Ed Lee and Chris Santos of respective Top Chef and Chopped fame) included Santos in the ultimate burger showdown with Sam and Jake Kizka of Greta Van Fleet; Sam won with his incredible take on an Impossible burger. There was also chef Antonia Lofaso who teamed up with Hogslop String Band, as well as Gin Wigmore guesting in Amanda Freitag’s cooking demo and Neil Finn joining Sri Lankan-American chef Sam Fore who hails from Lexington, Kentucky.
In addition, James Beard nominee Anthony Lamas of Louisville’s Seviche curated a fine dining experience for Beyond VIP and Rocks Room presented by Zelle guests throughout the festival weekend, the latter offering a one-of-a-kind dinner and a show opportunity with intimate performances from St. Vincent, Caamp, Courtney Barnett and Shakey Graves.
Bourbon & Beyond – The Bourbon
The Team Kentucky Bourbon Stage hosted by Chris Blandford and Trish Suhr also had memorable activities including crowning the winner of the Louisville Cocktail Competition presented by Kroger, after Mayor Greg Fischer called on all Kentucky Bourbon Brands to participate in the event earlier this summer. Judges included Mayor Fischer as well as leading bourbon authority Fred Minnick, Black Bourbon Society’s Samara B. Davis, chef Chris Santos and Bourbon Women’s Peggy Noe Stevens. The winner was S.C. Baker with Knob Creek who took home the $15,000 cash prize and forever known as the maker of “The Louisville.”
The Team Kentucky Bourbon Stage also featured The Vampire Diaries stars Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley discussing their hand-selected bourbon brand, Brother’s Bond with moderator Chris Blandford. Another highlight was Angel’s Envy co-founder Wes Henderson and Blackened Whiskey’s Master Distiller and blender Rob Dietrich announcing a brand-new collaboration. Additional panels included sessions and tastings with the world’s leading bourbon authority Fred Minnick, conversations about What Women Want (in Whisky), a famed roundtable featuring Kentucky’s first families of Bourbon and so much more.
And of course you can’t have a Bourbon & Beyond event without distilled spirts. The distilleries were spread out around the grounds. Distilled spirits brands included Angel’s Envy, Bard Distillery, Basil Hayden, Bird Dog Whiskey, Bluegrass Distillers, Boone’s Bourbon, Boundary Oak Distillery, Brother’s Bond, Bulleit Bourbon, Calumet Farm, Elijah Craig, Four Roses, George Dickel, Heaven Hill Distillers, Huber’s Starlight Distillery, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Jefferson’s Bourbon, Jim Beam, Kelvin Cooperage, Kentucky Peerless, Knob Creek, Larceny Bourbon, Legent, Log Still Distillery, Maker’s Mark, Michter’s Distillery, Middle West Spirits, Monk’s Road Bourbon, Nelson’s GreenBrier Distillery, New Riff Distillery, Old Forester Distillery, Pegasus Distilled, Rabbit Hole Distillery, Redline Bourbon, Resilient Bourbon, Stone Hammer, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Nearest Green Distillery, Wild Turkey Bourbon, and Wilderness Trail Distillery.
Bourbon & Beyond also welcomed nonprofit partners Dare To Care, To Write Love On Her Arms, American Red Cross Kentucky Region, Headcount, Artists for Trauma, Take Me Home, Living The Dream and Kentucky 4-H Foundation.
Bourbon & Beyond 2023 Dates Announced – Reserve Tickets Now
The festival has now announced that Bourbon & Beyond will be held September 14-17, 2023 at its home at the Highland Festival Grounds at The Kentucky Exposition Center. Weekend general admission and VIP passes, along with camping, are on sale now for $10 down.
Bourbon & Beyond is produced by Los Angeles-based Danny Wimmer Presents, one of the largest independent producers of destination music festivals in America.
Photos Courtesy of: Yvonne Gougelet, Lexie Alley, and Steve Thrasher.