James B. Beam Distilling Co. - Renovated Visitor Center Opens, The Kitchen Table Opens to the Public

It was July 2019 when 7th Generation Master Distiller Fred B. Noe and his son, 8th Generation Distiller Freddie Noe broke ground on a $60 million expansion at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. It was at that groundbreaking the company announced the distillery campus was returning to its 1935 roots with the renaming of the location to the James B. Beam Distilling Co.

Fast forward nearly two and a half years later and the distillery visitor center has re-opened to the public for tours, tastings and is welcoming guests for the first time to its new full-service restaurant and bar named The Kitchen Table.

We had a chance to visit ‘The Kitchen Table’ this week to enjoy some of the locally produced food and of course some of the bourbon that was made right on the grounds of the distillery. Before we dive into the details about restaurant experience here’s a quick overview of this re-imagined stop on the world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

What’s New at the James B. Beam Distilling Co. in Clermont, Kentucky?

The new multi-faceted visitor center experience includes four key areas.

The American Outpost – The visitor center has been reimagined and renamed from the American Stillhouse to The American Outpost. The original American Outpost was the first retail visitor experience in 1981, selling Jim Beam merchandise. The new American Outpost is less about the tchotchkes and more about the bourbon and rye whiskies and the Beam history. The American Outpost features new tasting rooms, offering a more complete experience for the Beam family of brands.

On a side note: The use of American Outpost is also a return to the past. Take a look at the vintage 1990s Jim Beam Distillery ‘American Outpost’ photo (of yours truly) and compare it to the November 2021 James B. Beam Distilling Co. ‘American Outpost’ photo.

The Kitchen Table – Inspired by the Noe family kitchen table (literally), where generations have enjoyed bourbon, meals and countless stories told around the family’s kitchen table. The Kitchen Table champions local farmers and producers in everything it does. Visitors can take in the stunning views of the distillery and see nearby Bernheim Forest as they unwind with world-class food and cocktails in this 5,000 square ft. restaurant and bar.

Beam Made Bourbon – This immersive consumer tour is a visual educational experience showcasing how to make bourbon the “Beam Way”. Tours include a stop in the Distillate Room, highlighting each brand’s unique distillation levers that help shape its character.

Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery – The new home for small-batch and next-generation whiskies serves as a functional production facility to explore new fermentation and distillation techniques. Named after Seventh Generation Master Distiller Fred Noe, the craft distillery offers distillation process sessions with Freddie Noe, hands-on activities in the blending lab, a tasting bar, and a state-of-the-art classroom for the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits. It will also serve as the production home of Little Book®, Booker’s® and Baker’s®. This portion is not yet open to the public for tours.

Now, let’s dive into The Kitchen Table.

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A theme you’ll see throughout the visitor experience is a phrase often shared by Fred and Freddie, “Come as friends, leave as family.” They really want to make you feel at home at this iconic distillery campus that has produced bourbon since 1935.

The new restaurant is ADA compliant and can seat up to 134 people inside. It can play host to a simple meal with family and friends of all ages or including the outdoor space, it can play host to large parties of up to 500 people.

Rather than building their own restaurant team the company chose to partner with QED Hospitality, a restaurant operations management group, focused on food and beverage operations in boutique locations. They focus on restaurants born of a region rather than trying to implement a cookie cutter approach that has been developed somewhere else. That’s why they know the names of the farms, the names of the farmers and the local sources of the food they serve. The company is led by Chef/Owner Brian Landry and CEO/Owner Emery Whalen.

Landry explained that the menu is based around extensive interviews with Fred and Freddie. With the “Come as a friends, leave as family” Landry wanted everything to be based on what happens around the Noe family table.

“[Everything is based around] the collaboration of what Fred and Freddie like to eat, what they’ve eaten growing up. What their family enjoys is sprinkled throughout the menu. And we are just getting started… [the menu] will be a constant evolution of conversations from around the table. What we hope to do in this kitchen is highlight the craft and passion that we have for food and hope that it matches the craft and passion that they have put into the bourbon making passion for the last 200 plus years.”

Pizza Dough Made with Jim Beam Proprietary Yeast Strain

If you have ever taken a distillery tour at a heritage distillery you know that the distilleries yeast strain is one of the most guarded secrets around the distillery. Many will share their mash bill but when it comes to the yeast, that is the family jewels. The yeast is a well-guarded secret that is generally kept under lock and key. It is often kept in more than one location in case something catastrophic happened at one location the distillery could continue production with their family recipe using the yeast from the backup location.

Senior Director of Beam Bourbon Experiences Kim Bennett explained, “Booker loved pizza [so we put it on the menu]. Chef Landry went to our yeast vault and took the yeast and he’s incorporating it into our pizza dough. It kind of really brings the story together. We feel like that’s going to be really cool. He just started to play around with the yeast. He tasted it. We gave him a little vile which is hugely proprietary. That’s kind of a big deal but we feel like it really would bring the whole story of every one of these dishes together and especially the pizza.”

Chef Landry Had to Promise His First Born to Guard the Yeast

James B. Beam Distilling Co. - QED Hospitality Chef-Owner Brian Landry and CEO-Owner Emery Whalen
QED Hospitality Chef-Owner Brian Landry and CEO-Owner Emery Whalen.

“Talking to Fred and Freddie they said we want pizza,” explained Landry. “It’s super easy to share. So much of this room is about sharing, tasting food and collaborating. So we installed an awesome stone pizza oven. The super incredible thing about this dough is we were allowed to use the same yeast strain that they makes the bourbon in our sour dough starter. We got our hands on some of the yeast and folded it into our starter. I think you are going to find a ton of flavor in our dough.”

“The yeast we received is a liquid yeast. We had a sour dough we started three months in preparation to start building flavor. We took the Beam yeast strain and our sour dough starter and started working them together to see which yeast would eventually win out. We didn’t send it to a lab so we can’t exactly tell which yeast won but I will say, folding in the Beam yeast into the sour dough starter, did not slow down or stall the process. Over the last couple of days, we really started to taste the flavor develop in the dough. With a little more time, I think you are going start to really taste that sharpness and tartness that you would find in a true Neapolitan style pizza. That yeast will keep going on and on.

“Getting our hands on the yeast, I had to promise my first born if we did anything to mess it up, but we are confident that we have done it justice.”

Locally Sourced Beef Fed Jim Beam Bourbon Spent Grains

Chef Landry added that they like to keep things local. “All of our meats are sourced right up the road at Cedar Creek Farm about 2.5 miles away. All of our ground beef, all of our pork shoulder, all of our chicken are sourced from the farm. All of his cattle are fed spent grains from the bourbon making process. So there is this amazing loop of collaboration and I think you are going to taste that in a lot of the products that you are going to have in this restaurant.”

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James B. Beam Distilling Co. - Jim Beam Barn and 58,000 Barrel Warehouse
The classic, often photographed, Jim Beam barn let's you know you have arrived at the distillery.

The View from ‘The Kitchen Table’

James B. Beam Distilling Co. - The Kitchen Table Bar & Restaurant, The Table - Some Families Want a Fancier Kitchen. All We Want is a Bigger Table
The Kitchen Table Bar & Restaurant – “Some Families Want a Fancier Kitchen. All We Want is a Bigger Table.”

We got to visit on a crisp fall day. We were fortunate to sit at the actual Kitchen Table near the expansive windows overlooking the campus. The first thing visitors will notice about this table is all Eight Generations of Beam distillers are represented by their own chair. 

Beam Family Distillers from 1760 to Today

  1. Jacob Beam: 1760–1834 (Originally spelled Boehm the family name was changed to Beam in the mid-1700s after emigrating from Germany to the U.S.)
  2. David Beam: 1802-1854
  3. David M. Beam: 1833-1913
  4. James B. Beam (Jim Beam): 1864-1947
  5. Jeremiah Beam: 1899-1977
  6. Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II): 1929-2004
  7. Fred Noe (Frederick Booker Noe III): Born 1957
  8. Freddie Noe (Frederick Booker Noe IV): Born 1987

The view from inside The Kitchen Table and from the deck was fabulous. We got to enjoy the colorful fall foliage overlooking the distillery grounds, multiple rick houses including the original Beam warehouse from the 30s, the new Fred B. Noe Distillery and off in the distance we could see Bernheim Forest, a 16,000 acre nature preserve that is open to the public.

“We’ll have more of an entry way that will be less asphalt and more trees in the fuutre,” said Bennett. “Our Phase II, starting in 2022, will have more of an entry. When you drive up into the American Outpost at James B. Beam Distilling Co. instead of going through a parking lot it will be more of an entry. It will have trees and sculptures. It will include water features that will fit into the setting with more of an agrarian landscaping. We are getting away from the cut grass and we are going more meadow like to make it more sustainable. It will be less cutting and more high grass.”  

She said that all the wires and poles that are seen above ground will be buried and the parking lot that is at the foot of the restaurant will be removed to make way for the natural looking meadow and greenspace. Once complete it will make for a beautiful view. We can’t wait to see it.

To bring the Fred B. Noe Distillery to life, James B. Beam Distilling Co. brought together a team of world-renowned designers and builders. The external inspiration and visitor experience was provided by LOVE, a spatial design, branding, packaging, and advertising agency. Architects from Joseph & Joseph + Bravura Architects designed the base distillery build, and OJB designed the landscape. Buzick Construction, Inc. took the lead on the building. Additionally, architects from Bergmeyer designed the consumer footprint, which was built by Shawmut Design and Construction. Project management and owner’s representation for the visitor experience was led by Stys Hospitality Initiative.

The James B. Beam Distilling Co. visitor experience is now open for tours, tastings, and dining. Distillery tours fill up quickly, bourbon fans should call ahead or go online to book tours to make sure there is a slot available. The Kitchen table is open Wednesday through Sunday with limited hours. Tables are available on a first come first serve basis. They do not accept reservations right now but may in 2022.

Learn more about the James B. Beam Distilling Co.
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Vintage Jim Beam Distillery 'American Outpost' 1990 vs. 2021

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