German beer, Germantown, head for the couch in the corner.
The word ‘hipster’ is thrown out with little discretion, the emblem of either an amazing place to visit or a spot to be avoided at all costs, depending on the eye of the beholder. Fairly or not, that hipster label is applied, fairly or not, to Louisville’s Nachbar, a Germantown neighborhood anchor that doubles as a live jazz hub. But for even the most ardent anti-hipster crusader, Nachbar’s overwhelming appeal and bit of roughness around the edges qualifies it as a worthy dive bar experience aided by and perhaps in spite of the bar’s impressive beer selection.
While credentials can be debated, the sign that hangs outside Nachbar is beyond reproach, inscribed with the name of the dive bar and the logo of Sterling Beer, a Louisville and regional favorite founded in 1863. The dive bar’s short, sloped roof and mixed brick & wood exterior fit in well with its Germantown surroundings, certainly looking the part of a neighborhood dive bar. Perhaps owed to its 2007 opening date, Nachbar looks a bit like a Belgian beer hall crossed with a dive bar sprinkled with some hipster artwork and exposed brick.
Striking from outside is the pair of massive patios in front of and behind the building, prime real estate during Louisville’s temperate months with ample room. The patio in back doubles as live music venue, hosting a regular and steady stream of acts capped off by weekend sets and Wednesday jazz nights. This rear patio is particularly large, including covered seating and a patchwork network of seemingly custom tables and benches. A set of outdoor beer taps are poised to activate on particularly busy evenings supported by events and live music.
The layout inside matches the rectangular expectation set by Nachbar’s exterior appearance. The space opens up into a single room footprint, the bar running about halfway down the dive bar’s main room. Seating comes at a premium, the stools at the bar supported by a handful of jukebox adjacent beer ledges along one wall that jut out from the brick to provide room for a pair of stools. Behind the bar, a fireball of light that is the mirrored, liquor bottle display sits just under a bit of Nachbar-inscribed stained glass. A nice collection of dive bar-like odds and ends can be found running atop the beer taps attached to barrel tops.
A cozier seating nook can be found in the rear of the space where wood paneling and what looks to be a supremely comfortable coach block off a bit of real estate under a set of very hipster-friendly paintings. A bit of dive bar grit can be found in this makeshift corner, inscriptions carved here and there into the furniture and wood paneling itself. Short round tables dot the rear of Nachbor for some additional seating, large bulb Christmas lights swinging overhead. The black painted ceiling tiles again conjure up that dive bar feeling, Nachbar’s windows nearly touching the ceiling itself, creating an illusion that feels almost like drinking in a basement.
Nachbar’s Belgian beer hall vibe carries over into the dive bar’s beer selection made up of varieties seldom seen in dive bar surroundings. German tap beers are well represented here, including Weihenstephaner on tap during a recent visit, something that should never be passed up no matter the surroundings. Available bottles run the gamut, including a set of Belgian varieties and other rotating options.
Labels aside, Nachbar’s small Germantown footprint bears all the marks of a great neighborhood dive bar, hipster-friendly or not. The dive bar’s dual patio situation makes for some attractive drinking during the temperate months, supported by rotating live music and other events that create the community-driven vibe that extends inside. That a great German tap beer can be found inside can surely only be seen as icing on a dive bar-friendly cake.