Thursday, April 20, 2017

How to Gumbo

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 2:52 PM

It's Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival time, and in its honor, we turn our focus on the festival's popular gumbo cooking contest, and, specifically, on how to win it. Three-time champ Parris Edwards with the Bayou Babes spills all her secrets.

"It's quite a story," Edwards says about how she got into competitive gumbo-cooking. Edward's father was one of the contest's first competitors. Edwards and her sisters would help him prep. He never won or placed.

Years later, "my sister and I decided to cook our own gumbo and compete against Dad. We won first prize," Edwards says.

Then Edwards decided to join her dad's team, doing her own cooking. She won again. Later, she and her sisters formed the Bayou Babes and took home first place again last year.

Bayou Babes
  • Bayou Babes

So what's her secret? Turns out, she has several to share.

"My trick is to take every ingredient and make it taste good," Edwards says. She marinates, batters, and fries chicken before putting it in the pot. She sautes the okra in butter until it's crispy (and no longer slimy).

Another hint is to consistently stir your roux until it's caramel color. Edwards says the roux is what separates gumbo from soup and is particularly important. "People burn their roux," she says. "I've have had so many [roux] that taste like hell."

Edwards also says that too much heat is a major problem. "Don't make it too hot, spicy," she says. She likes smoked paprika because it adds flavor without adding heat.

Good rice, none of that minute stuff, is essential. Why would you put in five to six hours making a gumbo and then put it over horrible rice?

Edwards forgoes file and uses one can of diced tomatoes. She thinks gumbo is about doing whatever you want. "People make their own rules for gumbo," she says.

 And the very best way to eat gumbo, Edwards says, "is with a big bowl and a big spoon."

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Zaka Bowl Expands Menu, No Longer Vegan

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 8:28 AM

Zaka Bowl, the build-your-own veggie bowl restaurant which opened in East Memphis last fall, recently expanded its menu.

Not everybody is happy about that. But first some background.

The restaurant was the brainchild of Ed Cabigao of South of Beale. Cabigao had undergone a major lifestyle change. He went vegan, dropped some weight, became healthier, and wanted to spread the word, so to speak.

Originally, guests could choose from a base of quinoa or zucchini noodles or whatever, then build up the bowl with warm and cold veggies, choose premium items like tofu, and then top it with one of ZB's great sauces. They also offered one or two set veggie bowls for babies like me who get overwhelmed by too many choices.

The new menu greatly expands the bowl offerings under three categories: Salads, Poke, and Zaka. There's the Tofu Poke Bowl with pineapple pico and jicama slaw and the Smoked Portabella Steaks Zaka Bowl with cinnamon chili sweet potatoes and roasted beets. Also among the options are the Tuna Poke Bowl and Herbed Chicken Zaka Bowl.

Tofu Poke Bowl
  • Tofu Poke Bowl
Zucchini Noodle Salad
  • Zucchini Noodle Salad
This once-vegan restaurant now serves meat and you can best-believe Cabigao heard about it. (City Silo received similar blow-back via social media from some frustrated vegans when it veered from its vegan roots. It was crazy packed when I was there for lunch last Friday.)

From Cabigao:

When we opened Zaka Bowl, we had every intention of staying vegan and promoting the vegan lifestyle. But throughout our first seven months of great reviews but lackluster sales, we spoke with a lot of guests, and people who had never been in, about what they wanted and wished we had. We also asked them about what would draw more people into our restaurant. We went through a lot of testing and surveying. And as a business, and as someone who feels responsible for his employees, we eventually decided that we had to make this pivot of providing a couple of non-vegan options.

We are now repackaging our message as a healthy veggie-centric restaurant serving everyone's fast-paced life. At the end of the day, I want to be able to provide jobs for some awesome people who have helped me open this venture. I totally understand the negative comments we have and will receive from some people, and I would just like to point out that we are still 98% vegan and completely dairy-free and gluten-free. Our chicken and sushi-grade tuna are the only two non-vegan ingredients out of over one hundred that we have in our kitchen. And we are very excited about our new vegan options as well- Baked Falafel, Tofu Poké and Beet Poké!

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

UberEATS Entering Memphis Market

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 8:30 AM


 enters the Memphis market today.

According to general manager of UberEATS Southeast Peter Hsu, UberEATS already has 100 restaurants on board, including Brother Juniper's, Corky's, Staks, One & Only BBQ, Blue City, Wild Beet Salad Co., Local and Agave Maria, and South of Beale. They will also deliver from chains as well, such as Firehouse Subs and Krispy Kreme.

The process is pretty easy. You download the UberEATS app, input your address, browse restaurants or search by cuisine, and then place your order. You can then track your order.

Hsu says the whole thing can take as little as 30 minutes.

He also says that they will be using existing Uber driving as well as recruiting more who just want to deliver food.

According to Hsu, UberEATS operates in about 50 cities globally, and while he notes there is no certain criteria for UberEATS to choose a certain city in which to operate, he does say, "Memphis has a really strong scene. We expect to see customer demand."

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Schweinehaus to Become Stanley Bar-B-Que

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 1:36 PM


With tax season is over, Andy Walker tells us, they've begun the process with liquor licenses, permits etc., with the government to officially change the name of Schweinehaus to Stanley Bar-B-Que.

Stanley is Andy and David's father. He passed away around Christmas.

"We wanted to honor him," Walker says.

Schweinehaus opened in 2014 as a German beer hall with a Southern take on German food. They changed focus to strictly barbecue (with some of the favorite German dishes remaining) in 2016.

They have a temporary sign ready to go to place over the "Schweinehaus." They hope to be done with the process in the next week or so.

Walker says of his father, "He's the only reason we own a restaurant.

"He loved barbecue. We love it too."

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Izakaya to Close

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 9:45 AM

Izakaya, Facebook
  • Izakaya, Facebook

Izakaya will close on Saturday, according to a press release issued by reps of chef Jimmy Gentry. 
From the release:

Chef Jimmy Gentry announced today he will no longer oversee the kitchen at Izakaya restaurant, located in the former 19th Century Club building at 1433 Union Avenue. Izakaya owners Shon and Dan Lin announced tonight the restaurant will cease operations on April 22, 2017 as they do not have the capital to continue operations of the fine dining restaurant. They are seeking alternatives for the historic building.

“I am completely shocked by this announcement as I had signed a multi-year agreement and had great aspirations for the grandeur of the fully-restored historic building,” said Chef Gentry. “We implemented standards of excellence for the operations and were making great headway under my team’s creativity and management. However, after only two months, the decision was made to close which, unfortunately, is out of my control.”
Izakaya opened in early January in the historic 19th Century Club building. The owners Shon and Dana Lin spent millions renovating the building. Gentry was hired to revamp the restaurant's sprawling menu.

According to the Commercial Appeal, the restaurant will reopen as Red Fish Bistro, which the Lins also own.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Mama Gaia Raising Funds for St. Jude

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 10:55 AM

I've been working my way through the Mama Gaia menu. I love the fresh, healthy no-fuss approach to food.

Asian salad
  • Asian salad
Falafel salad
  • Falafel salad
Cena Pita with oven-baked fries
  • Cena Pita with oven-baked fries
My recs: the Copia Pita with roasted vegetables and olive basil sauce and the Asia Pita with terrific sesame-crusted tofu. Mmmmmmm.

On Monday, April 17th, the restaurant will donate 25 percent of all sales to St. Jude.

The event is set for Monday in recognition of Meat Free Monday, a campaign launched in 2009 by Paul, Mary, and Stella McCartney.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

How to Drink Bourbon

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 11:08 AM


It's almost that time, y'all. The Flyer's Bacon and Bourbon fest is happening on April 15th, and tickets are going fast. (Seriously, I wouldn't sit on this. Tickets will sell out.)

In anticipation of the event, we sought some bourbon knowledge from Amy Preske of Buffalo Trace.

What are the markers of a good bourbon?
Amy Preske: Taste, of course, is subjective, but I would recommend looking at the age of the bourbon as one of the markers. Now, oldest is not always best. Just because a bourbon is 25 years old doesn’t necessarily make it the one you should get. I’d recommend something aged at least 8 years, and believe the 8-12 year range is the sweet spot for the best taste.

There will be a number of bourbons at the event. What's the best way to taste them all?
Carefully and slowly! Remember to hydrate with water in between and eat plenty of food through the evening so you can appreciate the full flavors of the bourbons. And of course, arrange for a safe ride home.

Are there regional differences between bourbons? For instance, a Kentucky bourbon has a smoky flavor or something like that?
Not really regional differences, it’s more differences in the mashbill (recipe) and the aging that will make a bourbon different.

In addition to the bourbon, there will be bacon at the event. What foods pair well with bourbon?
It depends on what type of bourbon you are drinking, if it’s a big, bold bourbon that is uncut, (barrel proof), you may want a good piece of meat, like a good steak or hamburger to go with it. If it’s a wheat recipe bourbon, which tends to be a little sweeter, you may want a salad with a sweeter dressing or even a dessert. And of course, you can never go wrong with bacon!

Is there a correct way to drink bourbon? No! We always say drink it however you like it. If that’s straight, with ice, or mixed with a soda, there is no wrong way to drink bourbon.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Opening Soon: Ono Poke

Posted By on Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 2:43 PM


"I brought ramen to Memphis," says Gai Klaimongkol. Klaimongkol used to own Skewer, and after that restaurant closed, he says, "I was looking for something new for this area. I heard about poke a lot."

Klaimongkol is opening Memphis' first Ono Poke restaurant called Ono Poke. This fast-casual restaurant will seat about 15 to 20. Estimated opening date is early May.

"Ono," in Hawaiian, means both delicious and fish. Ono Poke restaurants serve fish salads — rice, greens, and raw fish in a bowl. Klaimongkol describes it as comfort food.

There will also be vegan Buddha bowls, he says.



He also likens the process to ordering at a Subway, where the customer can customize their orders. Grab-and-go will be a big part of the business.

Klaimongkol is aiming for something casual, something healthy, something easy.

Ono Poke will be located at 3145 Poplar, across from East High School.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Now Open: Riko's Kickin' Chicken

Posted By on Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 4:15 PM

A couple Saturdays ago, Riko's Kickin' Chicken opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Madison near Cleveland.

According to Tiffany Wiley, who owns the restaurant with her husband Markio, the decision to open was a practical one. Demand for their popular food truck was great, and since they couldn't be everywhere at once ...

So what makes the chicken kickin'? According to Wiley, it's not primarily the spices or oil temps or whatever, it's the care they take in making it.


They offer fried chicken plates and hot wing platters (in 10 different flavors) and grilled chicken salad. Also on the menu is Kickin' fries, which is sorta like cheese fries except with chicken (!) and cheese.

And while Riko's raison d'etre is certainly chicken, they have other options as well, including a catfish sandwich, fried bologna, a veggie burger, and the very popular shrimpburger. Wiley says folks seem to like their banana pudding too.

Among the daily specials: Thursday is two-for-one shrimpburger day ($16.99), and on Tuesday, it's tacos. There are $8 lunch specials as well such as eight-piece boneless wings with drink and side and the four-piece tenders with drink and side.

Riko's hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday noon to 4 p.m. and closed Monday.

Images courtesy Riko's Kickin' Chicken Instagram

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

All About St. Patrick's Day

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 12:52 PM

• At Overton Square, there's green beer and Jameson at Bar Louie, Irish drink specials at Lafayette's, Irish whisky specials at Local, Shamrock whiskey sours at Babalu, green shakes at Belly Acres, and more.

eighty3 will have Guinness and cheddar dip, bangers & mash, and corned beef and cabbage sliders.

• While not a St. Patrick's Day event per se, the opening for "Memphis" by Flyer friend Dwayne Butcher at David Lusk Gallery is very much in the spirit of the day.

Butcher had someone brew up a keg of Irish stout for the opening. but there's a caveat here: To get a taste, you must purchase a $10 glass designed by Butcher. Real truth, those glasses (only 48 available) are destined to be a collectors item ...

The opening is Friday, 6-8 p.m.

McAlister's Deli will have a Reuben spud with corned beef and sauerkraut, plus free green tea for those customers wearing green.

• At Bardog, there's gonna be potato soup, green PBR (!), Guinness, Jameson, Shepherd's pie, and corned beef sliders.

Celtic Crossing is celebrating St. Patrick's Day all weekend. On Friday, $15 will get you in a special party with leprechauns, bagpipers, Irish dancers, green beer, and emerald slushies.

• Did someone say, "Corned beef and cabbage pizza"? Nobody? Well, the folks at Ghost River say they're going to have it as well as Irish stew, shepherd's pie, and chocolate stout cupcakes on St. Patrick's Day starting at 2 p.m.

They'll also have Magic Car bombs.

Proceeds go to the Wolf River Conservancy.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Now Open: Pasta, Seafood, & Desserts To Go

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 4:15 PM


Marzina Williams, or Chef Z as she is known, says she's always had an eye for detail. Make that lots of details

She's behind Entrepreneur Builders, which helps entrepreneurs succeed and thrive, and she runs Candyland Enterprises, which covers everything from modeling to events. Williams is also in a partnership with Manna House through her Hope Bracelets, a project that provides hygiene products to those in need.

Williams' latest detail is Pasta, Seafood, & Desserts To Go, which opened in late February on Overton Park in Midtown in the space that was briefly Jeff Johnson's Green Room concept.

"When I say 'gourmet,' it's actually gourmet," says Williams of her food.

The name describes it all — it is pasta, seafood, and desserts to go. Small portions feed about two; large three to five. Cost ranges from $10 to $45.

Among the offerings: a Cajun-style seafood platter, described as mix of Memphis and New Orleans, that comes with crab legs, shrimp, crawfish and potatoes, corn, and sausage; a build-your-own rigatoni; Philly Cheese potatoes; and four-cheese macaroni, which can be topped with chicken, shrimp, steak, sausage, lobster, or veggies.

Williams says her caramel waffle burger — double burger with cheese and bacon in a waffle topped with caramel sauce — has gone viral.

The desserts are served in mason jars and pans. There's peach cobbler, caramel fudge brownie overload, lemon icebox pie, and butter rolls. Williams is particular proud of her banana pudding, which she says is a millennial version with homemade custard.

If the To-Go part of Pasta, Seafood, & Desserts To Go doesn't clue you in, it's not a sit-down restaurant. But, Williams says, if you give her notice, she's be happy to have you. On Thursdays, she hosts a jazz night featuring local musicians.

Williams hopes to introduce smoothies soon, and she's working on a plan to provide 10 meals per month to the needy through Manna House.

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Beer Bracket Unfiltered: Wiseacre

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Wiseacre co-founders Davin Bartosch and Kellan Bartosch. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Wiseacre co-founders Davin Bartosch and Kellan Bartosch.

For those thirsty for more on the Memphis beer scene, we're presenting barely edited versions of the interviews done by Toby Sells for our cover story on the Memphis Flyer and Aldo's Beer Bracket Challenge.

Here's the Wiseacre interview with Kellan Bartosch and Davin Bartosch.

Memphis Flyer: This is the dumbest place to start, but how do you name your beers? Y’all have great names and even have fun with the game of naming beers. Like Adjective Animal (Double IPA). It was a comment on the typical naming convention of how breweries name their beers.

Kellan Bartosch: Here’s the silly formula.

MF: Exactly.

KB: I think our branding strategy is to either be clever or stupid, in the Beavis and Butthead kind of way where it’s funny because it’s so dumb. My mom would be like “that’s dumb, Kellan.” And I’d be like, yes! She thinks its stupid!

We take the names very seriously. Sometimes it take weeks. Some of it is free association. I’ll have a list of words I like. Sometimes something happens and it comes to life.

MF: I liked Men, Not Machines (brewed for the 17th anniversary of The Commercial Appeal).

Davin Bartosch: That took about four weeks. (Laughs.) They handed us a 200-page book. Each page had 15 articles on it. We just paged through looking for something but wanted to reference the time component of the 175th anniversary and newspapers.

(Men, Not Machines) seems perfect because it references beer as well. We have machines here. But what are the machines without the people? What’s a newspaper without the person. So, it worked.

MF: Tiny Bomb?

DB: Tiny Bomb came from my frustration with people always drinking Bud Light. You ask: What do you like? Why do you like it? People always say, it’s because I can drink four or five (Bud Lights). It’s low in calories.

I got some answers that, to me, sounded absurd, just being the kind of beer drinker that I am. So, I thought, I’m going to find a way to satisfy everybody. So, tiny alcohol, tiny calories, flavor bomb.

MF: Ah!

DB: We like to drink four or five beers, too.

KB: And sometimes you just want to shotgun a beer.

MF: How are things going in general? That really is the smartest question a journalist can ask. Trust me.

KB: We’ve been open three-and-a-half years. We have beers in seven states. Memphis is still our biggest market by far. If you count our taproom along with the city of Memphis, it’s almost half our volume.

To put that in perspective, we sell beer in Chicago and Philadelphia. Those are giant cities but they have their own hometown breweries as well. We do have success there. People there want our beer and we sell it. But that’s not where our attention is going. So, it’s fun to be focused on our hometown and home state.

MF: What are the other states y’all are in?

KB: Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, we’re in every town. We’re in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Chicago.

MF: Expanding your reach past that?

KB: We’d love to. We can’t make anymore beer currently. We can’t put anymore tanks int he building. So, we’re heard from people in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, California, Florida, places that we could really pursue but we currently can’t do anything else in our building in terms of production.

We’re happy with what we do, too. We make a lot of Tiny Bomb and Ananda. Those are the two best-selling Tennessee-made beers in the state. We make a lot of Gotta Get Up To Get Down. But we can’t contract any more coffee.

We do seasonals with Starless right now and overall we’ve made almost 100 beers. So, we get to keep inventing, which is why (Davin) started doing this in the first place. So, we get to experiment and our customers get to experiment.

We don’t want to lose that. So, we’re not going to drop that other stuff so we can add more (Tiny Bomb and Ananda). That’s the kind of brewery we want to be.

MF: We’re standing in front of a wall (pallets filled nearly to the ceiling with empty beer cans) of Ananda. How much do you think that weighs?

DB: It’s really light. You can drag it with your hand.

KB: Yeah, one hand and the whole thing just leans and slides.

MF: The whole thing?!

DB: Yeah!

MF: Don’t do it, guys! (Laughs.) Well, what else is going on at Wiseacre?

DB: Our staff here his amazing. We’ve got about 20 full-time staff. We can see Fabian right here who is from Germany. He’s one of six diplomaed German Braumeisters in the country.

He’s brilliant. And he’s found his real identity as a Southern redneck. He wears camo, and he rides four-wheelers. It doesn’t make any sense.

We’re like, what did you do this weekend?

He’s like (in thick German accent), “oh, I drove the four-wheeler. I saw a deer with six-point antlers.”

Everybody here is a character and a really hard worker. They’ve really helped build this. So, we have a lot of fun at work with those people.

KB: Years before we opened, Davin was convinced that we were going to make a pilsner. That was eight years ago. I was working for Sierra Nevada out west. I said, obviously we’re making an IPA. That’s going to be what’s going to take off.

He was in love with this style of beer (pilsner) for a long time. That’s because of the things he said (about Tiny Bomb) earlier. But we also think pilsner is on this sort of Bell Curve. It’s that style of beer you start drinking when you first start drinking beer because it’s not as offensive. Then you drink really heavy beers or something. But then you come back around to (pilsners).

As a brewer, it’s a challenge to make something really delicate. You can make a hop bomb and hide any mistake that you make. The same goes for something that’s really malty. So, it’s a bigger challenge to create [a pilsner], and you can appreciate the simplicity of it, the nuance, the subtleties.

He knew he wanted to do it forever. I just didn’t even believe him. As we keep growing, that’s the beer we’re making more of as a percentage. It’s about 35 percent of our production. The markets that are outside of Memphis, like New Orleans (Tiny Bomb) is over 50 percent of our volume there. In Chicago, it’s about 40 percent. In Philadelphia, it’s about 40 percent.

So, of the stuff we make, (Tiny Bomb) stands out the most. You can go to another city and say this is the best pilsner you can get in Philadelphia. That’s because (Davin) has loved for such a long time.

We won a medal for it the first year we opened. But he made Tiny Bomb, or a version of it, for six years in Chicago, like 50 or 60 iterations of it. So, when we opened, it was this thing that had already been developed.

MF: Why on earth were you messing around with a pilsner?

DB: I went to brewing school in Germany. That part of my school was really focused on lager production. That’s what they really teach in Germany. That’s what everybody makes in Germany. It’s a more institutionalized thing.

So, I loved the beers while I was there. I though, there’s nothing like this in the United States and, by the time those beers get here, they’re awful. They’re not meant to survive a sea voyage. So, they’re something that need to be made and consumed quickly, especially something that is four-and-a-half percent alcohol like Tiny Bomb is.

It’s made and you’re supposed to crush it, basically. (Laughs.)

MF: You told me one time that y’all made Tiny Bomb so you’d have something to shotgun. Does that story still hold up?

DB: Yep. That’s true.

KB: There are some days when you just need to do it.

DB: It has to be kind of hot. It’s not hot enough yet to shotgun Tiny Bomb. You also need a lot of refreshment to get there, too.

MF: Then, when you get there, (shotgunning a beer is) the only idea that makes any sense.

KB: It’s funny, though, that I have the sales and marketing background in the beer business, but the brewer was correct about what was going to make sense for sales and marketing in the future.

It’s just a fun conversation for art anywhere. What came first? The chicken or the egg? But the artist knew what mattered to him before…the whole culture of beer is getting more into pilsners. So, how do you make great lagers or more sessionable beers or whatever. But he knew it a decade ago and we’re just now getting it.

(Vincent) van Goh died before people liked his art. Thankfully, Davin is still alive to see people enjoy Tiny Bomb.

DB: You can paint a pretty picture and it looks different to people from different angles. It’s the same thing.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Agavos Cocina & Tequila Opening April 1

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 3:53 PM


Agavos Cocina & Tequila is all about tequila. I mean, ALL about it.

Agavos is set to open April 1st in the site of the old Republic Coffee on Walnut Grove near the library. Alex Rojas, who owns Agavos with his wife Esthela and family members Cesar and Margaret Villalpando, says the inside has been completely renovated to look like a tequila barrel. Republic's old bar was remade to look more like a real bar — and a tequila barrel. Red accents represent the harvest of tequila plants, blue (agave) represents the plant.

Then, too, there's Agavos' signature dish, camaron de tequila (shrimp of tequila) and, of course, cocktails aplenty, including margaritas, Palomas (made with cirtrus soda), and Carta Negra (with Coke and lime). Rojas says they'll have between 30 to 40 tequilas on hand.

Agavos will serve tamales (an original recipe, says Alex). There are four different salsas and kabobs, plus a burger made from a blend of beef and chorizo sausage topped with bacon, fried jalapenos, and chipotle sauce.

Rojas says they picked the spot due to its central location. The restaurant will seat between 85 and 95 and will be open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner.

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Beer Bracket Unfiltered: High Cotton

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Two of High Cotton's owners Ross Avery and Ryan Staggs. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Two of High Cotton's owners Ross Avery and Ryan Staggs.

For those thirsty for more on the Memphis beer scene, we're presenting barely edited versions of the interviews done by Toby Sells for our cover story on the Memphis Flyer and Aldo's Beer Bracket Challenge.

Here's the High Cotton interview with two of the company's founders Ross Avery and Ryan Staggs.

Memphis Flyer: What’s going on High Cotton?

Ryan Staggs: We’re talk about lot of things. We’re experimenting with news brews. Also, we’re looking at a new package.

MF: Y’all are in cans now and that happened…12 months ago?

RS: Last May. Not even 12 months.

MF: That was a huge step forward for y’all.

RS: We were so luck to be in a position to do that. We’re thrilled to be [in stores]. For me, for both of us, really (looks at Ross Avery), coming from a home brewing to professional brewing (laughs)… let’s put quotes on (“professional brewing”). Professional is a super loose term for us.

But (coming from home brewing) and then having a packaged product, that is almost full circle for me. Days could be better for sure and sales could be better always but I’m almost ready to check this whole brewery thing off the list. I mean, it’s like…mission accomplished!

We’ve got a tasting room and been opened for four years now. We have packaged product. I never would have dreamed that a beer I brewed in my garage would end up in a can in Kroger. It’s unbelievable.

MF: What beer was it?

RS: Scottish Ale.

MF: People love that beer.

RS: It’s crazy! Who would have thought that dark beer like that would have been…

MF: Where did that beer come from?

RS: Scottish Ales are not really exotic style. There’s not Scottish ales with mango or spruce tips. It’s not a real crazy yeast strain that you produce Scottish areas with.

So, it’s not a style that gets a lot of notoriety because of these extreme things that other sales lend themselves to. Like crazy Belgian beers or high-alcohol beers or IPAs that you can do a million different things to and still call it an IPA.

Scottish Ales are a pretty basic traditional style. I hate to play it down but…super traditional but it’s also like making a lager.

You have to do it exactly right because if you don’t the flaws come through pretty quickly. Scottish ales, on a scale of ales, typical ales ferment at around 68 degrees. Scottish ales are known for a much cooler fermentation. 60 degrees is what we ferment ours at.

Some historical references show it as low as 55 degrees, which gets into lager temperatures. What that does, is what I think people really dig about that style. The clean finish. The super cold fermentation really produces a clean-finishing beer.

But it’s also a robust enough style where it’s still kind of rich and caramaly, it’s toffee, its toasty and slightly roasty. I know that — sorry BJCP — people are like Scottish ales aren’t roasty! But roasted barley is what lends that flavor and what people perceive as roasty and that is absolutely traditional in the brewing process.

What got me really stoked about it is trying got perfect a traditional style that is simple in the way that it taste and drinks but complex in the way you have to make it, ferment it and take care of it.

It’s like a lager. Lagers, people take them for granted. But it’s like, hat’s off to the Big Three [Bud, Miller, Coors] because producing a lager like that that at least tastes consistent - maybe it’s not good! - but it tastes consistent. That’s a feat in itself. Those beers are so light and so fragile. So, if anything tastes like crap, it’s obvious.

MF: So, you can’t just crank up the hops to hide something.

RS: Right. Like a big, old stout or something where it’s easy to cover up some sort of imperfection.

MF: How long did you home brew?

RS: Probably four or five years. But I got really obsessed with it. I was an engineer before I started home brewing.

MF: What kind of engineer?

RS: Civil. So, I got really into the nerdy science behind brewing beer. I brewed Scottish but I brewed other stuff, don’t get me wrong because I love drinking beer, but I kind of got obsessed with doing this thing.

Then, I got super nerdy as far as taking all kinds of specific notes when I’m brewing, like tasting notes, and then tweaking one little thing at a time. What we drink today was kind of the final result of that (research and development) at my house.

Ross Avery: It’s the only recipe that came through the three owners without being tweaked from the get-go. It was money to begin with.

MF: Did y’all have to change the recipe, moving it from the garage to here?

RS: There were a few challenges. A couple of batches we did, the way we used the roasted barley, which gives it the color and lot of that flavor, that was over-utilized in our large-scaled system and we had to dial that back. Other than that, the rest of the stuff came through.

RA: We were tweaking on the system just like cooking on a different stove.

RS: That was the only thing we had to tweak was how we introcuce that super-strong ingredient.

MF: What do you make of the success of that beer?

RS: It’s unbelievable. We have our ESB, which we also started making year-round right out of the gate. It’s funny to see how far Memphis has come. But people were just intimidated by the color of (ESB). But the (Scottish Ale) people were like, yeah, this is a lot more pallatable.

RA: It’s sort of a gateway to craft beer for Memphians. They had experience the Ghost River Golden. So, we weren’t going to make another Golden.

RS: And now (Scottish Ale) has become our best seller. It’s unbelievable.

RS: Summer before last, (the temperature) started spiking up in the summer. A dark beer in the summertime! All I could imagine were this people in these dark bars where it’s cold.

MF: What’s the alcohol content on Scottish? 5.5?

RS: It’s 5.5 percent-5.3 percent depending on the efficiency of each batch. But, yeah, it never exceeds 5.5 percent. So, it’s not a super high-alcohol beer.

MF: Y’all have had the taproom open for…?

RS: Three years. We bought this place in June of 2012. One of the biggest decision-making factors when it came to this place was the facade and the opportunity the front of this place provide to make a taproom.

We had all intentions of creating a taproom right out of the gate. But we built the brewery first. We wanted to get the ball rolling first and make sure people wanted to drink our beer.

MF: I know people love your taproom. It’s gorgeous and one of a kind.

RS: Thank you. There’s a lot of personal touch. The reclaimed wood, we got a lot of this stuff out of the Cotton Exchange Building, believe it or not.

The bar came from The Butcher Shop, which was on the bottom floor of the Cotton Exchange Building. So, once we were picking up the bar, my dad - being the junk scavenger, nosy, son of a gun — just starts meandering around. The Butcher Shop was (a small part) of that building. So, he starts meandering around all the different hallways and rooms of this place and sees this paneling in there.

He was like, oh my god, this would be great. We need to get this stuff. When The Butcher Shop shut down, they were cleaning it out to rebuild condos. So, nothing was really super important to them. So, my dad hooked up with the superintendent and he gave (the wood to us).

So, we spent two days in there pulling it all down. My dad and I sat around on nights and weekend sup here drinking a few beers, pounding nails out of the end of them. But the best part of the story (on the wood), is that we then spent en entire day planing each one of those boards. We had over 5,000 boards we got from those people.

Then when we decided to get the ball rolling on the taproom, we brought an interior designer in. We told them we have the pieces we want to integrate in, like this bar and a few others things, and the wood was on our list. I showed him all the stuff we had planed and said, wouldn’t this be cool if we stained it and made it like an old English pub?

Then, he flips it over and he’s like, no, this shitty-looking paint that’s chipping off is awesome.

RA: He came in and placed each board. I came in and told (the designer) they were planed on the other side. Are we going to we going to paint this? He said, no, just wait for it. And at night time I think it’s just gorgeous, the way the lights reflect off of it.

RS: So, every one of those boards (on the ceiling over the bar) looks like this (the boards that top the table in front of the bar). So, we had to do something with all the wood we planed, right? So, we made tables.

MF: Has the Memphis beer consumer change since (High Cotton, Wiseacre, and Memphis Made) opened in 2013?

RS: Something I’m really proud of, is that we have seen a lot of great brands come in our market, and people drink that stuff but they’re a blurb on the radar for a week or two.

Then, everyone in Memphis is like that whole thing was great and thanks for brining that in, guys, pour me another Wiseacre, pour me another High Cotton, pour me another Memphis Made, or another Ghost River.

People are really sticking to local beer and being loyal to what ever brand they are the most loyal to or a group of brands. They’re saying, thanks Atlanta for bringing that stuff in and it’s good and I’m going to order it because y’all are doing a promo. But tomorrow, when I come back to the (Young Avenue) Deli, I’ll have another High Cotton Scottish Ale.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Beer Bracket Unfiltered: Memphis Made

Posted By on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Memphis Made co-founders Andy Ashby and Drew Barton.
  • Memphis Made co-founders Andy Ashby and Drew Barton.

For those thirsty for more on the Memphis beer scene, we're presenting barely edited versions of the interviews done by Toby Sells for our cover story on the Memphis Flyer and Aldo's Beer Bracket Challenge.

Here's the Memphis Made interview with company co-founders Andy Ashby and Drew Barton.

Memphis Flyer: I’ll start with the hard-hitting question I’ve been asking everyone. What is going on at Memphis Made?

Drew Barton: Beer?


DB: Well, the newest thing is we’re going to be getting some bottles back in the market soon.

MF: (Points to bottling machine.) Is that a temporary bottling line?

DB: I mean it’s temporary as in it will run until we break it.

So, we’re going to start doing (750 milliliter bottles), which is the same format we did earlier. It’ll be exclusively high gravity to get some different things out there.

MF: What’s the first beer you’ll put out?

DB: Soulless Ginger will be the first thing in the bottle.

MF: Describe that beer for me.

DB: It’s one of our cult favorites, Soulful Ginger, kicked up since we can do higher alcohol now. A little more alcohol, a lot more ginger, way less soul.

MF: When will it be on shelves?

DB: In the next few weeks.

Andy Ashby: Keep it vague.

DB: Alright. Vaguely soon. Soonish.

AA: We did some hand bottling and some mobile canning. But this is our first more-permanent solution.

MF: So, with that, Memphis Made will be available more regularly in stores?

DB: Yeah, in more package stores. We’ll certainly be on the shelves of the growler shops that we’re in right now because they carry bottled products. And we’ll also be in — we cant’ say the names specially — but we’ll be in “grocery stores.” Can you put that in quotes? A few convenience stores.

AA: It’ll be small-batch stuff. So, it’s not going to be everywhere all the time. We’r north of 150 accounts in Shelby County. Basically, some of the places we’re at now are going have it, including some grocery stores.

MF: Y’all opened in 2013, right?

DB: Put out our first beers in 2013, yeah.

AA: October 2013.

MF: When did y’all open the taproom?

DB: Thanksgiving weekend of 2014, almost a year later.

MF: How’s it going? (Laughs.)

DB: Pretty damn good! No, it’s great. We’re tired but we’re happy. We threw out the business plan a long time ago.

AA: We started with six accounts from day one. Now we’re at more than 150. It started off, basically, just Drew and I and now we have employees and have the taproom open.

MF: Y’all just extended the taproom hours, too. Y’all are now open on Mondays and Thursdays and later hours on the weekends.

AA: Yep. Five days a week, the taproom is open from when we used to not have a taproom at all.

As we’re getting bigger, we’re not really looking outward as much. We’re looking more inward, doing more stuff in the community and in our taproom.

MF: Almost more than any other taproom location, y’all are in the most-trafficked area.

DB: Oh, yeah. And we chose it for that reason. We both live in the neighborhood. So, we wanted something close to home and have something that wa amore vibrant in our neighborhood.

MF: Do you see more causal foot traffic? Or, is it that people are seeking you out?

DB: It’s a good mix of those things. We have a lot of people who walk, bike, and push their stroller. Some publication named us the most family-friendly brewery in Memphis.

MF: Which one?

DB: I think it was Thrillist. (Laughs.)

MF: That’s fine. I love Thrillist.

MF: I’ve been talking a lot about beer names. How do you come up with your beer names?

DB: We don’t really have a process by any means.

AA: Yes, that’s a great way to say it.

DB: Procrastination tends to be a huge part of the recipe. We wait until the very last minute to name something.

AA: Sometimes.

DB: Well, for the most part. There have literally been times when we have named it and sent it out that day.

MF: if you were lucky enough to live in Memphis on a particular day and time, you witnessed the Rockbone fiasco go down in real time.

DB: Yeah, and we go to immortalize it with a beer name.

MF: What is the biggest-selling beer y’all have?

DB: Fireside (Amber). By far.

MF: Even more than Lucid (Kolsch)?

DB: Way more.

MF: Is that surprising to y’all?

DB: I’m baffled by it.

MF: What is that?

AA: It’s different but it’s accessible. Every brewer out there has an IPA but a nice, malty amber that drinkable? People just really tend to gravitate towards it.

It’s also very adaptable. It started a s fall seasonal. We started as seaonsal brewery. So, we had two different beer every quarter. So, Fireside started a s fan seasonal. Then, we did it as a fal and winter seasonal.
Every year we took it away and I’d get lambasted. People would ask, why are you taking away this beer? I totally love it!

I remember the first year we made it year-round. It was spring and it was fine. But summer hit and I was worried. Is this amber gonna sell well when it’s 110 degrees out? And it didn’t miss a beat. It’s pretty crazy. I didn’t see it either.

MF: How did you come up with Fireside? The name, I remember, was originally Fireside Ninja and the name was from another brewery.

DB: Yes, we got permission from that brewery. The beer itself, that was so long ago when I designed it, I don’t…we just wanted something easy to drink, for sure. It’s got a healthy base of Munich malt. I love Munich malt.

We’re probably — as far as our size goes — we’re probably one of the biggest users of Munich malt in at least the Southeast, possibly the U.S.

That Munich gives it a nice little bread, biscuit-y base. Then, the flaked oats and barley in there make it nice and smooth. There’s a kiss of hops in there, just enough to balance it out but. Enough not to really offend any novice beer drinker but enough to let even a hardcore beer drinker know, hey, it’s got hops in it.

MF: Other breweries have said they sell a lot of darker beers, even in the summer. What does that say about the Memphis beer consumer?

DB: It shows a more malt-forward palette. Just because the coast loves it’s hops, doesn’t necessarily mean that makes it any better of a beer.

(Dark beers) are just what the market wants. We will certainly do some hoppy beers along the way for the hoppy beer market but I think as an overall, a lot of our beers tends to be less hoppy. Things like Soulful Ginger. It’s neither hoppy or malty. It’s nice and dry. It’s not very hoppy.

Rye Felicia is malty. Slumber Party is nice and malty. Nut ReMix is malty with a little bit of hops.

MF: What’s next?

DB: We will continue to be as focused as we can on the local market. We don’t sell beer outside the local market. We have a good base out in the city. We’re really just trying to give more and more people an opportunity to come and try it (at the taproom) with out extended hours and days.

We want to do more things here and have more on-site events. Do more small-batch stuff that only available in the taproom. We just want to get more people in here to say hey and have a beer with us.

AA: There’s a lot of different ways to grow. Since we self-distribute in Shelby County. We’re not looking to get outside of that. We’re trying to find ways to grow in other ways.

The Memphis beer market will mature this year. Wee finally have the high-gravity thing out of the way. We have some more breweries coming online.

We had three breweries open up in 2013, but here it is four years later. I think we’ve all learned a lot and we’ll start hitting our stride. We’ll be pushing more beers out there and educating people. I think the whole beer scene is going to start to get more mature.

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