Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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?

(Laughs.)

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.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Beer Bracket Unfiltered: Ghost River Brewing

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Ghost River's Jerry Feinstone, Suzanne Williamson, and Jimm Randall (background) with a Ghost River Gold (foreground). - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Ghost River's Jerry Feinstone, Suzanne Williamson, and Jimm Randall (background) with a Ghost River Gold (foreground).

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 Ghost River interview with head brewer Jimmy Randall, marketing vice president Suzanne Williamson, and owner Jerry Feinstone.

Memphis Flyer: Ghost River won our (Beer Bracket Challenge). Congratulations. No matter what was going to happen in that final round, y’all were going to win.

Jimmy Randall: It was exciting pulling up the voting for the final round. It was like, oh! Hey! Alright!

MF: I think it says something about how long y’all have been around and the legion of fans you have out there.
So, here, I’ll ask the hard-hitting question I’ve asked the other breweries, what is going on at Ghost River?

JR: Well, at this exact moment, we’re cleaning and we’re putting Golden Ale into bottles. That’s today’s process.

MF: Y’all just opened the taproom in…?

JR: November 5 was the official grand opening day.

MF: How’s it been going?

Jerry Feinstone: We’ve been very pleased. You get a sunny day like today and everybody wants to show up, especially if they can sit outside. They’re having fun and playing games. So, it’s great.

MF: It’s a different way to interact with the brand.

Suzanne Williamson: We didn’t have that before. When we first moved into this building, you had to have a full kitchen to have a taproom. When the laws changed, we were in the middle of a big expansion. So, we had to put this on the back burner. It’s been great. Just happy to be able to do it, finally.

MF: Y’all just had a big brand change, too. That came right along with the taproom. You didn’t change any of the styles. Did you change any of the recipes?

JR: No, we didn’t change any of the recipes. Same beers. We did a little bit of name changing. The Honey Wheat, which is our summer seasonal, that has become Lost Hive. It finally got a name of its own.

We sat around in meetings for probably three weeks in a row, trying to come up with a good name for the honey wheat. Everything we picked, someone had already used it.

So, when Josh Horton and Hieroglyph did the rebranding, they came back with Lost Hive. We were like, that’s perfect.

SW: We did the re-branding because we were brand focused and not style focused. We wanted people to see this as Ghost River IPA not as Ghost River [first] and, then, oh, it’s an IPA.

We had a hard time working with our old font and the tree. That’s when we decided that if we’re going to do this — and it’s expensive changing everything — we might as well…

It’s been 10 years, we’re going to have a taproom. It’s time to change it. The taproom reflect the branding. It all fits.

JF: Losing the tree made me cry.

SW: You and a lot of other people.

JF: But I think it’s OK. We may end up with some retro products one day.
The (old branding) was very hard to get on a tap handle. The tree was fluffy and it didn’t work…

SW: And when you made it smaller it looked like an ink blot.

MF: The lantern is cool. It tells a lot about your brand and still connects your brand to the river.

JF: As the contest showed — being the first — the leader always carries the lantern.

MF: Chuck Skypeck told me one time that the pioneers get the arrows and the settlers get the land.

(Laughs.)

MF: How long have y’all been open now?

JR: It’s our tenth year. It’ll be our 10th anniversary of the first brew on New Year’s Eve this year.

MF: Back then, there wasn’t really any other craft beer in town. Y’all have been doing it since before it was cool, as they say.

JF: Breaking ground can be fun. It worked out.

SW: There were a lot of arrows. How about that?

MF: Have y’all always been in this location?

JF: Yes.

MF: So, y’all were pioneers for the neighborhood, too.

I’ve been talking to other brewers a lot about beer names. Golden Ale got a name change. It’s now just Gold.

SW: It’s our bread and butter. I mean, it’s the number one craft beer in Memphis, right? According to the Memphis Flyer. (Laughs.)

MF: Golden Ale is, of course, a golden ale. Does anybody remember what went into the naming of that beer at all?

JF: Just a color. (Laughs.) It’s a style. I guess if you’re the only game in town, you have all the names available to you. We weren’t smart enough to think of something fancy for Golden Ale.

SW: We were excited to get it in kegs and get it out to the market.

JF: Just getting these projects going is hard enough without trying to figure out a great name for everything.

MF: What was it about that style of golden ale that made you want to make that beer?

SW: Being the first, we were the introductory to craft for Memphis palettes. We wanted to, maybe, set the Golden next to a major brand that wasn’t necessarily craft. We’d say, you’re drinking this, how about try this?

It helped with the whole perception of…you know some people thought craft beer was heavy or too hoppy or whatever. I don’t even know if people recognized what it was that made it heavy. But we were like, just try this.

They would and they’d say, oh wow, this tastes good. It’s a very easy…it’s a transition beer.

MF: The gateway beer.

JR: Yes, a wonderful stepping stone into all the different flavors craft beer can produce.

SW: But people go back to it. It’s kind of your go-to beer in your refrigerator. You want to try all these out-there styles. But when you’re like, I just want a beer, it’s Golden.

JR: You’ve got your Southern comfort food. We’ve got your Southern comfort beer.

MF: Has Golden changed over the years?

JR: It’s been the same. We’ve made minor tweaks for raw material processes. But in the grand scheme of things, that recipe has remained untouched.

MF: When you say Golden Ale, people know what that flavor is.

SW: People come in our taproom and they’ll say, I’ll have a Ghost River. I know exactly what they mean. It’s the Golden.

MF: Jimmy, what are people tasting when they taste your golden ale?

JR: It’s your light American blonde ale. It’s very soft malt flavors, enough hops to kind of balance the profile out. It doesn’t come across as hoppy or bitter. It doesn’t come across as malty.

You get those light golden malt flavors and just enough of a balancing hop to keep it from wanting to present itself as being too sweet on the palette. That little bit of bitterness we do get for the hops helps counteract against the sweetness.

MF: Another high profile beer for y’all is 1887. Where does that name come from?

JR: Way back in the year 1887 was the first time the Memphis Sand aquifer was tapped. We celebrated for that reason. On the branding for it, it is a you’re looking top down into a well.

JF: There’s a story on each label. You have to figure it out, though.

MF: Is Gold the biggest seller?

JR: In overall production, yes. Golden is, by far, the number one beer w’ere producing. It sells the best out in the trade. In the taproom it’s a little different. We have different things that are only available in the taproom.

Then, there’s our other light beer, which is the Grindhouse. It tends to be our best seller here in the taproom.

MF: Did y’all make Grindhouse originally just for the (FedEx) Forum? Is that where the name came from?

SW: We were introducing cream ale and we had bars at the Forum. We wanted to brew a beer that people could dink during sporting events. That was the initial mindset of the naming of Grindhouse.

There will be some exciting things happening with our Grindhouse this spring. With our rebranding, we have a broader interpretation of Greenhouse that we’re excited about. There’s an overall connection with Memphis in music.

JR: Not only do you think about the Grindhouse as the FedEx Forum but also your juke joints are your grindhouses as well.

JF: The story is coming in the spring.

JR: We brought Grindhouse in when we were looking for that dryer, drinkable, very approachable style. We wanted something that’s a little lower in alcohol. You can drink several of them throughout the game and not get yourself too sideways and get in trouble.

MF: What’s the alcohol on (Grindhouse)?

JR: 5.25 percent

MF: Y’all have been around a long time. How have you seen the Memphis market and Memphis beer drinkers change over time?

SW: I think they’re more open to try new styles. I think the new mentality is “what’s new?” That’s the national trend. So, I think we’re catching up with that. With more education and more beers to taste and more variety.

MF: So, what do y’all think about winning our Beer Bracket Challenge and being the two finalists?

JR: Overjoyed. I’m just so grateful for the continuing support we’ve received from our hometown.

JF: It was pretty terrific. Sometimes you don’t expect it. You see new beer come on the market, new names. Then to realize that there’s a bunch of people out there who love your product. It makes you feel good and makes you feel good about what you do.

It’s a real good feeling. I don’t think any of us in the craft brew business have enough money on advertising or anything. So, we just have to blame it on people going out and trying beers and tasting beers and saying, “this fits my palette. I’ll have another.”

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Beer Bracket Unfiltered: Meddlesome Brewing

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Ben Pugh at Meddlesome Brewing. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Ben Pugh at Meddlesome Brewing.


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 Meddlesome Brewing interview with one of its owners, Ben Pugh. Meddlesome is slated to open in Cordova sometime this spring or early summer. The Meddlesome interview didn't make it into our cover story. So, this is web-exclusive content.

That means you should totally read this because Pugh is totally a nice guy. You'll be wanting to drink his beers soon, even if that means driving to Cordova.

Pugh has lived in Memphis since 2002. He is the owner of beer brewing equipment company, Eclectic Ales.

Memphis Flyer: So, how did you come to open Meddlesome Brewing?

Ben Pugh: I had a brewery in Rock N Dough in Jackson, Tenn. We did that for about three years and then got out of that and sold the equipment out of that to fund this.

We’ll be way bigger here, though. I was a five-barrel system there and we’re doing a 20-barrel system here.

MF: Hell yeah! What made you want open a brewery here?

BP: I live in Cordova (laughs). Driving back and forth to Jackson was tiresome. Really, the big thing is that Memphis is still lacking on breweries, especially when you compare it to everywhere else. Per capita, it doesn’t have the volume a lot of places have.

Ten years ago we would’ve been hard-pressed to make it happen but now things are starting to finally come around.

I live in Cordova. I’ve been here a long time. A bunch of my friends live over here. Anytime any of us want to go get a beer, it’s a 15-mile drive on the interstate, down Sam Cooper, or all the way Downtown.

There’s just nothing over here. Then we’ll say, let’s go to the Flying Saucer (Cordova). Well, it’s packed. Let’s go somewhere else. Where else can we go? Yep, that’s it. There’s no where else to go.

Another big driving factor was Shelby Farms. They’ve done such a huge renovation over there. Any day that it’s 50-plus-degrees outside, it is packed. It’s crazy.

We take our kid over there to play all the time. We drive past the dog park, which happens to be right across the street (from Meddlesome) and the parking lot is packed full. Then, the next lot is full and the one after that. Or, if you go to the kids area, the parking lot is full and the overflow lot is full and it’s like, holy cow! There’s just so much going on over there.

MF: And you’re telling me those folks don’t want to go drink a good beer somewhere?

BP: If we can catch 2 percent-3 percent of the people who are coming out from (Shelby Farms) for a beer, I would be ecstatic.

MF: You’d be packed out.

BP: Yes, any nice day.

MF: Alright, we have to talk about the name. Where did Meddlesome come from?

BP: There was a lot of discussion and sleepless nights on that. Coming up with a brewery name is not easy. Most names are taken. The ones that aren’t taken just aren’t that clever.

We had a branding guy we worked with and there were just so many names we threw out and they were all taken.

MF: Ass Clown Brewing is taken.

BP: I know, right? There’s Clown Shoes, too! You know, I’m sure there’s a good story behind it.

What we came up with was Meddlesome. That’s because whenever we got into home brewing, we never really stuck to what anyone was saying. We were, essentially, meddling with what was considered convention.

You know, you have to do an hour-long mash. We’d ask, what happens if you don’t? What if we do it for an hour or forty minutes or thirty minutes? What happens? Oh, well, you can’t do it, the efficiency are so bad. It’s not worth doing. Well, I’m going to try it.

We just went through so many different things that we decided that so much of what these people say is just garbage. For the most part, you can do this in many different forms. I’m not going to say any one is right or wrong; they all get a result in the end. But the process and honing of it, was something we were constantly working on, me and Richie both.

MF: Who is Richie?

BP: Richie (EsQuivel) is my partner (in Meddlesome). He’s a home brewer, been brewing for as long as I have.

MF: How did y’all meet?

BP: I was president of the one of the brew clubs in town. He joined the club. We just kind of hit it off. We brewed very similar styles of beer and our brewing techniques are very similar. Our taste in music and other things are a lot the same. So, we just instantly hit it off.

MF: So, you two would just meddle in things?

BP: We just try to find unconventional ways to do the same thing. Not sticking to what someone tells you.

MF: What kinds of beers do you make and how do you make them?

BP: We’re not tying ourselves to one specific thing. We’re going to be all over the map. We’ve made so many different styles that we’re very comfortable to produce whatever we want.

Our three flagship beers will be a blonde ale, an American brown ale, and an American IPA. With those three, we’re able to cover the vast majority of beer drinkers whether they’re entry-level or people who just don’t care for dark beer.

Brown ale, to a lot of people, is dark beer. So, we cover that category. Then we got hoppy/bitter. The blonde ale will be similar to a pilsner or golden ale. It’s a necessity. You got to have something everyone can agree one. With those three, I think we’ll do OK.

Every brewery has to have a lighter beer of some sort. Most of them don’t want to, but they know if they want to sell to everyone who walks in the door, they have to have something that appeals to them. Or, you could be Stone (Brewing in California) and say, fuck everybody. We only make IPAs. We don’t really care what you want! (Laughs.)

MF: So, you’ll have the three flagships and then…

BP: We’ll have probably at least two or three seasonal beers or rotating specialties. In the taproom we have a one-barrel pilot system. We have three fermenters. So, we should have three one-barrel batches on tap here, for one-offs or experimentals, if we’re trying to new hops or grains. So, we don’t have to dedicate 20 barrels to it to find out, man, that just wasn’t that great!

We do think we’ll one of those as a gluten-free beer. We’re not going to go sorghum or millet. There are enzymes out now that will reduce gluten down to a (federally recognized level) to consider it gluten-free. You can make it from barley, too. So, it actually tastes like beer. It doesn’t taste like some weird, sorghum product.

MF: Alright. So, what’s up with the big gear? (Points to an enormous gear wheel sitting on the floor.)

BP: It’ll hang over our bar. We want a very industrial look and feel in here. Concrete walls. Stained concrete. Everything is going to be as industrial as we can get.

The bar will have a copper top. It’s all in that box there. We’re going to do rivets on the front of it.

The conduits on the walls stay exposed. The big, red iron beams stay exposed. We’re doing absolutely no drop ceiling. It’s going to stay just like this. We’re going to paint it black but it’ll stay exposed.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Hopdoddy Coming to Overton Square

Posted By on Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 4:13 PM

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Austin-based Hopdoddy Burger Bar is coming to Overton Square, according to a press release from Loeb Properties.

The restaurant will be in the Yolo space at 6 S. Cooper. Yolo is (was?) set to move down the street.

Here's the release:

Hopdoddy Burger Bar, a nationally-recognized, Austin-born burger + beer joint, will be joining Overton Square in the expanding 3,500 sf space. Extensive renovation and construction will begin in March with the restaurant slated to open this fall.

Hopdoddy grinds their meats in-house daily and offers a wide variety of the freshest available, all-natural proteins like Angus beef, Akaushi beef, chicken and sushi-grade tuna that are stacked between baked-from-scratch buns. Alongside its burgers, Hopdoddy serves hand-cut Kennebec fries, farm fresh salads, and handcrafted milkshakes. Hopdoddy also carries an array of local craft beers on tap, can and bottle as well as a full bar featuring regional spirits, house-made liqueurs and freshly squeezed juices.

Founded in 2010, Hopdoddy now has locations in Texas, Arizona, Colorado and California with additional locations opening in 2017. Hopdoddy has been named one of the “The Best Burgers in America” by Food & Wine, garnered the #1 spot three years in a row by Business Insider’s list of “The 50 best burger joints in America” and named one of the “10 Brands to Watch” by CNBC and MSN.
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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bacon & Bourbon Tickets On Sale Now!

Posted By on Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 2:52 PM

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The Flyer's Bacon & Bourbon festival returns for its second year to the Memphis Farmers Market on April 15th.

Last year's fest drew roughly 750, and this year's iteration, with an expanded selection of food and drink, is looking to be baconier and bourbonier.

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Bacon & Bourbon sold out quick last year, so we suggest you get your tickets sooner rather than later.

This is for grown folks, 21 and over and will happen rain or shine.

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Bacon & Bourbon Tickets

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Two Beers From One Brewery Are Finalists for our Beer Bracket Challenge

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 11:44 AM

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Two beers. One brewery.

That's how it shook out in the Memphis Flyer & Aldo's Beer Bracket Challenge this year.

Ghost River Brewing faces off against…itself!…in the final matchup of our 2017 Beer Bracket Challenge.

Thousands of votes. 16 beers. 14 matchups. Four days. It’s all brought us to the Final Two — Ghost River Gold (from the light beer category) and Ghost River Grindhouse Cream Ale (from the seasonal category). One will emerge as our readers’ favorite in this challenge.

Gold is a golden ale, a light, bright, year-round workhorse for Ghost River. The brewery says it’s a “no-fuss, balanced brew that ready to go anywhere.” Grindhouse Cream Ale is far less available, only on taps around town October through May. Though, it, too, is on the lighter side, smooth, not at all bitter, and very, very drinkable.

Today is our FINAL day of voting. Today’s choices will dub the winner of our Beer Bracket. Will it be Gold or Grindhouse? Make your voice heard here!

We’re not yet sure if we’re going to announce the winner tomorrow or have our readers wait an ENITRE WEEK for our beer issue, which will hit the stands March 9. Stay tuned and thanks for voting!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Final Four Emerges in Our Beer Bracket Challenge

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 10:35 AM

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We have our Final Four.

Ghost River and Wiseacre have two beers apiece in our remaining matchups. Those beers — and those breweries — go head to head as we enter the final days of voting in our 2017 Beer Bracket Challenge.

Emerging in our Final Four is an achievement in its own. Those beers won their categories. In our bracket, those categories were light beer, dark beer, IPA, and seasonal.

• Ghost River’s Golden Ale is the best light beer from our Big Four breweries, according to our readers.

• Wiseacre’s Gotta Get Up To Get Down is the best dark beer.

• Wiseacre’s Ananda is the city’s best IPA.

• Ghost River’s Grindhouse Cream Ale won our seasonal category.

Monday’s voting pits Golden Ale against Gott Get Up To Get Down. The winner there moves on to our final matchup and will be a contender for the “Best Beer In Memphis.”

Tuesday’s votes for either Ananda or Grindhouse will decide the other finalist.

Those two beers will square off in our final day of voting Wednesday. We’ll announce the winner of our challenge Thursday.

We’ll wrap up our bracket challenge results and some fun beer news and stories in our March 9 issue.

If you don’t know by now, you should TOTALLY go vote!


Friday, February 24, 2017

The Beer Bracket Challenge heads to the Round of 8

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 12:48 PM

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We are down to the Elite 8 (Can we use that without getting sued? Guess we’ll find out.) in our 2017 Beer Bracket Challenge.

Hundreds of votes have been cast in the Challenge, hosted by the beer-thirsty folks at the Memphis Flyer and graciously sponsored by the beer-friendly folks at Aldo’s Pizza Pies.

The Challenge started with 16 beers when voting opened on Wednesday. Those two days saw voting on light beers, dark beers, IPAs, and seaosnals from Ghost River, Memphis Made, High Cotton, and Wiseacre.

Match-ups in the categories were picked out of a hat (my Bass Pro drinking hat), by me, wearing a tie (my tie) over my eyes, at Aldo’s Downtown, drinking a beer (a Southern Prohibition Crowd Control IPA), on Facebook Live.

There’s no doubt that Wiseacre and Ghost River have emerged as powerhouses in our Challenge. Their beers represent seven of the remaining eight slots left on our bracket. Plaid Attack, from Memphis Made, is the only beer not from Ghost River or Wiseacre that’s left.

Its unclear how the two breweries have dominated. Their size may dictate their fanbase. Or, have the breweries ignited their fans to log in and mash their buttons?

Voting is going RIGHT NOW and those votes will determine what beers move on the Final Four (Again, sued?). That’s exciting here because our Final Four will be the winners of their respective categories.


That is, after the votes are tallied, we’ll know what out readers think is the best light beer, dark beer, IPA, and seasonal beer from our Big Four breweries.

So, look, it’s so nice out today and tomorrow the high is going to be, like, 50. I’m not much on giving advice but here’s some: Take off early, find a patio, grab a local beer, pull up our Challenge, and vote for your favorites! (I promise we won’t tell your boss.)

Point your browser back here Monday for an update on our Challenge and see who made our Final Four!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

All-day Breakfast Bar, More, Planned for S. Main

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 11:47 AM

Marcus Dorris has big plans for a suite of storefronts along S. Main.

Dorris owned Evergreen Grill on Overton Park, which was famous for his lobster burger. Three months ago, he opened Cajun Grill in the former spot of DejaVu (and most recently Pink Diva Cupcakery and Cuisine) downtown on Florida.

Cajun Grill
  • Cajun Grill

Dorris plans to resurrect Evergreen Grill at 302 S. Main in the old Ray'z Dr. BBQ space. He's also planning an all-day breakfast/juice and coffee bar at 300 S. Main and a serve-yourself wine loft at 306 S. Main.

The breakfast bar will be called Early Mornings and will feature an extensive selection of mimosas (including grapefruit). There will be pancakes and crab omelets and crab benedict and lobster croissants. There will also be a healthy component will the juices, so, Dorris says, if your friend wants pancakes, you can stick to your diet with a juice. "I want to give everybody something."

The wine loft will be called Shaken & Corked and will be like Greencork, Dorris says. Guests will serve themselves from a selection of 15 wines from a system set in the wall. He says there will be a light menu with a number of bruschetta and sandwiches.

As for the new Evergreen Grill, Dorris says the lobster burger will be back and he's planning on offering his inventive takes on cheesecake, including red velvet, blueberry muffin, and banana pudding.

At Cajun Grill, they're serving up seafood po'boys with alligator, lobster, shrimp, and oysters on 12-inch "legit" bread. There's house-made remoulade, pasta with Cajun cream sauce, crab cakes, a porkchop sandwich, smothered fried chicken, bread pudding and more. And, says, Dorris, "the best seafood gumbo in the city."

Dorris says he's been a longtime friend of Gary Williams, owner of DejaVu. Williams hooked him up with the building for Cajun Grill, because he wanted to keep the building alive, according to Dorris.

Dorris hopes to have the S. Main restaurants open sometime before May.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Popper Throwdown Set for March 25

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 at 9:00 AM

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Seth Agranov, the founder of the Best Memphis Burger Festival, is now the founder of the 901 Popper Throwdown.

"Really, why not?" says Agranov.

Aganov says the whole thing started as some "chest-bumping on Facebook" over poppers. Talk of a contest bubbled up — something small, maybe in someone's backyard. But, then, no one really wanted to play host, and so ...

The 901 Poppers Throwdown will be in front of High Cotton Brewing on Saturday, March 25, noon to 7 p.m. It will be on the smallish side with 10 to 15 teams competing in two categories: anything goes; and anything goes in poppers using High Cotton beer. There will also be a pickled jalapeno eating contest.

We all know poppers, right? The general format is a jalapeno pepper stuffed with cream cheese and some other stuff. They whole thing is usually wrapped in bacon.

But Agranov says there are many approaches to the popper. One can deep-fry them or bake them. Some swear by the bacon, others bread them. Sometimes peppers other than the jalapeno are used.

Agranov, who says he makes poppers mostly by request, favors the sliced in half take, with a cream cheese mixed with cheddar cheese. He says his secret is the honey-butter glaze he uses and he smokes them for about an hour over low heat.

At the event, there will be live music and a kid's area (though no kids inside High Cotton), maybe some burgers. One thing that won't be found at the Popper Throwdown are peppers hotter than jalapenos. Those aren't allowed.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Beer Bracket Challenge Launches Wednesday

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 12:36 PM

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Can you get a little weird about your local craft beer? Do you find yourself in full-on preacher mode when discussing the best seasonals or high gravities? Well, friends, do we have the bracket for you!

The Memphis Flyer and Aldo's Pizza Pies have teamed up to present the Beer Bracket Challenge, which launches at memphisflyer.com on Wednesday, February 22nd.

Sixteen local beers, divided into light, dark, IPA, and seasonal categories, vie against each other in a seeded bracket. All of the beers, from Wiseacre, Ghost River, Memphis Made, and High Cotton, are widely available at bars and restaurants and grocery stores. Seeding selection was done at random.

There will be an elite eight, final four, etc., with the winner getting "bragging rights" and what Toby Sells, news editor for the Flyer and the man leading the charge on the bracket, calls a "personal treasure": a small bottle of beer-flavored Jelly Bellys that expired in July 2016.

Winner will be revealed in the Flyer's special beeriffic issue on March 9th.

As sponsor, Aldo's will have flights of all available beers for $7 during the bracket.

"I like beer," says Sells. "Hopefully, this is a fun, engaging, interactive way for our readers to show how much they like beer too."

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Area 51 Ice Cream Coming to Crosstown

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 1:51 PM

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Area 51
, the ice cream shop based in Hernando, announced today that it will open a second location in the Crosstown Concourse.

Here's the press release:

Area 51 ice cream, a leading maker of luxury hand-made artisan ice creams and sorbet today announced it will be expanding to Crosstown Concourse in Memphis, TN. The company, which prides itself on crafting unique one-of-a-kind ice creams, will open a new shop in conjunction with the Crosstown Concourse opening celebration on May 13th, 2017!

"We are thrilled to be a part of such a unique and historic project in the city," says owner of Area 51 ice cream, Steve Cubbage. “Once we had our initial meeting with Todd Richardson, we knew that we wanted to be a part of this project. Our core mission and Crosstown's mission were perfectly aligned.”

Area 51 ice cream has been producing hand-crafted ice cream and sorbet for North Mississippi clientele since May 2014. Made from scratch daily in Hernando, MS, they truly believe that the best ingredients make the best ice cream. That’s why theirs is always made with natural, in-season produce and ingredients. They work closely with other small local businesses, and frequent the Hernando Farmer’s Market, to make sure their ice cream is always the freshest, and will help to benefit the community.

"Our passion for ice cream started from childhood, when a sweet scoop could make the rest of the world melt away. We want to bring that same joy to our customers, every time they get a taste of our rich, specialty ice cream." says owner Karin Cubbage.

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Lisa's Lunchbox to Go in Tuscany Space, etc.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 12:03 PM

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  • John Klyce Minervini
  • Lisa Clay Getske


Lisa's Lunchbox will move into the Tuscany Italian Eatery space on Front street. Owner Lisa Clay Getske says they were seriously pursuing the Front Street Deli spot, but things didn't work out.

"Everything happens for a reason," says Getske, noting that the Tuscany space seems like a better fit. The Front Street Deli is so small that Getske was concerned that much of the food would have to be made off-site. The Tuscany space will accommodate the full Lunchbox menu, including panini and cold sandwiches and smoothies. They plan to offer frozen dinners for take-away as well.

They are shooting for a March 1st opening to coincide with the 10th birthday of the original Lisa's Lunchbox in East Memphis.

Old Dominick Distillery began filling whiskey barrels last week.

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From the press release:

Old Dominick Distillery is pleased to announce that it started filling whiskey barrels with its carefully crafted Memphis TN Whiskey.

Old Dominick Whiskey was a known label from 1866 until prohibition. The D. Canale family has now restored this 150 year-old family business into a full service grain-to-glass spirits distillery.

In the last few days, Alex Castle, head distiller and her team distilled whiskey made from their own mash, from grains milled, cooked, malted and fermented all in house. They put it through the mandatory TN whiskey maple charcoal filter and it was time to start filling the whiskey oak barrels.
It felt like a historical moment for the Canale family and the Old Dominick team.

“It is an exciting day for our company, and fitting that we are aging Old Dominick Whiskies for the first time since Tennessee Prohibition forced us to stop precisely 100 years ago in 1917.” Said Chris Canale, Old Dominick Distillery owner and great-great grandson of Domenico Canale, founder of the Old Dominick Brand.

Beyond bringing true craft production to Downtown, Old Dominick Distillery will welcome guests for tours, tastings, events, and retail spirits sales. Old Dominick opens this year, in the spring.

Old Dominick is shooting for a spring opening. According to a rep, vodkas and a bourbon base heritage drink will be released when they open their doors and will be available at liquor stores and bars. The whiskey will take three or four years to age.

Burgerim, the Israeli franchise, is now open on Highland Strip. They offer mini burgers in duos, trios, or party boxes. Options include wagyu beef, lamb, turkey, veggie, and chicken.


• I tagged along to this tasting at City Silo Table & Pantry.

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Highlights include the Foxy BBQ, a dish inspired by Flyer friends The Chubby Vegetarian. This is a BBQ sandwich made with spaghetti squash. The barbecue sauce, made for City Silo by the Rendezvous, is a perfect accent — not too sweet with just the right kick of spice. Great bun, too.

More thumbs ups: Buffalo Tempeh + Sesame Cauliflower Wrap, the cauliflower wings, and the Matcha, Matcha, Matcha Wellness Latte.

For those vegans and vegetarians who are bummed that City Silo has veered from its Cosmic Coconut roots and is serving eggs and chicken, take heart: The menu at City Silo is, by far, mostly vegan, more extensive than Cosmic Coconut's, and is thoughtful and inventive.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

The Vault Going in Double J Space

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 1:48 PM

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A new restaurant/bar called the Vault will open in the space previously occupied by Double J Smokehouse on GE Patterson downtown.

The Vault will be run by Duncan Aiken, John Kalb, Tyson Bridge, and Michael O'Mell. The name is a nod to the building once being a bank, and, yep, there is a vault inside.

If the Aiken name seems familiar, it is: Aiken ran two pizza places in Midtown called Overton Park Pizza Stone and Skunx.

Aiken says the menu is "everything from my vault." It's an eclectic mix of Creole and Italian and this and that. Expect fresh oysters from the East Coast, crab cakes, jambalaya, and, of course, pizza. Aiken says they're planning on doing $10 express lunches.

Aiken describes the Vault as an upscale bar. Everything's been renovated. There are two granite bars in the two-level space. They'll have a cold rail on one of the bars, which develops frost and keeps drinks icy cold. It will seat about 130.

There will also be 26 TVs. But, Aiken says, the Vault is no sports bar. Instead, each booth will have its own TV, which can be controlled by the patron.


They hope to be open as early as March 1st.



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