The Memphis brew festival scene is growing, and on Saturday, October 9th, the inaugural Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest brings one more event to the lineup. With a special focus on independent regional breweries — all within a day's drive of Memphis — the Cooper-Young event will bring together nine different breweries, from Asheville, North Carolina, to Abita Springs, Louisiana.
"You go to other beer festivals, and they're always like, 'We're going to have more than 200 beers.' But they're beers you can get all over. We're taking a different approach and focusing on beers that are made in this area," says Andy Ashby, event organizer and beer enthusiast.
"The idea is similar to the proliferation of farmers markets. People like the idea of getting food locally, and beer is a perishable food product," Ashby says. "You can have great beer made in Seattle and Portland, but if you're getting it here, it's already several weeks old. Whereas Ghost River might be brewed on the same street as the bar in which you drank it. It's fresher and just better overall."
The festival, which runs from 1 to 5 p.m., will take place at 1015 South Cooper, in the parking lot of Lifelink Memphis. In addition to beer from the breweries, the Bluff City Home Brewers will be giving samples of their beers, Au Fond will sell food onsite, and attendees get a commemorative beer mug.
Tickets are $25 for Cooper-Young Community Association members and $30 for nonmembers and can be purchased in advance at cooperyoung.org.
In an effort to keep the festival small, Ashby says the CYCA will only sell 400 tickets, which he hopes will allow more focus on beer education and communication between beer lovers and brewers.
"You can ask questions about the beer, because the person pouring it has brewed the beer or has some knowledge of it," he says. "This festival is to raise awareness about regional beers, as opposed to just drinking a lot of beer." He adds, smiling, "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
In honor of next year's Memphis in May tribute country, Belgium, Café Society will host a series of beer samplings, highlighting one of that country's greatest exports and finest crafts. Michel Leny, Café Society's founder, is a native Belgian and will provide food pairings to accompany beers from Trappist monasteries such as Chimay and Orval as well as traditional Belgian beers such as Kasteel, Duvel, Delirium Tremens, and Delirium Nocturnum.
Steve Barzizza of Southwestern Beverages is in charge of collecting the beers for sampling.
"Belgian beers are mostly high-alcohol beers — between 7 and 12 percent — which are a lot more than your regular Bud-, Miller-, and Coors-type beers," Barzizza says. "They're a lot more flavorful; they've got a lot of dried fruit flavor to them. Everyone knows of Stella Artois, but that's like Belgium's Budweiser."
On September 28th, November 9th, and February 8th, you can sample four to five beers served with fruit and cheese for $20. Add traditional Belgian fare for $5 per small plate.
On April 12th and May 17th, Café Society will host a full beer dinner for $45 a person. Mussels, Belgian stew, pommes frites, crêpes, and chocolate desserts — Café Society is bringing the best tastes of Belgium for Memphis in May.
For more information or to make your reservation, call 722-7177.
Café Society, 212 N. Evergreen (722-2177)