Memphis home to hopping beer scene

The Memphis beer scene continues to expand, prompting new investments in breweries, tap houses, retail stores and community events.
For beer lovers across the Mid-South, there is now no shortage of fresh, flavorful pints made by a local brewery or a talented homebrewer. The beer-ification of Memphis is happening across the city as new breweries and pubs continue to open, new beer buying options take hold at retail spots, and local beer events grow in popularity. Local beer has proven itself to be more than just a happy hour amusement – it's a booming industry that promises a still expanding market for area entrepreneurs.

New homebrewing supply shop Bernoulli Brew Werks opened for business at the end of February in East Memphis in the Chickasaw Crossing Shopping Center. “We saw an opportunity and we jumped at it," says Brooks Sease, one of Bernoulli’s five partners. They named their store after the engineer who refined the "Bernoulli's principle" in fluid dynamics, a principle used in beer making. “We brew a lot, and there were a bunch of things we wanted to see and try out. This store allows us to do that, so the store is not only for the community but also for our own needs."

Bernoulli sells home brewing supplies and equipment, including full and partial mashes, grains, hops, pots, coolers, and propane burners. "We have pretty much every type of yeast that you can find online, and we have 85 different hops right now with more coming in," says Sease.

With homebrewing events in the parking lot of the shopping center every month and actual brewing taking place in the shop, Sease hopes Bernoulli becomes a gathering place for craft beer aficionados and beginners to share their brewing secrets and recipes. "A lot of people are looking for specific beers that they can't get so they're trying to make the beer that they like, and some people just want to experiment," Sease says. The shop is hosting a “Barbeque and Brew” day on April 12, and they plan an outdoor brewing event on May 3 for National Homebrew Day.

Sease feels the beer selection in Memphis has exploded in the past three to four years. The newest trend is for 64 oz. “Growler” jugs of fresh beer on tap at retail spots. Three locations in Memphis have started offering Growlers in the past few months, including Cash Saver in Midtown, Whole Foods in East Memphis, and The Growler Memphis in Midtown, which Sease touts as tops in the city.

"They literally have the best beer selection in the city, and then they have expanded on that with a Growler line with 30 or so beers on tap," Sease says excitedly.

Memphis Made Brewing Co., which opened up in the Cooper-Young area last fall, is one of a wave of new breweries that have opened in Memphis in the past few years, including Ghost River Brewing Co., Wiseacre Brewery, and High Cotton Brewing Co.

"We are brewing all the beer we can make, and that is what we expected because we felt like the Memphis market was really underserved for craft beer,” said Memphis Made co-owner Andy Ashby. Memphis Made is a seasonal brewery that distributes its own unique craft beers. They debuted four new limited-edition brews in March.

The brews included Junt, a limited edition farmhouse-style ale with cumin; Bent Note IPA, a new spring seasonal with Nugget and Delta hops; Plaid Attack, a slightly-smoked oak-aged Scottish ale; and Cocoa Reverberation, a chocolate-laced version of Memphis Made’s coffee stout creation with local Reverb Coffee Company.

“I’ve always liked good beer, and I really fell in love with beer when I worked at a pub in London after college. I saw how beer was really a part of their culture,” says Ashby, who is a former home brewer and one of the founding members of the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest held annually every September.

Memphis Made will participate in Wiseacre’s first annual Taste the Rarity Invitational Beer Festival on May 10. The event will feature rare beers, many of which have never before been available in the Mid-South. Participating breweries from across the U.S. include Half Acre, Haymarket, Off Color, Goose Island, and Solemn Oath (all from Chicago); New Belgium (Ft. Collins, Colo.); Oakshire (Eugene, Ore.); Perennial Artisan Ales (St. Louis); Rivertowne (Pittsburgh); Rhinegeist (Cincinnati); Sierra Nevada (Chico, Calif.); Single Cut (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Stone (San Diego); Three Floyds (Munster, Ind.) and Union (Baltimore), as well as Nashville’s Yazoo and Memphis’ Bosco’s, Ghost River, High Cotton and Memphis Made.

Ashby believes there is room for more breweries in Memphis, citing the fact that there are more than 12 breweries in Asheville, N.C., a town of less than 90,000 people.

And Memphis' love for local brew goes beyond the taproom. Annual local beer-related events like Zoo Brew at the Memphis Zoo, Art on Tap at the Dixon Galley & Gardens, and the Memphis Brewfest at Auto Zone Park have grown tremendously over the past few years. Memphis Brewfest organizer Martin Daniel is preparing for this year’s event on April 27, which will cap off Memphis Craft Beer Week that begins April 20.

"The number of breweries across the country has spiked significantly in the past few years, and as a result we see more and more interest each year," said Daniel, who also organizes a similar beer fest each year in Knoxville.

He decided to organize the fest five years ago as a way to raise money to fight muscular dystrophy after his son, Matthew, was diagnosed with the disorder.

Daniel says the Memphis Brewfest caps out every year at a capacity of 2,000 attendees, and he expects as many as 150 breweries to be represented at this year’s event. Joe’s Wines and Liquors of Midtown will be the primary sponsor for the second straight year.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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