Cooper-Young Beerfest 2012 recap

Yesterday was the third annual Cooper-Young Beerfest, held in a large parking lot at the corner of Walker and Fleece from to 1 to 5. My friend Otto and I took a cab down there. I had a much better cab experience than I did riding to Burger Fest a couple of weeks ago. We found a Yellow Cab in the Peabody lot. The driver, a really nice guy named Phil with white hair and a mustache, told us about their new dispatch system, which uses Samsung Galaxy tablets and is among the first in the country to use that technology. When we got there, he gave us his personal cell number if we needed a ride back Downtown.

C-Y is a regional beerfest, so breweries from surrounding states came to town and set up booths. Some of those breweries don’t sell their products in Memphis yet, so it was a chance to try new things.

This deer invited people to come sample beer from Country Boy Brewing from Lexington, Kentucky. Among their offerings was a habanero beer, the first of those I have ever seen.

The habanero beer was surprisingly good. I thought I’d probably pour it out after one sip, but it was very drinkable. The habanero gives the beer a twang, but it is by no means overpowering. I thought to myself, this would be a good alternative to a Bloody Mary as a wake-up drink on Sunday morning.

Another brewer from Kentucky was Lore Brewing Company, from Danville. The doppelbock was very good. I decided to pass on the “Girls Gone Mild” beer at a whopping 3.65% ABV.

As I was sampling, the fest’s organizers got on the PA for a “Breaking News” announcement. I knew it had to be something pretty special because they have never done that in past years. The announcement was that Yazoo Brewing Company from Nashville, another brewery at the festival, had just won third place at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver for their hefeweizen. Congratulations to Yazoo! Their reps are in Memphis all the time doing beer dinners, tastings, and other events, and they are some of the friendliest beer reps I have ever met. They truly have a passion for great beer and they love to talk to the people who consume their product.

I didn’t eat before I came to the festival, so about 2 I had to take a food break. There were several food options: Sweet Grass Next Door was cooking brats, Stone Soup Cafe had gumbo, and Central BBQ had BBQ sandwiches, nachos, and ribs. I decided on the BBQ sandwich with a side of Central’s homemade chips. Oh my God that sandwich was melt-in-your-mouth, slap-yo-mama, pull-down-a-tube-top good. I have not been to the Downtown location yet, but it’s so nice to know that I can get those yummy sandwiches anytime I want without getting in a car now. The Downtown location is at the corner of St. Martin and Butler.

You learn all kinds of interesting things just walking around the beerfest. For example, I learned that there’s a Piggly Wiggly in Charleston, South Carolina that has more beers on tap – yes, I said ON TAP – than the Flying Saucer has here. You bring in a growler, a 1-gallon container, and they’ll fill it up for you. The supermarket also carries more beers in bottles than the Saucer does here.

The main place to learn about beer, though, is the Beer Revival Tent, the festival’s education tent.

The brewers themselves get in the tent for 10-15 minute presentations. They speak about their beers, the brewing process, and the brewing business, and they take questions from the audience. Some also bring along samples of their very newest beers for the audience to try.

A rep from Vino’s Brewpub in Little Rock was among the presenters. It’s at the corner of 7th and Chester Downtown. Great place. Pizzas and calzones are good too.

At the 2010 beerfest I tried a sample of Goldcrest 51 beer, the beer that was brewed at the Tennessee Brewery for many years. The presenter above had spent years researching the Tennessee Brewery, and among his finds was the complete recipe and brewing process for Goldcrest 51. Vino’s again re-created the beer for the 2012 festival, and once again a book about the Tennessee Brewery was on sale. “Thanks to some contacts I made here today, it’s possible that Goldcrest 51 might – MIGHT – once again be sold commercially,” the presenter said.

Even brewing companies that are not yet open were offering samples and presenting. High Cotton Brewing Company will open in a few months at 598 Monroe, and will be Memphis’ second craft brewery. “It’s insane that Asheville, North Carolina has six or seven times the number of craft breweries that Memphis does,” said the presenter. “Johnson City, a town of 30,000, has two craft breweries. I want you to compete with me. I want you to open your own brewery. It’s not hard. I want to you compete with me for shelf space in the stores. I want you to compete with me for tap handles at the bars. Memphis could easily support a dozen breweries or more. Make it happen!”

INSIDER TIP – High Cotton’s website says that you’ll be invited to a pre-opening party if you’re one of the first 50 to give them your email address.

Two local brewing clubs, the Memphis Brewer’s Association and the Bluff City Brewers, had some delicious offerings at the festival, made by guys and gals who love to homebrew. Want to get in on the fun? Join the Bluff City Brewers at the Botanic Garden Saturday, November 3 from 12:30 to 4:00 for Learn to Homebrew Day.

If this post has got you in the mood to go to a beer festival, there’s another one next week – and if you’re Downtown, you won’t even have to worry about driving. There will be a beer festival on Harbor Town Square next Saturday from 2 to 6, with music by Charvey McLemore from 7 to 9. $33 pre-sale and $38 day of, benefiting the Mid-South Food Bank. Call 901-527-2233 to pre-purchase tickets.

The Cooper-Young Beerfest has achieved such a stellar reputation that they had an extra 200 attendees compared to last year. By 2:00 the fest was a sellout. This did cause a lot of the booths to run out of beer by 4 PM. It’s the first time that has ever happened, and I’m confident the organizers will address it next year. Still well worth the price of admission for all I drank and learned. Otto and I walked out of the gate a little after 4. We called Phil, who picked us up in his Yellow Cab about 10 minutes later. He dropped us off at Max’s Sports Bar, where we continued our beer sampling with an American classic: PBR. I required four pint-sized samples of PBR to fully appreciate all its qualities. After that I walked north to the Flying Saucer and did some research on the ideal number of limes to squeeze in a Dos Equis Lager.

Kudos to the organizers and the brewers. Great event.