Another successful Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest is in the books, and this year’s was bigger and better than ever.
Although it was a little bit chilly, the weather once again cooperated. Showers moved out about 10 AM, and it was 50 degrees going to a high in the low 60s with northwest wind. That sounded like a perfect forecast to bring out my PBR hoodie for the first time of the season, which I paired with shorts and sandals. The festival was set to begin at 1. Normally I start the day at Bardog at 11 AM, but I decided the probability of getting talked into Fireball shots was too high for that to be a viable starting point. I chose the Flying Saucer instead, where I ordered two pretzels with cream cheese and queso for dipping. Those gave me a good base for the day.
About 12:45 I walked up to the Peabody and found five cabs waiting for fares. Here’s a tip for anyone in the Downtown core: Don’t even bother calling a cab. Just walk to the Peabody and find one. It’s much quicker and easier that way. The cab had me there at 1:02, perfect timing. There was a long line but it moved very quickly. “Oh Paul,” said Sydney as she scanned my ticket, “you wore a PBR shirt to a craft beer festival? Really?” I tried to explain that PBR is the Cadillac of beers, but she wasn’t having it.
I got my mug and saw my buddy Chad who I frequently hang out with at the Flying Saucer. We went to the breweries we had not heard of before, and tried their beers. Cooper-Young Beerfest is unique in that it is all regional craft breweries. The big corporate breweries, which have a presence at Memphis Brewfest and many of the other local beerfests, were not invited to this one. All of the invited breweries were within a one-day drive of Memphis, so if you want to go on a craft-brew road trip, you will know where to go. Although many of the beers sampled are not available in Memphis, you won’t have to go too far to find them.
Probably the best beer I tried was a vanilla cream ale from Exit 6 Brewery in Cottleville, Missouri. They also had an oatmeal beer that was really good. Another delicious one was the Winged Nut from Urban Chestnut based in St.Louis. The Mississippi Fire Ant imperial red ale from Hattiesburg-based Southern Prohibition was another winner according to my taste buds and nose. The local breweries were also there, and I tried the saisons from High Cotton and Memphis Made back-to-back. I had a slight preference for one over the other, but I will say that both are in the top 10% of beers I have tried in the past 365 days. Which one do I recommend YOU try? Well, it will have to be the Memphis Made, because the guys at High Cotton told me they were on the last saison keg of the year.
One stupid. stupid. STUPID mistake I made was not paying attention to the Beer Tent Revival schedule. That is the education tent, where the brewers talk about the beers and what it’s like to be a small business in the craft brewery market. I missed the presentation by “Yazoo Cellarman” Ivan Chester, who is one of the very best presenters. Making this even more inexcusable is that I had the beerfest’s Guidebook app on my phone, with a complete schedule and the ability to create “My Schedule.” By the time I got to the Beer Tent Revival, Ivan’s talk was long over but a poster he had put up remained:
Most interesting here is the “Completely Fake Breweries” category in the far right column. When you drink Shock Top or Third Shift you are not drinking craft beer at all. You are drinking beer brought to you by the same folks who make swill like Coors Light and Michelob Ultra. The big breweries are losing market share to small craft breweries, and these new brands are the big guys’ feeble attempt to catch up. When you drink craft beer you’re helping to put someone’s kids through college. When you drink Shock Top you’re helping to pad a CEO’s salary.
I did manage to catch the Beer Tent Revival presentation by Drew Barton of Memphis Made.
Memphis Made’s two beers, a pale ale and a saison, are not yet available in stores. They are at capacity right now managing six bar accounts, which are the Downtown and Cordova Flying Saucers, Bardog Tavern, Aldo’s Pizza Pies, Slider Inn, and Young Avenue Deli. After a brief talk, Drew opened it up for questions. Someone asked if other styles of beers were in the works. Drew responded that if people continue to drink Memphis Made dry – which seems to be happening at the rate their beer is being consumed – the brewery will try other, random styles.
I asked if the government shutdown had affected Memphis Made. Drew said no. I was surprised because I had read that the federal government has an agency that approves beer recipes and labeling. However, Memphis Made does not have to deal with that agency because they do not ship any beer across state lines. Therefore, the brewery is free to whip up any recipe the owners want to do.
After Drew’s talk, I walked over to the Memphis Made booth. The other owner, Andy, was there, and completely disagreed with his wife Sydney’s assessment of my attire. He thought a PBR hoodie was a great choice for a beer festival. They were selling T-shirts, and I had been wanting one for a while.
“When You’re Bad, You Get Put in the Corner” – and that’s where Memphis got put, in the corner of Tennessee. The Memphis Made logo is on the back of the shirt.
I went back to the Beer Revival Tent for the final presentation of the day, by the folks at Wiseacre Brewery, located on Broad Avenue.
They decided to do things a bit differently for their presentation, and did “beer trivia.” Each correct answer won a Wiseacre sticker. I ended up with two stickers, for answering “what’s another name for smoke beer?” (Rauchbier) and “what are the four essential ingredients in beer?” (barley, malt, yeast, and hops) The education portion of the talk came as they explained the trivia answers. They pointed at my PBR hoodie as they explained adjuncts in beer. In the place of malted barley, grains such as rice, corn, rye, and wheat are used. “So, when you drink that beer, you’re drinking corn,” they told me. Whatever, PBR is still the Cadillac of beers. Seriously, though, Wiseacre’s products are good stuff, and I like the Tiny Bomb especially. Their taproom, the first of its kind in the city, on Broad Avenue is open 4 to 8 PM Thursday-Saturday.
Last year there were issues with brewers running out of their product before the festival’s end time of 5 PM. I am happy to report that has been corrected. In fact, after about 4:30 brewers were pouring full mugs of beer, rather than stopping at about the halfway point as they had been doing, to run their kegs out by closing time.
The festival had a partnership with Yellow Cab to make sure attendees didn’t have to drive home drunk. At 5 I wasn’t ready for a cab, though. As many of my readers know, I am a big fan of Aldo’s bars and restaurants, and visit Bardog Tavern and Aldo’s Pizza Pies often. However, I rarely get to his third business, Slider Inn, because I can’t walk there from home. With the festival in the parking lot of Midtown Auto Werks at 795 S. Cooper, though, I had a 5-minute walk to Slider. It had warmed up a good bit, and the sun felt nice and warm, yet the wind kept me from overheating in my hoodie as I walked there. Special thanks to the people walking a quarter block or so behind me, who noticed that I dropped my new Memphis Made shirt which I had slung over my shoulder. When I got to Slider, my “DAWG” John D was sitting at the bar. Although he has a breakfast named for him at a Downtown restaurant, the Majestic Grille, Slider Inn is more John’s native habitat. I drank a couple of PBRs and chatted with John. Service was excellent, as is typical for Aldo bars.
As I tabbed out, I asked the bartender to call me a cab. That’s another thing I’ve learned about cabs in Memphis, is that bartenders have better luck getting cabs to show up quickly than the average guy on the street. Michele at Max’s Sports Bar in particular has a talent for getting cabs there in under 3 minutes. When the cab arrived at Slider, I told the bartender, “73 Monroe.” You may notice that’s not my home address. There was still time in the day to stop at Bardog and see Panda, who I missed at my usual 11:00 time. Although I think the concept of “cheating on your regular bartender” is rather silly, and I may do a post about it soon, I wanted to at least spend some Saturday time at Panda’s bar. I hadn’t eaten since I had the pretzels, so after I drank a PBR I ordered spaghetti & meatballs to go. Ate dinner, took a quick nap.
Except, oops. I woke up from that quick nap at 12:24, according to my alarm clock. I set it 15 minutes ahead so I can get to work on time, so it was actually 12:09, but still, after midnight. I hadn’t planned to wake up that late. It was cold outside and I had missed half the night already. In addition, I could tell that I had not slept off the effects of all the beer I had in the afternoon. I decided to call it a night and live my Saturday night vicariously through my friends’ Facebook and Instagram accounts Sunday morning. Given the dream I had (see the previous post), I don’t mind my decision very much.
Not done yet. I still have to get a Sunday news post up, and I have at least two items and possibly more after I do a check of my RSS feeds and Twitter.