THIS SEASON, RAISE A GLASS TO US. “Have a beer. When you can find something we can all agree on, something we can all be proud of, something unifying, you should drink to it. Seriously. Drink to it.”
I wrote those words in a column three years ago. I thought I was writing about America’s oldest brewery, Yuengling, coming to town to put new hops in the old Schlitz/Coors brewery and to make good beer where Schlitz made bad beer and Coors made something zawful called Zima.
I said they were coming for the Memphis Sands Aquifer, and that they understood – better than us – that the bottled water from God knows where that we amazingly pay for can’t compete with what comes from our kitchen taps for free. The taste of Evian from the “French Alps” can’t hold up against what flows from the faucet on the side of your house, even with a touch of fluoride and the hint of garden hose in it.
But they didn’t come.
But – as I stood in line the other night waiting for a mess of Memphis ribs with my new Memphis friend, Porter – we decided that we didn’t need Yuengling anyway.
Porter’s full name is Harvest Porter, a proud newborn of the Memphis Made Brewing Co. in Cooper Young. Like the town, Harvest Porter is both light and dark, sweet and dangerous, a little nutty, and always interesting. The website says, “chocolate and melanoidin malts balanced with East Kent Goldings and Fuggle hops.” After two of them and a wet slab, I had a bit of the fuggle hops myself. Harvest Porter joins street siblings South Cooper Saison and Parkways Pale Ale, and bad boy Fireside Ninja in the Memphis Made family.
Meanwhile, up on Monroe, High Cotton Brewing Co. is raising eyebrows and pints locally growing their own continental crop with Belgian IPA, French Biere de Garde, an English extra special bitter called ESB, Scottish Ale and their own Porter and Saison.
And over in The Hamp, Wiseacre Brewing on Broad is making a smart India Pale Ale called Ananda and an American Pilsner called Tiny Bomb, their website foaming a little too much in comparing “the soft waters of Pilsen, Czech Republic” and our own Artesian wells but making the point.
What all these beers have in common is that they’re all brewed here by imaginative and adventurous people, all in places uniquely Memphis if not downright funky, and they didn’t exist when I wrote that column three years ago.
Of course, homer Ghost River got us going and continues to handcraft scary good ale down on South Main, born out of the award-winning beer at Boscos, and still keeps some of the proceeds flowing to the Wolf River Conservancy. Now, others have gotten the spirit and we have much more of our own to drink, to drink to, and to celebrate.
So, Yuengling, you can stay in Pennsylvania. We got this.
I’m a Memphian, and creativity is in our water and on tap in our city.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.