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VOL. 129 | NO. 120 | Friday, June 20, 2014

Flying Saucer Celebrates 17 Years in Memphis

By Andy Meek

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The explosion of Memphis’ beer scene and the enthusiasm for unique craft beers is pretty hard to miss.

The Flying Saucer is celebrating 17 years in business in Downtown Memphis, where the Texas-based business has been introducing Memphians to a variety of beers.

(Submitted Photo)

From events such as Zoo Brew to a growing number of retailers offering growlers on tap to expansions like that of Wiseacre Brewing Co. – which this week said it’s adding 20 employees to its brewery and taproom – it’s clear the local interest in beer is widespread.

However, it wasn’t brewed overnight. Kirk Caliendo, the district manager for the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium who oversees Memphis, Cordova and Little Rock, can attest to that.

It’s been 17 years since the chain he works for opened in Memphis, a milestone the Flying Saucer reached at the end of May. In that time, craft beer has taken off, with a broad mix of pubs, craft breweries and more launching here.

The Flying Saucer points to its longevity as having helped play a role in that, as the chain has championed the craft beer scene and supported locals over the years. And the starting point of that arc goes back to 1997, when restaurateur Shannon Wynne decided to open a Flying Saucer location in Memphis after launching it in Texas.

“He’s a blues fan, so he likes Memphis in general and was really looking around the Mid-South, knowing that craft beer was at the start of its game and doing really well in Texas,” Caliendo said. “The craft beer phenomenon had already been pretty big in Dallas and the Fort Worth area.

“Back in 1997, it was work every day to get people away from the big brands everybody knew. Shannon used to visit a beer bar in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and they were kind of beer snobs. He’d order a Miller, and the bartenders would be kind of snotty and say, ‘But we have all this other selection.’”

He told himself, Caliendo recalls, that his place would always get people what they want, without question. And they’d always suggest something else to someone to guide them toward being convinced “that our craft beer was better.”

Caliendo recalls he started lobbying for an additional location in Cordova for the business sometime around 1999 or 2000.

“I was watching other concepts popping up second and third locations all over the city, and I always knew there’d be room for us to add another,” he said. “And that store’s been doing great.

“It shows how Shannon has such a creative mind. To be able to take a strip mall location like that and make it so that you’re able to walk in and not feel like you’re in a strip mall – there’s not many people who can do that.”

On June 4, the Flying Saucer’s Memphis and Cordova locations kicked off their regular Pints for Prostates awareness campaign, which runs every Wednesday through July 2. During that time, the Flying Saucer will tap a special German brew in honor of raising awareness of the importance of prostate cancer screenings among men and to raise funds for Pints for Prostates.

To sweeten the deal, anyone who buys a glass will be entered to win a trip for two to Germany to tour breweries and other sights in Bavaria and Franconia. It’s one of several ways the Flying Saucer has tried to give back and to be more than a simple pub.

“One of the things we try to keep in mind every day, the management teams in Cordova and Memphis, is to stay – to keep to what we started,” Caliendo said. “And to remember that we never want to become beer snobs. Every single day there’s a new customer who walks through the door who doesn’t know anything about craft beer, and we need to teach them about it.”

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